AskDefine | Define didgeridoo

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Alternative spellings




  • , /ˌdɪdʒ.ər.iˈduː/, /%dIdZ.@r.i"du:/


  1. A musical instrument endemic to the Top End of Australia, consisting of a long hollowed out log, which, when blown into, produces a low, deep mesmerising drone with sweeping rhythms.

Derived terms


Australian musical instrument
  • Chinese: 蒂杰利多 (dìjiélìduō)
  • Dutch: didgeridoo
  • Finnish didgeridoo
  • French: didgeridoo
  • Italian: didgeridoo, didgeridù, didjeridoo, didjeridu
  • Spanish: didgeridoo
  • Swedish: didgeridoo

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  • /ˌdɪ.ʤɘ.ri.ˈdu/, or as English.

Derived terms




Extensive Definition

pagenumbers article The didgeridoo (or didjeridu) is a wind instrument of the Indigenous Australians of northern Australia. It is sometimes described as a natural wooden trumpet or "drone pipe". Musicologists classify it as an aerophone.
A didgeridoo is usually cylindrical or conical in shape and can measure anywhere from 1 to 3 m (3.2 ft to 9.8 ft) in length with most instruments measuring around . Generally, the longer the instrument, the lower the pitch or key of the instrument. Keys from D to F♯ are the preferred pitch of traditional Aboriginal players.
There are no reliable sources stating the didgeridoo's exact age, though it is commonly claimed to be the world's oldest wind instrument. Archaeological studies of rock art in Northern Australia suggests that the Aboriginal people of the Kakadu region of the Northern Territory have been using the didgeridoo for about 1500 years, based on the dating of paintings on cave walls and shelters from this period. A clear rock painting in Ginga Wardelirrhmeng from the freshwater period (1500 years ago until the present) shows a didjeridu player and two songmen. In some Aboriginal cultures, only men are permitted to play it, and women can only use clapsticks. Didgeridoos can also be found in East Timor and other countries. Although, their didgeridoos are different from the Aboriginals, and are more plain, sometimes supported by weaving.


"Didgeridoo" is considered to be an onomatopoetic word of Western invention.
It has also been suggested that it may be derived from the Irish words dúdaire or dúidire, meaning variously 'trumpeter; constant smoker, puffer; long-necked person, eavesdropper; hummer, crooner' and dubh, meaning "black" (or duth, meaning "native"). However, this theory is not widely accepted.
The earliest occurrences of the word in print include the 1919 Australian National Dictionary, The Bulletin in 1924 and the writings of Herbert Basedow in 1926. There are numerous names for this instrument among the Aboriginal people of northern Australia, with yirdaki one of the better known words in modern Western society. Yirdaki, also sometimes spelt yidaki, refers to the specific type of instrument made and used by the Yolngu people of north-east Arnhem Land. In Western Arnhem Land, mago is used, although it refers specifically to the local version. Many believe that it is a matter of etiquette to reserve tribal names for tribal instruments, though retailers and businesses have been quick to exploit these special names for generic tourist-oriented instruments.

Construction and play

Authentic Aboriginal didgeridoos are produced in traditionally-oriented communities in Northern Australia and are usually made from hardwoods, especially the various eucalyptus species that are endemic to the region. Sometimes a native bamboo or pandanus is used. Generally the main trunk of the tree is harvested, though a substantial branch may be used instead. Aboriginal didgeridoo craftsmen spend considerable time in the challenging search for a tree that has been hollowed out--by termites--to just the right degree. If the hollow is too big or too small, it will make a poor quality instrument.
When a suitable tree is found and cut down, the segment of trunk or branch that will be made into a didgeridoo is cut out. The bark is taken off, the ends trimmed, and some shaping of the exterior then results in a finished instrument. This instrument may be painted or left undecorated. A rim of beeswax may be applied to the mouthpiece end. Traditional instruments made by Aboriginal craftsmen in Arnhem Land are sometimes fitted with a 'sugarbag' wax mouthpiece. This comes from wild bees and is black in appearance, with a distinctive aroma.
Didgeridoos are also made from PVC piping. These generally have a to inside diameter, and have a length corresponding to the desired key. The mouthpiece is often made of the traditional beeswax, or duct tape. Some have also found that finely sanding and buffing the end of the pipe creates a sufficient mouthpiece.
The didgeridoo is played with continuously vibrating lips to produce the drone while using a special breathing technique called circular breathing. This requires breathing in through the nose whilst simultaneously expelling air out of the mouth using the tongue and cheeks. By use of this technique, a skilled player can replenish the air in their lungs, and with practice can sustain a note for as long as desired. Recordings exist of modern didgeridoo players playing continuously for more than 40 minutes (Mark Atkins on Didgeridoo Concerto (1994) plays for over 50 minutes continuously), and some currently unsubstantiated claims peg times over one hour.
Fellow of the British Society Anthony Baines wrote that the didjeridoo functions " an aural kaleidoscope of timbres" and that "the extremely difficult virtuoso techniques developed by expert performers find no parallel elsewhere."

Notable didgeridoo players

Selected bibliography

  • Ah Chee Ngala, P., Cowell C. (1996): How to Play the Didjeridoo - and history. ISBN 0646328409
  • Chaloupka, G. (1993): Journey in Time. Reed, Sydney.
  • Cope, Jonathan (2000): How to Play the Didjeridoo: a practical guide for everyone. ISBN 0-9539811-0-X.
  • Jones, T. A. (1967): "The didjeridu. Some comparisons of its typology and musical functions with similar instruments throughout the world". Studies in Music 1, pp. 23–55.
  • Kennedy, K. (1933): "Instruments of music used by the Australian Aborigines". Mankind (August edition), pp. 147–157.
  • Lindner, D. (ed) (2005): The Didgeridoo Phenomenon. From Ancient Times to the Modern Age. Traumzeit-Verlag, Germany.
  • Moyle, A. M. (1981): "The Australian didjeridu: A late musical intrusion". in World Archaeology, 12(3), 321–31.
  • Neuenfeldt, K. (ed) (1997): The didjeridu: From Arnhem Land to Internet. Sydney: J. Libbey/Perfect Beat Publications.
didgeridoo in Arabic: ديد جيريدو
didgeridoo in Breton: Didjeridou
didgeridoo in Catalan: Didgeridoo
didgeridoo in Czech: Didgeridoo
didgeridoo in Danish: Didgeridoo
didgeridoo in German: Didgeridoo
didgeridoo in Estonian: Didžeriduu
didgeridoo in Spanish: Didgeridoo
didgeridoo in Esperanto: Diĝeriduo
didgeridoo in Basque: Didgeridoo
didgeridoo in French: Didgeridoo
didgeridoo in Croatian: Didžeridu
didgeridoo in Indonesian: Didgeridoo
didgeridoo in Italian: Didgeridoo
didgeridoo in Hebrew: דידג'רידו
didgeridoo in Luxembourgish: Didgeridoo
didgeridoo in Lithuanian: Didgeridoo
didgeridoo in Hungarian: Didgeridoo
didgeridoo in Dutch: Didgeridoo
didgeridoo in Japanese: ディジュリドゥ
didgeridoo in Norwegian: Didgeridoo
didgeridoo in Polish: Didgeridoo
didgeridoo in Portuguese: Didjeridu
didgeridoo in Russian: Диджериду
didgeridoo in Slovak: Didgeridoo
didgeridoo in Slovenian: Didžeridu
didgeridoo in Finnish: Didgeridoo
didgeridoo in Swedish: Didgeridoo
didgeridoo in Wu Chinese: Didgeridoo
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