Skin is a natural product that has spent years on an animal and will have specific generic qualities as well as those specific to that animal. For use on a bodhrán, there are qualities that are desirable and those that are undesirable.
- Soft to give a quieter more absorbent impact & deliver Bass Frequencies
- Flexible to permit improved tonal options
- consistent thickness to provide for purity of tone
- Thick and thin are both desirable for different drums in different scenarios, there are no rights and wrongs but there are differences of opinion and direction.
- Hard & scratchy
- inflexible - too thick and heavy
- uneven - badly prepared or damage / scar tissue
What Is Playing In?
Bodhráns moreso that other natural drum heads require their skin to be 'played in'. A new and untreated bodhrán skin will almost always be too hard. A hard skin sounds 'scratchy' to the touch. A thick head is more likely to be heavy, inflexible and scratchy to the ear but in time and with playing it will develop.
As a skin is being played in, it will loosen and soften. The impact of the stick on a tensioned drum will break up the fibrous structure that binds it tightly together and served the animal so well. With a traditional heavy-skinned bodhrán this process may literally take years and represents a lot of time investment by the player before s/he achieves a desired sound. It is a risk as the final results are not guaranteed.
With a thin or lambeg skinned instrument the playing-in process is shorter because there is so much less fibrous material to contend with.
Modern Bodhran Makers appreciate that modern bodhran players do not want to have to wait months or years for their drum to sound its best. As a result, makers use a range of treatments to soften the skin which gives the drum a head start.
'Bass Out Of The Box'