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Steafan Hannigan Bodhran Basics

Bodhrán Basics - Steáfán Hannigan

Steafan Hannigan Bodhran Basics32 page softback A5 black & white booklet, comes with audiio CD

Purchased from from £7.95 (€11 / $14 approx)

Published in 1991 as The Bodhran Book containing advanced tutorial material, republished 1994 & 2002 with CD (this version)

ISBN: 0 946005877 Ossian Publications Ltd OMB 102


Images courtesy Ossian Publications

  • Format: Book with Audio CD. 44m 08s.
  • Target audience: Beginner
  • Playing Style: Kerry
  • Notation system: Author's own

This review assumes that players are right-handed - left handed players should reverse any references.

The Package

A 32 page Black and white booklet-based tutorial containing an audio CD. The CD has Steáfán reading the book pretty much verbatim and illustrating the discussed pattern by playing either solo or in mini performance.

The product is aimed directly at beginning bodhranii, those who need to get the fundamentals upon which they can build their skills.

Lesson Delivery Method

The tutorial can be used either by being read, listened to, or most likely a combination of both.

The CD versions of the book chapters are delivered in audio 'chunks' representing the duration and content of the written chapters. Rhythmic patterns are not available as separate CD tracks and it is unfortunately difficult for a beginner to repeat specific passages for practise because of this.

Rhythms are notated in Steáfán's own manner using a series of up and down arrows of varying scale to indicate stroke direction / accent. Left hand actions are illustrated using a circle showing where to strike and where & how to place move and press with the hand. Hand-drawn illustrations are used where appropriate.

Using the tutorial.

The chapter headings vary in length as can be seen from the chapter and CD track list below

  • Introductory Tune (CD track1 - 0:57)
  • Introduction (CD track 2 -1:35)
  1. About Bodhrans (CD track 3 - 3:27)
  2. The Cipin or Tipper (CD track 4 - 2:06)
  3. Getting Started (CD track 5 - 3:39)
  4. Dynamic Playing (CD track 6 - 1:17)
  5. Skin Sounds (CD track 7 - 5:37)
  6. Reels 1 (CD track 8 - 4:14)
  7. Jigs 1 (CD track 9 - 4:35)
  8. Reels 2 (CD track 10 - 5:17)
  9. Jigs2 (CD track 11 - 5:53)
  10. Triplets (CD track 12 - 2:51)
  11. Basics to remember
  12. Care & maintenance
  • Extra tunes to Play along with (CD track 13 - 2:35)

The tutorial structure follows the standard path of introduction to the drum and the Kerry Style of playing viz; the technique; Right hand / left hand duties; reels; jigs & triplets. As this is a beginner text it stops at triplets. In the original text it goes on to Rim Playing, complex reels & jigs, other forms and 15 pages of tunes [?].

The written passages are brief and illustrated throughout using steafan's notation, Reels are covered in about 700 words in two sections using the wa-ter-me-lon method and supported by about 20 images and 8 stroke indicators. Jigs are covered as Pine-ap-ple_Ap-ri-cot, about 3-400 words and a dozen or so visual panels.

User Friendliness

This is a beginners text, it has been written as such and does exactly what it claims to do; it rightly assumes no prior knowledge of the drum or its playing techniques. The introduction and main body to the reels section is extremely basic and functional but leaves you in no doubt as to the key elements of which you need to be aware. Advocating playing into the drum (i.e. hitting an imaginary spot just below the surface) is excellent advice that I have not seen often repeated in the other tutorials.

The accompanying CD although essentially being a re-reading of the chapters, serves its purpose well and correlates well to the illustrations. The addition of tunes to play along with is also a useful inclusion as beginning players may not have examples of music featuring the bodhran, obviously the main benefit is in giving them material with which to practise the techniques in the book as well as experimenting further.

I find Steafan's personal style of delivery and choice of terminology to be wholly appropriate to the beginner bodhran player. I do have to say that whilst the author's own notation system is functional, I find can see it as being potentially restrictive in that it only prepares a bodhrani for use of that particular system, it seems an unnecessary re-invention when compared to adaptations of the more universal western notation system. WIth that said it should not stop you from seriously considering this as an introduction to playing the bodhran, the end justifies the means.

What do I think?

Provided that you are only after basic introductory information I think this is an excellent wee book that should provide the introduction to the bodhran that an absolute beginner would require, the addition of the CD makes this an extremely useful resource. If you already have the basic skills then you will find this perhaps a little limited for you although there is always useful information to be gained from looking at others' approaches.

Given that the package reviewed includes a 45 minute CD version of the book, it only serves to widen my smile and to improve its value rating. In my opinion at this price this represents excellent value for money at the cost of about 10 minutes of tuition.

Am I Glad I bought it?

Yes absolutely

Would I recommend it?

For an absolute beginner looking for a tutorial to accompany the purchase of their first drum I recommend it without hesitation.

Paul Marshall - January 2004

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