As you might know, I got two music instruments for Christmas, one being a ukulele and the other a Didgeridoo. A little habit formed, and when I get home for work, I play them to practice and soothe my nerves. That was as far as the ukulele goes, and the sound of it is very peaceful and relaxing. While I can see progress in my play with it, it was the Didgeridoo that would offset that peace and I couldn’t play it for the life of me. How do you blow into this long hollow piece of wood and make “that” sound. My efforts were a far cry from it, and a painful attempt. A few times I even got so frustrated with it that I didn’t pick it up for a day or two and just played the Uke. I thought I’d never get the hang of it and thought if all fails, it would look beautiful hanging on the wall with it’s intricate design.
Thank god for YouTube videos right, which I watched quite a few. I came across this guy talking about the “Sweet Spot” and it describes pretty much what it’s like to pick up the Didgeridoo and being able to make “that” unique and unmistaken sound. “Relax your lips” he said, which presented an entirely different struggle given that the round opening of the wood is pressed up against your lips to make a tight seal. How do you relax?
The long sound is described as a drone and to play it continuously you have to practice a method that is called the circular breathing technique. In other words, you blow air into your Didge while trying to breath in through your nose. My mind can’t even comprehend the thought of it and just try it out and you know what I mean. Either way, he instructed to not even bother with circular breathing until you have found your “sweet spot”. I was determined, but frustration also had it and I wondered why the heck I couldn’t do it. Would I ever know, and how long would it take, were all questions running through my mind. Not knowing what I was doing wrong, how could I change direction, do something different and get away from the painful and awful sounds that I was producing?
Here and there, I briefly found the “Sweet Spot” but it never lasted long enough to actually remember how it came to be. Last night, after work and after not playing it for a couple of days, I picked up my Didge. I took it out of it’s protective carrying bag and wrapped my hand around it. I held it for a few seconds, while looking at the beautiful painted markings that adorn it. I was motivated and today would be the day, thinking in my mind that I can do this. “Come on, you are going to work with me and we are going to do this together”, I silently thought, focusing my mind and energy on the long hollow wooden pipe while holding it. And then I started and set it to my lips. First, came the painful sounds, mixed in with the occasional short sample of the drone sound. I was fading in and out of the sound as I took the Didge away from my mouth and was afraid to stop, thinking that by tomorrow I would go back to the same painful sounds.
I picked it back up this morning and almost immediately produced that deep, vibrational sound. Although at times it takes me a second, it appears that I have found my “Sweet Spot” and somehow know how to get back to it. I couldn’t be more excited about it and it feels like I have tried way too hard before. I tried to force something that wasn’t ready and only as I surrendered and gave up control was I able to produce this beautiful sound in perfect harmony with the instrument. It’s crazy how things work out sometimes and I think this was a lesson with many meanings, applied to play and life itself. In the end I’m reminded that nothing can be forced and all develops in due time and when ready.
I’m attaching a video to it to share the sound with you and to show you what I’m after.
Next lesson: Circular breathing…wish me luck