The 10 Best Didgeridoos
This wiki has been updated 27 times since it was first published in February of 2017. The didgeridoo is thought by many historians to be the oldest wind instrument in the world, and the drone and harmonics of a modern version are every bit as captivating as those its ancient Aboriginal forebears. Our selection includes deluxe and affordable models that look and sound great, and come in a surprising variety of shapes and sizes. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
September 06, 2019:
While most models are shaped like traditional didgeridoos, a few, like the Jive S-Shaped and X8 Drums Spiral, have more compact designs for easier travel. Made sure to include both premium, hand-made options as well as more affordable, less authentic choices that are good for beginners and kids. In terms of aesthetics, some choices have painted designs, some have burned-in details, and others have natural wood exteriors.
A One-Note Wonder
Thankfully, this isn’t the case, and expert didge players are capable of creating impressive and surprising music with their instruments.
Didgeridoos are exceptionally calming instruments that can do wonders for your health and wellbeing. Many players use a technique known as circular breathing in order to sustain a continuous tone for an extended period of time. They accomplish this by expelling air stored in their cheeks while simultaneously breathing in through the nose. It sounds tricky, but it’s actually not too difficult to master with practice and persistence, and it’s especially helpful to know how to do it if you play other woodwind instruments like the saxophone.
This technique goes further than simply helping you impress your friends and family with a ridiculously long solo — one study found that it can actually reduce the severity of sleep apnea and snoring. It does this by strengthening the upper airways and thereby diminishing their potential to collapse during sleep. Continuous, deep breathing also helps to raise your oxygen levels and increase your lung capacity over time. When you provide your body with ample oxygen, it's easier for your heart to pump it through your blood. Lung capacity begins to decrease in most people beginning at the age of 30, so taking steps to prevent a drastic decline is paramount.
Playing the didge can be a meditative experience for many. The combination of cyclical breathing, the deep tone of the instrument, and the vibrations it creates in your hands can generate conditions ideal for relaxation. It teaches mindfulness, which can help with myriad conditions, including depression, anxiety, stress, and even insomnia.
When considering the sound it can produce, you’d be forgiven for assuming that there’s not much versatility when it comes to the didgeridoo. Thankfully, this isn’t the case, and expert didge players are capable of creating impressive and surprising music with their instruments. Numerous artists have taken great pains and many years to develop a specific rhythmic style, and they can be influenced by everything from trance and electro-rock to jazz. Some incorporate other instruments into the mix, and even infuse their sound with beatboxing and creative vocal inflection to great effect.
Which Didge Is Best For You?
So, you’ve decided to take the plunge into the vast world of didgeridoos. If you’re a beginner selecting his first didge, try not to get too hung up on the wood from which it's crafted. There are hundreds of types of eucalyptus trees alone that an instrument can be made from, and the variations have no discernible effect on the overall sound. This frees you up to choose the material that best suits your personal aesthetic and budget. And don’t forget, you’re not just limited to wood construction — there are products made from glass, PVC, and even fiberglass.
The longer the instrument, the deeper the sound it will usually emit, so if you’re yearning for a low tone, opt for a didge that ranges from 45 to 58 inches in length.
Next, you’ll need to consider the key in which you’d prefer to play. Those looking to create meditative music will want to produce a low-tone drone that spans anywhere from B to D, whereas higher keys like E, F, and G are suitable for more complex playing. The longer the instrument, the deeper the sound it will usually emit, so if you’re yearning for a low tone, opt for a didge that ranges from 45 to 58 inches in length.
There are two general shapes of didgeridoo: conical and circular. The former is excellent for newbies looking to master circular breathing, as they have a greater backpressure and so require a bit less effort to play. If you’ll be incorporating various vocal techniques into your music and already have your breathing technique down, a circular style can provide more of a challenge.
If you’re a traveling musician or just want something small to tinker around with, consider a reticulated didgeridoo. These are spiraled devices that manage to achieve length while remaining compact due to their ingenious design. There are also book-shaped options containing clever zigzag channels that produce an authentic-sounding drone. These styles are excellent for practice, or those who are just beginning and aren’t positive they want to commit to a full-sized instrument yet.
The Origins Of The Didgeridoo
Classified by musicologists as a brass aerophone, the didgeridoo most likely originated in northern Australia over 40,000 years ago. While anthropologists have yet to unearth concrete evidence of this timeline, they can trace its existence back at least a millennium or so thanks to cave paintings. Interestingly enough, the word didgeridoo is not a native term whatsoever; it's actually most likely an onomatopoetic title invented by Western travelers. There are dozens of regional names for the instrument, with one of the most popular being yidaki. The Yolngu people used this moniker in referral to a specific variant of the didgeridoo until around 2011 when they began using the synonym mandapul instead.
After that, the craftsman may shape the body a bit, add a beeswax mouthpiece, and decorate it if he so desires.
Initially, the didge accompanied ceremonial gatherings in which members would sing and dance. Musicians often supplemented it with a specific beat using clapsticks played in a pattern passed down through generations. Traditionally, only men would perform with the instrument in these formal settings. However, men, women, and children have all been known to tinker with it recreationally in their spare time.
As roads improved and trade infrastructure strengthened in Australia over the 20th century, the didge found its way across the country and into new, appreciative hands. English-Australian anthropologist Sir Walter Edwin Spencer, who taught and conducted research all over Australia, made the first audio recordings of the instrument in 1912. It was also mentioned in numerous publications and ethnographies. Over the course of the 1900s, Westerners became more educated and interested in the didgeridoo, and word quickly spread. While it will always remain the domain of the Aboriginal Australians who created it, the didge now has legions of dedicated enthusiasts across the globe.
Indigenous craftsmen still produce traditional didgeridoos in northern Australia using hardwood. While bamboo and screwpine are occasionally utilized, eucalyptus trees hollowed out by termites are preferred. Artisans employ tried-and-true methods to decide which trees are the ideal thickness for didgeridoo construction. Once located, they'll cut the tree down, clean it out, and strip its bark. After that, the craftsman may shape the body a bit, add a beeswax mouthpiece, and decorate it if he so desires.