The Australian Aborigines from the 'Kakadu' region of north Australia have been using this instrument for the last 1500 years. It is a cylindrical apparatus that varies in length from 1-3 m. The pitch or key it produces is inversely proportional to its length; which means that the greater the length, the lower the pitch.
Instructions to Play
To play the didgeridoo, one should first get into a comfortable position; playing the instrument while sitting is preferable. It should be held in front of the mouth in a position that is convenient for you. You can also hold the end of the instrument with your legs to keep it steady.
There are generally two ways in which it is played. The first method is to hold it in front of the mouth. The second is where it is kept at the side of the lips. Keeping the lips in a loose and vibrating position is recommended. Vibration of lips should resemble the activity of children blowing bubbles through their mouth.
The first step in understanding how to play this instrument is producing a low sound that is similar to droning. Such a tone is produced by buzzing the lips together, which resonates or reverberates the didgeridoo. This sound falls in the category of those produced with brass instruments, like a tuba.
The lips need to be sealed around the mouthpiece, but should not be pressed hard. Holding the lips too tightly can produce a sound that resembles one made with a trumpet; if a rumble or deep sound is heard, it means that a good start is made.
The technique of didgeridoo circular breathing is helpful in playing this instrument continuously for a long time. In this technique, one has to use his mouth like an air bag. Air used for playing the instrument should come only from the mouth cavity, and not the lungs.
The tongue and cheeks are used to blow air. While the air present in the mouth cavity is blown out, it should be replaced by taking small breaths through the nose. A simple activity for practicing circular breathing is given here.
- First fill the mouth with water.
- The water should be squeezed out by applying pressure with the cheeks.
- Air present in the lungs should not be used to expel water out of the mouth.
- Then next step of learning to replace the expelled air. In this step, two activities are performed simultaneously. First is that of expelling water. The second is that of taking short breaths through the nose. It is performed simultaneously with the activity of expelling water.
- If this technique of circular breathing is mastered, then one can play this instrument continuously. The history of the didgeridoo will interest those who wish to gain more knowledge about this musical instrument.