One of the most asked questions is: "Which drum should I buy?" Difficult question, since there are different budgets and different requirements. I will try give a few hints, which are of course, my personal opinions.
What not to buy?
Let's start with drums that cannot be recommended: Drums that come from unknown sources and drums that have industrial skins or frames. If you look into ebay and in some music shops (even in Ireland) you will often find drums that are imported from Far East countries that sell for 80€ or less. The skin is very hard most of the time and the drums are missing everything that you want even from a beginner's drum: nice bass, clear middle area and poppy high notes. Often you find a celtic design or a Guinness Logo on these "drums". These are good enough to hang on a wall, but nothing else. Nobody knows where the skins come from and with which chemicals and under what circumstances (wages, keeping of the animals, working conditions etc.) they are produced. The problem is that even over in Ireland you might find this type of drum in shops that praise themselves highly. I have seen many disappointed faces during my workshops when people had a comparison to a quality drum that wasn't much more expensive than the cheap drums they bought. The sound and the tonal variation between the two differ that much.
What to buy?
What makes a quality drum? Good sound, quality workmanship, and playability. The key element is the skin. Some drums have a cross piece so close to the skin that you can't properly achieve tonal variations with the opposing hand.
The majority of drums are made with goat skin, sometimes calf or kangaroo. Occasionally one will see emu, deer, even greyhound. The curing of the skin is something that takes time, which is reflected in the price. Often chemicals are used to prepare the skin quickly, which can be avoided if you give the skin the time needed. The skin should be soft, not hard and scratchy. A painted skin is not recommend. Often you find tape on the outside to dampen some of the overtones. Sometimes the tape is replaced by a skin ring inside the drum. I personally prefer outside tape, since it gives more room for your opposing hand. Also, tape is easier to adjust to the individual sound of the skin and can be replaced easily if necessary.
I do not recommend non tunable drums due to the reaction of natural skins to temperature and humidity. Without a way to tighten or slacken the skin, the player is left with an unplayable drum, or one whose tonal range is severely limited. So, tuneable it is...
Tool-less compressor tuning system - RWE
The RWE features a tool-less tuning system. The compressor tuning frame is a funnel shaped, relatively high tuning rim, which influences the overtones and the overall frequencies of the bodhrán in a positive way.
Alle Details zum Kompressorstimmrahmen finden sich hier.
Tool-less tuning sytem - CoreLine by C. Hedwitschak
The multipoint tuning system works smoothly and allows for precise, quick and easy tuning. Thanks to the skilful shaping of the inner part of the tuning rim, the hand nestles naturally into place and is therefore very comfortable to play.
Integrated tuning system - Norbert Eckermann
This system needs an Allen key and is integrated into the frame, therefore it doesn't need an additional tuning frame, which makes is a very slim system. Repairs may be more difficult as it is with all integrated systems.
calssic tuning system - bodhrán from Pakistan
Many drums feature this system using different screw heads. The screw pushes the inner rim down.
The rim should be made from high quality wood. It is important that there are no sharp edges and that the rim is stable. The finish is not important where sound is concerned, but you want to have a drum that you like looking at :-).
The drums I prefer can be found in the shop. I only sell drums that I am 100% convinced of and as a Hedwitschak Premium partner I am involved in development of most models. I think Christian's drums are the best on the market. Christian also sets a high value on short ways of transport, fair deals with suppliers and resellers (me!), and chooses environmentally sustainable materials. That doesn't mean that the other makers are making bad drums! Here is a list of some fine drum makers: Seamus O'Kane, Ben March, Eoin Leonard, Paul McAuley, Michael Vignoles, Alberto Alfonso, Brendan White, David W. Settles, Bruce Carver, John Prange, Dragon Drums, Eamon Maguire, Davy Stuart or Norbert Eckermann. (I am sure I forgot someone in this list, so it might not be complete!).
Christian Hedwitschak offers a special series: the CoreLine, which starts as low as 240€. This high quality instrument comes in a wide range of sizes, providing the customer with great value for a moderate price.
Yes. I did a random test during a workshop with 18 participants. I played the drum, the participants rated the sound without seeing which drums was played. Twice through in random order. The more expensive drums were rated as best.
In an ideal situation you could test drive a drum, but the average music shop rarely has any quality bodhrans to try out. Our Show Room stocks all the Christian Hedwitschak drums and tippers available. You are welcome to try out the various models before purchasing the one most suited to your needs.
Some links in the internet might be helpful. The German Bodhran Forum is a good start, but it's in German...good international ressources are the yahoo group, Facebook and the Bodojo by Paul Marshall.