The Bodhrán

Experimentation, Innovation, and the Traditional Irish Frame Drum

  • Author(s): Harte, Colin
  • Series: Charles K. Wolfe Music Series
  • Imprint: University of Tennessee Press
  • Publication Date: 2020-05-15
  • Status: Active
  • Available in Paper: Price $39.95 | Buy Now
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In the past fifty years, the bodhrán, or traditional Irish circular frame drum, has undergone a rapid evolution in development. Traditionally, it is a shallow drum ranging from ten to twenty-six inches in diameter, covered in goatskin on the top (or drum) side and open on the other. Unlike any other instrument associated with Irish traditional music, the bodhrán has been dramatically altered by its confrontation with modern instrument design, performance techniques, and musical practice. Colin Harte’s The Bodhrán: Experimentation, Innovation, and the Traditional Irish Frame Drum presents a definitive history of the bodhrán from its early origins to its present-day resurgence in Irish American folk music.

The bodhrán has global roots and bears many characteristics of older drums from northern Africa and the Middle East. Harte picks up on these basic similarities and embarks on an engaging tour of the instrument’s historical and organological development, gradual evolution in playing styles, and more recent history of performative practice. Drawing from a host of interviews over a multi-year period with participants primarily located in Europe and North America, this work provides a platform for multiple perspectives regarding the bodhrán. Participants include bodhrán makers, professional performers, educators, amateur musicians, historians, and enthusiasts. Growing out of rich ethnographic interviews, this book serves as the definitive reference for understanding and navigating the developments in the bodhrán’s history, organology, performance practices, and repertoire.


COLIN HARTE received his PhD in ethnomusicology from the University of Florida. He currently teaches music at Kappa International High School in the Bronx and for CUNY-Irish Studies. He is also an active bodhrán player in the Irish traditional music communities of New York City.