Christian Hedwitschak and The Evolution of The Bodhrán (Interview)

Christian’s drums have added a new glamour to bodhran making . The beautiful veneers  on his shells, the elegant fittings, and the high quality finishes make his drums a must-have item. He is one of the big innovators and is always seeking how to improve the bodhran into an ultra modern drum. He uses the latest materials in shell design to keep ahead of other makers. His ideas have had great influence on the bodhran as we now know it….an instrument equal in prestige to any other musical instrument.
– Seamus O´Kane

From a “percussive instrument” to a “tonal-like instrument” the heartbeat of Irish music has come a long way.

I know Christian Hedwitschak through his bodhran designs for Canadian award-winning percussionist Jacob McCauley. These are huge instruments. They are stunning in their unique designs. They also make deep tonal sounds. Any bodhran player will go gaga over the look and feel of the Hedwitschak bodhrans.

Christian has been a master cabinet maker before venturing into making bodhrans. Now his own line is known all over the world. His Philosophy states: “Being a master cabinet maker and also a bodhrán player, my aim is to build high quality instruments with several special features.

As an instrument manufacturer three things are important to me: the quality in the choice of materials and the construction of the instrument, the responsibility I have towards the environment and an individual service approach.”

He is celebrating his 10th anniversary in the business after making over 4,000 of them.

Why is the Hedwitschak bodhráns so different from the rest in the market?

I’d say I dig deeper, and go the “German” way in analyzing each part of the instrument. I do sound analyses in the sound studio. I work together with some of the best bodhrán players of our time and always want to improve every single part ;o)

As for the custom orders, I really want to fulfill the customer’s wishes in a way that makes sense. Some of the “custom makers” these days just do everything that the customer is asking for. Just because it’s possible to make. I always try to combine customers’ requests with the most logical construction / material of choice etc.

The first thing  I do when a customer comes up with a new idea is to find the core of his aim, what is the important thing we need and then  we start and build the whole drum around it. This can be about a specific sound, size or just an optical thing.

I also say `no’ if I see a customer is only looking for decorative things or don’t have the experience and just wants “the best” because it is the most expensive ;o)

Yea, I think this is good to point out which  may differ to most of the other makers. I still see there are lots of mysticism involved in bodhrán making and some of the makers use this as a part of their marketing strategy ;o) I’d say it’s all about the Physics, the Science, the experience and the craftsmanship which comprise a lot and maybe just 1 % mysticism ;o)))

Let us talk about the requests you get for customized bodhrans. This must be challenging in terms of design and time constraints?

Yes. For example the deep drum for Jacob McCauley ;o)

But the most challenging is to create a signature line bodhrán. Because it isn’t just about creating a drum which is fitting 100% for the customers, it also means that this drum is exactly in the same quality that has to be reproduced again and again. So when I am working on a signature line drum- which can be really a work for a couple of years with all the testing and experience until it can be launched- I have to keep in mind right from the start that I have to find techniques to copy exactly this quality again and again for over a period of few years.

So this also contains the means of finding the materials and keeping the suppliers consistent in the quality of materials and the ability to deliver the right measurements.

For example it was a huge challenge to get enough Lambeg skins for the RolfWagelsEdition bodhran.

Do you think the market for Celtic music instruments is more lucrative now compared to 5 years ago?

Well I couldn’t complain about the demand for my drums over the past 10 years to be honest. But I think it’s a different market and a different thing to what you might mean now. But what I see now is that big companies like REMO, Meinl, Waltons are entering the professional Bodhrán market now as well (not just tourist stuff). And this is a new development in the past few years. The bodhrán is right in the middle of the change from a special instrument to a world instrument. Also the amount of bodhrán players has increased unbelievably. So yes, in this case I would say the Celtic music market is more lucrative than say 10 or even 5 years ago.

Do you think, the style of playing has evolved as well to accommodate the new shapes and sizes? Before, there was one design. Now there are many designs.


Yes, definitely. I’d say the general development went from a “percussive instrument” to a “tonal-like instrument”. It means the drums made these days are (in general, of course) more civilized and more musical, more tonal than years ago. Bodhrán players are now listening to tune keys and key changes.

What is the most effective way of marketing your bodhrans? How do you go a step ahead of the game?

Recommendations from players!





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