Didgeridoo Tips

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How do the aboriginals know if a tree will make a good didgeridoo?

Traditional Didgeridoos

To make a traditional didgeridoo, the aboriginals go out into the bush to find trees where the white ants (termites) have done a thorough job of hollowing. They tap on tree trunks until they find one that sounds right. Then they cut it down very carefully so it will resprout (probably the earth's original environmentalists) and use a long stick or tree branch to clean out the bore of the trunk. Then they remove the bark from the trunk in order to increase the resonance and get it ready for decorating. Didgeridoos for ceremonial use would be decorated in specific prescribed manners and designs, those for personal use to suit the player, if decorated at all. Finally a bee's wax or tree pitch mouthpiece would be attached to the playing end and another didgeridoo was ready to spread the sound of the earth.

   
Can anyone develop circular breath techniques on the didgeridoo?

Circular Breathing #1

Looking for didgeridoo tips? The art of circular breathing is the technique which allows you to play any wind instrument for extended periods of time without having to stop to take a breath. It is accomplished by breathing in through your nose while continuing to play. This skill was developed by the aboriginals a very, very long time ago. As with most things that appear difficult and mysterious there are simple and logical ways to accomplish them. Since it is not possible to breathe in and out at the same time, there has to be a trick. Right? Right! The trick is you don't do both. You store air in your mouth and use the cheek squeeze to expel some of that stored air past your lips. Not blowing air from your lungs but squeezing it out with your cheeks. When you do this you can get a little breath of air in through your nose while squeezing your cheeks together. This may seem awkward at first but it is simply a matter of developing a natural coordination between squeezing air out and breathing in through your nose. Practice this without using the didgeridoo until the squeezing and breathing is a natural coordination. Once it is natural and you don't have to think about it, then try it with your didgeridoo. Remember, no blowing out, squeeze out. Work to make this natural. The most important thing you have to know about circular breathing is that it is not hard or difficult to learn. But it will become difficult if you believe that it is. It will be what you believe it to be. Relax and develop your natural coordination.

   
How can I determine the pitch of my didgeridoo?

Size and Shape

Most didgeridoos fall into a general range of sizes. The most common didgeridoos vary in length from around 46- to 58-inches. They have a mouthpiece end and an end with a wider opening where the sound comes out. Length and diameter of the bore determine the pitch. Longer and narrow bore instruments give off lower pitches. Shorter and wider bore are higher pitched. The wider the bell on the sound end, the higher the pitch and the greater the sound projection. Most average size didgeridoos have pitches ranging from C thru E. Each didgeridoo will have its own sound and playing characteristics as a result of being naturally (and thus irregularly) hollowed and formed.

   
Can anyone play the didgeridoo?

Didgeridoo Use

More didgeridoo tips: In a traditional aboriginal setting the didgeridoo was used in both sacred and non-sacred settings. Because of this the didgeridoo could be used by both initiated and non-initiated males, but only by initiated men in ceremonies of appropriate spiritual significance. Traditional aboriginal society held strong beliefs about the separation of male and female responsibilities and rights, and the didgeridoo was strictly a man's instrument. When in a traditional aboriginal setting, even today, women should respect the local aboriginal culture and refrain from playing and thus breaking an eons old taboo. The didgeridoo was used in ceremony, corroboree, celebration and for just plain fun. In ceremony and corroboree it was normally used to accompany the songman, who sang the stories of the dreamtime. It added color to the stories and assisted other participants with the timing of their parts in the predetermined, prescribed order of things. For fun and general entertainment the didgeridoo was played to suit the player and his personal creativity. Today the didgeridoo is used worldwide by both males and females in an ever expanding variety of musical forms and combinations. It is also used as a form of meditation for both players and listeners as well as a healing tool by some.

   
Is there more than one way to maintain my drone?

Cheek Squeeze

You can keep your drone going by ways other than just blowing air out of your lungs. One of these methods is known as the cheek squeeze. If your mouth is full of air you can expel that air and keep your lip buzz and drone going by squeezing your cheeks together quickly. Try it. Make your drone and squeeze your cheeks together quickly expelling air between your lips. Over time as your cheeks get strong your can change the sound of the drone and create rhythms using this technique. It also will be a very valuable building block in learning the art of circular breathing.

   
How many names are there in Australia for didgeridoo?

Background

The didgeridoo is an ancient instrument of the aboriginal people of Australia. It has many spellings but the most common are didgeridoo, didjeridu and didjeridoo. It also is called didge or didj. The name is thought to be European in origin and a representation of a particular four beat playing rhythm, i.e. did-ger-i-doo, did-ger-i-doo. The aboriginal people had many names for the instrument, as each tribal group had a different language. Today the aboriginal name Yidaki is the most commonly accepted aboriginal name. This is the name used by the Yulgna people of the Gove Peninsula in N.E. Arnhem Land. They are the traditional people who have had the most impact in spreading knowledge of the instrument around the world.

   
How can I play my didgeridoo continuously?

Circular Breathing #2, 3, 4

#2 - Breathe early and often. The easiest time to take air in and keep your drone going is when you still have plenty of air. The most difficult time is when you are almost out of air. When you get to that point it's hard to keep enough air going to maintain your drone while trying to snatch a breath. Don't hesitate. Use your relaxed, coordinated breathing to stay ahead of the game. #3 - Some people find it helpful to use their tongue like a piston, driving air forward through their mouth while doing the cheek squeeze. You can do this by raising the back of your tongue and closing off your throat with it, then pushing your tongue forward to help expel the air. #4 - Don't worry about the little break in your drone that usually happens when you first start being successful with your circular breathing. It happens because you don't maintain sufficient air flow past your lips or because your lips aren't quite strong enough yet. Or a combination of the two. Try pushing a little extra air past your lips as you get to the end of your breath in. This will assist with maintaining your buzz. Any gap in sound should disappear with more play and practice. It is a progression.

   
What is the secret to making the right drone sound?

Tight Lip - Loose Lip

More didgeridoo tips deal with your lips and the importance of making them loose or tight, because the secret to making the drone sound is in making the buzz with your lips. If you make a lip buzz into the didgeridoo and it comes out as a high pitched trumpet kind of sound, you need to loosen your lips gradually as you blow until you get the lower droning sound. If, when you make your buzz into the didgeridoo, you get a lot of the sound of just air coming out the other end, your lips are too far apart. Bring them slowly closer together while you blow and when you reach just the right point you will get the correct drone sound. Practice with different degrees of lip tightness adjusting as described above and your lips will quickly learn and remember the correct relaxed buzz that will start you on your way to being a didgeridoo player.

   
How are didgeridoos made?

Authentic Didgeridoos

Didgeridoo Tips:
A didgeridoo is a musical instrument made from a long narrow tube of varying sizes. It amplifies and enriches the lip buzz sound made by the player in much the same way as a brass instrument does, except without the valves or slides. Authentic didgeridoos come from Australia and are made by the aboriginal people. These didgeridoos are made from the trunks of small eucalyptus trees which have been hollowed out by white ants (termites). The aboriginals search through the bush, tapping on the trunks of young trees, looking for ones that have been appropriately hollowed. When they find one they cut the tree in such a manner that it will resprout. They take the trunk and clean out the hollowed middle with sticks, and remove the bark so that the instrument will have greater resonance and can be decorated. Most didgeridoos will range from around 44 to 60 inches long. They have a mouthpiece end and an end with a wider opening where the sound comes out. Length and diameter of the bore will determine the pitch. Longer and narrow bore instruments give off the lower pitches. Shorter and wider bores create higher pitches. The wider the bell on the sound end of the didgeridoo, the higher the pitch and the greater the sound projection. Most average size didgeridoos have pitches ranging from C through E. Each didgeridoo will have its own sound and playing characteristics as a result of being naturally (and thus irregularly) hollowed and formed. Traditional didgeridoos were decorated or not based on the planned use of the instrument as well as the makers personal wishes.

   
How should I hold my tongue when playing my didgeridoo?

Use Your Tongue

After you get the drone working well and your lips get strong and efficient it's time to start using your tongue to change the sound you are producing. Remember that any way you change the air flow, you change the sound. And your tongue sits right in the middle of things. Begin by making your drone and then touching the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth, release it and return your tongue to its normal position, flat on the floor of your mouth. Each time you touch and release you will get a sound change that creates a "da" sound. This is an easy way to create rhythms. Try it. Also while making your drone, try moving your tongue backwards and forwards in your mouth. This will create a very distinct sound which will be like raising and lowering the pitch of the drone you are making. Also try a side-to-side movement and see what you get. Another very interesting technique is doing a tongue flutter or trill while making your drone. It has a very interesting effect. Try it. Remember that the didgeridoo is pretty much a monotonal instrument, so changing sounds and creating rhythm patterns is important to advancing your playing skills.

   
What is the history of the didgeridoo?

Didgeridoo Origins

The didgeridoo is generally accepted to be the oldest woodwind and perhaps even the oldest instrument of all. Traditional aboriginal myth and legend say that the didgeridoo has been present since the beginning of time when it was used by the great Dreamtime Creators to help sound the world into form. The didgeridoo was traditionally used in only a relatively small part of the vast continent of Australia, including the northern third of the Northern Territory, west into the Kimberly Range of Northern Australia, and perhaps east into western Queensland bordering on the Gulf of Carpentaria. Today, however, the didgeridoo has become a pan aboriginal instrument, tying together the identities of many hundreds of different tribal groups with its haunting and unmistakable sound as well as its opportunity for economic and artistic growth.

   
How do I play a didgeridoo?

The Drone

The basic sound of the didgeridoo is called the drone. It is that unmistakable sound that you often hear in commercials and movie soundtracks. The sound grabs your attention even though you might not know what it is you are hearing (usually a low, penetrating sound, the original synthesizer). The sound is created by a loose lip buzz (more like a tuba lip than a tight trumpet lip) which is made with the lips pressed against and slightly into the mouthpiece. This causes the lip buzz sound to be projected into and through the tube. The sound of the drone can be affected in many ways, as any time that you change the airflow in any way, you affect the sound. This can be done as simply as blowing harder or softer or through more complex techniques. These techniques can be used singularly or collectively to create rhythms, mood and color.

   
Are there many ways to practice making the drone?

Finger Mouthpiece

You can hear the kind of buzz your lips are making without using a didgeridoo. Sometimes this helps understand the concept and get the drone more easily. Do this by creating a mouthpiece using your thumb and forefinger. With your thumb facing you and in a horizontal plane, take your forefinger and bend it so that it touches the back of your thumb roughly between the first and second knuckle of your finger. This will create a roughly formed mouthpiece and opening. Now tilt your thumb to a roughly 45 degree angle and practice making your lip buzz into this opening. You can easily hear the different kinds of sounds you can get by changing your lip tension and degree of separation. The sound will of course be different when it comes out of your didgeridoo, but this will help you understand the concepts.

   
How can I make animal sounds on my didgeridoo?

Vocalizations

Vocalizing while droning is a wonderful way to add color and texture to your didgeridoo playing. It's easy to do, too. A simple technique is to just hum a note while making your drone. Your note will be carried out the bell end mixed with the drone and give a bigger, fuller sound. You can make high notes, low notes, and something in between. Each will project its own sound. Individual didgeridoos will often carry one particular vocal pitch better than others. Experiment and see what works best for you. You can also make animal sounds through your didgeridoo while playing. This technique was and still is an integral part of aboriginal playing. Boys were always sent to the bush to learn to imitate birds and other animals when learning to play. Try a dog bark. Do the bark without the didgeridoo first. Then make your drone and make your bark again. You must over do your bark in order to have it carry through and compete with your drone. Pick another animal sound and try it. Always try it first without the didgeridoo. Really belt it out. Then try again while playing. With practice your can literally talk through the didgeridoo while playing. Sing songs too. But that will take a bit of practice.

   
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