The Didjeridu

   The most interesting Aboriginal musical instrument is the didjeridu.
   It was only known to the tribes of Eastern Kimberly and the northern
   third of the Northern Territory. The instrument is an unstopped
   hollowed piece of bamboo or termite-hollowed wood, usually the latter,
   about four or five feet long, and two or more inches in internal
   diameter, with a mouth-piece made of wax or hardened gum. The player
   blows into the instrument in trumpet fashion.

   The Didjeridu is used with other instruments such as the Bull Roarer
   and Click (or Clap) Sticks. It is often used as an accompaniment to
   song and dance. It is also used in ceremonial functions. A large
   version of the Didgeridoo called a Yurlunggur is used only in
   ceremonies.

   Three distinct styles of traditional playing have been identified.
   West Arnhem Land uses quiet and uncomplicated patterns. A feature of
   that style is that hummed notes are used in conjunction with blown
   notes to produce slower patterns. North- East Arnhem Land uses the
   first overtone, at about a tenth above the fundamental droning note.
   This may be heard as a long hoot or a short sharp "toot". Eastern
   Arnhem Land styles use the second pitch as well as a variety of
   techniques using manipulations of the tongue, lips and breath to
   create fast energetic rhythmic patterns. The precision and variety of
   rhythm produced on the didjeridu are very striking. Sometimes it
   sounds like a deep pipe organ note being played continuously; at other
   times like a drum beaten in three-four time, and so on, varying
   according to the type of song and dance which it is accompanying.

   The continuous nature of the sound is most remarkable. The breath is
   taken, or "snapped", through the nose. Two quick breaths are usually
   taken but some of the incoming air is kept in the mouth to be blown
   into the instrument while the next quick intake is being made. This
   process, called circular breathing, results in the cheeks being used
   much like a bellows.

   The Didjeridu is the center-piece of most of the Corroborees danced by
   the Northern tribes in the Territory and the East Kimberleys. A
   corroboree is an important ceremonial when all the various tribes of a
   region would come together to hear and recount the sacred stories.

   - Ed Drury
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The Didjeridu

   Also spelt Didgeridoo, is an end blown musical instrument, generally
   made from wood or bamboo, without a separate mouthpiece. Approximately
   forty aboriginal names for it are known where it is used, from the
   north of Western Australia through the Arnhem Land peninsula to
   Northern Queensland.

   The wooden variety are termite-hollowed branches or trunks of trees
   with the bark removed and the ends internally scraped or, nowadays,
   chiseled and rasped to improve the playing sound.

   Some trees used in Didjeridu production are Stringy Bark (Eucalyptus
   Tetrodonta), Wooly Butt (Eucalyptus Miniata), River Red Gum
   (Eucalyptus Camaldulensis), Ironwood (Erythrophlaeum Laboucherii) and
   in more recent years in South Australia, Box Gum and Wattle though the
   instrument is not native to South Australia.

   Bamboo Didjeridus are traditionally hollowed out with a fire stick or
   hot coals however, in recent times, extension drill bits have been
   used.

   A rim of bees wax or tree gum may be attached to the narrow end of the
   generally conical tube.

   The instrument may vary in length from just under a metre to 2.5
   metres (used for sacred rites and ceremonies) however, preferred
   length seems to be between 1 and 1.5m. The instrument is often
   decorated with ochre and clay designs and in modern times, carved or
   burnt patterns may be utilized.

   - Alistair Black
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Musical Instruments

   The most interesting Aboriginal muscial instrument is the Didjeridu,
   but it is only known in Eastern Kimberly and the northern third of the
   Northern Territory. It is an unstopped hollowed piece of bamboo or
   wood, usually the latter, about four or five feet long, and with two
   inches or even more in internal diameter, with a mouth-piece made of
   wax or hardened gum.

   The player blows into the instrument in trumpet fashion. The precision
   and variety of rhythm produced on the Didjeridu are very striking.
   Sometimes it sounds like a deep bourdon organ stop being played
   continously; at other times like a drum beaten in three-four time, and
   so on, varying according to the type of song and dance which it is
   accompanying, and indeed, "carrying". The tongue lies flat, with the
   lip at times projecting into the mouth-piece. The continuous nature of
   the sound is most remarkable. The diaphram rises as breath is taken,
   or "snapped", through the nose. It is emitted through the Didjeridu.
   Two quick breaths are usually taken, and the next over a second later,
   but some of the incoming air is kept in the mouth to be blown into the
   instrument while a quick intake is being made. Glassblowers may
   understand.

   Didjeridu playing is learnt when young. A good player, or "puller" as
   he is called, produces two pitches, one usually a tenth above the
   regular one but it is always a short sharp sound, with no suggestion
   of a Didjeridu. I have not seen more than one Didjeridu played at the
   one time.

   - The Australian Aborigines, A.P. Elkin
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