Welcome to our FAQ. After so many years of doing this, we have found that there are many common questions. We hope to answer some of them for you here. If you don't find the answer you're looking for here, please feel free to hit the "Email us..." link to the left.
1. What the heck is a didjeridu? The Didjeridu is an Australian Aboriginal musical instrument. It is the original woodwind, a long hollow instrument. At one end a simple mouthpiece is constructed out of beeswax to assure a tight seal for the player's lips to buzz through. The sound is modulated by movement of the tongue, cheeks, diaphragm, and the player's voice.
2. What's that funny kinda breathing called? It's circular breathing. Simply put, it's using your mouth like the bag of a set of bagpipes, allowing it to fill with excess air as your playing the didj. When you need to take a breath, you seal off the back of your mouth with the back of your tongue, squeeze your cheeks in while kicking your tongue up. As you're doing this, you take a quick sniff through the nose to refill your lungs. Simple. :)
3. How long does it take to learn to do circular breathing? It's different for each player. The one thing we consistently recommend is "Don't worry about it.". Plus, we STRONGLY recommend that the player not even work on it at first. Circular breathing requires techniques and strengths that will be learned as the player learns to play the didjeridu.
4. Is it tough to learn how to play? Heck no! If you can make a sound like a horse, just exhaling and letting your lips flap uncontrollably, not only will you get dates, but you can play the didj. It's just a long SLOW exhale, letting your lips buzz like playing a really huge tuba.
5. What are your didjeridus made of? We use the finest dew-picked plastic resin. It's lightweight (2.5 pounds per didj), strong (we chunked them off of 5 story buildings when we were testing different materials), and has excellent tonal qualities after it's been worked over by the Big Crew at Captain Jake's.
6. What do Australian Aborigines use? The Australian Aborigines (The originators of the instrument) have typically used Eucalyptus that's been hollowed by termites. They're painted with designs appropriate for the ceremony or party, played, the designs washed off, and the stick is thrown back. The weight and cracking of the wood is not a concern due to the short time it is used.
7. What are these things used for? The Aborigines of Australia use them in ceremony and at gatherings just for fun. In other parts of the world didjeridus are used in music as a bass/rhythm instrument (or as a lead for especially hip bands.) They're also used in some western ceremonies, in drum circles and in music therapy; the uses are almost infinite.
8. What is the proper spelling? The proper spelling is always 'didjeridu'. Or 'didgeridoo'. Or 'didgeridu'. Or 'didjeridoo'. As we understand it, the term 'didjeridu' is an English term for the instrument. Aboriginal people have different names for it, depending upon the family group you're speaking of.
9. How do you pronounce that? It's just like you had your house remodeled and someone asks you "Didja re-do the kitchen?" Didge-uh-ree-doo. Often "didj" is used (pronounced "didge") for short. Never use didgie.
10. So it just plays one note, right? The didjeridu plays a fundamental tone. However, that tone is modified by the player with the tongue and cheeks giving it the appearance of multiple tones. Even semi-experienced players can play recognizable melodies on the didjeridu. There are also overtones and jaw drops that can be done that directly modify the fundamental tone.
11. Aren't you stealing from the Aborigines? We don't believe so. We do try to respect the portions that we have been told are sacred, however the instrument itself we see as a great contribution to the world's music scene. If non-aboriginals who play the didjeridu should give it back to the Aborigines, then we must have all of the Scots who play the bagpipes to give them back to the Persians, who invented them, and give the banjo back to the Japanese.
12. Where the heck is your store? Our workshop is in Irving, Texas. Our didjeridus are available at Harps of Avalon located in Bedford on 183 at Bedford Road. The phone number is 817-318-6363 metro. You can reach Harps of Avalon by email or you can visit their website.
13. Do you ship anywhere in the world? Anywhere we legally can.
14. Would you give a presentation at our school? We are often asked to do so and carefully consider each case. We do enjoy doing so and it's always been a wonderful experience, but it can be very difficult to get everyone's employers to allow us the time off.
15. How did you get into this weird thing? A good friend, Michael Peden, handed me a CD saying "Hey, you like different music, right?". That CD was "Baka", by Outback. Just two guys, one with a guitar, one with a didjeridu. Blew my mind and I knew I had to get one and learn to play. Finding one was another matter. Almost no one in Dallas had ever heard of one, and finding one at a music shop was almost impossible. I finally found and purchased a synthetic didj from a semi-local shop. I began learning to play on it and discovered that it sounded "kinda like a didjeridu", but not close enough for my ears. Well, ol' Jake is an engineer and he set out to find a material that was strong, lightweight, and most importantly, had the proper acccoustic properties to make a didjeridu. He looked into several woods and found that most of them shared the same drawbacks. Lots of weight, eventual cracking and a hit or miss likelyhood of getting a good sound. So he experimented with many many materials, throwing away many not-good-enough samples before settling on the current formulation. Then followed years of experimentation developing effective techniques to most accurately reproduce the sound of wood, but adding the ability to produce much greater volume.
16. Who are your influences? Graham Wiggins of Outback and Dr. Didj fame, George Clinton, and Hamish from BROTHER.
17. Do you know where I can get BROTHER CDs? Why yes, I do. From us. Please send us email and we'd be happy to ship them right on out to you, or see us at any of the festivals that we are at, we always have them with us.
18. Didn't BROTHER break up? Nope. Brother Fergus decided to pursue his own path with Bur's Accoustic Eclectic World Orchestra. On his debut CD you can hear a lot of BROTHER, but also something new, something defintely BUR.
19. Who's BROTHER's new drummer guy? That would be Roel (seems to be pronounced "Rule") Kuiper. We saw him in action at the Dallas International Festival. Really a terrific drummer, and a darned nice guy.
20. Ain't that just like that big ol' horn I'm always seein' in those Reeeeecola commercials? No, that would be an Alpenhorn, an entirely different intstrument. It's always funny to hear the comparison, though.
21. Is it safe for us to try the didjes at the festival? Certainly! You wouldn't buy a car without test-driving it, now would you? We don't expect you to invest in a didjeridu without test-playing it as well. When you see us at a festival, note that after each person plays, the mouthpiece and area inside is swabbed out with a strong antiseptic solution. We don't want you catching anything and we don't want to catch anything either. :)
22. Are these REAL didjeridus? Indeed they are. Some of the finest professional quality didjeridus you'll find. Yes, they are not made by Aborigines, they're made by Americans that have studied the accoustics and the art of the didjeridu.
23. Can you call animals with it? Well, if you can train an animal to come to you with a whistle, you could train them to come to the sound of the didjeridu. But most animals are not naturally drawn to the didj, in our experience. We do have some customers who use their didjeridu to call in their herd of emus.
24. Do you guys have real jobs? Yes, we do. Jake is an engineer, Gitana runs a restaurant, and most of the rest of the crew are professionals in their own fields.
25. How much do they cost? The cost varies according to the time invested in the instrument. Each intrument is unique. We never repeat a design, and each didj is hand shaped by Jake himself. So we usually price according to the time. Which means roughly 180-210 US for most of them. Our top of the line Slidjeridus cost about 285 dollars US, due to the phenomenal amount of time invested in them.
26. How long does it take you to make one? It varies, but roughly 50 hours.
27. Just how do you make it? Very carefully with many specialized devices and equipment hand-made just for this task. As you can imagine, when the Captain started this business, there weren't many shops who stocked the kind of equipment he needed, so he made it himself.
28. What's the whirly thing that Aborigines use? It's a sacred instrument that I have been told by Aborigines is something they don't want discussed nor distributed outside of their communities.
29. Don't they use the didjeridu for communication across long distances? No, you may be thinking of the Talking Drums that are used in Africa. Yes, they do exist. More information can be found on this by consulting the font of all wisdom, Cecil Adams in his column, the Straight Dope.
30. What CDs do you guys recommend? All of the CD's made by BROTHER, of course. We also strongly recommend the 2 CDs by Outback, "Baka", and "Dance the Devil Away". The two by Dr. Didj are exceptional, "Out of the Woods" and "Serotonality". Nomad has also produced a great CD. Some of these CDs are available from Captain Jake's.
31. I feel like I'm going to pass out. Is this normal? Many folks experience this as they are learning. If you do feel light headed or dizzy, sit down. This is usually the result of trying far too hard. The key to playing the didj is low air pressure. One of the most common things you'll hear us telling students at festivals is "less air" and "less force".
32. I bet it takes a lot of breath to play one of those, doesn't it? See the answer above. It takes a small amount of air. When the Captain began playing, and for the first 7 years of his playing career, he smoked cigarettes and had asthma. Neither impeded his playing ability.
33. Are those rainsticks? Fer chrissake, no! Sorry, we hear this one all day from folks who've never seen a didjeridu. Nope, they're not rainsticks, and have nothing in common with them except for exterior shape..