Didjerdu Workshop with Charlie McMahon

Didjeridu Workshop

with Charlie McMahone


How didjeridu has been transformed for contemporary music and some things didjeridu can teach us about health, instrument design & technology, mathematics, science and cultural studies.

Charlie McMahon recorded the first album of contemporary music based on didjeridu rhythms in 1983 (Gondwanaland's Terra Incognita) and explains how he progressively developed new didjeridu playing techniques and instrument designs to make it effective in variety of genre.

The rhythm breathing technique is a means for steady rhythms spaning a range from 70 to 160 beats per minute. A rhythm that requires 125 breaths per minute is demonstrated to not result in hyperventilation. That is explained by how CO2 concentrations in blood determine blood acidity for which there is a critical ph required for the formation haemoglobin molecules. Rhythm breathing for didjeridu is similar to what yoga teaches and students are encouraged to exhale and inhale correctly.

Charlie demonstrates the pitch shift didjeribone he invented. It is designed chromatically with 10 drone tones and 2 octaves of the 12 semitones in the horn tone. The Didjeribone is a mass production item. 7,500 have been sold and it offers the possibility of playing melody and harmony on didjeridu. Some Didjeribones are available for students to play.An oscilloscope is used to show sound waves graphically. The didj drone produces a jagged wave while the simple didj horns wave is a smooth sine wave. The harmony of a chord is shown as waves with symmetrical points of intersection. Students can take the microphone to see the wave form of different vocal sounds.

*Didjeridu is enhanced for electronic music by the face bass which picks up didj and voice percussion from inside the mouth. With samplers the process of layering multiple tracks to spontaneously create a full fusion sound is demonstrated.


"Charlie, through his presentation, encourages experimentation in sound design – demonstrates original ideas for original composition – shows the inter-relationship between music and other curriculum areas – and brings the understanding of indigenous music to the students in a very accessible way. Students will be enthralled by the discussion and demonstration by this wonderful musician."

Years: 7-12
60 minutes
$3.50 + 35c gst
$539 ($490 + $49 gst if less than 140 students)