Could this humble Welsh tipper pass on a few comments?
From watching Kevin Conneff on a Chieftains video, I'd have to say that
putting too much into prescription (what has to be) doesn't leave too much
for discovering what you and a bodhran can do.
I use a Cooperman 18" and an Afganistan-made 26", both with the double
cross-sticks. Depending on the tone I want, I can flat hand on the skin
between 'sticks and skin and slide from rim to center and back again, or
U-shape my fingers and thumb putting the horizontal 'stick between fingers 2
&3 and focus on pitch.
About the mink oil, I would be quite against that, because the skin would
stretch permanently and lose the tension. Watering (and using an electric
hair dryer) is of course a mandatory task done to personal taste. Some
tippers of my acquaintance use dishwashing liquid to remove oil from their
skins periodically because the skins get too loose.
Tour pawn shops (I saw them first in pawn shops and didn't know what I was
seeing) and look for a thick skin, as well as S. Keleher's admonitions on
what to look for in a drum.
Also check out every drum store in your neighborhood, because they often have
a little guy sitting in a corner you can get for a song (or at least a
If at last you don't succeed, contact Lark in the Morning, P.O. Box 1176,
Mendocino, California 95460, or (707) 964-5569 phone, (707) 964-1979 fax, for
their catalogue. They can send you for $3 a delightful array of toys'
Will you be a beater or a tipper? Beaters are quite so impressed with their
own impact on the world, they beat that poor skin of a goat so no one can
hear a thing. A tipper, on the other hand dances any of a variety of pieces
of wood across the head of, and side of, a beautiful piece of oak and
goatskin, supporting and grounding for fiddles, whistles, and instruments of
all persuasions as a spice and a delight. I make my own tippers to fit
different moods, modes, and my fellows' needs.
But if you get too taken with the rules of how to play, you'll forget that
music is playing and not working. Just don't get stuck thinking you only
balance the tipper over your thumb to strike skin, rather than using,
primarily, you wrist moving quite rapidly back and forth. Yes I've seen both
used in a performance (you get a nice 'drum roll' with the thumb balance),
but you'll lose the flow without the wrist.
Remember this is the drum of heroes. I meditate with mine daily. And think
of all the great teachers you can work with, because after a while, you can
work out anything on record. Just travel wherever you go with your tipper to
hand (even driving the car), and work your forearm and wrist. And have FUN.