Didgeridoo, Didjeridu, Didjeridoo
Origins of the Didgeridoo
Some believe that the didgeridoo is the world's oldest
wind instrument. It may date back to 20,000 BC. The Didgeridoo is part
of the musical, healing and ceremonial heritage of the aboriginal peoples
of Australia. Traditional playing of the didgeridoo is accompanied by
tapping out soft rhythms on the sides of the instrument while it is being
played. Louder rhythms can be achieved by clapping sticks together. According
to one rendition of an aboriginal legend, the first man wanted to please
the sky. He put a hollowed branch to his mouth and began to play. With
the force of his breath, the termites living in the hollow branch were
expelled from the open end and became the stars.
The Aborigines made their didgeridoos eucalyptus branches.
There are hundreds of eucalyptus species, but only a few are used to make
the didgeridoo. The eucalyptus grows with a fleshy center. If any insect
or animal makes a small hold in the outer bark of the branch, termites
move in. It takes about a year for them to hollow out the branch or sapling
leaving the dense outer part of the eucalyptus intact. It is no doubt
a myth that Aboriginal didgeridoo makers can smell the termites when they
look for new materials. Perhaps, with experience, they can tell from the
shape and condition of the branches, where the termites have done their
work. Once cut, the hollowed 'stick' is left to season for a few months.
After that the bark is removed and the interior cleaned. Once dried ands
clean, the outside is sanded and any holes are filled. With the addition
of a beeswax mouthpiece the instrument is ready to play.
Unfortunately, with the increasing popularity of the
didgeridoo world-wide, many cutters simply cut all the branches and saplings
in an area to find a few hollow ones. Over 40,000 Australian didgeridoos
are exported each year. If even one live sapling is cut for each of the
hollowed dead eucalyptus, it represents a significant impact on Australia's
forests. Perhaps for this reason, and to supply demand, didgeridoos are
now made from a number of natural and synthetic materials.
The natural material didgeridoos that DulcimerShofar carries
are made of bamboo. Bamboo is a fast growing readily renewable plant,
that doesn't need to be hollowed out, it grows that way. The bamboo didgeridoo
(DIDB) are approximately 4 feet in length and hand painted with a variety
of designs. The other didgeridoos that DulcimerShofar carries are made of …yes
you guessed it, 'Space-Age' plastics. Actually, they are made of PVC.
They are sold with a mouth piece.
Sold separately are extra mouthpieces (DIDM) for bamboo
and (DDRM) for PVC, Carrying Cases (DINC), And the new Didgeridoo Tutorial
CD/CD ROM (VIDD). The CD audio and CD ROM video didgeridoo tutorial includes
a complete series of exercises for learning how to circular breathe.
Playing the Didgeridoo
The length and thickens of the didgeridoo will determine
which key the instrument will be in. The shorter the instrument, the higher
the pitch; while the longer the instrument, the lower the pitch. Our didgeridoos
are between 40 and 48 inches long.
To play the didgeridoo, you blow into the mouthpiece
while creating a buzzing with your lips. To practice, first try making
the lowest buzz sound that you can. Stick your bottom lip out just a little
beyond your upper lip. Now, keeping them loose, buzz them as if you were
giving someone the 'raspberry.' Keeping your lips loose makes them vibrate
and creates a buzz sound. Now try doing this into the didgeridoo. The
long hollow chamber in the didgeridoo amplifies the sound. You should,
with practice, achieve a drone sound. It is important to keep your lips
relaxed. Trying too hard usually causes the beginner to tighten their
lips- stay loose.
Once you have mastered the drone. You can alter the pitch
of the drone by slightly tightening your lips. You will know how tight
is too tight when the sound stops. You can add rhythm to your drones by
altering when you take breaths. This is all you need to become a fine
didgeridoo player. To advance to the next stage of playing you will want
to practice circular breathing.
Circular breathing allows you to continually blow air
from your mouth without ever stopping for breath. Let me say that again,
circular breathing allows you to continually blow air from your mouth
without ever stopping for breath. This technique allows you to blow an
uninterrupted drone. To do this, fill your mouth and cheeks with air.
Use your tongue to close off the back of your throat. Now, use light pressure
of the cheeks to push air out of your mouth. At the same time, inhale
through your nose. Replenish the air in your mouth and start the circle
again. Honest, it can be done.
The CD audio and CD ROM video didgeridoo tutorial that
DulcimerShofar offers, includes a complete series of exercises for learning
how to circular breathe. It will also show you a number of things that
will make playing the didgeridoo fun.
What determines the key of a didgeridoo?
Primarily it is the length and width of the air chamber
of the instrument that determines the pitch. Think about the old pipe
organs. The bass pipes were the fat long pipes and the soprano notes came
from the thin short pipes. The longer and wider the didgeridoo, lower
the sound. The inside shape of the air chamber can also affect the sound.
If the didgeridoo is wider at the top the sound will be lower. While a
wider bottom means higher pitch. Remember how you play the didgeridoo
will give you some range of pitch as well.