Ornamentation is one of the most difficult skills to master as a bodhran player.
This is not because of the technical nature of executing the strokes - some can be very technical, but because the use of ornamentation nees to enhance the tune, to add something musical and useful into the mix. Therefore proper use of ornamentation in a tune requires a feel for the music, knowing where the tune will go, reading it. If you cannot add anything to make it better, don't play
Bodhran Ornamentation is very very not about machine-gunning triplets and rolls, just because you can. That is showboating and should be reserved for stage or soloing. The over-use and sloppy use of ornamentation is unfortunately what often makes bodhrans unpopular with melody players.
I have quoted an article below that makes a point. There is a twist if you read to the end but it serves to illustrate a point.
Here is the Original Tutorial
Trad Ornamentation by A Hopkins.
Please do not edit this original article
Ornamentation in Irish music is a means of embellishment, varying and enhancing the tunes and can be a way of injecting emotion and feeling into the music. Different instruments lend themselves to different types of ornamentation and even players of the same instrument will ornament the same tune differently.
Irish music on the bodhran is no different in this respect and the way one bodhran player will play a tune may vary considerably from another player playing the same tune.
Ornamentation can be overdone and is more effective in bringing out the beauty of a tune when used sensitively and selectively. The playing should show off the music not the musician. It is not a good idea to blast away with all possible triplets etc. The first time through a tune, always leave yourself with 'somewhere to go'.
Ornamenting a tune at every possible opportunity will create the 'machine gun' type of bodhran playing which simply hides the melody. A possible exception to this may be when the first note of a tune can be played as a triplet and it is not the first tune in a set.
The change from one tune into another can give considerable 'lift' to the music by starting the following tune with a triplet, particularly when playing for dancers in a ceili situation. Top class players vary the ornamentation as they repeat the tune so that the same bar may not be ornamented in the same way every time through a tune. This is because if the ornamentation is repeated exactly the ornamentation then becomes, to you at least, part of the tune, which is not its purpose. For this reason it is useful to have a few alternative ideas for ornamentation.
There are many types of ornamentation available to the bodhran player, but in this article I will be concentrating on the use of the triplet in the tune 'Dinny O'Brien's Reel'.
Definition of a Triplet - A group of three notes played in the space of two.
In this reel three different types of triplets are used.
1.. The tripledown triplet is used in bars 2, 6 and 14 where in each case the drum is struck three times in quick succession in the space of two notes. 2.. The downwards triplet is used in bar 3 where a three strike downwards run is played in the space of two notes. 3.. The upwards triplet is used in bars 4, 7 and 15 when a three strike upward run is played, occupying the space of two notes.
It is essential that these triplets are practised if you are to be successful in playing three notes in the length of time normally occupied by two. If this is not accomplished accurately the tune will be pushed out of time which will be particularly noticeable when playing with other musicians.
Learners often subconsciously stretch the time they allow for themselves to play the triplets and if they are not careful they will become set in this bad habit. To avoid this it is useful to practice by playing to a metronome which can be set to a fairly slow tempo as the intention is to keep the triplet playing correct in relation to the other notes in the tune. The speed of the tune is not an issue at this point.
The tablature below shows where these triplets are used and of course they can be used in other tunes when the opportunity arises. With practice you'll begin to understand where in the tune you can add ornamentation of your own.
Good luck and enjoy!
Now For the twist This is a Banjo article Adapted from an Original MelBay Tutorial by Alan Hopkins - In this article I have simply substituted the word bodhran for the word banjo and exchanged triple note for 'tripledown'.
This illustrates the strength of the possible connection between the rhythmo-melodic banjo and the rhythmo-tonal drum.
I found the accuracy of the substitution connection to be amazing
If you comment on this article, please do not give the game away :)