Didgeridoo - from zero to HERO! Part One - beginning
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Didgeridoo - from zero to HERO! Part One - beginning

Learn how to play the Didgeridoo with professional teacher and player Jonny Cope.
4.9 (15 ratings)
Instead of using a simple lifetime average, Udemy calculates a course's star rating by considering a number of different factors such as the number of ratings, the age of ratings, and the likelihood of fraudulent ratings.
114 students enrolled
Last updated 6/2016
Current price: $10 Original price: $35 Discount: 71% off
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  • 3 hours on-demand video
  • Full lifetime access
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  • Certificate of Completion
What Will I Learn?
  • Play the didgeridoo like a professional!
  • Master all the different sounds that the didgeridoo can make.
  • Learn how to make money from playing the didgeridoo!
  • Amaze your friends and family.
View Curriculum
  • You will need access to a didgeridoo (this can be very simple as explained)
  • No prior musical skills needed!
  • A willingness to learn!

This is part one of a growing range of courses that will teach you how to play this wonderful instrument!

This course will take you from complete beginner and end with a clear control over your sound, the basics of making other sounds and effects and, of course, circular breathing.

Parts two and three will take you right through to professional level playing.

Clear Lectures / Videos.

It's available for PC or MAC and there is an iPad and iPhone app ready to go!

(Android app is coming soon).

Keeping track of which videos(lectures) you have already watched is so easy.

Udemy has a great way of keeping track of your completed lessons(lectures).

The entire course is organised in step-by-step and easy to follow layout.

Who is the target audience?
  • Anyone over the age of ten!
  • Anyone who has ever wanted to play the didgeridoo
  • Anyone who has ever been told they are not musically minded.
  • Even if you have some didgeridoo playing skills already you will find more ideas and possibilities in these courses.
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Curriculum For This Course
38 Lectures
2 Lectures 11:29

Hello from your instructor - professional Didgeridoo player and teacher Jonny Cope!

Have you ever wanted to play the didgeridoo? Well now's your chance to learn with this comprehensive set of lecture / lessons. This expanding range of tuition material is all you will ever need to work your way up to playing the didgeridoo like a pro.

I've been a professional didgeridoo player and teacher for twenty years and I've taught many thousands of people how to play this great instrument. My best-selling range of tuition materials (book, CD and DVD) have been bought by over 30,000 people! So I'm pretty confident I know what I'm talking about and that I can help YOU learn the didgeridoo too!

In fact I'm so confident that I can help you these courses have a 30 day money back gaurentee.

If you don't think they are helping you can jump out and get a full refund.

By signing up for this course you will get instant access to a huge range of tuition that you can even dip into on the move as Udemy supply apps for iOS and Andriod phones and tablets.

Although there is plenty to keep you going for many weeks or months it doesn't end there! - the course will continue to expand as I add more material. Now all this work needs to get paid for so the course price will slowly increase to cover this extra material BUT NOT IF YOU JUMP IN NOW!

By signing up you are paying for 'lifetime' access so all the extra content costs you not one penny extra!!

So dive in NOW and learn to play one of the coolest instruments out there with me, Jonny Cope.

Preview 03:31

Getting the most out of these lectures.

Take a quick look at all the features Udemy offer to help you get the most from these lectures including a few not so easy to find sections with extra content.

My hope is that, once you enroll on this course, you will take one lecture per week so that you have plenty of time to practice and perfect each technique before moving on. Most folks have busy lives so I find with my 1-2-1 students that this interval is about right for most. If you have more or less free time you may with to spped or slow the pace a little but PLEASE try not to rush through. It's not a contest and I really want to help you play really well so a good control of each technique is pretty vital to that process. It's easy to think 'oh yeah I know that already' or 'I've got that down' but check in with each section and be sure you reproduce the examples well (and feel free to be better than me!) before taking the next lecture.

This is especially important if you already have some skills. I have worked with all levels of players over the years and it is the more advanced ones that sometimes struggle to add a new technique to their repetoire. Learn it all at the beginning and you won't look back! Some stuff might seem basic or straight-forward but give it a try before moving on. I hope my style of teaching is pretty comprehensive as I've worked with so many different folks at different levels and I pride myself on the ability to really break things down into their simplest components for easy understanding.

Preview 07:58
The didgeridoo and its origins
1 Lecture 04:03

What is a Didgeridoo and where do they come from?

The Australian Aboriginal culture, whom we must thank for sharing this great instrument with us, is thought to be in excess of 100,000 years old and it is quite possible that the didgeridoo is the oldest woodwind instrument known.

Traditionally, didgeridoos (Yidaki) can be made from several types of eucalyptus tree which grow wild in much of Northern Australia. The trees are naturally hollowed out by termites, who eat up through the tree's soft centre. It is these hollow trees that are selected by the Aborigines (Yolngu), cut down and turned into didjeridoos or Yidaki. They are used by Aborigines for secret ceremonies, initiation rites and social gatherings or ‘corroborees’.

Outside of their traditional use, didgeridoos are finding a great following amongst people all over the world. The instrument has an amazing ability to invoke images of a tribal past, through the didge's primal drone sounds. Playing or listening to the rich harmonic sounds made by didgeridoos, of many types, can be both relaxing and invigorating, whilst the circular breathing used to allow continuous playing often leads to a deeply relaxed and meditative state. Medical research has shown that didge playing can lower the heart rate and blood pressure, as well as being useful for bronchial problems like asthma and sleep apnea.

Origins of the didgeridoo
Beginner Basics
10 Lectures 46:41

How to choose the right instrument for you so that you can make progress quick and easy.

You will find many types of didgeridoos available but only a few are OK - let's look at the options:

  1. Plastic pipe / plumbing pipe
  2. Bamboo
  3. Cheaper wooden varieties
  4. Plastic shaped didges
  5. Better wooden didges
  6. Synthetic materials / glass and carbon fibre
  7. Aboriginal eucalyptus Yirdaki
Choosing a didgeridoo

Getting the mouthpiece right really helps, especially early on.

Mouthpiece checklist:

  • Not too big or small. This is down to personal preference and lip size but ideally should be in the range 25 - 35mm inner diameter. This is the actual hole in the playing end.
  • No big mounds of wax.
  • Preferably NO wax but it will be on some didges.
  • No sharp edges or splinters (these can happen on bamboo).
  • Approx 6-12mm wood thickness around the hole. Any thicker can be uncomfortable for the nose and any less can feel sharp on the lips.
  • No inner obstructions.
  • Reasonably round hole but slightly oval is OK.
  • Flat and at 90 degrees to the didge itself.
  • Smooth surface for lip comfort.
The importance of mouthpieces

Let's get started - making the basic drone sound.

We can start getting the lips to buzz freely - let's do this without the didgeridoo for a while. Then we can move to the didge and learn how to stabilize it.


  1. Put the mouth fully against the didge, there so be no leaks.
  2. Don't press too hard or lightly.
  3. Purse the lips slightly inside the instrument.
  4. Don't blow too hard.
  5. Keep the lips loose and flexible, not too open or not too tight.
  6. Make sure the jaw is relaxed and that there is a gap between the teeth.
  7. Try to keep the didge in the middle of the lips and not right off to one side or the other.
Preview 04:49

How can we improve the drone sound?

  1. Ensure there are no air leaks.
  2. Keep the lips central on the didge.
  3. Nice even pressure so you can feel the circle of the mouthpiece against the lips / teeth.
  4. Lips buzzing nicely with moderate airflow.
  5. Slowly work on pulling in the cheeks so that they are flat.
  6. Slide the tongue forward so that it approaches the back of the teeth.
Improving the drone sound

What is the best key or note to play didgeridoo in?

Personal preference plays a large part in your choice here but there are a few considerations:

  1. Lower pitched instruments (notes A or B) will be longer and / or wider inside so will need lots more air than most higher didges.
  2. Item 1. will mean that circular breathing (CB) is harder to achieve on lower didges than on higher ones.
  3. Middle range didges (say C D E) will be more comfortable and relaxing to play at first though CB can still be a challenge on C or D didges.
  4. Higher pitch didges (F F# G) can be easier to circular breath with but they will need faster lip buzz / tension and a higher diaphragmatic pressure so can be more tiring for the beginner.
  5. Lower pitch didges normally lead to slower rhythm playing and higher didges to faster playing styles although this does not always have to be the case.
A note on notes!

Good posture = good technique = good playing!

You will find it very hard to have good tone or sustain if you are sitting hunched over. Try to sit on the edge of your seat so that your hips tilt forward a bit. This helps straighten the spine and ensure that the diaphragm has a free range of motion, along with the ribcage and lungs being able to work at their optimal capacity.

Try to keep the shoulders low and relaxed and not all tensed up. Making sure your didge is held at the right angle helps this.

Your head should be facing forward and not tilted too far down or up, looking at the floor is bad. Keeping the head up and neck straight will further help airflow and ensure that the jaw, cheeks and lips can all move around freely without undue tension.

Posture - sit up straight!

You will have great fun learning to play didgeridoo but it can even help your health, here's the sort of benefits you can discover:

  1. Increased awareness of posture after the previous lecture!
  2. Increase in efficiency of lungs. I used to have issues with asthma that required an inhaler, regular didge playing rendered this unnecessary.
  3. Better management of stress as playing is very calming.
  4. Improved tone of muscles around face and neck - it can make you look younger!
  5. Learning circular breathing has been medically proven to help with snoring and sleep apnea as it tones the muscles associated with the tongue and throat.
  6. Strengthening of the diaphragm and toning of the abdominal muscles - save on those gym fees!
  7. Improved sex life as members of the opposite sex find your musical skills irresistible! (Okay I might have a hard time proving this one but Hey you never know!).
Preview 03:42

How to improve your tone and length of note.

Using the good posture we learned previously can really help our sustain (length of note) but here are some other pointers:

Improving stamina

Some common problems and how to overcome them.

Common problems include:

  1. Loose or 'airy' sounding drone.
  2. Trumpet sounds.
  3. Poor sustain.
  4. Poor stability of drone.
  5. Physical effects like tingling lips, mild aches and even fatigue.
When it's just not working!

Okay so let's see what skills you've acquired from this first section...

If you feel you are still having issues with anything PLEASE try not to move on to the next section just yet. Time spent now making sure everything is well controlled and understood will stand you in good stead later on.

Beginner Skills Test
The 'Five Engines' - how to create and control a wide range of sounds.
13 Lectures 51:54

What are the Five Engines? and how do I use them?

I came up with the term Five Engines when I produced my didge tuition DVD back in 2007 as a way to describe the way we use parts of the body to influence the sound of the didgeridoo. I split them up into:

  1. The diaphragm
  2. The cheeks
  3. The tongue
  4. The voice
  5. The jaw and lips
Preview 04:01

How to isolate and strengthen the diaphragm - one of the most important muscles for playing the didgeridoo.

The diaphragm - Push

Building speed and strength into the diaphragm.

Once again, this is central to good quality playing so really work at this one!

The diaphragm - Slap

Making sure the cheeks are both flexible and strong and that we have good control over their use.

Not only can we make some great effects with the cheeks, this kind of control is really important when it comes to circular breathing.

The cheeks

More on the huge array of subtle sounds that can be triggered by the tongue.

Using the tongue in a sophisticated way is often overlooked even by accomplished players so make sure you are not one of them! The trick here is to ensure that the cheeks stay flat as this ensures the sound comes through cleanly and with good volume. Once this is achieved there is almost no limit to the variety of changes that can be made to the basic drone by using the tongue.

The Tongue - sliding

Getting the tongue moving!

Working with harmonics

How to make very rapid pulses with the tongue.

This is so simple yet sounds really cool! I have been told that the ability to trill the tongue is, in part, genetic and that something like 40% of the population cannot do it. If you are one of those don't despair there are still thousands of other sounds you can achieve!

The tongue - trilling

Using the tongue to create faster sounds.

Ever heard a didge player that made very fast sounding rhythms? Chance are they are using this simple technique which can make you sound pretty impressive pretty quickly!

You can access this technique very quickly without using a didge by simpy saying 'Takataka'. When use use consonants like T D G J L your tongue will tap or bounce off the back of your teeth or upper palette. This interruption of the airflow is small and quick but sounds great on a didgeridoo!

The tongue - tapping

Starting to use the voice for extra effects.

This is a simple slide from low in your range up to as high as you can go. Try to do this in one breath but if you cannot then try to come back in on the same pitch you left off at when you stopped for a breath. As your sustain improves you will be able to achieve it in one go and even go up and back down again.

Go slowly if you can and notice all those crazy effects as the sounds pulses and throbs. Without getting into heavy physics and acoustics what is happening is that the fixed pitch of the didge drone is creating interference patterns with the pitch of your voice. When your voice has the same pitch as the didge the sound will appear very 'full' and resonant. As you move away from this pitch you may notice a wonderful 'wobble' or 'growl' almost like a truck engine. This is discord cased by the pitch of your voice 'fighting' pitch of the didge and partially cancelling it out. I love this effect and I think you will too, not many didge players use it too often or have fine control over it.

As you move up the range of pitch of your voice you will experience many of these 'zones' of harmony and discord which are great to play around with. Go explore!

The voice - sliding 'glissando'

Engaging the higher voice.

If you are female (and I encourage more female players in a somewhat male-dominated arena) then you will probably have no trouble reaching into fantastically high vocal sounds. If you are male then 'tough' you will probably be in for some work to access these sounds! Luckily it seems easier to get into a high 'scream' vocal when you have the back-pressure of the didgeridoo to push against. I can get alot higher on the didge, with my voice, than I can comfortably go when using my voice vocally without a didge.

Take it slow and steady and work at getting a nice clean and clear high vocal without straining your vocal cords.

Note: As with ANY technique that you add to the drone this will 'steal' airflow away from the drone so you will need to add some extra diaphragmatic pressure to help support the drone and keep it stable and strong.

The voice - 'falsetto' high voice

Animal calls and sound mimicry.

Australian Aboriginal (Yolngu) peoples use high vocals to mimic animals and objects that feature in their lives:

  • Dingo (wild dog) barks
  • Kookaburra bird calls
  • The springy sound of a Kangaroo bouncing along
  • The whirring of a thrown boomerang
  • Crickets chirping
  • Snakes slithering along
  • The buzz of large flies
  • Emu calls and many, many more.
The voice - animal calls

The importance of using the jaw and the lips for fine control of sounds.

If you have worked diligently through all the previous lectures then you will have achieved pretty awesome control over your lip but here are a couple of isolation exercises that work on these even more:

  1. Lip speed and pressure to vary the tone.
  2. Jaw position and motion to vary the tone.
The jaw and lips

Okay so what have you learned? Have you got good control over all those techniques?

Every time you practice you should spend a minimum of 10 minutes isolating the Five Engines and ensuring you have good control over them:

  1. Diaphragm - slow push / fast slap / dynamics
  2. Cheeks - slow push / fast slap / dynamics
  3. Voice - good range from low to high that does not interfere with the drone quality
  4. Tongue - slow slides and fast taps / clear articulation
  5. Lips and jaw - subtle changes in position and tension

The more time and effort you put in on these you more you will be rewarded later on, they are the building blocks of pretty any much any technique you have ever heard on the didgeridoo.

Five Engines Skills Test
Circular breathing
12 Lectures 01:03:57

What is circular breathing and how do we achieve it?

The real magic of the didgeridoo is the sound that never stops - people cannot see how it is possible!

It is NOT possible to breathe in and out at the same time so you must adapt the body to engage this simple but surprisingly complex method. This technique is the one that causes most people trouble. I have worked with many people of a long period of time to really get to the 'nitty gritty' as to what makes this technique easier to learn.

It is all a 'trick'. Our body controls our breathing 24/7 at a very deep sub-conscious level so we need to find ways to go in and take careful control of this mechanism. I have found this process is very analogous to learning to drive a manual (stick shift) car. At first, any time we push in the clutch pedal it can be a struggle to co-ordinate the movement of the gear stick with the release of the clutch pedal - leading to a frustrating 'kangaroo' bounce along the road in the car!

I will start with VERY simple exercises that can be tried pretty well anytime and will not need a didgeridoo.

Preview 02:18

Getting started with circular breathing.

Put down your didgeridoo, you don't need it for this exercise.

We need to re-educate the body / mind as to what is possible with the breath mechanism:

  1. We can hold air inside our mouths, with inflated cheeks, and close off the back of the throat so that the air does not pass into the oesophagus and make us burp.
  2. Holding air like this we can easily breathe in and out through our nostrils*
  3. Hold air in the mouth as above and instead of breathing through the nose we will use cheek tension to deflate the cheeks through a pursed mouth to squeeze the air out.
  4. You might like to imagine you are spitting water slowly out of your mouth, in fact alot of folks have great success by actually doing this and spitting a mouthful of water out into a sink to access this technique.
  5. Work on the spitting part until you can make a cheekfull of air last half a second or so of spitting.
  6. Now here comes the fun part! We need to spit and sniff in at the same time.
  7. You may find this easier if you carry on with a slow cheek squeeze / spit and then just choose to sniff in during that time.
  8. It is essential that you master the spit / sniff before moving on so practice as much as you need until you can do it easily.

* Now is the time to discover if you have clear nasal passages and sinuses or not! If you have problems getting air in through your nose then circular breathing will be a real challenge. See the PDF download for ideas on how to solve this.

Circular breathing - beginnings

Let's start using the didgeridoo with these techniques.

Okay so now the next challenges:

  1. Find your normal drone position on the didge and blow for a while.
  2. Now close the back of your throat and use the cheeks to 'spit / squeeze' some air down the didgeridoo - this will probably sound terrible and nothing like your drone but don't worry too much.
  3. Now open your throat and blow a normal drone again.

This is the process of CB but with gaps between the spit sound and the normal drone.

  1. Now try the spit / sniff with your mouth on the didge. This will also probably sound nothing like your normal drone. Keep trying it and then alternate between doing this and blowing a normal drone.
  2. Try to really feel the difference between the spit/sniff and the drone - how do your lips feel?, what is their tension?, what about the air pressure and speed?
  3. Keep moving between spit/sniff and drone until the spit/sniff starts to have a sound closer to your normal drone.
  4. You could even practice just your spit or cheek squeeze on the didgeridoo. Don't worry about the sniff / inhale and just work on making the air you spit down the didge into a normal sounding drone.
Circular breathing - take it to the didge!

Starting to close the gaps between breathing and sniffing.

As we saw in the previous lecture, we can create a cycle of normal blown drone / spit&sniff / normal blown drone, etc. This becomes CB but with gaps, now we must start to close up those gaps and create the continuous drone we are seeking. Here are a couple of ways to achieve this:

  1. Start the cycle of drone / spit&sniff / drone and really make sure you get the best sound from your spit&sniff. The closer it is to your normal drone the better.
  2. Ensure that your spit sound lasts at least half a second.
  3. When you start your sniff is probably as long as your spit - your body is trying to breathe in a normal inhalation - you need to re-educate this into a shorter and more shallow sniff.
  4. Imagine you are sniffing a bad smell! You will not want a big lung-full just a short shallow sniff.
  5. Try to time the sniff so that it comes in quickly at the beginning of your spit/squeeze and has stopped before your spit/squeeze has finished. These two factors ensure you have a buffer of air / sound from your spit/squeeze to keep the drone going whilst you recover into opening your throat and blowing a normal drone. This is one of the most important parts of CB!
  6. One of the key ways to help close the gaps is to speed up the whole cycle - think of an old steam train pulling out of a station - the chuff chuff getting slowly faster and faster.
  7. Practice makes perfect. Most folks take about a week to 10 days over this part so don't rush it or get too frustrated.
Circular breathing - closing the gaps

Smoothing out the gaps and creating a smooth sound.

Okay so if you have put in plenty of practice you probably now have a cycle of drone - spit/sniff - drone that has started to join up into a continuous sound. Maybe it is a bit 'lumpy' or you can only maintain it for a little while before it breaks down. Let's look at improving further.Watch this lecture and try to follow along with me at various speeds.

Circular breathing - making it smoother

Practice, practice, practice!

If you are really serious about playing didgeridoo then good control of CB (circular breathing) is pretty essential so really put the hours in to make yours solid and dependable. There are a few people who are very lucky and CB comes naturally to them in just a few days but most folks take at least 2 weeks to really get it happening well.

If you have a busy life and cannot practice on the didge every day then at least try to practice without one, I'll show you how in this lecture.

Circular breathing - practice every day

Further refinements and improvements.

If your CB is progressing really well then you might not need this technique but check it out anyway as it is pretty useful in other ways.

You will have worked out or noticed then when you make your CB transition, from blowing to squeezing and back, that you need to close and open the back of your throat. This is achieved in part by your soft palette at the upper back of your mouth but your tongue plays and important role too. The tongue has to move to the back of the throat so that the rear part of your tongue can close with your velum. When you go back to open-throated blowing the tongue must move back away from the rear of the mouth.

I call this motion 'piston tongue' as the tongue moves back and forth like the piston in an engine. If we can isolate and control this motion we can make big improvements to our CB transition.

Try to play your normal drone with your tongue slightly forward near the back of your teeth. The, when you go to make an inhalation/sniff with your CB, your tongue jumps rapidly back to close with the velum / soft palette. Aim to make your sniff very short as before and shoot your tongue back forward as fast as you can.

This way our tongue rests in a forward position during most of our playing (unless we are using for other techniques) and makes this rapid back and forth motion for only the time it takes to take a rapid sniff in.

Circular breathing - the tongue 'piston'

How to create circular breath without using the cheeks.

This more advanced technique can be very useful if we want little interruption to the drone quality or if we needs the cheeks flat for techniques like harmonics or fast tongue articulations.

We will learn how to use the upward motion of the jaw to provide the burst of air, with a closed throat, whilst we sniff in.

Circular breathing - 'chew' breathing

How to make it effortless and what happens when you run into problems.

Circular breathing - final stages and common problems

Breathing when you need to.

Most didge players start out playing patterns or phrases and just breathing when they feel the need.

This will be demonstrated in this lecture, along with it's good and bad points.

Circular breathing - on demand breathing

How to create more complex patterns by using this technique.

As we have seen with 'on demand' breathing we can be limited to the need to pull in air at certain points and finding breaks can sometimes be a challenge. On demand breathing can even create breaks where we don't want them.

The technique of pulse breathing overcomes these issues and can free the player to play different timings and patterns more freely. It also allows increasingly rapid playing.

Circular breathing - 'pulse' breathing

Check your progress before moving on.

Circular breathing Skills Test
About the Instructor
Jonathan (Jonny) Cope
4.8 Average rating
64 Reviews
874 Students
7 Courses
Professional musician and teacher

Hello - my name is Jonny Cope but everyone calls me 'The Didgeridoo Man'.

I have been playing didgeridoo professionally for over twenty years, am the author of a best-selling range of tuition materials and have taught thousands of people, young and old, to play the didgeridoo. My tuition method has been published as a book since 1999, a cassette (if anyone remembers those!), a CD, and a DVD in 2007. These have been distributed the world over and reached and helped tens of thousand of people.

I also use and teach a variety of other instruments and techniques: Overtone singing, Throat singing (also know as Khoomei), the Jews Harp, ethnic winds and flutes, small percussion, etc.

I have published book & CD tuition methods on Khoomei / overtone singing and playing the Jews Harp.

Students taking my course may contact me via the forum on each course with questions or comments and I'll get back to you as quickly as I can.

Having studied with several well-known international players and Australian Aboriginal Elders, I have been teaching all levels of this increasingly popular instrument for the past fifteen years via international workshops, 1-2-1 lessons and even Skype webcam.

I have given performances and presented workshops at music festivals and events, corporate team building days, charity balls, weddings and family fun days throughout Europe. I also regularly teach in UK schools via my educational program.

My clients include many blue-chip companies, schools, education authorities and charities, not to mention a few famous folks (no I can't drop any names!).

My Youtube channel has had nearly 3 million views with 3 thousand subscribers.

Basically I've taught so many people with my methods that I'm pretty darn confident that I can help YOU too!

So confident that I'm offering a 30 day money-back gaurentee with Udemy.

Take the course and if you feel it is genuinely not helping then you can easily just stop and get a full refund.

So go ahead and dive into a course that will take you on a wonderful journey of discovery with this amazing and under-rated instrument and wow your friends with your amazing new skills!

Best wishes,

Jonny Cope.