From N. Simicich: I am wondering if you know a source for Bodhran heads. I own one that I have had for many years, but I had not touched it for some years. When I went to look at it recently, I noted that the head had split. Alternatively, since one can buy a new 18" Bodhran on Ebay for $20+$10 shipping, is it worth repairing this one?

Thank you for your question! It allows me to address several topics for our readers including replacing the head and buying and selecting instruments in general. Be sure to let me know if any of these answers help.

Replacement heads:

There ARE replacement heads for your bodhran (those reading who want to know what a bodhran is, click on this link to an article by Jeff Smith:

As with most frame-type drums (including tambourines) one buys a piece of skin larger than the drum and after removing the old head, puts the new one on. In this case, my friend Shawn Lafrenz at The Percussion Source ( said it would most likely be goat head used on the bodhran, and goat is available from 8"-36" and will run you anywhere from $8-$60. He suggests buying a head 4" larger than the drum.

As to the question of buying a new one, I have a couple of thoughts: If, in terms of time and money, if it is easier and cost effective to just buy a new one (see the prices I quoted above and know that changing a head of this type requires some patience), I am a big believer that efficiency is a great thing. In that sense it is no different than replacing an old refrigerator, let's say. But, musical instruments tend to be a bit more personal. Other than sticks, I can't think of an instrument that I've discarded out of hand. So, if I were to get a new one, it might be for expedience sake (e.g. I need a playable instrument NOW for a gig), but I'd probably keep the old one to repair and use again, or keep it for historical interest.

Instrument selection in general:

I prefer to hear and play the instruments I buy. If I can't play it personally before I buy it, I prefer to have a friend or trusted instrument dealer test it for me (the good ones will usually help you find what you are looking for). The sound of each percussion instrument is often unique, even within the same brand or model. For hand-crafted instruments this is even more so. Choosing the instrument you like the best might be similar to a painter selecting a color of paint, or a chef choosing which spice to use. Your final product definitely depends on your choice! But just as the beginning painter or chef might not need, or want, to be as discriminating, the beginning percussionist needn't worry too much either. So, if you are a beginner, just get an instrument and get playing! (Get some instruction, too!) But as you progress, and can afford it (another answer for another day), start thinking about your needs and what you are getting when you buy an instrument. Spend some time doing research and try things out as much as you can.