Published April 18th, 2012 at 10:00 am EST/EDT

So far in the “How to Bard” series I’ve been talking a lot about the philosophical side of music. This time I thought I’d turn my attention to the things that are more tangible. Instruments are pretty durn tangible.

Physical instruments—guitars, flutes, violins, et cetera—have always seemed to me to have definite and individual personalities. I tend to personify them, like I think a lot of musicians do. The Pagan side of me does believe they have their own spirit or energy, which is how I feel about a lot of other inanimate objects. So I suppose that’s why I tend to think of my instruments as being my partners rather than mere tools.

This is my bodhran. Her name is Star. She is an 18″ tunable bodhran with a natural skin head and black finish.

I am also building a small army of tippers.

“Bodhran” is a word that comes to us from the Celts, so the spelling is quite counterintuitive. It is pronounced “BOU-ron”. As if you were talking to your friend Ron and exclaiming, “Wow!” Aren’t silent letters fun?

I have had Star for around a year and a half at this point. My interest in the bodhran was piqued first by Brenda Sutton, who was kind enough to give me some tips on playing and maintenance, and then by my cohort Gabrielle Aumei when she brought her own bodhran back from Colorado. I hadn’t really done much with percussion since leaving orchestra at the end of 6th grade, but playing this drum has revealed to me a part of myself I didn’t know was missing.

I bought Star from Amazon, in addition to a case that is quite handy. If you’re interested, here is the bodhran and here is the case.

Star is my go-to physical instrument in most cases. And no, I will never have enough tippers.

Next I decided I needed to procure a djembe. Djembes are awesome, and I largely blame Debbie Gates and Sally Childs-Helton for making me want one. I was able to save up and get one last year. Allow me to introduce Bigboom.

That’s not thunder you hear.

Bigboom has thus far been featured on “Stepping Stones” and the “Stallion” songs. He is a 24″ tall djembe with a 13″ diameter natural head. He was carved from a single piece of wood and I bought him from World Wide Drums. Unfortunately they no longer appear to carry this particular drum, but they have lots of other nifty things to look at if you’re so inclined.

Bigboom is the reason I hope to have a kick mic for my studio soon. My other mics just can’t quite capture the low end of this drum’s range, which gets pretty far down there.

I’m still a little under confident with this drum. Despite the fact that I’m a great typist and I can sew without stabbing myself too horribly (usually), I’m not always able to coordinate both hands to do what I want them to do when I want them to do it when it comes to playing this drum. So I’m still honing my skills with this bad boy, and of course having a good time doing it.

Various percussion
What percussionist’s bag of tricks is complete without a bunch of other random noisemakers? None, of course. I’ve got quite a few random noisemakers that I think are rather nifty. Here’s a group shot of all of my extra percussion things.

I have a birthday coming up…

The cowbell and the tambourine attach to any mic stand or mic stand type of thing so that I can hit them with various objects, such as the timpani mallets that are probably wishing I’d left the store without them. I thought this was a nifty rig because, while I have a non-mounted tambourine, I wanted something that I could really control. This rig is great for producing more complex rhythms with a tambourine. It also makes it easier to control when the tambourine stops. I bought this to use on a new single that will be coming out at the end of April, and it’s already one of my favorite things.

And now to identify everything else. I have two egg shakers, which are technically my husband’s, but which I usually play instead. I have a wooden frog that my thoughtful in-laws bought me for Christmas (along with some of the tippers pictured above—and which missed this round of photos). The sleigh bells I bought for “Kiss Me, Jak Frost” and will hopefully find another chance to use at some point. And in the meantime, hey, I have sleigh bells! I also have zills, various lengths of copper pipes that make fun noises, and last but not least, yes, that is an anvil. I bought it for a single I hope to be releasing this summer and I found it, of all places, at JoAnn. It was in with their beading stuff. And it’s cute and hey, I have an anvil.

And lastly, for the peep show I promised you all…

Voice has been my primary instrument since I was twelve or thirteen. I’ve already talked a lot about it, so this time I’m not going to say very much. I will instead leave you with this.

I swear.

Making the phone call to ask my doctor for this photo was probably one of the weirdest calls I’ve ever made.

And so that’s pretty much it for this installment. This entry was a little random and probably kind of pointless, but I had fun with it anyway.

Next time I’ll be discussing the technological side of my music-making, with which I have decidedly limited experience compared to many other musicians. Then again, I’ve only been in this for about a year now. Either way, I hope you’ll come back as I continue to explore the physical part of how I do what I do.

2 Responses to “My Experiences with Learning How to Bard Pt. 3 – Partners in Crime”

  1. Kimberly says:

    I love that you put a pic of your vocal chords on here. lol

  2. firesongblog says:

    I love that I was able to GET a picture of my vocal chords to put on here XD It’s a coincidence that I happened to go to the doctor for a vocal chord assessment a few months ago.

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