Glossary of Didgeridoo Playing Terms
Key or Pitch
While the word pitch is the correct term for the frequency of a didgeridoo soundwave, the word key has become the most common expression among didgeridoo players. Both words mean the same thing. A didgeridoo has only one pitch, so you play rhythm rather than melody. Now... didgeridoos come in various sizes, and the length and diameter of a didgeridoo determines the frequency of its soundwave or drone. Shorter didgeridoos usually play in a higher pitch, while longer instruments offer a deeper, lower pitch. The common pitch range for didgeridoos go from high A to low A. Beginners should pick a didgeridoo somewhere in the middle of this scale, namely, C, C#, D or D#.
The fundamental sound of the didgeridoo played without vocalizing or pressure changes.
The compression rate at which a didgeridoo will fill up with air and create resistance. Strong to medium backpressure is preferred by most didgeridoo players, especially beginners, because it helps with the circular breathing technique. Low backpressure is usually found in didgeridoos with large bores (greater than 2.25 inches at the mouthpiece). Large bore, low backpressure didgeridoos are not recommended for beginners, while experienced players may appreciate the robust bass and vocal characteristics of big bore instruments.
The trumpet sounds played on a didgeridoo, made by pressing the lips tighter and forcing the air out harder, just like playing a bugle or shofar. Most didgeridoos offer a least two overtones, while some will have up to five, based upon the physical characteristics of each instrument. The first overtone is very easy for most beginners to hit straight away.
Sustained, bell-like ringing sounds that rise above the basic drone. A bit like the sounds heard by rubbing wet fingers along the rim of a wine glass. Some didgeridoos offer more and/or louder harmonics than others. You can control the rise and fall of these harmonic frequencies by changing the shape of your lips and tongue while playing.
Pushing air in your mouth through your vibrating lips using the tongue and cheeks while taking a quick sniff of air in through the nose. Done in one quick move, your lips will continue to vibrate (keeping the drone going) while you breathe in a bit of air. Circular breathing allows a didgeridoo musician to play for extended periods and to build complex rhythms. While circular breathing may seem like a very difficult task, most people learn the technique in a reasonable amount of time, depending upon how much they practice and what teaching tools they have. For starters, try our free on-line How to Play the Didgeridoo tutorial. Need more help? We also carry the most popular instructional guides on Video and CD.
Causing the pitch to fall by dropping your jaw and slightly opening your mouth a bit more while playing. This can be used to great effect in building rhythms, and it also works to exercise your jaw while playing for extended periods of time.
Using your tongue to create distinct and pronounced beats while playing rhythmically.
Using your diaphragm to huff out beats or rhythms while playing didgeridoo.
Yidaki or Yirdaki
Refers to a didgeridoo from the NE Arnhemland region of Australia. Many instruments from this area are crafted without power tools and are decorated with handmade paints from local clays, mineral oxides and carbon. These instruments are generally considered to be more collectable than your average didgeridoo. It is also more difficult to obtain these, as this part of Australia is very remote. Some sellers abuse the word Yidaki and apply it to all of their didgeridoos. This confuses buyers and, in my opinion, is disrespectful to the cultural heritage of authentic Yidaki. More Info and Current Selection of Yidaki.
Didgeridoo Physical Terms
For the Instrumnent
The hole down the inside of your didgeridoo, usually referring to instruments made of wood.
The smaller end of the didgeridoo where your lips play the instrument. Often the mouthpiece is fitted with natural beeswax to create a good seal for your lips. The beeswax can also be manipulated in size and shape for personal comfort and fit. Some didgeridoos are crafted with mouthpieces made from other materials, and some are made using the natural wood as a mouthpiece (if the diameter is the right size).
Bell or Distal End
The end opposite the mouthpiece where the sound of the didgeridoo is emitted.
The area of the didgeridoo between the mouthpiece and the middle of the instrument.
Refers to the thickness of the wood or other material used to make the didgeridoo. A thick wall usually means a heavier didgeridoo, and a thin wall usually means it's lighter in weight.