Do you love music? As you grow older, you’ll get the chance to play in school bands. What instrument do you think you might like to learn to play one day?

Many children like wind instruments, such as clarinets and saxophones. Chances are, though, that you probably won’t get to play what some experts believe is the oldest wind instrument in the world. What are we talking about? The didgeridoo, of course!

The didgeridoo…OK…before we go on, let’s just get it out of the way. Yes, didgeridoo is a fun word to say. So go ahead. You know you want to. Didgeridoo! Didgeridoo! Didgeridoo! OK, feel better now?

As we were saying, the didgeridoo is a long wooden instrument that’s shaped like either a cylinder or a cone. Most modern didgeridoos are between 3-10 feet long. Longer didgeridoos play lower notes.

Experts believe it was created over 1,500 years ago by the Aboriginal people of Northern Australia. Some people believe its origins could reach back more than 40,000 years! It remains a popular native instrument in Australia even today.

As fun as didgeridoo is to say, there are at least 40 other Aboriginal names used for the instrument throughout Australia. Three of the most popular alternative names for the didgeridoo are Yirdaki, Kanbi and Ihambilbila.

The didgeridoo — sometimes called simply the “didge” — can only play one note (called a drone). However, talented players add overtones and their own vocal sounds to give the didgeridoo a full sound filled with interesting rhythmic patterns.

Didgeridoo players use a special technique called “circular breathing” to play the instrument for long periods of time without a break in the sound. In this way, the didgeridoo is somewhat similar to the bagpipes. “Circular breathing” requires the player to breathe in through the nose while blowing stored air out of the mouth with the tongue and cheeks at the same time.

Real Aboriginal didgeridoos are usually made of a native hardwood, such as eucalyptus, or a native bamboo. Rather than hollow out these trees to make their instruments, Aboriginal craftsmen search for trees that have already been hollowed out by termites.

When the instrument is finished, craftsmen usually coat the mouthpiece end with beeswax to make it easier to play. Didgeridoo players must constantly vibrate their lips against the mouthpiece to produce the drone note.

Today, didgeridoos are made all around the world out of all sorts of materials. Many craftsmen have also started to experiment with different shapes and designs to produce new sounds.

13 Join the Discussion

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars  (4 votes, avg. 4.75 out of 5)
  1. I was WONDERing how the person playing the didgeridoo can breathe for so long while playing. When I grow up I want to play the piano.

  2. My last music class of third grade, my teacher let us play these long plastic instruments. They were tubes that we banged on the floor. The didgeridoo reminded me of this instrument. I wish I could remember the name of it.
    I really like the deep horn sound of the didgeridoo.
    I am starting to learn piano and hope to improve. :-)

  3. I can’t play a didgerigoo, but I can play a recorder. A recorder is like a flute. The recorder and didgeridoo are the same because you can breathe into both of them. :D

    • Julie,

      We think the recorder is a WONDERful instrument! Thanks for sharing your musical knowledge with Wonderopolis! :-)

    • Carlos,

      We think the drums are a WONDERful instrument! We’re so glad you enjoyed today’s Wonder of the Day®! :-)

    • Sophie,

      That’s a great questions! Sometimes when people play the didgeridoo, they also play “rain sticks,” “clap sticks” or “click sticks” at the same time. It just depends what kind of music and sound they want to make. :)

  4. I wonder if you know that PVC is very toxic and you would not want kids to put it in their mouth. There is something that is called Furniture Grade PVC that is acceptable since it’s non toxic. Thanks for reading.

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Can you play a didgeridoo?
  • How old is the didgeridoo?
  • Where was the didgeridoo invented?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Ready to make your own homemade didgeridoo? With just a few simple supplies, you can make and be playing your own version of this cool aboriginal instrument in no time.

Check out the links below for instructions on how to make your own didgeridoo. Choose one of the projects and ask a friend or family member for help:

When you’re finished, put on your own didgeridoo concert! Ask a friend or family member to video your performance. If you can upload your video to a video site like YouTube or Vimeo, post the link on Facebook, so all your Wonder Friends can see it!

Still Wondering

In EDSITEment!’s Australian Aboriginal Art and Storytelling lesson, children learn about Australian Aboriginal art, one of the oldest continuing art traditions in the world.

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