Hopefully, the website itself has answered a few of your questions about the drums. If not, I've put the answers to some of the more frequently asked questions that I get down here:

 

* What is the difference between your skins?
* What about kangoroo skins?
* What about goat skins?
* What about calf skins?
* What about Lambeg skins?
* What is with the weight / patch thing?
Doesn't it get in the way?
* What famous people play your drums?
* What do I need to do to the drum head in terms of maintenance and treatment?
* What's the deal with the double-headed drums?
* Do you have any drums sitting around for immediate purchase?
* Where can I hear your drums?
 

What is the difference between your skins?

This is a great question and the answer is not entirely straight forward. You see, one thing I've noticed as a drum maker is that people will ask for opinions on some maker's drum, and 99% of the time answers come from someone who has played one example of a certain maker's instrument. With any hand made instrument, and bodhrans in particular, making a generalization based on a single instrument is really, well, not entirely far-reaching. That being said, with bodhrans, the whole of the drum is built around the skin, and different skin "species", different processing techniques, and different thicknesses can make one drum so different from another that it truly seems like a different instrument.

All that being said...

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The kangaroo skins that we use are of varied thickness.  Kangaroo skins are the strongest skins that we know of per thickness, and are more elastic than any of the other species we have available.  They make exceptional drum heads.  We use a very labor-intensive, multi-stage process in preparing these skins to be drum heads. So what you get with a kangaroo skin is a more substantial-feeling, super-flexible skin that has yet not lost its attack or presence. To me they have that magic combination of just the right amount of attack, lots of flexibility and elasticity, and really nice bass- but only if they are prepared the right way!  These skins are a personal favourite, but as you might expect may not be every musician's taste, so we have other options available too.

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The goat skins that we use are processed by us, are available in a wide range of thicknesses and can be prepared in a variety of ways.  We can go from the minimal preparation of a raw head to processes mimicking the treatments used by the lambeg drum makers on N. Ireland. I prefer processed skins to raw ones for the sound we are shooting for. Skins are thin and elastic, with great pressure-memory. Our goatskins are great for multi-octave or top-end playing. We also have a wide selection of thicker goatskin heads for more traditional "Kerry" style players.  We can also soften thick skins per request for an exceptionally bassy drum head.

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The calf skins we have take two forms.  We have thicker pre-tympani calf that results in a drum that is really nice for kerry style playing but also is punchy enough to cut through tonally and give you the high pops that you hear so much of these days.  We also can work up a thinner, differently treated calfskin that produces a milkier, creamier tone.

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The Lambeg skins are similar in most ways to the goatskins we have, except of course that these are the real thing from the North of Ireland. Tonally, lambeg drum heads are incredibly clear and flexible. A good friend of mine once said that good drums either have soft thick skins, or attack heavy thin skins. Lambeg heads are definitely closer to the latter, and provide an enormous tonal range that is clear and punchy. These skins are hard to get, so ask us for availability.

As a side note, I don't mind using anything head-wise to produce a good sound with the instrument, because that is the end goal. Some might think a kangaroo headed drum or a lambeg-headed bodhran "isn't a bodhran", or "isn't traditional", and I can live with those criticisms. One thing I can say, though, is that the drums make up for it when played, as I feel that they are tonally superior to most.

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What is with the weight / patch thing?
Doesn't it get in the way
?

The weight was a development that was taken from the Indian tabla drum, although the initial idea was given to me by a friend of mine, Kevin Crawford. Tonally, the weight lowers the range of the drum. I have been told by a friend of mine who instructs physics that theoretically, the added mass will lower the fundamental frequency of vibration. Whether that's true or not, the effect is without a doubt a lowering in the bottom end of the tonal palette. This is essential on smaller drums (12"), in my opinion. The patch also serves a similar purpose to the tape, and dampens overtones. Finally, the patch serves as a surface of greater thickness on the head, and when struck, gives far more attack off the strike than the surrounding portions of the head.

Many people also worry that the patch gets in the way of tone-hand movement. Patches are usually paper-thin goatskin, all attached with water-soluble adhesive. The patches are so thin that the transition over them is difficult to feel with the palm of your hand, and certainly no impediment to playing at all.

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What famous people play your drums?

I actually don't know some of the time, and it doesn't matter to me the rest of the time.  A lot of people think that if they have the same drum make that a famous player has that they will somehow sound like that player.  Or if they have the most expensive bit of kit out there that their sound and technique will improve relative to the amount spent.  Of course, neither are true.  Being a good player and developing good technique takes practice, understanding, and persistence, not necessarily an expensive or name-brand instrument!  

I try to make drums for players who know what they want in the instrument, whatever your skill level or album credit catalogue. So each drum is hand tailored to any given player. Let's be honest, if a drum is tailor made to one person's style and ability, would you necessarily expect it to fit anyone else quite as well?  Tell me how YOU play and what YOU want in the instrument.  Practice and persistence will do the rest. 

While its nice to see our drums being played by professional musicians, we typically find far more fulfillment in seeing a person happy with their drum at the local session than anything else!

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What do I need to do to the drum head in terms of maintenance and treatment?

The best thing for your drum is for you to play it. At the outset, the skin isn't used to being part of a drum, which is why we treat the head. That being said, all drum heads need playing in to some degree.  Most drummers at one time or the next will run across a drum with a super, well played-in skin that is just "it". And that's when you know what the best treatment for the skin is- playing it. However, some folks live in climes where temperature and humidity vary to the point of scientific astonishment. In these cases, a bit of treatment might be due. I would suggest a small amount of Lexol or lanolin to the outside of the skin. But just a little and infrequently. Really, playing the drum and using the tuning mechanism is the best thing for it.  Also, some of the treatment methods we use include the application of water-soluble compounds, so please, please do not take it upon yourself to wet the skin down without consulting us first.

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What's the deal with the double-headed drums?

The double-headers, or "Gemini" drums were an experiment I decided to do one day with a deep drum. That developed into the custom job that Paul Marshall and I worked on together. While it certainly isn't a traditional bodhran at this point, it definitely is one by descent and spirit. The bass in these drums is simply seismic. There is still quite a bit of development to do with them, but they are definitely coming along.

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Do you have any drums sitting around for immediate purchase?

Unfortunately, almost never, though it does happen on occasion, and when they are available we will post them either here on the site or on bodojo.com! I wish I could keep more drums in stock, but working a 9 to 5 and trying to keep the drums as custom one-offs limits the output a bit! But the drums are worth the wait!

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Where can I hear your drums?

I often go to the sunday session in Amsterdam. If you're around, come out and play a few tunes!

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