The bodhrán is an Irish frame drum ranging from 25 to 65 cm (10 to 26 in) in diameter, with most drums measuring 35 to 45 cm (14 to 18 in). The sides of the drum are 9 to 20 cm (3 1/2 to 8″) deep. A goatskin head is tacked to one side (synthetic heads or other animal skins are sometimes used). The other side is open-ended for one hand to be placed against the inside of the drum head to control the pitch and timbre. The drum is struck either with the bare hand or with a lathe-turned piece of wood called a bone, tipper, beater, or cipín.
According to musician Ronan Nolan, former editor of Irish Music magazine, the bodhrán evolved in the mid-19th century from the tambourine, which can be heard on some Irish music recordings dating back to the 1920s and viewed in a pre-Famine painting. It is known that by the early 20th century, home-made frame drums were constructed using willow branches as frames, leather as drumheads, and pennies as jingles. In photographs from the 1940s and videos from the 1950s, jingles remained part of the bodhrán construction like a tambourine, yet were played with cipín, also known in English as “tipper”.
There are no known references to this particular name for a drum prior to the 17th century. Although various drums (played with either hands or sticks) have been used in Ireland since ancient times, the bodhrán itself did not gain wide recognition as a legitimate musical instrument until the Irish traditional music resurgence in the 1960s in which it became known through the music of Seán Ó Riada and others.
The World Bodhrán Championships are held in Milltown, County Kerry, Ireland each year.
- Bodhrán. Wikipedia, retrieved 2 September 2017.