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.
If you succeed in circular breathing you will be playing didge for the rest of your life!!!
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 over-blows and toots etc, but that’s a whole different lesson!