Funny how it has come about – my learning to play the didgeridoo. My friends figure it came with my fascination with Australia, but my brother has played a didge my Mum had bought for him decades ago. I tried back then and had no success, no drive to figure it out, so I gave up. I was trying too hard. That is the reason for failure with a didge – trying too hard.
Possibly, that has been a reason for many failures in my life although I much prefer to call them lessons. The first thing you do when you pick up the didge and put it to your lips is just blow. It is not a pretty sound. Neither is the slobbery lip flapping that comes next. But the struggles are necessary to find resonance. All the attempts teach your lips what does not work.
I watched youtube videos to no avail. There was a lot of talk and lip flapping. I had bought a didgeridoo made from a plant tube while my brother’s was of a composite material and sat in storage full of spiders!! I was scared of his. But we brought it out and I use compressed air to de-spider it. Then, he taught me. He did not instantly show me how to play, but he described the quality of the air that needed to be produced.
I stayed exhausted and out of breath trying too hard. Billy hit resonance at first lip touch and could hold the beautiful sweet spot for minutes on one simple breath (and he had a head cold at the time). Obviously, I had to find that place of ease and rapport. So, bravely, I began trying his didge, too. At night, unable to sleep (lots of painful stuff going on here), I would lie naked with the end of the didge on my toes and suddenly, I got the SOUND and it held for minutes! I squealed, the dogs had left the bedroom, I laughed (laughing feels good) and told myself, “if I can do it once, I can do it a thousand times”. PRACTICE!
The thing about the flapping lips is that it gets you vibrating them, then you go from vibrating the top lip to vibrating the bottom lip. When I made this shift, my teeth quit feeling loose from the efforts. Then, that first night, I sort of smiled as I was trying to play and that made my lips stretch a little and the air changed. It wasn’t being forced out, it was just easy, soft, lips oh so subtly vibrating and no exhale from the lungs, just a push from the cheeks. I had it! I then could range and run the sound through in variations. It was an awesome sound when I kept from laughing for joy.
Effortless. That was what it needed to be. That was what I needed to learn. With everything around me requiring such massive effort – to learn to play the didge was a shift of consciousness! And one that was starting to heal me. I am breathing deeper. I am laughing again. I feel a sense of accomplishment (badly needed, I’ve had a couple of demoralizing things happen lately). When I thought playing it was going to loosen my front teeth, Billy said that might make me an even better player if I lost them (the teeth!!), which did not amuse me.
Now my goal is to immediately resonate the moment I start to play, then the magical circular breath that allows no break in the sound as I breathe! Oh, and after I “got it” with Billy’s didge, I could play mine (it is more difficult). Billy gave his to me and I’m painting it to claim it. If I had given up during the slobbering, rattling, ugly attempts, I would never have known that I can play a didgeridoo. And, I can!! All I had to learn was to allow it and not force it. Cool.