Facts about the Didgeridoo
What is a Didgeridoo?
The Didgeridoo is believed to be the world oldest wind instrument, dating back thousands of years. Although some believe the we have been using the didgeridoo for over 40,000 years, the oldest records of playing the didgeridoo date back 1500 years in the form of old Northern Territory cave and rock paintings. Archaeological studies suggest that people of the Kakadu region in Northern Australia have been using the didgeridoo for less than 1500 years, based on the dating of rock art paintings. A clear rock painting in Ginga Wardelirrhmeng, on the northern edge of the Arnhem Land plateau, from the freshwater period shows a didgeridoo player and two song men participating in an Ubarr Ceremony. In the west they have only been playing the didgeridoo for a maximum of 40 years. Species of eucalyptus number in the hundreds but only a dozen species are used for Didgeridoo making. Termites whose nests abound in the millions in Australia naturally hollow out the eucalyptus. It takes at least a year for the termites to hollow a tree out. Harvesting must be timed so that the wall thickness of the instrument is not to thin or not too thick. The varying length of the wood that is sawed off and its thickness and shape will determine which key the instrument will be in. Bark is stripped from the outside and the termites removed from the inside. A rim of beeswax can be applied to reduce the diameter of a large opening down to a more playable sized mouthpiece. Wax also creates a good airtight seal for the mouth and makes it more comfortable to play on. Didgeridoos generally range in keys from a high “G” to a low A. The keys D or E are the most common keys and easier to learn how to play the didgeridoo. Enjoy the journey how to play the Didgeridoo.
Other names for the Didgeridoo
There are numerous names for the instrument among the people of northern Australia, none of which closely resemble the word Didgeridoo. However, in everyday conversation we will often use the word Didgeridoo interchangeably with the instrument's name in their local language. Yiḏaki (sometimes spelt yirdaki) is one of the most commonly used names although, strictly speaking, it refers to a specific type of the instrument made and used by the Yolngu people of north-east Arnhem Land. Yolngu also use the synonym mandapul to refer to the instrument. There are numerous other, regional names for the didgeridoo.
Shapes and Frequencies of the Didgeridoo
A termite-bored didgeridoo has an irregular shape that, overall, usually increases in diameter towards the lower end. This shape means that its resonances occur at frequencies that are not harmonically spaced in frequency. This contrasts with the harmonic spacing of the resonances in a cylindrical plastic pipe, whose resonant frequencies fall in the ratio 1:3:5 etc. The second resonance of a didgeridoo (the note sounded by over blowing) is usually around an 11th higher than the fundamental frequency (a frequency ratio somewhat less than 3:1). The vibration produced by the player's lips has harmonics, i.e., it has frequency components falling exactly in the ratio 1:2:3 etc. However, the non-harmonic spacing of the instrument's resonances means that the harmonics of the fundamental note are not systematically assisted by instrument resonances, as is usually the case for Western wind instruments (e.g., in the low range of the clarinet, the 1st, 3rd, and 5th harmonics of the reed are assisted by resonances of the bore).Sufficiently strong resonances of the vocal tract can strongly influence the timbre of the instrument. At some frequencies, whose values depend on the position of the player's tongue, resonances of the vocal tract inhibit the oscillatory flow of air into the instrument. Bands of frequencies that are not thus inhibited produce formats in the output sound. These formats, and especially their variation during the inhalation and exhalation phases of circular breathing, give the instrument its readily recognizable sound. Other variations in the didgeridoo's sound can be made by adding vocalizations to the drone. Most of the vocalizations are related to sounds emitted by Australian animals, such as the dingo or the kookaburra. To produce these sounds, the players simply must have their vocal folds to produce the sounds of the animals whilst continuing to blow air through the instrument. The results range from very high-pitched sounds too much lower sounds involving interference between the lip and vocal fold vibrations. Adding vocalizations increases the complexity of the playing.
How is the Didgeridoo made?
Traditional didgeridoos are usually made from hardwoods, especially the various eucalyptus species that are endemic to northern and central Australia. Generally the main trunk of the tree is harvested, though a substantial branch may be used instead. Traditional didgeridoo makers seek suitably hollow live trees in areas with obvious termite activity. Termites attack these living eucalyptus trees, removing only the dead heartwood of the tree, as the living sapwood contains a chemical that repels the insects. Various techniques are employed to find trees with a suitable hollow, including knowledge of landscape and termite activity patterns, and a kind of tap or knock test, in which the bark of the tree is peeled back, and a fingernail or the blunt end of a tool, such as an axe, is knocked against the wood to determine if the hollow produces the right resonance. Once a suitably hollow tree is found, it is cut down and cleaned out, the bark is taken off, the ends trimmed, and the exterior is shaped; this results in a finished instrument. A rim of beeswax may be applied to the mouthpiece. Non-traditional didgeridoos can be made from native or non-native hard woods (typically split, hollowed and re-joined), glass, fiberglass, metal, agave, clay, hemp, PVC piping and carbon fibre. These typically have an upper inside diameter of around 1.25" down to a bell end of anywhere between two and eight inches and have a length corresponding to the desired key. The end of the pipe can be shaped and smoothed to create a comfortable mouthpiece, or an added mouthpiece can be made of any shaped and smoothed material such as rubber, rubber stopper with a hole or beeswax. Modern didgeridoo designs are distinct from the traditional Australian didgeridoo, and are innovations recognized by musicologists. Didgeridoo design innovation started in the late 20th century using non-traditional materials and non-traditional shapes.
Health Benefits of the Didgeridoo
A study reported in the British Medical Journal found that learning and practicing the didgeridoo helped reduce snoring and obstructive sleep apnea by strengthening muscles in the upper airway, thus reducing their tendency to collapse during sleep. In the study, intervention subjects were trained in and practiced didgeridoo playing, including circular breathing and other techniques. Control subjects were asked not to play the instrument. Subjects were surveyed before and after the study period to assess the effects of intervention. A 2010 study noted improvements in the asthma management of Aboriginal teens when incorporating didgeridoo playing
Gender-based traditional Didgeridoo
Traditionally, only men play the didgeridoo and sing during ceremonial occasions and playing by females is sometimes discouraged by Aboriginal communities and elders. In 2008, publisher Harper Collins apologized for its book The Daring Book for Girls, which openly encouraged girls to play the instrument after some Aboriginal academics described such encouragement as "extreme cultural insensitivity" and "an extreme faux pas ... part of a general ignorance that mainstream Australia has about Aboriginal culture. However, Linda Barwick, an ethnomusicologist, says that though traditionally women have not played the didgeridoo in ceremony, in informal situations there is no prohibition in the Dreaming Law. For example, Jemima Wimalu, a Mara woman from the Roper River is very proficient at playing the didgeridoo and is featured on the record Aboriginal Sound Instruments released in 1978. In 1995, musicologist Steve Knopoff observed Yirrkala women performing djatpangarri songs that are traditionally performed by men and in 1996, ethnomusicologist Elizabeth MacKinley reported women of the Yanyuwa group giving public performances.
While there is no prohibition in the area of the didgeridoo's origin, such restrictions have been applied by other Indigenous communities. The didgeridoo was introduced to the Kimberleys almost a century ago but it is only in the last decade that Aboriginal men have shown adverse reactions to women playing the instrument and prohibitions are especially evident in the South East of Australia. The belief that women are prohibited from playing is widespread among non-Aboriginal people and is also common among Aboriginal communities in Southern Australia; some ethnomusicologists believe that the dissemination and other misconceptions is a result of commercial agendas and marketing. Tourists generally rely on shop employees for information when purchasing a didgeridoo.
How To Play The Didgeridoo
The vibration of the lips is needed to create the basic sound (the drone) on a Didgeridoo. The sound of a horse or the sound we made as a kid playing with our toy cars. Try to get your lips as loose as possible before you start playing the drone.
Then place the lips inside the didgeridoo mouthpiece as if you are going to kiss someone. Then start to vibrate your lips and now you should hear the basic sound. Make sure that all the air goes into the didgeridoo b sealing the mouthpiece with your lips. And don’t blow too hard!
The circular breathing is about breathing in whilst keeping the vibration of the lips going on the didgeridoo and to keep the sound continuous. To understand and to get this technique going there are different ways to practice this. The best way to practice is with a straw and a glass of water. Place the end of a straw in the glass with water and blow the air through the straw and you will see the bubbles in the glass. After you have filled up your cheeks with air, push (not blow) the air out of your cheeks into the straw and keep the bubbles going. To complete the circular breathing you should breathe in through your nose when you are pushing out the air using the cheeks to keep the bubbles going. It’s not as hard as it seems. The other way is to fill up your mouth with water and try to push the water out of your mouth making a beam of water and breathing in through your nose at the same time. It’s best to do this when you are having a shower. When you understand the way to do this with the straw, you can try doing it on your didgeridoo. Just remember to keep the drone going. From now on ONLY breathe in through your nose when you are breathing. If you now understand the circular breathing, you will notice that when you do this on your didgeridoo there will be a gap in the basic sound. This means you are nearly there! To complete the circular breathing we must breathe in faster than we push out the air. This is called the sniff. Take a short sniff through your nose before you have ended pushing out the air in your cheeks. Once you have done this your diaphragm will start to trigger. This is when the focus must be on the cheek movement and try to stop the diaphragm from triggering.