What Is DidgIt

Didgeridoo has been played without a written form for thousands of years. Why is it important to now have a didgeridoo written notation?

Didge Composition

As the didgeridoo community has grown outside of Australia’s traditional role for it, the sounds, styles and methods have expanded greatly. The didgeridoo musical styles have expanded at an astonishing rate in the last fifteen years. There is no reason to expect this growth to stop. As this happens, didgeridoo will become more and more present in musical genres that use written notation as the norm. In order to compose didgeridoo music for ensemble with other instruments there is a need for some sort of notation.

The Right Tool For The Job

Notation provides a practical way to coordinate and orchestrate didgeridoo with other instruments.

Didgeridoo Linguistics

In that case why couldn’t you use standard music notation to get the timing of the tones? You could, however when composing didgeridoo music there is nuance and technique that is hardly addressable using standard notation. There is also a need to be able to communicate the mechanics of creating the various sounds. If this can be done efficiently in written form, it will greatly expand a new player’s growth of understanding about how the instrument is played.

Sequencing Didgeridoo

As a result, written form will become a better and more comprehensive way to learn to play the didgeridoo. Why is this? Because didgeridoo is essentially a linguistic instrument. This is to say, the same methods you use to speak are all the exact same methods you use to play the didge. It is well understood by linguists that languages without a written form are difficult to preserve. But how can the mechanics of how to make a sound be expressed in a simple written form that can also be a musical notation? Easy - through using syllables. This type of written rhythm notation had its start with a small number of syllables when non-aboriginal didgeridoo playing was fairly simplistic. For many years there were perhaps eight to ten basic syllables. The most common were K sounds, Ka, Ki, and T sounds, Ta, Ti. And Then B was added to represent breath. Trumpet has often been represented T. The key problem with this is that there has been no standard written form. Different people use different written form and sharing written didge music was limited to basic rhythms. The more complex recent rhythm styles that have been developed in the past fifteen years had no uniform way to be represented in written form.

Notation Mnemonics

I saw a need for a method to annotate rhythm in a more efficient and functional way. The best way to fill this need is with some form of didgeridoo rhythm sequencing software. Nothing like this existed so I partnered with a group of software developers to produce the first didgeridoo rhythm composition app for iOS and Android.

As I began testing early versions of DidgIt, I found that nearly immediately it started changing how I think about organizing didge rhythms. The use of short syllable mnemonics categorized by color provides a very effective rhythm memorization tool. What had begun as didgeridoo composition software has started to evolve into an effective way to learn how the didgeridoo’s component sounds are able to be reorganized to create new patterns. After 20 years of playing didgeridoo, I was learning to play all over again from a new perspective.

It is rocket fuel for creativity and growth.