3 Easy Ways To Improve Your Bodhrán Playing Now
Different ways to help your playing evolve
Everyone has different aspects of their playing that they want to work on. At the end of the day, you can take as many lessons as you want, learn many different techniques, watch and listen to as many bodhrán players as you can, but you need to practice everything you’ve learnt to really incorporate it into your own playing and make the most of it. There’s also more to it than practicing at home on your own!
As well as developing a solid practice routine, there’s some other ways you can help evolve your bodhrán playing. Let’s take a look at a few here!
Change how you listen to music
Do you listen to many bodhrán players? And when you do, how closely do you listen to them? This may seem like a silly question, but there are several different contexts in which you can listen to music to help you better understand what makes the great players standout.
I would like to suggest that when listening to a track with a bodhrán player, you try listening to the music from several perspectives:
- Hone in on the bodhrán itself and exactly what the player is doing.
- Listen again, this time focusing on the bodhrán in relation to the other backing instruments and how they tie in together.
- Listen again, this time focusing on the bodhrán in relation to the tune players and how they compliment the tune.
- Finally, listen to the track in more of an overall sense to understand how all of these different parts tie in together.
When listening to a track on more of an overall level, you may feel that certain parts of the bodhrán playing jump out, grab you and sound amazing, but until you hone in on the playing the whole way through the track you may not realise exactly why.
All players have such different styles too; some play more closely in relation to the melody and some lock in completely to grooves with the other backing players. Whether the players own style is to your taste or not, you can learn so much more by listening to the bodhrán playing in different contexts within one track of music.
Play music with other people
You need to feel confident in your own playing ability before jumping into a session or band setting. However, there can come a point when getting out there beyond your own comfort zone remains daunting even though you would most likely be absolutely fine joining in a bit at a session. Have you ever worried you weren’t ready to get out there with your playing?
Not to assume that everyone who learns and loves playing the bodhrán wants to become a professional player, but being able to play music with others is something most people strive for when they learn an instrument. And once you’ve spent so much time and effort working on your playing, you should do it! Playing music with others will help you improve upon all your hard work and practice, and once you’re at a certain point it will greatly improve your playing as well as inspire you to create new rhythms.
You don’t need to jump in head first if you’re still getting started or not that confidence. If you have any friends who play music, ask if you can get together and play a bit; whether it’s folk music or something a little different doesn’t matter, the whole point is to start learning how it feels to play with others, lock in with another instrument and keep time. If there’s a friendly session you would feel comfortable going along to, don’t feel you need to play for the whole session. It’s okay to play for a few sets and then take a break and listen to what everyone else is doing!
For more advanced players who already go to sessions and play in bands, continuing to do so will only help evolve your playing and style. Making sure you continue to play and arrange music with others also goes a long way to helping you stay inspired as a player. Sitting on your own and practicing 16ths or double downs is great, but you probably aren’t going to get the same inspiration for new grooves as you would if you were also working on arranging a new set with someone else.
Develop a good practice routine
This is something I developed while I was at University. We were allowed to book practice rooms for 1 hour at a time, so I wanted to make sure every minute counted! I ended up spending quite a bit of time before my practice planning exactly what I was going to work on, so that I could maximise my practice time without messing around the whole time (easy to do!).
Here are some things I make sure to ask myself when planning out my practice sessions:
- What am I currently struggling with that I need to nail 100% with my playing?
- What do I need to learn for any gigs coming up?
- What rhythms do I want to create or work on?
- What technique work would help my playing?
I then make sure to incorporate some warm up exercises, techniques I want to work on, music I need to learn, and problem areas that I need to fix. Depending what I have to do, I break down my whole hour into around 15-20 minute blocks.
Your practice time doesn’t need to be as long as that, but having a sort of loose structure to follow can be of great benefit to your playing. Apart from helping you improve your playing, practicing with intention will help you feel more accomplished at the end of your session.
Quick ways to help develop your bodhrán playing
People these days are bored easily and want everything at the drop of a hat, but you need to put in the practice time if you want your playing to improve. There is however, so much more to playing the bodhrán than sitting at home and practicing on your own! And most likely, you started playing because you eventually want to be able to play along with other people.
I hope these insights will help you look at your playing from a new perspective, and help you develop your playing further. I would love to hear if you tried them out, and what you thought! Leave a comment below and let me know.