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Maintenance / Tuning of the Bodhrán

Here are a few hints concerning skin and tipper maintenance as well as on tuning the bodhrán.


Experienced bodhrán players and makers only recommend one type of skin maintenance: Play the bodhrán as often as possible. The skin does not need any oiling, greasing or application of any other fluids such as wax or Guinness!

Somehow, it is very natural that people want to do their skin some good, especially after beating it all the time. But trust the pro's: a good skin does not need any fixing.


To get a foam grip over the bulge at the end of a tipper, apply some (dish) soap as a lubricant.

Tippers don't really need special care. In rare cases a wood treatment might be necessary, e.g. if the finish of wood is somehow compromised (e.g. by applying soap to get a foam grip over the end of the tipper). To renew this finish, you may put some olive oil or bees' wax on your tippers. Don't bathe them in the oil, just rub it on generously. Apply the wax with a piece of cloth, let the wood absorb the wax, then polish the tipper (very much like with a shoe shine).

Tuning of the Bodhrán

The tuning of high-end bodhráns such as the RWE or GPS is very easy thanks to the tool-less tuning system.

Tuning is necessary after a playing break (for instance when coming home from work in the evening), when you would like to tune the bodhrán to a specific pitch. Both weather and uneven spots influence the pitch of the drum, which can be compensated for by adjusting the tuning pegs. These uneven spots can either be permanent or temporary. (A temporary bump could emerge if you play and frequently push the skin with sweaty hands at a specific spot.)

Loosen or tighten the tuning pegs until the skin sounds the same about an inch (2-3 cm) from the rim near all tuning pegs. The pitch of the tuning is entirely a matter of taste. As an earthy guy, I personally prefer a deeper sound.

Whether you do the tuning in a circle or alternate between juxtaposing pegs is also a matter of taste. Physics would probably speak for the latter method, but that way, one easily gets confused which pegs have been tightened already and which haven't :-).

You can temporarily tune down non-tuneable drums with water, and water only (this certainly excludes Guinness, and I have even heard of other unspeakable fluids used for the purpose!).

To permanently tune down such a drum, you can use glycerin, which attracts water and should be available in your pharmacy/drug store. Just mix glycerin with a little water and apply to the outside of the skin with a cloth. Let dry well (a day), check new pitch of the drum and repeat as often as needed to achieve desired result.

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