The Blue Drum Story


It all started with Mike Quinn’s suggestion about an “affordable drum”——raking through the designs registered over the years and conducting some research focussing on the issue plus the taking of some “future design” features AND “doing an O’Riada to the O’Kane”. Elsewhere, there is the Mossie Story, which was to be a pivotal point in the research…………! Now, almost two and a bit months later: after a trip around Ireland with multiple “visits” to that countries best, three consultations with Mossie, chats with Seamus and Dom K, and the visit to Junior’s Academy; we have the revision. Here is a diagram of the features that make this drum unique in terms of artistic performance and whose price should make it attractive to all musicians.


Dr. Emmett Brown: The way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a drum, why not do it with some *style?*

Cultural change timeline

Some musings on a “cultural change timeline—-The Mossie Story…The Mossie Story…………….

I follow Mossie’s posts, but more interesting of late is his playing. For some of us he is part of our history and for me, and I am not alone in thinking this; he is a pivotal in the ‘bodhran story’ along with Tommy Hayes. If you listen to the recordings of Garry Shannon, ‘Losin the Head’, Mossie……1989 and then ‘Lozin air’ ..1998—Tommy Hayes, John Joe Kelly and Junior Davey and then the seminal recording of Skin and Bow—( Junior dates this as 1996?) you have a timeline of around ten years and for me(opinion) you have the commencement of a contemporary bodhran style of playing. As an exercise I did a similiar search from 2003/4 through to 2013 looking at “another generation of musicians”. The aim of the exercise was two fold, playing genre( for me style-musicians gestures plus “sound”) and the instrument(organology)

Something starts with Mossie——–Harry( Charlie Byrne—–now think–Mossie played Harry for 25 years and Harry is pure and simple a frame drum, a variable pitch membraphone. The defining characteristic is that like the history of this ancient percussion instrument, the musician using gesture interacts with a non-harmonic instrument and must discover what tones are available and with a level of consciousness- that involves the mechanisms of the brain and learning to determine what “fits” within the cultural context of music making. In this instance we have “a past non-harmonic repertoire-structure” confronting the western traditional-harmonic and its cultural context is Irish Traditional Music. In this instance the pivotal point is Irish Traditional as per the O’Riada-Bodhran approach, classical large diameter, thick shallow rimmed frame and heavy beater, generally played standing up, but with a slightly deeper frame, approx 110mm vs approx 65 mm. The interaction between the instrument and the musician being of sufficient length for the musician to “know”i.e. —” breaking in”?? this period may the brain processes to develop “mechanisms” for discriminating between the harmonic and non-harmonic, AND the Irish Traditional-harmonic-neural
situation—Maurice Griffin bridges the gap with gestures from both ancient and modern and the contemporary practice.


Around this time Seamus O’Kane starts to build variants of the drum. The issue which confronts contemporary musical gesture is the nature of the rawhide heads which because of their morphology naturally react to humidity to maintain elasticity but become “unplayable”. The exact identity of who thought up the idea of splitting he shell with an internal “ring” and moving that up and down to compensated for the head changes may be debatable, but it is this “tension management mechanism, coupled with deeper and thinner shells to support the screw mechanism together with the rejected lambeg drum maker heads that marks the O’Kane Bodhran. It remains a “frame drum” as the inner ring has the bearing edge within the thickness, acoustic parameters, of the older frames as per Charlie Byrne.
The use of a tape on the edge according to local history is said to be traced back to Paeder Mercier who was told of this old jazz drummer trick by John Cage( this I cannot validate as it was told to me in conversation many years ago). This “edge loading” was investigated in the 1982 thesis of Cal Rose who determine that this familiar pitch glide effect was due to the added stiffness to the shear strength in the thicker membrane. A further unexplored addition to this is the possibility that the mylar ring enabled the uneven tensioning of membranes to be distributed more evenly around the membranes perimeter thus producing a smoothly graduated drop in pitch the decay period. It should be noted that the importance of these transients is to be found in both the structure and function of the brain AND may be also part of cultural practice,learned behaviour, something that will be refered back to in argument defining the contemporary bodhrans “traditional heritage”! This is not the same phenomena that distinguishes the O’Kane bodhran from what we find in the “new theathre-performance drums” which as we will see is technically and practically not a frame drum and not a bodhran regardless of it’s pretences are. These highly taped, centre oriented bearing edge drums being now taped to the second nodal circle are a more hybridized “western harmonic-percussive” instrument.

(This article is my opinion only and based on researching the area for another purpose)

I’m not quite desperate

I’m not quite desperate, but, I did have to “steal” this drum from Junior’s three year old son. It’s 7″ x 4″ fully tunable bodhran made 16 years ago for Jelca Junior Davey’s first born. The drum is now the property of Number Three and he doesn’t like to be seperated from it. It is a full working instrument, tabla head, in-the-rim tuning with a no-voids interior shell. Has fallen off the roof of the car and had it’s fair share of use. Heads!!now fully stable and in full working order.