How to Play a didjeridu didgeridoo
Not all didjeridu are the same some. A didjeridu with wide mouthpieces and large throat (the sound producing area of didj) may produce nice hollow resonance but can be very difficult to keep up the volume of air required to really make it sing.
Didgeridoos that are short below a meter and didjeridu that are taller than 1.5meters can also be very difficult for a beginner.
Short didgeridoo are fast buzzing quick often requiring more pressure. Tall didgeridoos of uniform diameter tend to be deep and slow. You must adjust your lip vibration to suit and for the inexperienced player this too can be difficult
Some didgeridoos with clean uniform barrels on the wide side can be exhausting to play where as a tapered didj or a didjeridu with a slight bend or twist can produce a back pressure that requires less effort to play continuously , especially for someone who has just got the hang of circular breathing.
When learning to play its real unfortunate if you happen to find yourself trying to learn on a didj thats difficult for anyone to play. It may cause you to give up in frustration.
There is an optimum size. A didgeridoo thats around 1.2 to 1.3 meters long with a mouthpiece (diameter of the wax opening on top of didgeridoo) not less than 28mm and not bigger than 40mm a fairly clear throat 30mm for at least 500mm to 600mm after that the shape may effect resonance sound volume ,vocals etc but wont affect playability too much.
There are always exceptions to the rule of thumb when dealing with didgeridoos fashioned from natural eucalyptus trees hollowed out by termites . The internal shape, the perhaps inconstancy in internal shape ,the smoothness or lack of it, pits cavities chambers choke barrels ,wall thickness etc etc can all have effect.
With the average didgeridoo that does not taper too much , the shorter the didgeridoo the faster and higher the drone key . The taller the slower and deep the drop key.
eg less than 1.2 meters will take you toward key of E or F taller than 1.3 meters will take you towards a slower key of C .
You can change or tune the drone key of a didj by shortening it . If you had a 1.4 meter didj that was say a C# if you were to cut off around 40mm from mouthpiece end it will raise the key somewhat. It will depending on the didj to just how much is required to get it to a key of D
If attempted you need to remove little bits at a time.
You cant deepen the sound but shortening will raise the key.
Anyway you need not worry about that .
How to produce a drone on a didgeridoo
First you need to realise that you must get a good seal around the mouthpiece of the didgeridoo. You must seat your mouth so that it sits snug against the wax mouthpiece.
If need be the wax mouthpiece can be reshaped slightly.
If air can get in around the top of the didj it will not make a drone.. Same goes if you have didgeridoo that is split or cracked anywhere along the throat or around mouthpiece. This not as uncommon as you may think, because people tend to stand the didgeridoos up against a wall rather than laying them down, When leaning against a wall they inevitably fall and may crack. The crack does not have to be obvious. If your didj is cracked anywhere around the mouthpiece it will seriously affect it.
Ok so you must have your mouth pressed against the top of the didj.
Now I found the easiest way to explain to someone how to use the lips is to say.
You know the you were a little kid and you played with toy cars and you would make the sound of the car going along vibrating your lips loosely going burrrrrrh.
Thats what you do into the mouthpiece but keeping a good seal.
Its just a relaxed buurrrrrh you can even vocal the brooooom bit as well as vibrating your lips to make the little car or helicopter noise.
Most people first time tend to
[a] blow to hard
[b] keep the lips to tight
If you do either of these things you will make a horn or trumpet noise or squeak instead of a drone. Or you will just hear air like you are blowing up a balloon.
Lips must be relaxed and vibrate loosely just like you were pushing the little toy matchbox car around the kitchen table.
Wont take you long …you will get a drone.
Keep doing it so you feel comfortable making a drone sound , dosnt have to long just short drone noises through the didj.
Now take a big breath and try doing it for as long as you can.
Stop take a quick breath and do it as long as you can again…and again ….and again..
Now you can experiment moving you tongue around. Bounce your tongue whip it forward snd back. You can try vibrating tongue same time as vibrating your lips.
You can also experiment using you vocal chords to sort of speak a rhythm eg if while making the drone sound you were to sort of also whisper the word “ddid jer idu”. “didjer idu” you will develop a kind of rhythm.
How to circular breath on a didgeridoo
Now circular breathing so you can keep going without stopping the drone to take a breath.
Its part mental.. so get it in your head now its easy ..its not hard to do.
No one can breath in and out at the same time its impossible. You have one air pipe going down your throat.
All you do is use air you have stored in your cheeks to vibrate your lips as you take a quick breath in through your nose.
Your brain just thinks its weird that your trying to breath in through your nose as you are also puffing some air out your mouth. It thinks “nah that cant be right “ so it try’s to insist that you do one or the other. But its actually easy to do both. You just got to tell your brain to take aback seat for a while.
You can practice this anywhere any time without a didgeridoo. And start with you dont need to practice vibrating your lips at same time You just want your brain to get the idea that you do actually want to allow air thats already in your mouth to go out through your lips as you take breath through your nose.
Take a big cheek(mouth full of air). Hold it with your cheeks puffed out. Now keep your cheeks puffed out but gently blow air through you closed lips, but keeping your cheeks puffed out.
What you doing here is holding a reserve in your cheeks as you let you lungs empty through your lips.
With your cheeks still puffed up blow air constantly through your almost closed lips until you feel like your pretty close to not having much air left in your lungs .. Then breath in through your nose but at same time use your cheek muscles to push air thats in your mouth out your closed lips while you breath in through your nose. Even if its just for the briefest of time to start with.
I found it useful to puff my cheeks up with air and keeping them puffed pushed the air from lungs through my lips as long as my lungs could stand it. Because when exhausted for fresh air your brain will automatically take air in through your nose while you just concentrate on using your cheeks to just allow a puff to escape from your lips.
You can practise doing that anywhere any time in doctors waiting room on the train ,while watching tv etc.. You will soon get the hang of it .
Then apply that to your didgeridoo droning. It may take a while but you will get it .
On the didgeridoo as you breath in through nose and keep the lips vibrating with that tiny bit of air from your cheeks you will notice the sound changes and you can use the breathing as part of the rhythm
Once you have the breathing and you can keep the didgeridoo making a drone its time to experiment .
Modern didgeridoo player use harmonics a lot , that using you vocal cords to scream, chuckle and make other interesting sounds .
Learn to play traditional aboriginal yidaki style
If you want to learn the traditional way rhythm way aboriginal peoples from East Arnhem Land play the didgeridoo then going to this link will be your best bet.