Learn to Play Didgeridoo with Charlie McMahon - Short Courses Sydney

Learn to Play Didgeridoo with Charlie McMahon

What you'll learn

Join renowned didgeridoo player, Charlie McMahon, for an immersive and educational workshop playing didgeridoo. 

Held at Portland near Lithgow in NSW Australia, this workshop offers a unique opportunity to delve into the history and traditional use of this iconic instrument. Throughout the day, participants will be introduced to the captivating sounds and techniques of the didgeridoo, guided by Charlie's expertise and passion. From learning about its cultural significance and traditional playing styles to fundamental and basic rhythm techniques, this workshop promises to be an engaging and transformative experience. And what better way to take a break and enjoy the camaraderie than with a traditional fire pit roast vegetable lunch, adding a touch of warmth and connection to this unforgettable workshop. The day concludes with a fire pit roast vegetable lunch, providing a delightful opportunity to relax, socialise, and reflect on the immersive experience shared with fellow enthusiasts.

What are the benefits of learning the didj?

Playing didjeridu is good for you. Cycle breathing, which involves diaphragm pressure to expel air and inhaling only via the nose, is similar to yoga breath exercises. People who take up playing didj notice an improved sense of smell and decrease in respiratory infections. Contaminants are caught in the sinuses, and air breathed in via the nose is closer to body temperature by the time it reaches the lungs. Some asthmatics find didjeridu playing alleviates their symptoms as cycle breathing is similar to the breathing exercises developed by the Russian physician Alexi Buteyko.

Didj resonates a continuous tone in your head, nullifying external sounds. When observing stationary objects while playing they appear to vibrate, a consequence of the sound vibrating the head. The vibration affect is more apparent when observing a digital clock or video monitor and is stronger on the higher tones. In a mediative mood, slide down to the lower tones around C and for a vigorous feel slide the bone to higher keys. By breathing the beat the body becomes a rhythm organism, and the breath a play thing like a breath dance or trance.

Regardless of whether the rhythm is fast or slow cycle breathing induces a euphoric feeling in the players mind and body. Blowing fast rhythms like the ‘wobble’ means breathing 120 breaths per minute, which far exceeds the normal rate of 18 breaths per minute. It is often assumed the far away look of the didjeridu player immersed in ‘didj euphoria’ is due to hyperventilation, which is a dizzy sensation familiar to people who have used deep breaths to get a fire burning.

Hyperventilation or over breathing is not due to the body taking in too much oxygen, it is the result of the concentration of carbon dioxide in the lungs falling below its normal concentration of 6.5% of air. However, didj players do not hyperventilate because they do not completely exhale, or else the sound would stop. Also the rhythmic cycle breathing is a controlled action in contrast to the spasmodic style of over breathing.

Playing didj like any musical sound can be a mood emulator for you, to be played vigorously when excited or smoothly when relaxed. The vibration is made by your body and it travels along the didj and back into your body. Endogenously, as in mediation, it vibrates a rhythmic drone with the conscious mind on holiday. Exogenously didj creates a continuous rhythm ruled by a breath pattern make an atmosphere so solid it is likened to make a ground sound.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this workshop, it is intended that participants will:

  1. Have gained a comprehensive understanding of the history and traditional use of the didgeridoo in Indigenous Australian culture;
  2. Developed fundamental didgeridoo playing techniques, including breathing control, circular breathing, and creating different sounds and rhythms;
  3. Explored advanced techniques, such as overtones and vocalisations, to enhance the range and complexity of the didgeridoo playing;
  4. Acquired basic improvisational skills and creative expression abilities, allowing participants to experiment and collaborate with others in musical contexts.

Course content

Introduction (30 minutes)

Welcome and introduction of Charlie McMahon. Brief overview of the didgeridoo and its cultural significance Introduction to the workshop objectives and structure.

Didjeridu Basics

Following introductions didjeridus for the practice are checked out to assess playability and pitch. While participants are encouraged to bring an instrument there are didjs available on loan for those who do not have one and for those whose instruments are determined to be on insufficient quality to play well. Some didjs are made as souvenirs so quality is not guaranteed. 

Learning the drone and basic rhythms is the first step to didj playing. We practice how to form the mouth reed or embrasure with lips to sound the drone tone and push air to the mouth with abdominal pressure. Once a drone tone is made, we practice ways of putting rhythm to the drone. This session also involves demonstration of traditional and contemporary didj rhythms. During this and the afternoon prac traditional Arnhem Land didj lore is discussed. Ahead of the workshop once enrolled participants will receive printed articles on traditional and contemporary didj practice and links to useful info online sources.   

Fire Pit Lunch

A wholesome lunch of root vegetables is cooked in ashes. Using methods learned from Pintubi folk of the Great Sandy Desert, this will show you how to cook perfectly without foil or other insulation of the food. While cooking we discuss culture and anything else that people are interested pertaining to didj, music and culture. Some books on art and culture are available to see at this time as well

Rhythm Breathing and advanced techniques

To play continuous rhythm requires the knack of constant air flow through the lips while inhaling intermittently through the nose. Also called by a misnomer 'circular breathing' this breath technique, besides being the penultimate goal of didj players is exhilarating or relaxing depending on the breath rate. Indeed, it has been likened to the Prana Yama of Yoga and asthmatics have benefited from playing didj. The physiology of respiration is explained for how it relates to rhythm breathing on didj. Some of the rhythms taught are demonstrated here.

Intended audience

This course is designed for individuals who have an interest in learning about the didgeridoo and its significance in Indigenous Australian culture, as well as those who wish to develop their skills in playing this unique musical instrument. The ideal participants for this course could include:

Cultural Enthusiasts: People who have an interest in learning about different cultures, especially the Indigenous Australian culture, and their traditional musical instruments. This course offers a comprehensive understanding of the history and cultural significance of the didgeridoo, making it appealing to those with a curiosity for diverse traditions.

Musicians and Music Enthusiasts: Individuals who already have some background in music, either playing other instruments or having experience in music theory, may find this course particularly engaging. They can build upon their existing knowledge and apply it to the specific techniques and intricacies of playing the didgeridoo.

Aspiring Performers: Individuals who aspire to perform with the didgeridoo, either as solo artists or as part of musical groups. This course will equip them with the necessary foundational and advanced techniques to enhance their playing skills and creativity.

Collaborative Artists: Musicians who enjoy collaborating with others and wish to explore new avenues for musical expression and experimentation. The improvisational skills and creative expression abilities taught in this course will enable them to interact and create music collaboratively with other musicians.

Those Seeking a Unique Musical Experience: People looking for a unique and distinctive musical experience may find learning the didgeridoo fascinating. Its deep, resonant sound and cultural significance make it an attractive instrument for those seeking something different from mainstream musical pursuits.

Overall, this course caters to a diverse group of individuals, ranging from musicians seeking to expand their skills to culture enthusiasts interested in exploring the rich history and significance of the didgeridoo in Indigenous Australian culture. It provides a platform for creative expression, collaboration, and a deeper understanding of this traditional instrument.

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This course has no current classes. Please join our waitlist and we will notify you when we have places available. Join waitlist for Learn to Play Didgeridoo with Charlie McMahon

This course has no current classes. Please join our waitlist and we will notify you when we have places available. Join waitlist for Learn to Play Didgeridoo with Charlie McMahon