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Didgeridoo and Circular Breathing

Didgeridoo, possibly the oldest instrument known to man, originated in northern Australia through the Indigenous population of the Northern Territory. The instrument has been played for over 1500 years and has recently become a prominent feature in alternative healing communities because of its ability to help with sleep disorders and other health issues. The low frequency sounds and actual vibrations produced by the didgeridoo are thought to encourage the healing of tissues, and the instrument has been used as a therapeutic tool as an augmentation to medical treatment.

The breathing technique, circular breathing, required by the didgeridoo player promotes health benefits for the player. Didgeridoo music is a seamless hum that is created through the mastery of circular breathing, a technique that gives the illusion of a constant push of air through a wind instrument. Circular breathing is also an ancient Taoist technique thought to improve oxygen intake, resulting in oxygen-rich blood, better blood circulation, higher energy levels, greater relaxation and lower stress levels. Circular breathing also benefits musicians who play brass and woodwind instruments.

Learning circular breathing for didgeridoo playing or for its inherent health benefits takes time, dedication and practice. In essence, the musician must be able to simultaneously blow air out by using the muscles in the cheeks while inhaling through the nose, and be able to keep a constant stream of air moving through the chosen instrument. Starting off, it is best to mimic the actual action of circular breathing so that your body’s muscle memory can take over once you introduce the actual inhalation of air. Breathe through your nose while keeping your cheeks full of air. After you are comfortable with that movement, begin to push the air out of your mouth with your cheeks while still maintaining your breathing rhythm (start off by sniffing to get the inhalation going). The push of air out of the mouth while breathing in through the nose is what creates the seamless stream of air needed to play the didgeridoo. Once you master the rudimentary circular breathing, concentrate on keeping the exhaled air steady and keep trying to extend the time you are able to keep the breath going. At the same time, try to make the breath stronger.

After a few weeks of practice, you should be able to hold a steady breath that is strong enough to create the drone of the didgeridoo. To play the didgeridoo, place the beeswax end of the instrument against your mouth and pout your bottom lip. Your upper lip should be held between your top teeth and the mouthpiece, giving your bottom lip the ability to vibrate with the sound. Keep your bottom lip loose and wet as you begin to exhale. You may have to move your mouth to find the best position, since not all mouths or didgeridoos are created equal. Once the didgeridoo feels like it is in place and you are producing the droning sound, start your circular breathing. You’re now playing the didgeridoo!

Circular breathing is something you can practice while driving, at work or anywhere, and it will help stimulate your mind as you practice. The health benefits of oxygen and circular breathing are noted by brass and woodwind instrument players, spiritual leaders and didgeridoo musicians. By learning circular breathing and how to play the didgeridoo, you are helping to heal others and keeping yourself healthy, as well as following an ancient tradition of music that possibly pre-dates all other instruments in the world.

29th Oct 2014

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