One of the most invaluable tools at my disposal as a student of the bodhrán is my log book. I use this document to keep track of numerous aspects of my playing and teaching. As the photo below shows, I have have been making entries for quite a while. What is in it, and what purpose does it serve? Let me give you a tour…
As this page illustrates, a regular evaluation of my own technique through audio and video recordings helps me to identify areas that need improvement. Once addressed, these improvements allow me to refine my performance.
Notes From Videos
YouTube is a great resource for learning about how and what others plays. I will often spend time on this site watching videos of players that I admire. Is it not enough to just say that I like a player. I have to identify the “why.”
As I watch and analyze other players, I look for interesting voicings, discernible concepts in how they accompany tunes, and characterizations of how their playing is different from others. Once I identify these areas, I can then add them to my own practice regimen.
Specific Licks from Other Players
I’ll often hear something from a player that really draws my attention. Once I identify these rhythms, phrases, or subphrases, I’ll make every effort to transcribe what I heard. I then add this to my practice routine for two reasons- 1, to use rhythmic vocabularies to which I am not yet accustomed, and 2, to try to make these devices part of my own playing.
My Own Lick Ideas
I am a percussion teacher by trade, and I spend the clear majority of my time working with concert bands, marching bands, indoor drum lines, percussion ensembles, and private lessons (concert percussion, rudimental drumming, and drum set). As a result, I am exposed to a wide range of music in a number of genres. Hardly a day goes by when I will hear a rhythmic idea, play around with it in my head, and wonder if it will sound good on the bodhrán. Some of the ideas are good, and some not so much. Trying to apply the musical influences around me to the bodhrán strengthens me as a player.
Notes About Teaching
As the author of three books on the bodhrán (First Steps, The Bodhrán Primer, and Playing the Tune), I am passionate about the pedagogy of the bodhran. I love watching how others teach this instrument, and I will often take notes about techniques that are effective. The quote below comes from one of the most intuitive and motivated teachers that I know, Robbie Walsh from The Bodhrán Buzz.
I’ll also keep notes from the workshops that I attend. By keeping these event specific notes amongst my other materials is extremely helpful as I attempt to draw relations between the various things that I have learned.
Recommendations from Friends
And finally, the drum must live inside a musical context. To focus on just the drum is to miss the beauty and creativity of Irish traditional music in general. I will often ask what artists excite my friends and teachers, and then I will go listen to their recommendations.
In short, a log book is a great way to record numerous aspects of your journey with the bodhrán. And perhaps the most important is perspective- just when I feel like I have reached a plateau in my own playing, I can thumb though years of notes and realize that I have been growing all along. And as long as I am diligent with my practicing, performing, and entries in this log book, I will continue to grow.
And that is the most satisfying note of all.