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Didgeridoo Lessons


Striving to play the changes in a melodic way.
Staff member
Here's my report on the Didgeridoo class that Suzy and I attended this weekend. We had to really search for the Jamtown Playspace as the building was behind another deserted building on Lake Street. There were two other students there already and we joined them.

The didgeridoo is a wind instrument traditionally made from the trunk of termite hollowed eucalyptus trees from Australia. They average about 4 to 5 feet in length, and are played by vibrating your lips into the top end of the instrument which creates a deep humming drone.

The didgeridoo is a rhythm instrument, so you play "beats" instead of melodic songs. Play at your own speed as well; quiet or loud, fast or slow, and soon you'll develop your own style. There are no "rules" or complex memorization. This makes learning the instrument very intuitive, so you don't need any musical training to enjoy playing the didgeridoo straight away. It also doesn't require "power" from your lungs like other wind instruments. The didgeridoo is played with gently vibrating lips, voice, and tongue movement, not lung power. You won't believe how quickly you can learn this and how much fun it can be.

Our instructor was Pam and she had been playing for three years. She had a number of instruments which was good because the beauty I ordered from eBay at $68 had not arrived yet. We talked about the history of the instrument, voice the drone, and rhythms. Pam recommended the Mary Youngblood CD, a native American flute player and visiting Tyler Spenser's web site at primaltones.com.

Then we spend a full twenty minutes on circular breathing, learning techniques, and uses. It was fascinating to me and appears to be really learnable given time and the passion to pursue this skill. Suzy probably won't continue to work on this but I might. Heck I have the instrument now. :eek:)

Interesting side stories:
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Definitely an interesting instrument -- for particular types of music. Melodically, you're basically limited to the drone note and one overtone (which is typically not the octave), so all the interest and motion comes from timbre changes. Apart from the vocalisations, nearly all of that timbre change comes from changing the shape of your mouth and tongue position. And if it does that on a didg, it must also do the same (at least to some degree) on every other wind instrument. One of my favorite examples...
I play didgeridoo and own a nice varied collection of them.
I enjoy dappling with goa trance style music, and use it in recordings for texture and dimension, it's a wonderful change of pace, once you learn circular breathing, it becomes a very enjoyable and relaxing instrument.
I'm sure you've heard of the digeribone and multi drop-drone didgeridoos, right? They're fun, they take some extra practice, but are well worth the tone versatility.
There are a lot of things to do with a didge, I used to meddle with beat boxing in to it, but slowly migrated towards the slower, more focused sounds and overtones.
Although I respect the no-female beliefs of the Aborigines, I safely enjoy it on my own little frequency. ;)
Although I respect the no-female beliefs of the Aborigines,

Surely, Aborigines believe in females?

I now have a didge, and I'm very proud to say I was taught circular breathing by none other than Rolf Harris.

But learning to play it well is another issue, I think brass players (especially the lower brass) have more chance than woodwind players.
Surely, Aborigines believe in females?
I've heard somewhere that it was against their spirituality to allow women to play. The didge is supposed to help connect them to their "obscure beliefs" - not too sure on the whole story, but it's intriguing.

I started didge prior to picking up woodwinds, and have never played a brass instrument (attempted to blow in to a piccolo trumpet once, that's as far as I got). It's a lot looser embouchure (the didge) than any kind of brass, and requires a totally different type of breath support and control (blow too hard, you make that awful "floooop" blow too soft, and your embouchure fissles).
It's a matter of keeping your embouchure the same during circular breathing, and when continuing breath support after inhaling, not blowing back in too hard which can mess it up. All about balance and control.
I think it's the belief that playing one can cause infertility in ladies.

Thanks for refreshing my memory. I can't really think of a lady-like reply to that, but in short I do remember reading something about that years and years ago.

I have a question for everyone reading here, what key didge is preferred?
A lot of people like the really high ones, but I gravitate towards the low B and below. I find the tone more appealing, I own a ton of these things.
I really am keen to try the modern didgeridoo

I've seen those, but never played one. Looks like it would be weird to hold, I wonder how that design would affect the tone color and projection.
On another note (no pun intended, D to be exact) I do have a PVC didge, to me the tone sounds too, well, PVC-ish. I like a "woody" dark tone.
The PVC is fun to beatbox in to though, and handles overtones and vocals well. Good for certain recordings.
I make them, mostly for the art of it versus playing, I do use them in recordings frequently however.
I find the continuous drone/rhythm to be a bit monotonous after a while, and once you learn to do everything you can with them, you're left with the whole "what next?" issue. All of mine are in the key of low G and constructed of teak with a beeswax mouthpiece.
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