Circular Breathing (by Doctor Gale)

Circular breathing is used to make a continuous sound on the didgeridoo (didge). It has been described as blowing out at the same time as breathing in. Actually that is impossible. A more accurate description is pushing air out with the cheeks while breathing in. That is possible, and here is a way to learn this technique. Usually the first challenge with the didge is learning how to make a decent sound and how to vary the sound using the lips, tongue, breath, and the vocal cords. While learning those, it is soon apparent that playing is greatly limited without circular breathing. I suspect that you have reached this point. That is, that you have learned how to make acceptable sounds and actually have become relatively efficient at it (until you run out of air and have to stop to take a breath). While it is not necessary to be at this point, I have found that it is where most people get serious about learning circular breathing. Here is my method:

1. Fill your mouth with air and puff out your cheeks (the chipmunk pose).

2. Now hold this air and breath in an out. (This should be very easy. Remember at this point you are not doing anything with the air in your mouth other than keeping your cheeks puffed out.)

3. Now take your didge and rapidly push the air out of your mouth to make a sound without using your lungs. (Going from full cheeks to empty cheeks.) Do NOT be concerned about the sound that you are making! This is true during the following instructions, until noted.

4. Practice taking a breath, filling your mouth with air, and then pushing the air out through the didge to make a sound. Practice this step to build up your check muscles. If it is not clear that you are pushing the air out with you cheeks (and not your lungs) put the didge down, and push on your checks with your fingers (right finger on right cheek, left finger on left check). This is gives you the feeling of what to do.

5. Start making a series of these noises, one rapidly after the other. Work toward breathing in as you are pushing the air out through the didge. This may take some practice, but with time you can develop a rhythm of pushing the air out while you are breathing in. Work toward developing a pattern without thinking. Don't be concerned about how this sounds or how long you can sustain it. Instead, just have fun and enjoy that sometimes you do blow out at the same time that you breath in.

6. Start to work back toward making a didge sound as you are blowing the air out with your cheeks and breathing in. Although you are starting to make the didge sound, don't be concerned with how good it is. It helps to think of this as a step in the direction you are headed.

7. Now start with your didge sound, let your cheeks fill with air and then as you push that air out with your cheeks, take a breath in. Here is where the Secret of circular breathing comes in. (The Secret is to start circular breathing almost right away. That is because you need pressure in your lungs - called back pressure - for circular breathing to work. If you wait until you are almost out of air to start circular breathing, it does not work.)

8. If you concentrate on thinking about circular breathing or get concerned about the sound, the pattern can break down. Don't be surprised if this happens. A good thing to do is to go through the steps above again and don't worry about how it sounds.

9. One way to speed up this process is to play for a long time and just let what happens, happen. For me a long time would be to build up to about 20 to 30 minutes. I found that it was good to do this in the bathroom (where the acoustics are good) and to actually time myself. It did not matter what happened or how things sounded, just that I put in the practice. Doing this every day for about a week is very powerful.

10. Once circular breathing starts happening without thinking and maybe it doesn't happen all the time, but at least some of the time, you can start working on improving the sound and experimenting with making different sounds.

11. The more you play, the easier it gets. One day you will find that circular breathing is easy, as long as no one asks you to show or teach them. For me, it becomes difficult when I get my mind involved. There are quite a few people who have didgeridoos who do not know circular breathing. So I expect that you will encounter them and that you will refer them to this information.

I love playing the didgeridoo and, as a friend told me, you don't learn to play the didge, instead you learn what it has to teach you. So I hope that providing this information will help you learn more from your didge. Please feel free to contact me and let me know if this works for you and if you have any suggestions for improvements.

I was thrilled to learn circular breathing (especially since I had decided that it was impossible) and it really opened up my didge playing. It also showed me the value of really spending time playing the didge. It is in that place of non-thinking and becoming one with it and the sound were I find magic. May you have similar Serendipity experiences.

You are free to copy and share this method with others. Please include that it came from this website: www.SerendipitySeminars.com

Return to The Didgeridoo (Doctor Gale)