History of the Didgeridoo

The Didgeridoo is originally the instrument played by the North Australian Aborigines, mainly from around Darwin and the Arnhem Land in Northern Territory, as well as from Kimberley in Western Australia and the Gulf Country in Queensland. There are many different stories as to how the Didgeridoo came about, varying across the different Aboriginal tribes.

Traditionally it is only the Aboriginal males who play the Didgeridoo during Ceremonial Dances, known to the Aboriginal people as Corroborees. The Didgeridoo is played along with Click Sticks, which are either 'clicked' together or against the side of the Didgeridoo.

About the Didgeridoo

Didgeridoos are made from a hollow piece of timber, due to termites eating through the centre of the branch or trunk, which in general is Eucalyptus. The Didgeridoo varies in length and width, due to the piece of timber chosen by the player. Once the bark has been removed from the outside of the Eucalyptus, and the termites removed from the inside, the Didgeridoo is ready to be played. Often beeswax is placed over the rim of the Didgeridoo to act as a softer mouthpiece, and the Didgeridoo is painted in various Aboriginal artwork.

Playing the Didgeridoo

The Didgeridoo is a very complex instrument to play. Not only do you have to learn how to create the various sounds with the shape of your mouth, you also have to learn the technique of 'Circular Breathing'. Circular breathing allows you to continue to blow, whilst at the same time allowing you to breath in more air. So basically, you have to learn how to breathe in through your nose and out from your mouth at the same time.

A couple of good ways to do this include:-

Water Breathing

  • Fill your mouth with water so that your cheeks puff out
  • Push your cheeks in to push the water out of your mouth and
  • Push your tongue from the back of your mouth to the front and
  • Take short breaths in through your nose to give you continual air
  • Make sure that your tongue acts as a seal, preventing you from swallowing the water
  • Repeat the exercise until you can do this comfortably

Straw Breathing

  • Twist the end of a drinking straw (not too tightly)
  • Place the straw in a glass full of water
  • Blow air through the straw (again using both the cheeks and the tongue) and
  • Take air in through your nose.
  • You should be able to watch constant bubbles in the water

Once you have learnt the basic breathing technique you now need to learn how to make the common 'Drone'. The lips need to be together (like playing a trumpet) although they should be relaxed. As you push the air out of your lips, the lips should vibrate and make the drone down the Didgeridoo. Once you have mastered this you can move onto making and imitating different sounds. Whatever sound you make your lips must continue to vibrate. Popular sounds that are made include animal sounds, creating a picture of the Australian outback and the sounds that you may hear.

It is also a good idea to pour water down the Didgeridoo before you start playing, as this will create moisture within the tube adding to the tone created and the volume made.

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