Circular Breathing Tutorial
Circular breathing to me is instinctive, the same as most didge players who have been playing for a long time. When you get used to circular breathing it gradually turns into a short sharp diaphragm movement rather than any thing to do with the mouth. It will at the start feel like something very unnatural and your mouth won't do what your brain is telling it. So I have devised a list of smaller, easier to deal with steps to work through. Following this list has a high success rate.
- Get used to playing your didge without circular breathing. So that in one breath you can sustain a drone for 15 to 20 seconds, whilst bending the note higher and lower with your tongue moving backwards and forwards, experimenting with different shapes in your mouth.
- Put your didge back on your didge stand, you wont be using it for a while. Pour yourself a large glass of water and go outside .Take a large mouth full of water and try to spit it out creating a continuous even spray without using your lungs, aim at something about 1m away. Do this several times until you get used to it. (Men tend to find this easier than women due to spitting competitions with their mates when they were young boys.)
Do it again, this time breathe in through your nose at the same time. Congratulations, you have just tricked your brain in to doing something completely against the normal principles of breathing. Do this lots of times until it becomes natural, and whilst doing it think long and hard about what is pushing the water out.
Is it your tongue? Is it your cheeks? Is it both? If it is one then try the other and then try a combination of the two until you find what works best for you. Most didge players say its all in the cheeks but for me it has always been predominantly the tongue.
- Put the water down and blow a long raspberry using your mouth creating air pressure in the same way but without the water. Again breathe in through your nose. In its simplest form this is circular breathing .Don't be in too much of a rush to get to no. 4, you could practice all day and come back to this page tomorrow. Work towards making the raspberry looser and floppier.
- For this part and for the rest of your circular breathing training I suggest you do everything whilst counting 1, 2, 3, 4; 1, 2, 3, 4; 1, 2, 3, 4. This will not only help you practice consistently, but when you can eventually do circular breathing through the didge you will already be able to play a very basic rhythm. No. 1 will stand for the circular breathing technique that you now find natural; no. 2, 3 and 4 will stand for a loose raspberry created by the air pressure from your lungs. Breathe 2, 3, 4 breath 2, 3, 4 breath 2, 3, 4. You will have to start by being very deliberate about each count and then gradually you will become more fluent.
- You will find there is a gap in your lip vibration between 4 and breath and then another gap between breathe and 2.Within the count 2, 3, 4 allow your tongue to drop down and back in your mouth and allow your cheeks to puff out slightly to form a large cavity of air. At the point of breathe in your count squeeze your cheeks and push your tongue forward, but don't deliberately stop blowing with your lungs, this will happen naturally as you breathe in through your nose .After a short time of practising you will find yourself being able to do 2, 3, 4 breathe fluently with out a gap.
- Bridging the gap between breathe and 2 is perfectly simple to describe but a lot harder to put into practise due to the lack or pressure as you take your breath.
The natural place for you to start blowing with your lungs again is after your breath, but I want you to start blowing with your lungs half way though your breath and in much the same way as in section 5 you will automatically stop breathing in through your nose. To make this gap fluent might take some time and I would suggest you practice breathe 2, 3, 4 breathe 2, 3, 4 breathe 2, 3, 4 continuously over long periods of time in your day to day life, perhaps when you are doing the washing up, taking the dog for a walk, watching TV or perhaps on a long train journey, (you may find the carriage will empty quickly so you can have more leg room).
- You can now already do circular breathing, although not on a didge.
So time to take your didge off the didge rack .Give yourself time to get used to playing your didge again without circular breathing but be thinking about your 1234 timing.
When you start attempting circular breathing through your didge, providing it's a didge with good back pressure you should not have to blow quite as hard as when blowing raspberries with no didge.
There's not a massive amount I can say that is different than with no didge, you just have to keep adjusting the pressure you use and the shapes in mouth and lips slightly. This may take some time to achieve but the end result should be a bass sound at the point of breath, and due to the minute mouth movements that naturally happen when thinking 2, 3, 4 there should be a more gentle sound on every count DOM a a a DOM a a a DOM a a a etc., creating a rhythm . The 2, 3, 4 or a a a can be replaced by bending the note ,vocals ,pops overblows and toots etc., but that's a whole different lesson!!!!
I've been playing didge in a style over the past 15 years which I personally call break beat. The reason is due to the fact that I deliberately stop and start the drone, making as many different punchy noises as I can think of.
It makes the sound of the didge very percussive and can be used in all sorts of modern music such as drum and bass, techno, hip hop and many more. I have many examples of this on my CD 'raspberry ripple' such as 'base', 'tttraackadiggapoopa' and 'troublesome trucks'. It can also be used in conjunction with more fluent rhythms such as 'warm wilma', chopping and changing between styles, whilst keeping the same rhythm. Anyway, this is what I do:
- Practice stopping and starting very suddenly after a breath. Then repeat it lots of times until you get used to it. Try making your drone as short as possible whilst still getting enough air in through your nose. The best way to do this is to start with pressure from your lungs, but holding your tongue in the way of your mouth, to stop the air flow with the tip in the position to pronounce the letter D .Then quickly drop your tongue out of the way to allow a short burst of air past making your lips vibrate into your didge, and then stopping the air short into the M position with your lips. The intake of air happens quite late in the burst. I say quite late but remember I'm only talking 1/4 of a second. The whole process we can describe as pronouncing the word 'DOM'.
- The next part is even shorter and sharper. Starting with your tongue in the T or D position, aggressively flick the tip downwards to land in a K or G position pronouncing TIK, DIG, TIG or DIK. It is worth while knowing that when pronouncing letters that a D is really just a soft T and a T is just an aggressive D and on the same note a G is a soft K and a K is an aggressive G (although any body with any knowledge of phonetics may be screaming abuse at me for this statement, it is for the sake of learning didgeridoo only). When you are playing slowly you can pronounce TIK but when you speed up you will be pronouncing DIG on top of that you can deliberately chop and change between the two to create artistic differences. Also sometimes you will find you will not be able to fully pronouns the G or K but it should be treated in much the same way as a cockney dropping his Ts such as WAtER or MAtE etc. The other way to make differences in your sound is to replace the I in TIK to another vowel sound A, E, I, O, or U; TAK, TEK, TIK, TOK, TUK or DAG, DEG, DIG, DOG, DUG. When doing all of this your aim is to let as little air out as possible whilst still making a split second drone. Sounds complicated on paper but it's actually quite simple when on your didge.
- So remembering that the breath is being described as DOM put the two techniques together to create a very simple rhythm, DOM-TIK-DOM-TIK-DOM-TIK, etc.
Next instead of just TIK pronounce TATIK the rhythm becoming DOM-TATIK-DOM-TATIK-DOM-TATIK, etc. Then if you add an A on the end you get DOM- TATIKA-DOM -TATIKA... You could also do a double breath to make DOM-DOM-TATIKA...
Now with all the variations there are countless rhythms you could come up with. As an example I could come up with something ridiculous off the to of my head like DOM-DOM-DADIK-DEDOK-DEDIK-DOM-TAKA-DIK-DOK-TIK-TATOK- DOM-DOM and could probably make it work.
- On top of all that there are plenty of other things to vary these tunes. Low and high vocals; toots; trills; elongating the DOM into DOOOM; or elongating the TIK into TIIOK; and I'm sure if I think about it long enough I could come up with plenty more.