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Introducing Bodhrán

A Group Course for Beginners

Next course starts 2 May 2019.

‘Great teacher, full of knowledge, who made the classes fun and incorporated extra teaching tools to go above and beyond.’
– T. Stephenson

Click on the tabs for information.

Course Description

Introducing BodhránThe bodhrán, a wood and goatskin drum beaten with a wooden stick, is the heartbeat of traditional Irish music. Designed for absolute beginners, the Waltons New School of Music’s Introducing Bodhrán course has taught hundreds of people how to play this great Irish instrument, and by the end of the course you will have the confidence to play a variety of Irish traditional rhythms and accompany other instruments, both solo and in sessions. (See Trad Slow Sessions for more information on educational sessions held at the school.)

The course includes the following elements:

  • Holding the bodhrán
  • Holding the beater
  • Basic strokes and variations
  • Reel and jig patterns
  • Other traditional rhythms (polkas, hornpipes, slip jigs, etc.)
  • Left-hand technique and varying the pitch of your bodhrán
  • Bodhrán care and maintenance

Course participants will need to have bodhráns (ideally 16- or 18-inch and tuneable) and beaters to bring to class and to practice with at home.

This course covers Stage 1 of the New School’s ten-stage system of student progress and assessment, which culminates in a teaching or performing qualification (Stage 10) should the student progress that far. Participants who successfully complete the course can be issued with a certificate of completion of Stage 1. If you are taking the course, please let the school office know if you would like this certificate. See About Our Stage System for more information.

Have you enrolled in this course?
Download our Introductory Handout
for tips on how to get the most from it.

Introducing Bodhrán is one of the New School’s group courses. We also offer private bodhrán lessons for students of all ages and skill levels. See Traditional • Folk • World Instruments Tuition for more information.

Techniques Covered

A video demonstration of some techniques covered in the course:

John Sweeney

John SweeneyJohn comes from a musical family and has been studying, playing and teaching guitar, as well as bodhrán, tin whistle and a range of Irish traditional instruments, for over thirty years. He works in many different styles, including blues, rock, jazz, traditional and flamenco, and he has performed and recorded with a number of Irish groups, gigging extensively throughout Ireland, Canada, the UK, the US and Spain. He began teaching in 1988 at the Scarborough School of Guitar in Toronto, Canada, where he also studied composition and flatpick technique. He has also studied flamenco guitar with Miguel Escudero Lopez in Seville, Spain and traditional music at St. Enda’s Folk Park & Museum, and he continues to develop techniques in a range of guitar styles. John was the only guitar player selected by the renowned vocal innovator and improviser Bobby McFerrin to perform with him in the National Concert Hall for Bobby McFerrin Meets Ireland (2013), a unique collaboration for the Waltons World Masters Series between Bobby and a small, select group of Irish performers – chosen to represent the creativity, tradition and spirit of Ireland and selected through an Ireland-wide audition process. He has taught at the New School since 2003 and also teaches our Introducing Guitar for Adults, Introducing Guitar for Teens and Trad Guitar Basics courses, as well as guitar and bodhrán courses for our Outreach Programme.


‘I liked the relaxed atmosphere and encouragement. Really enjoyed and looked forward to attending each week.’
– E. Burke

‘Great people, great teacher, great fun.’
– D. Duggan

‘Great teacher!
– C. Fagan

‘I found the course great, as I had never played before and was not at all familiar with the instrument. We were eased into playing comfortably.’
– D. Flynn

‘Fantastic course – really helped me to gain confidence in playing.’
– L. Larkin

‘Highly enjoyable course. Would definitely recommend.’
– J. Ryan

Have you taken – or are you taking – this course? We would appreciate it if you could take a few moments to give us your feedback in a brief online questionnaire about it.


2018-2019 Third Term Course Schedule & Fee

9 weeks, 2 May – 27 June 2019
Thursdays 7 – 8 pm

Tuition Fee: €180


Enrolment for this course requires a completed Enrolment Form and full payment of the course fee. Places are limited to eight, and are available on a first-come, first-served basis, based on the date of enrolment. A number of our group courses fill in advance of their start dates, and early enrolment is recommended.


Purchasing this course as a gift?
Please complete a Gift Certificate Booking Form.


Questions about the course?


What happens after the course?

Two weeks before the end of each Introducing course, participating students will be given options for continuing their tuition at the school if they’d like to do so. Although a continuation ‘Improvers’ course cannot generally be scheduled on the same day/time as the Introducing course, one can be arranged if enough students would like to continue and the teacher has timetable availability. Students can also continue their tuition with private (one-to-one) lessons or ‘partner’ lessons with another class member (see Tuition Options – Private • Partner • Small Group Lessons). We are happy to discuss these options with you.

Trad Slow Sessions

Trad Slow SessionsParticipants in this course are also welcome to attend our Trad Slow Sessions. These are traditional Irish music sessions in all ways except one: the tempo. We play the session tunes at a slower than normal pace (often less than half the speed), so that beginning and intermediate players can more easily learn the tunes and join in the session. Trad Slow Sessions take place once a month on Friday evenings.

See Trad Slow Sessions for more information, a list of current tunes and 2018-2019 dates.

Introducing Bodhrán
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