Didgeridoo Lessons

Check out my video from an interview by Jamarcus Gaston at Studio 62 in Greenville, SC.

The Didgeridoo is an endblown pipe usually made of wood (although I’ve seen them made of bamboo, yucca, PVC, or even glass!) and is in the brass family.  Remember back to your elementary school music class and you’ll remember some instruments didn’t fit into the family you thought (If saxophones are made of brass why aren’t they a brass instrument?).  It has to do with the playing technique instead of the material.  Didgeridoo is played by buzzing your lips like other brass instruments (tuba, trombone, trumpet, or baritone).  It actually has nothing whatsoever to do with the material that the instrument is constructed. With a little practice you can get a decent tone by buzzing your lips and tightening (or usually loosening) your embouchure to something like a flaccid-baby-kiss type thing.

So how do you get that endless looping sound I hear people do?

This is what makes the didgeridoo unique.  It’s not an instrument you could play “Mary had a little lamb” on.  Didg players think more like a drummer.  The first step, and probably the hardest, is to learn how to circular breathe.  It works like a bagpipe.  In a bagpipe you blow into a bag and apply even pressure with your arm and the air spills out across the reed giving it an endless tone.  Didge is the same except you use your cheeks as the bag.  You have to sneak a breath in through your nose while you’re pushing with your cheeks.  You don’t have to have a didge to practice this.  You can use a straw, a toilet paper tube, or even “blowing a raspberry” as the Brits would say.

Where do all those spooky sounds come from?

There are several ways you can play rhythms or create sounds on top of the basic drone.  You can press with your diaphragm and give it a pulsing sound.  You can move your jaw and tongue to give it interesting overtones.  You can also speak or yell through the instrument. If you watch videos of Dr. Didg you’ll see that he uses a loop pedal to create an ostinato and then plays all kinds of sounds on top of that.

How do I get started?

Get a didge and mess around with it using the ideas I’ve highlighted above.  There’s a coordination that must be developed to get a smooth cyclic breathing.  My didge students usually take only one or two lessons to get started and the rest is just practice.  A lot of my wind player friends tell me how hard cyclic breathing is but I’ll tell you, I learned it in about three weeks practicing about an hour a day.  It’s not that hard! It’s sort of like riding a bicycle. It was hard when you were four but once you coordinated it, you couldn’t NOT ride a bike! Feel free to contact me with any questions or to schedule a personal training session with coach Andy.  Also, check out my link on the didgeridoo and sleep apnea.