How didgeridoos are made, decorated and played.

Didgeridoos are one of the oldest musical instruments known to man.

Didgeridoos are made from a naturally hollowed out, (by native ants), trunk of a young tree or the branch of a tree.

There are many different types of wood eating ants (numbers in the thousands) in Australia and there are many different types of trees native to different regions of the Australian bush used for the making of this instrument.

Different ants eat the different types of trees with the results being a semi hollowed out cylinder of wood with various chambers. Each with different internal wood thickness varying throughout and with the separation between the various void areas or chambers left to the will of nature and the ants.

Because of the natural formation of these various chambers with no two being identical the sounds will always be slightly different from instrument to instrument even with the same player.

In the Northern Territory the tree most sought after to make the instrument from is known as the Wooly Butt a member of the Eucalypt family of trees.

The weight of the various Didgeridoos varies with the density and length of the various types of trees eaten by the ants and used to make the instrument. Any holes or cracks in the wood are filled with bees wax.

The exterior of the instrument may be varnished, painted, carved or polished with natural bees wax.

The mouthpiece end of the instrument is usually the smaller end and it may be carved or stone rubbed to create a smooth rounded end or may have a thick roll of beeswax worked into it to produce a soft end suitable for the lips and mouth of the player.

When played, the instrument is usually placed with the sound emitting end on the ground and the player holding the other end to his lips.

Some of the more powerful sound producing instruments actually have a natural bell formed from the connection to the ground or major part of the tree that they were taken from.

They however are not too easy to carry as one would walk from place to place as they are longer and their use is more ceremonial.

Aboriginal men only are allowed to play the didgeridoo and Aboriginal women are not to play the instrument because it is said to have sexual connotations.

There are however many women from Western cultures who play the instrument very well.

The technique used to play the instrument is called circular breathing, which means breathing at the same time you are blowing air into the mouthpiece of the didge. Circular breathing is a process for those with good lung and timing capabilities.

When playing, the player makes certain sounds, which become distorted traveling through the various chambers creating a very distinctive sound.

In any orchestra today you will find many instruments created with the hollow tube and man induced air system creating many varied and beautiful sounds.

You can create your own poor copy with a piece of 1.5 inch or 40 mil drain pipe about 5ft or 170 cm in length and some bees wax (heated in warm water) rolled like a worm than placed around the end of the tube and smoothed into the end.

By creating sounds while blowing through the tube you will get some idea of what a didgeridoo may sound like.