Best Beginner Bodhrans – Top 5

A bodhran is one of the best instruments for a beginner to start playing Irish music. They provide a great accompaniment to jigs and reels, and they are welcomed at sessions around the world. While you can certainly spend a lot of money on a nice bodhran, you don’t have to! There are actually some great beginner bodhrans on the market that will give you a lot of drum for a pretty small investment.

Find out which is the best beginner bodhran for you by reading our guide! For more information about where to buy bodhrans online, check out our guide.

Best Beginner Bodhrans - Top 5

The Bodhran Styles

In today’s bodhrans, there are two basic design styles. Bodhrans are based on traditional instruments, but have shallower shells, crossbars, and larger diameters. Over the last few decades, another style has emerged that is more modern. The shell is deeper, the diameter of the head is smaller, and it lacks crossbars.

Although the more modern-looking bodhrans are becoming increasingly popular, traditional-style bodhrans are still used by many players. According to your playing style and sound preferences, you will need to decide which one to buy. Check out the players you enjoy listening to, and see which type of bodhran they prefer.

The Traditional Style Bodhran

Traditionally, bodhrans were large, shallow frame drums with a back crossbar shaped like an X. Several types of ancient drums can be found throughout the world, and this design may be one of the oldest musical instruments in history. The Irish often made them by hand from whatever was available, including old farming implements and animal skins.

Best Beginner Bodhrans

This ancient style is still followed by many bodhrans today. A real animal skin (generally goat skin) is attached with tacks to the shell, usually with a diameter between 16-20 inches. Traditionally, bodhrans were not tunable, but recently tunable traditional bodhrans have been created.

The crossbar may or may not appeal to you depending on your style of play. While moving their non-tipper hand around the skin, some players brace their hand against the crossbar. Some people don’t even muffle their skin by gripping the bodhran by the crossbars. Some people perceive crossbars as a nuisance that restricts their hand’s movements.

The larger size of traditional-style bodhrans provides more room for the tipper. Both ends of the tippers are often preferred by bodhran players over the smaller modern-style bodhrans. Having extra space is especially important for beginners, since their tipper control isn’t as precise as advanced bodhran players. Many beginners end up getting a smaller bodhran as they progress, while others stay with the larger size.

The Modern Style Bodhran

The traditional design of the bodhran has evolved into a newer style over time. Bodhrans with a smaller head diameter, usually 12-16 inches, are also known as bodhrans. Additionally, their shells are much deeper, which gives them a more bass-like sound. The majority of bodhrans of modern design are tunable.

Beginner Bodhrans

The deep shells of bodhrans can cause some people to have issues. Depending on how long the player’s arm is, holding the bodhran and having room to maneuver inside can be difficult with a deep shell. Therefore, many modern bodhrans have cutaways in the shell where the player can insert their arm for more comfortable playing.

Bodhrans of the modern era are much better suited to single-end playing styles because of their smaller sizes. They have developed very closely with the so-called “top-end” style of playing the bodhran. In the case of a beginner, a modern bodhran may not have enough space for double-ended styles because they are less precise with their tippers.

The Advantages of a Tunable Bodhran

The instruments featured here are all tunable, even though there are many non-tunable bodhrans available. On the surface, it may seem unnecessary for a drum to have a tuning system. I mean, you aren’t playing anything, are you? But tuning systems were created for a reason. Their ultimate goal is to provide the best experience for bodhran players of all levels.

Any drum’s skin is very sensitive to heat and moisture. The skin will loosen when it cools down or dries out, making it sound lower. On the other hand, heat and moisture will make it sound higher. You are at the mercy of the weather whenever you pick up a non-tunable bodhran. Dry weather or cold temperatures will tinny it. When it becomes too hot or too moist, it will become flabby.

With a tunable bodhran, you can adjust it whenever you need to. If you’re just starting out, don’t worry about mastering the tuning system or dialing in the perfect tone. You’ll learn how you like the feel and sound of your bodhran as you get used to it.

Best Bodhrans

The Meinl FD14IBO 14 inch Tunable Bodhran

Summary: The best modern-style bodhran on a budget

Einl is well-known among percussionists as a great company. Their bodhrans are excellent for beginners, and they make a wide variety of high quality drums and world percussion instruments. Each of the two models of bodhran has its own strengths, and you can’t go wrong with either!

14 x 6 Meinl Bodhran Sound Demo

This Meinl 14 inch bodhran is based on the modern bodhran style, with a deeper shell and smaller diameter head. When hit, it produces a nice boomy, bassy sound, and the skin is nice and supple for easy manipulation. Also attached to the side is a velcro strip for attaching the tuning key. Even though it seems like a small thing, after spending a lot of time digging around a bodhran case looking for a lost tuning key, I can assure you it’s not!


The Roosebeck 16 inch Tunable Bodhran

Summary: A traditional bodhran at a great price

There are a number of companies that produce beginner bodhrans, such as Rosebeck. The company makes inexpensive instruments that sound and play well. This Roosebeck bodhran is tunable, but Roosebeck makes a variety of non-tunable bodhrans as well.

BTN6RT: Roosebeck Bodhran, Inside Tunable with Goat Skin Head & T-Bar, Rosewood, 16-by-3.5-Inch

An older, more traditional bodhran design can be seen in the Roosebeck 16 inch bodhran. There is a T-shaped crossbar in the back, and the shell is shallower than most modern bodhrans. Having a thicker skin than most of the others on this list will make manipulating it more challenging. This can be easily fixed with some sanding.

 top Bodhrans

The Waltons 18 inch Tunable Bodhran

Summary: This big boomy behemoth is great for traditional and modern players alike

Waltons is one of the most trusted names in Irish music, and their flagship store in Dublin is a must-visit for anyone who appreciates Irish music. A wide variety of bodhrans are available for sale, both tunable and not. Most of their lower-end models are designed with tourists in mind, although some are cheaper than this one. Stay away from anything painted with patterns. You should probably leave it up there if it appears to be able to be hung on a wall.

18″ Walton’s tunable bodhrán sound test

Its 18-inch model is a great hybrid style player with a great sound. The instrument is built much like a traditional bodhran, but without crossbars. Because of the shallow shell and the large diameter, this drum is very beginner-friendly. Additionally, there’s a nice cutaway that makes it even more ergonomic.

The Remo ET4514-81 14 inch Tunable Bodhran

Summary: The Remo bodhran stands out for its innovative head and lightweight frame

Like Meinl, Remo is a well-known brand for a wide range of drums. If you look at any drum set, you will probably see Remo heads. It’s no surprise, then, that Remo has created a remarkable synthetic head for its bodhrans. They make a strong visual statement with the black “Bahia Bass” head, but it’s the sound that counts. Every strike is accompanied by a deep bassy thump, and the head is easy to manipulate to change pitch.

Remo Bodhran Review

Remo’s 14 inch bodhran is a deep-shelled modern instrument that makes use of its wonderful head. It’s also fairly lightweight, which makes it great for carrying around. The music has a very traditional sound even though its appearance isn’t very traditional. It doesn’t always have to be the same.

The Meinl FD18BO 18 inch Tunable Bodhran

Summary: While still maintaining great Meinl quality, this looks and feels more traditional

Compared with the Meinl 14 inch bodhran above, this is a more traditional version. This crossbar is wider but shallower and shaped like a T. With a goatskin head measuring 18 inches, a beginner has plenty of room to thump away, and the shallower shell is very comfortable to hold. A little thicker than the Roosebeck bodhran, the head is a little harder to manipulate and bend. Nevertheless, all it needs is a little sanding to make it really shine. Furthermore, the crossbar makes pitch bending very easy by bracing your hand.

18″ Meinl tunable bodhrán sound test

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