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
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
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 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, 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 diaphragm 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
You may see some pictures of Didjeridus by visiting the Virtual Gallery .