The 5 Best Bodhrans (2023) – Irish Frame Drums
Bodhran drums are a great way to explore Irish folk music. The drum is a simple-looking instrument, but finding a good one takes some research!
My top pick is be the Meinl Percussion 14” Extra Deep Shell Bodhran. It produces a nice, deep sound, which is quite rich in nature.
My top affordable bodhran would be the Waltons Bodhran 18”. A beginner’s bodhran, it has a traditional feel and fits a lot of budgets.
The 5 Best Bodhrans (2023)
Let’s look at them in more detail:
1. Meinl Percussion 14” Extra Deep Shell Bodhran
Meinl’s Extra Deep Irish Bodhran is a 14” x 6” frame drum, made of hardwood shell. Because of its height, this bodhran gives a fuller tone which sounds great even when played by hand. There is no crossbar either, making it much easier to use your hands instead of a tipper.
- Extra deep hardwood shell
- No crossbar to enable hand playing
- Is tunable
- Not much!
The drum head is made of goat skin to give it a more traditional sound. It is also equipped with a dampening ring around the rim to minimize overtones. Another great thing about Meinl’s bodhran is that it’s tunable. You will need an Allen wrench, though.
|Head Material||Goat Skin|
Although more expensive than others on the list, this Meinl 14” bodhran is for sure a high-quality one.
2. Waltons Bodhrán 18"
Waltons Bodhran is an 18” drum and is a good choice for someone new to the instrument. With this drum, what you see is what you get.
Its shell is made from high-quality hardwood and the head is stretched goat skin. The sound is very traditional, producing a nice tone.
- Great for a budget
- Decent sound for its price
- Good, sturdy built
- Cannot be tuned
The bodhran also comes with a hardwood beater. Using its crossbar, you can comfortably play it while standing up or sitting down. Unfortunately, this one is a non-tunable bodhran.
|Head Material||Goat skin|
Given the price range and the level of sound of this Waltons 18” Bodhran, it is worth a buy if you are a beginner.
3. Remo Bodhran 16” x 4.5”
This Remo Irish Bodhran is a 16” x 14” frame drum that uses a Bahia Bass drumhead for a soft attack and deep tone. Remo is a giant in the percussion world, so you know you’re getting a good product. The synthetic drumhead isn’t the same as a goatskin drumhead but still produces a nice sound.
- Deep, earthy sound
- Produces nice, pitch-bending notes
- 8-point tuning system
- The drum head sounds a bit different to the bodhrans with classic heads on this list.
Remo’s Bodhran has no crossbar on it. The build is fairly durable. Along with that, the drum has an 8-point tuning system that works with a key. Although, Remo doesn’t provide a beater with this.
|Head Material||Synthetic Bahia Bass|
Remo is well-known around the world for its percussion instruments. This fairly affordable bodhran can be considered worth buying.
4. Roosebeck BTN4MT Inside Tunable Bodhran
Rooseback’s BTN4MT Bodhran is great for both Irish and Celtic music. The drum is a lightweight 14” x 3.5”, 2.85 pounds. The drumhead is made of goat skin and the shell is made of very durable mulberry wood.
- Lightweight and sturdy
- Nice ease of play
- Comes with a tipper and tuning key
- Not much!
This is a very comfortable bodhran for anyone to play. It comes without a t-bar and has the tuning hardware on the inside. The hand support makes it a very handy drum.
|Head Material||Goat Skin|
If you’re looking for a decent-sounding bodhran for a variety of music, then this Rooseback drum might be worth looking into.
5. Remo HD-8510-00 Fiberskyn Frame Drum
Remo’s HD-8510-00 Fiberskyn is a more general frame drum instead of a bodhran. However, the function remains the same. So, if you’re open to the idea, explore it.
The 10” Fiberskyn Frame Drum can be played with a hand or a mallet. It is equipped with a pre-tuned Fiberskyn drumhead and Remo’s Acousticon shell, which is a sonic, wooden shell.
- Good for practice
- Nice low-pitch projection
- Light weight makes it mobile
- Frame drum design is slightly different from a classic bodhran.
Mostly used for recreational and tame purposes, this frame drum has a nice, warm tone. If you’re just starting out or need a frame drum to practice, this is a good way to go. Another thing that helps is its light weight and decent build.
Buying a bodhran frame drum is a nice way to expand your percussive skills and venture into Irish folk music. So, it is always a plus if you know more about the instrument itself.
Types of Bodhrans
Bodhrans available out there can be divided into two segments. Traditional and modern. Traditional bodhrans are made of green wood with goatskin or sometimes sheepskin used as drumheads.
With the modern bodhran, a synthetic drumhead is more prevalent. An advantage of modern bodhrans is their tunability. So, you can change the pitch of your drum.
Should You Get a Tunable Bodhran?
Traditional bodhrans are particularly vulnerable to moisture, including humidity. They tend to get loose if water is added and tight if the environment is too dry. This can be a challenge to overcome.
Tunable bodhrans are helpful in this case as you can set the tension of the drum regardless of external scenarios.
How do You Pronounce Bodhran?
Bodhran is an Irish instrument that is pronounced trickier than spelled. Common mispronunciations include “bod-ran,” “bod-rawn,” or “boo-ran.” However, the proper way to say it out loud is “bow-rawn.” So, get practicing if you’re going to play the instrument.
What is a bodhran stick called?
The bodhran is played by hand or using a special stick called a tipper or a beater.
Is the bodhran Irish?
Bodhran has its origins in Ireland. In fact, the word bodhran means drum in Irish. It was used as the native drum for the ancient Celtics. Despite being an age-old drum but only gained recognition as a musical instrument in the 1960s.
Is the bodhran easy to play?
If you compare it to other percussion instruments, the bodhran is an easier instrument to learn and play. Although, it does involve intricate hand movements and patterns.
There are three ways to play the bodhran. Namely, Kerry Style, where both ends of the tipper are used, West Limerick, where only one end of the tipper is used, and by hand.
The Different Types of Frame Drums and Bodhrans
In Nordic countries and Russia, there is an instrument called Sami drum. In England, you can find a traditional folk instrument known as Riddle drum. In the Middle East, there are various types of frame drums as well. Some of the most common are Riq, Tar, Bendir etc. Lag-na is a traditional Tibetian frame drum, while Yike is played in Cambodia. Pretty much every country has its own kind of a frame drum.
One of the most interesting types of a frame drum is Bodhran. This instrument is a traditional Irish frame drum. It dates from ancient times and definitely had a strong influence on Celtic music. So, it’s no wonder that its popularity goes beyond Irish borders in these days, when Celtic music has expanded across the Globe.
The most common thing for all frame drums is its simple construction and use of natural materials. The drumhead is usually made of rawhide materials, predominately leather. On the other side, the shell is made of wood. Bent wood is usually scarf jointed together. Of course, in these days of mass production, materials like plastics and synthetic leather are used as well.
Bodhrans usually feature a goatskin drumhead, though modern ones could be made of synthetic leather. Also, many of them feature mechanical tuning systems in these days, so you can tighten or loosen the leather, in order to get the best sound quality, no matter the weather and atmospheric conditions.
If you think Frame Drums and Bodhrans are basic instruments then you need to watch this video. The drum patterns may be easy to learn, but the mastery of them is extremely impressive!
A lot of things, from budget to tunability to the skin factor in when buying a bodhran. Since it’s a niche instrument, it’s better to focus on quality.
I’ve broken down my top five bodhrans for you. Take into account your needs and buy what’s best for you.