Bodhrán Tutorial: Reel and Variation

by | Aug 27, 2019 | Teach Yourself Bodhrán | 0 comments

Our bodhrán workshops at Ely Folk Festival have been very popular, and this year we had several requests for some follow up material so folks can practice at home, and progress from what they learned at the Festival.

So, here you go: the first of a series of blogs with sound bites to which you can listen and play along, as well as downloadable charts of the drum strokes.

Today, we begin with a standard Reel in 4/4 time.  It may not strike you as the most exciting of rythms, but it is at the heart of lots of wonderful classic ceilidh and folk tunes.  It is also a good exercise for practicing your upward and downward strokes, and learning to control the emphasis and volume you get from your beating.

It’s easy to make a more emphatic down stroke, but can you get the next up – down – up strokes even in volume?  Many people find it trickier to make a firm up stroke with a clear sound, but practice in a simple rythm like this one helps you hear and adjust the differences in your playing.

Let’s start with a sound bite of the standard reel in 4/4 time.


Here is your downloadable chart of the strokes for the Standard Reel.

By the way, I am playing my BOD Drum with a centre spot head and using a Rock-Mo beater for these demos.

Once you are comfortable with the standard reel, try the Reel Variation 1.  This alternates a bar of the standard reel with a bar of down, skip a beat, down, skip a beat, and alternates those two bars for a slightly jazzier feel.

Here’s your sound bite of the Reel Variation 1 to learn and play along with.


And here is your downloadable chart of the drum strokes for the Reel Variation 1.

Now have some reel fun (pun intended!) and try playing along to some recordings of other musicians playing a reel, to get the feeling of playing along in a session.

Here is a lovely recording of Saul Bailey on the melodeon. Try both the basic and variation as you play along with him.


Keep an eye on the blog in the coming weeks as we introduce you to a basic jig, and then more variations on both the reel and the jig rythms.




  1. Bodhrán Tutorial: Reel Variation 2 – Blackwell Original Drums - […] are you getting on with your Standard Reel, Standard Jig, and the first variations on each of those?  Ready…

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