Jacob McCauley

Jacob’s technique can be split into two sections:

The Tipper:

Jacob’s tipper technique involves holding the tipper approximately 3/4 at the top, and balancing the tipper between the thumb and index finger.  However, the tipper is not placed closer to the hand or lower down on the thumb/index finger (as is popular with many single-ended players).  The tipper is instead held closer to fingertips, resulting in what Jacob calls “fingertip control.” The rest of the fingers lay gently on the tipper and are there purely for control and stability.  When quicker speed is needed, the tipper is allowed to move on its own momentum, without being held back by the remaining fingers.  Essentially what happens is the tipper pivots between the thumb and index finger, while the other fingers lay relaxed so as to not get in the way.  Once control is needed again, the remaining fingers gently put pressure back on to the tipper. 

One of the main benefits of this technique is the ability to achieve some of the more difficult modern stylistic ornaments such as single-end style rolls and triplets, double-downs (as well as triples and quadruplets) with less energy while at the same time maintaining complete control.  Another major benefit is the ability to achieve complex rhythms and odd-time signatures through the use of intricate sticking patterns (like the double, triple and quadruple downs as well as coordinated double-ups etc). It also allows for more control when doing some of the more difficult ornaments, as it is very easy to gain control again by using the remaining fingers.

The Back-Hand:

As opposed to the more common method of bending the skin to achieve a tonal change, Jacob was intrigued by experimenting with a subtle hand pressure that allows the skin to resonate a tone when the tipper strikes the skin accordingly. In effect you can make the drum sound larger and smaller by applying what Jacob calls “broad tonal changes” by using a flat hand sliding gracefully up and down the skin with the tipper striking the skin above the hand. This creates a very smooth and rich melodic change that is much more precise and broad than a simple bending of the skin. 

Next, we have “precise tonal changes” which stem from finger-tip pressure that essentially contacts pressure points on the skin to achieve a more precise tonal change.  In actual fact, you can map out the frequency response by applying a virtual grid across the skin (similar to any fretless instrument) showing where each pressure points lies.  Although very effective, this technique requires a lengthy dedication of practice to achieve the necessary muscle memory. The ability to truly create melodic notes becomes possible, which greatly adds to the overall sound with a rhythmic and melodic component.

In essence Jacob believes that one needs to be a minimalist to be able to play to your full potential.  Excess movement means more work, more energy, and ultimately forces you to do more to achieve less.  This is Jacob’s primary concept in terms of his own technique which allows the Bodhrán to now reach outward from its traditional roots, and enter many other genres of music.