Practice Just Got Alot Easier

by MichelleStewart on October 1, 2011

I remember when I first started playing bodhran most of the tracks I wanted to play along with were so fast. I thought I’d struck gold when I found a cassette player that slowed down and sped the tape up, but the downside was that the pitch either dropped dramatically or made every group sound like the chipmunks gone Trad.

I just uploaded this free video to show you exactly how to use one of my favourite tools, the Amazing Slow Downer, to slow down your most loved music tracks to practice along to.

Some Free Solutions

I’ve been a fan of the Amazing Slow Downer for several years now because it’s so easy to use and as a music teacher it’s worth the $50 investment or $15 for the app. However, I realize not everyone is going to use it as much as me so here’s a free option I learned from my buddy, Steafan Hannigan. He shared this great tip with me recently on facebook as to how you can also slow tunes down with QuickTime. I couldn’t believe I had it on my computer all this time and didn’t even know it was there or play around with it. Most of you probably have it on your computers too.

So, here’s your Step By Step Instructions as to how use this free QuickTime Player to slow down or speed up music to play along with:

1. Go to QuickTime Player (if you can’t find it on your desktop just type it into ‘Search Programs and Files’)

2. Below ‘File’ select ‘Open File’ (pick a fave track)

3. Once it comes up go to ‘Window’

4. Scroll down to ‘Show A/V Controls’

5. When the AV Controls box pops up you’ll see Playback Speed in the bottom right hand corner and you can adjust the track tempo there.

I will try to do a screen capture video to actually show this at some point, but thought you’d like to try it out asap if you have a fave track that you thought was just way too fast for you. Now you’re all set.

GarageBand Can Do It Too!
I’m looking forward to getting a Mac very soon and know you can adjust the tempo in GarageBand. If you’re on a Mac just go to Youtube and search something like ‘GarageBand slow down’ or ‘GarageBand change tempo’ you’ll find a video of someone showing you how to do that.

“Art calls for complete mastery of techniques, developed by reflection within the soul.”

― Bruce Lee

Continue to live with passion and drum on!
~ Michelle

UPDATE: Just moments after posting this one of my Platinum students,
Bob from Texas, told me about gAssisant, another great option free from
the Mac App Store.

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10 Minutes A Day Practice Challenge – Who’s In?

by MichelleStewart on September 9, 2011

challengeMy Skype fiddle lessons start back up again this week, but I struggle to fit in practice time just like everyone else so I’m setting a challenge for myself and anyone else who wants to participate. It’s called the ’10 MINUTES A DAY PRACTICE CHALLENGE’. Basically, you commit to practicing your instrument 10 minutes a day which would make up a minimum of 70 minutes/week. I have been leaving my fiddle out where I can just pick it up and also blocking practice time into my google calendar.

So far, just since this week (I started on Sept. 5th, 2011), about sixty people have joined me in this challenge and have been posting updates on my BodhranExpert facebook page

It’s not too late to join in so who’s with me??? For those of you not on Facebook you can leave your updates below this post. Be sure to check in here or on the facebook page link above on a daily basis and share practice tips and how it’s working for you.

This challenge has been inspiring so many people. Being accountable and doing it as a group just seems to make it way more fun.

Once you get started it’s pretty hard to stop after only 10 minutes, but just commit to atleast 10 minutes every day because we can all spare 10 minutes, right?

Drum on!(or fiddle, pipe, etc. on)

~ Michelle

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How I Got Musically UNSTUCK!

by MichelleStewart on August 1, 2011

Practicing my fiddle

Hey everyone,

I’m here at my mum’s place on the Bras d’Or Lakes in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and it’s just been a cracker of a day. I’m into my second week of teaching bodhran at the Gaelic College and I was so inspired after an awesome day of lessons and ‘a-ha’ moments that I found some time to get my fiddle out to practice tonight.

I have to tell you though, I’m not great on fiddle yet, but I’m getting better with instruction from my amazing teacher, Dara MacDonald. When I’m in Scotland Dara gets up at 6 a.m. Nova Scotia time to give me a Skype fiddle lesson at 10 a.m. Scotland time. I’m really grateful she does because she then goes off to teach a full day of school followed by more Skype lessons at night.

I am writing this to tell any of you who are thinking about learning a musical instrument, whether it’s bodhran, fiddle or whatever you’re passionate about, and you’ve been looking for a teacher in your area, that there’s never been a better time to learn. You don’t need to have someone in person, locally, to teach you anymore so there’s NO EXECUSES.

I can personally vouch for Skype or video lessons. It’s an amazing gift to give to yourself. I turned 40 this year and this is one of the things that I’m giving to myself. I’ve always wanted to play the fiddle, and for years I’ve just been transferring over pipe tunes I knew and hit a plateau where I taught myself all I could. I definitely needed help if I wanted to get better. I know I probably won’t ever get to the point of recording a fiddle cd or anything like that, but I just get so much joy out of playing it and I love the music.

I admit, I don’t really get alot of time to practice, but it fills me up. So, if you’re like me, and there’s something you’ve always wanted to learn, I want to tell you that you are NEVER TOO OLD and it’s NEVER TOO LATE to learn.

Life is too short to not do the things you want to do.

~ Michelle

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Every Bodhran Player Will Want One!

by MichelleStewart on June 28, 2011

I just had to share this special gift that one of my very talented Platinum students made for me because I think every bodhran player is going to want one.

Anna Karin Liljestrand has been inundated with orders from BodhranExpert Platinum Members all around the world for bodhran necklaces, bracelets and even rings. These aren’t just for women either, they look really cool on guys too. Some drummers are hanging them as an ornament from their car mirror or using them as a unique handbag charm. The possilities are limitless, but each piece is one of a kind and the bodhran community as a whole seems to appreciate hand made craftsmanship.

If you would like your own customized bodhran piece you can contact Anna directly by email at:, look her up on Facebook: or go to her website

I think it’s great when people discover their passion and get to share it with the world. I hope Anna’s story of combining her creative interests inspires some of you to do the same.

~ Drum On,



Email Anna a photo of your bodhran and she can make a necklace, bracelet or ring that looks just like your drum.


My bodhran necklace made by Anna Karin Liljestrand

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Buying A Bodhran – Part 1 (Bodhran Makers Of The World)

by MichelleStewart on April 8, 2011

Great Bodhrans Are Made From Passion

Whether you are looking to purchase your very first bodhran or planning to upgrade to a better quality one, this section is here to help. This decision is made even more difficult by the fact that there are so many superb makers out there now (See the list below). My husband, Mark, and I are simply too busy with other projects to keep making our Cape Breton Bodhrans, but I can tell you from first hand experience that making an instrument is done out of passion and not for love of the almighty dollar. A great deal of time, effort and care goes into making a bodhran so please keep that in mind when looking to buy one.

I would always suggest you deal directly with a maker, or one of their reps in your country, as most shops that sell instruments get them in at cost price, making more than the actual maker. With the exception of a few really great shops, most music store employees usually don’t know that much about bodhrans. The dead give away is when they have them hanging in the front window, baking in the direct sunlight. In fact, you probably already know more about bodhrans than they do.

Do Your Homework

The more time you spend researching the best maker and drum for you the better you will feel about your final decision.

Don’t be afraid to email makers to ask some questions, but remember to sift through their websites first as many of your questions are most likely already answered there.

The Better The Instrument – The Better YOU Sound,

But It’s Ok To Start Out On The Cheap

If you are just looking for something to get you started and don’t want to pay alot of money I’m sure you already know you will simply get what you pay for. There’s nothing wrong with starting out on an inexpensive drum and then upgrading once you’ve decided to stay with it. My very first drum was a very cheap one made in Pakistan and it served me well in my early stages. Once you try a great drum though you will instantly hear how much better you actually sound.

Why It’s Good To Get A Second, Third And Fourth Opinion

I hesitate to recommend one maker over another as the choice is such an individual one. I’m sure many people would just like for me to say ‘This is the one drum I recommend’ and make the decision for them, but going by only one person’s opinion wouldn’t really be in their best interest. I also don’t think any one person should have that much power.

Leave A Comment To Help One Another

Collecting information from lots of different sources is the best way to find the drum just for you. I know that people like helping people so please leave a comment to exchange information about bodhrans, where you got yours, what size is it, etc. and your overall experiences in the comments section below.  This will help everyone become more educated about bodhrans and makers around the world.

~ Michelle


Rob Forkner – Metloef Irish Drums – Texas

Brent Cuyler – Finnegan Hill Percussion – Columbus, Ohio

Albert Alfonso – Texas, USA

Mance Grady – Rhode Island

Cooperman – Bellow Falls, Vermont

Mike Quinlan – Chicago

John McPrange



David Settles – Calgary, Alberta

Chip Mulvaney Mulvaney’s Handcrafted Instruments – Winnipeg, Manitoba

Robin Shackleton – Sylvan Temple Drums – Vancouver Island, British Columbia

C. J. Dixon – Ontario

Fred Graham – Ardglen Bodhrans

Neil O’Grady – Newfoundland

Shaw Percussion – Ontario

Bridget Drums – Ontario



Christian Hedwitschak – Hedwitschak Drums – Bavaria

David Roman Drums – Berlin



Dragon Drums – North Wales

Mark Harmsworth -DD Percussion – North Wales



Paraic McNeela – Dublin

Malachy Kearns – Co. Galway

Michael Vignoles – Galway

Ben March Bodhrans – Co. Clare

Eamon Maguire

Niall Carey – NiCa Percussion – Tipperary



Seamus O’Kane – Derry

Paul McAuley – Ballycastle



Eoin Leonard – Belgarth Bodhrans – Orkney (Currently only making on hobby basis)

John Wilson – Skye Bodhrans – Portree

Doug Lanchbery – Auchencairn

Adam Brown – RandABrown



Harold Hougaard



Eckermann Drums



Brendan White – The Netherlands



Renegade Rhythms – Marc ‘Mog’ Moggy – Norfolk, England

Diarmaid O’Kane (son of Seamus O’Kane) – Essex



Beagan Irish Drums

Clive Quinn

John McKnowall – Kyogle, New South Wales



Olaika Bodhran



Victor Barral

Mariano La Duela –


Currently Taking A Break From Bodhran Making

Ralf Siepmann

Davy Stuart – New Zealand

Darius Bartlett – France

EastCoast DrumCraft – PEI, Canada

Del Eckels – Dels Drum – California


CLICK HERE TO JOIN BodhránExpert Platinum Membership TODAY!

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Summer Bodhran Courses 2010 – Gaelic College

by MichelleStewart on February 10, 2010

dsc01339 I’m really excited to be heading back home to Cape Breton this summer for five weeks of teaching bodhran at the Gaelic College. It’s ideal for me as my Mum only lives ten minutes over the mountain. My five year old son also gets to spend summer with Nanny and his huge Cape Breton family (I have 42 first cousins . . . not many by Cape Breton standards).

I am only doing five weeks at the Gaelic College this summer as my son, Cameron, starts his second year of Primary in August. I’ll be teaching bodhran from July 5th – August 13th, 2010. Classes run Monday to Friday, but you can also see me perform in concert, along with all the other world class instructors, every Wednesday night through the summer in the Great Hall Of The Clans. Visit the Gaelic College home page or go directly to their Summer School page

Many people who come to the Gaelic College for summer courses make a family holiday of it. Cape Breton is absolutely amazing in the summer. I may be biased, but feel free to check it out for yourself at Destination Cape Breton or Nova Scotia’s Official Tourism Site


Courses offered include: Bagpipes, Bodhran, Weaving, Gaelic Language and Song, Pipe Band Drumming, Cape Breton Fiddle, Cape Breton Stepdancing, Celtic Harp, Highland Dance, Piano Accompaniment and Scottish Small Pipes. Some weeks are just for youths, some for youths and adults combined (great for families) and some just for adults.

Whether you are a beginner or advanced player the bodhran classes cater to all levels. You can take bodhran as an elective or a major. Don’t worry if you don’t have your own drum as I always have extras on hand. I can give you advice about purchasing a drum and you will have a better idea of what you’re looking for after trying different makes.

I’ll be sharing my techniques for playing with dynamic control, loads of new rhythms, changing tones, bodhran etiquette and the art of performance. I will also show many different playing styles and follow the bodhran through its history. I will give you insight on how you can continue to teach yourself after the course.

dsc01053This is a high energy class that will leave a permanent smile on your face. Check out some bodhran class photos from previous years at my Facebook page Feel free to join me there and on my other sites like Twitter and Youtube. I have to admit that I’m a bit slow to reply to comments as I have been completely overwhelmed with amazing feedback from all of you, but please keep the comments and questions coming. I really do appreciate it and it inspires me to share everything I know about bodhran with you.

Email me if you have any questons.and I hope to see you in the summer.

Michelle Stewart

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BBC Virtual Session

by MichelleStewart on October 28, 2009

BBC Radio 2 has a great site for learning and playing along to tunes.

When you visit this page click on “Welcome to the Virtual Session. Click here to join in:”

The Virtual Session box will then open. Click the flashing red arrow in the bottom right corner. You will then see sets of tunes you can play along with and download music for.

This great resource has everything from reels, jigs, slip jigs, hornpipes, polkas, waltzes and even a barndance.

I really like this site and hope you do too.


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I have just uploaded the rest of the 6/8 Jig Section of the bodhran solo covered in the video below and thought you might like the visual aid.

Just click on the link above to get the pdf and print off  the THREE PAGES to play along with the video.

Here’s a quick guide to using the notation.

Down Arrow = Down Stroke

Up Arrow = Up Stroke

Larger Arrow = Accent (Heavier Beat)

Dash (-) = Rest

Higher the arrows on the lines = the higher the pitch.

H = High Pitch – Push In / Shorten Distance Between Back Hand And Tipper / Roll Thumb Over
M = Medium Pitch – Gentle Hand Pressure In Middle / Medium Distance Between Back Hand / Tipper
L  = Low Pitch – Hand Just Touching But Without Pressure / Furthest Distance From Back Hand / Tipper

When you see a part surrounded by double bars and double dots ll:          :ll   these are repeat signs so play that part twice.

Foot would tap on first beat after each bar line     l   and first beat after each comma.  The commas don’t have any note value.

This should all make sense once you print off the pdf.



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Free Online Metronomes

by MichelleStewart on March 30, 2009

I’ve checked out some free online metronomes and added a few links for you below. They didn’t seem to be able to subdivide the note like I show you in my video, but it depends on whether you want that function or not. This is VERY useful for beginners though.
Some also give the option of various time signatures, but the choice is quite limited.

I guess when it comes down to it you get what you pay for and when you don’t pay for it .. . well.

With that said it is very handy to have sites like these at your fingertips.

Would like to know what you think of these and if they are helpful. Leave a comment here to share your thoughts with others.

I like my hand held Korg MA-30 very much and think it’s really good for drummers.
Check out the Korg Site for all the features

It’s great value for money and if you don’t find the online ones useful I would go ahead and treat yourself to a real one.

Just type Korg Ma-30 into Google to find more sites. Better yet contact your local music shop and if they don’t have it in stock I’m sure they can order it in for you.

Hope this has been of some help.

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Using A Metronome As A Practice Tool

by MichelleStewart on January 29, 2009

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