The didgeridoo is considered the oldest woodwind instrument in the world. Some archaeological evidence shows the instrument dates back as far as 20,000 years in Australia. It is an aboriginal instrument that traditionally was used by shamans in rituals and for healing. Found in the indigenous mythology, it is still used ceremonially, in storytelling and to accompany song and dance. Recent interest in the didgeridoo has broadened the instrument's appeal outside of its indigenous roots to a wider, worldwide audience where it is often played with other instruments.
"Didgeridoo" was the name given by the British when they came to Australia in the 18th century because the pronunciation of the word mimicked the sound of the instrument as it was played. There are approximately forty Aboriginal names for the instrument depending on location including the name "Yidaki" as it is known in Arnhem land in the Northern Australia.
How They are Made
Traditionally, the didgeridoo is made from different varieties of the eucalyptus tree. It is typically a branch that has been hollowed out by termites, then cleaned up for playing as well as stripped of the bark on its outside. Often, it is decorated with wood burnings or paint and fitted with a wax or resin mouthpiece at the playing end. Didgeridoos can also be made out of such material as glass, brass, bamboo, pvc pipe, and agave cactus. Craftsmen are even constructing the instrument from pieces of wood they have etched in small trenches to mimic how a termite chews. The result is a more textured sound.
Playing the Didge
The sound made from each didgeridoo corresponds to only one key of the musical scale. This note is determined by both the length and the width of the instrument.
The breathing technique used to play the didgeridoo is known as "circular breathing". It is a process where the player continuously blows air out of his mouth while taking air in through the nose seemingly at the same time. The sound's dynamics can be affected by adding vocals or by just changing the shape of the mouth while playing, thereby altering the air flow through the instrument.
Details on these didgeridoos
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Interested in how the didgeridoo can enrich your music? E-Mail for details: Reid@PrimitiveSound.com