Didgeridoo mouthpiece on the left by Troy Page,
Didgeridoo mouthpiece on the right by William Thoren.
Didgeridoo design and playing styles are relatively new in the west, and it’s exciting for me to be crafting and playing in this era of exploration and refinement. William Thoren is a talented didgeridoo player, didgeridoo crafter, photographer and inventor of this mouthpiece design. I’ve adopted this shape after meeting Will and trying out his didgeridoos at InDidjInUs 2010.
My mouthpiece design has been evolving slowly since I started crafting them in 2008, but there have been two notable changes that have helped my playing tremendously.
The first came after I took a workshop with Ondřej Šmejkal, Ondřej describes the importance of a mouthpiece that has minimal contact with your face. Basically you don’t want to smash your face up against your Didgerdioo to make an airtight seal. Thinning down my mouthpiece walls gave me freedom of my jaw and around my lips.
The next big improvement in my mouthpiece design came after meeting Will Thoren. Will uses a larger opening then most didgeridoo crafters, where the largest part of the opening is side to side. He also uses a concave for the ease of a tight seal against one’s rounded face. Before I met Will I had already adapted my design to a concave shape but it was Will’s larger oblong opening that has done a lot for my vibrations.
William has developed a playing technique that he calls Drop Octave and Multi Drone. He’s able to play drone notes with his didgeridoos that are an octave lower than standard drones and several more notes in between. Although I haven’t yet learned how to play Drop Octave or Multi Drone there has been a flurry of new sounds and a new style emerging in my playing since I’ve adapted his design.
Thanks to Ondřej and William I’ve taken leaps forward in what’s possible in didgeridoo design. I’m learning from the best, and I have a long ways to go.
To read more and see videos about the Drop Octave and Multi Drone technique and craft please visit William Thoren’s website: www.wetdidgeridoo.com
Photos by: Troy Page
There was solid rock on three sides of me and the lapping sound of ocean waves from the front. No one on the beach, nothing to distract from my concentration. I feel centered, I feel alive. To be all the way down under and not have an experience like this would have been a regret.
In the spring of 2010 I took a trip to Australia to help my friend Justin Krumb film a couple of projects. On one of the projects we were working with Dave Rastovich, a professional surfer and marine conservation activist who lives in Byron Bay, New South Wales. Among many other amazing instruments, Dave plays didgeridoo. Rastovich stoked me out by letting me borrow one of his personal didgeridoos for the duration of our nearly three-week stay. Thanks to Dave I was able to continue my daily practice on the road. So grateful for the generosity and hospitality I received from Rasta and his friendly Ozzie mates.
Shortly after I took these photos I bought a fresh bar of bees wax and re-waxed the mouthpiece nice and clean. Again, so grateful for the opportunity.
Photos by: Troy Page
My friend Chris Del Moro and I decided to collaborate on a didgeridoo project and display the final product at a show alongside Chris’s other works of art at the Western Union Pacific Surf Gallery in Cardiff. This didgeridoo originated in my neighbor’s front yard in Del Mar and I began constructing it long before I ever met Chris.
I split the agave in half, hollowed either side, then became busy with other projects. The two halves sat in my room for months and the wood started to warp. After resin-ing and gluing the warped half’s back together, an obvious seam revealed itself down either side. It was playable, but I planned on decorating the outside to hide the seam. I procrastinated… then moved on to other projects and it sat uncompleted for over a year.
Once I met Chris and we talked about collaborating, the unfinished didgeridoo came to mind. It was waiting for him all along. I sanded down two strips on either side, smoothing out the seam and giving Chris a place to create his magic of paint and wood-burning.
In the construction of this didgeridoo there are a couple unique things that I most likely will never attempt again, primarily because of how much work it ended up being. First, at the bell of the didgeridoo I layered applications of resin, fiberglass and colored pigment (black, red, yellow & green) to create the layered effect. The second unique aspect of this instrument is inside the mouth piece where I used a similar method of applying pigmented resin and fiberglass to create rings of color.
I picked black, red, yellow and green because I was inspired by the music of Bob Marley. Once Chris had the didge he spent time playing it and was inspired by the music of Jimmy Hendrix. He decorated the outside with the words, “Are U Experienced” and used the psychedelic colors of Hendrix’s records. I find it interesting that Chris’s art direction was also inspired by cultural music especially because I had not told him about my motivation for picking Rastafarian colors. It’s Reggae on the inside and Rock’n Roll on the outside.
We decided not to sell this piece of art and Chris keeps it as his own. To read more and see a video about this art show please click here.
Photos by: Keziah Benson & Troy Page
Everywhere didgeridoos, like a kid in a candy store!
Do you plan on buying a didgeridoo? If so I highly recommend playing the stick you’re interested in, and then compare it to an assortment before purchasing. I’ve found that every player is looking for an unique quality that fits his or her playing style. The right didgeridoo will call your name and more importantly it will call you to practice.
LA Outback owners Berry and Mark have an amazing, evolving assortment of didgeridoos in the hills behind Hollywood and were kind enough to let me examine and try out any stick in there inventory.
If you happen to live around the LA area or are visiting, give them a ring for an appointment. For more info and to spy on their online inventory visit: www.laoutback.com
Photo by: Keziah Benson
Notice the I-love-you-Keziah heart, it was a natural bug bite that I filled in with red. Keziah and I took a trip to my favorite beach in Hawaii and I couldn’t help but notice stalks of agave growing in the brush behind the beach. I found this fallen agave stalk and brought it back to San Diego. I shaped and keyed it to E-flat, the same pitch as my “Desert Horn” didgeridoo and presented it to Keziah as a gift.
Keziah and I once took our E-flat didgeridoos to the meditation gardens at the Self Realization Center in Encinitas on a busy weekend day. We played together a slow “meditative” drone, of course. Visitors stopped and listened and thanked us for the enjoyable sound, but the caretaker had us stop because apparently the rules are no music in the meditation gardens. ooops
Photos by: Troy Page & Keziah Benson
For me the sound of a didgeridoo is naturally full of power. Add this to the reverberating vibrations of a cave and you’re on your way to a state of cosmic and inner sonic mind levitation, oh yeah!
This photo was taken in the Thurston Lava Tube located in the Volcano National Park on the Big Island. Keziah and I went to the park for a hike and found ourselves in the lava tube late in the evening after the tourists had gone.
If you know of any large caves, please drop a line, I’d love to go didgeridoo spelunking with you.
Photo by: Keziah Benson
This is Daniel Compton and his 7’6” key-of-A agave didgeridoo that we built together. Daniel was the first person I heard rock a didge and his vibrational rhythm was the inspirational spark that got me started.
I found this agave on the side of a canyon in Del Mar, California up the hill from where I once lived. It was the last evening before I moved to Cardiff from Del Mar. I packed my backpack with water, snacks, gloves, headlamp and a saw. Then I grabbed a didgeridoo and walked from my place up over the hill and into the canyon at the top. I found a comfortable place under a tree in the dark of night and “didj-ed” until it got late, then made my way back to an agave flower stalk that I noticed on an earlier visit. I pulled it up from its fallen position on the side of the canyon wall and carried it back. This area of Del Mar mostly consists of wealthy retired folk and is a very quiet neighborhood especially around midnight. I only passed one car on my walk back home, they looked frightened to see me bundled up for the cold night with a backpack and two large sticks.
Daniel now lives in Washington DC and he took this massive didge with him. I’m still waiting to see some photos of him rocking out on the National Mall.
Photos by: Troy Page
My First Agave Didgeridoo
My uncle Korb and his lifelong buddy Sam have made it a tradition to spend time in Baja, Mexico at least once a year to get away from society, rough it and spend as much time as possible walking on water. Often they invite me along and I find it hard to say no, every trip brings exciting adventure and limitless inspiration.
It was the fall of 2008. Sam and I drove down and met up with Korb, who had already been camping out for about a month. We were greeted on our first sunrise by a 4 to 6 foot swell that lasted our entire week-long stay. Was honestly, to this point, the best surf I’ve ever had.
We shared waves with our friend Glen Horn and his wife Roberta who happened to be camping down the beach from us. Glen took a look at my home made bamboo didgeridoo and said, “I have a friend who made a didgeridoo out of the flower stalk of the desert cactus plant agave that grows natively in this area. If you’d like we could drive out into the desert to find you one?” Agave is a commonly used plant for didgeridoo crafting, but I did not know about it because playing didgeridoo was still new to me.
Glen and I drove out into the desert in his red Sazuki Samurai, complete with bull horns tied to the front and a ball sack and tail on the back. We found this beautiful agave growing on the hillside facing the ocean and overlooking a desert valley.
Of all the agave didgeridoos I’ve made, my favorite have come from Baja Mexico. I found the wood of this desert species is far more dense then others I’ve discovered. Also the natural skins of this variety are beautiful. On a lot of agave flower stocks the skin is thin and comes off fairly easy, but skins on these Baja cactus dry hard and the texture reminds me a bit of stiff rough leather.
I smuggled the agave Glen and I harvested back to California under a pile of camping gear in the back of Sam’s truck. A friend of mine helped me cut it in half using a table saw, I hollowed it and glassed the inside with fiberglass and polyester resin from my surfboard ding repair kit. Then I put a decretive wood strip down the center to hide the seem and to this day its one of my favorite didgeridoos.
Since this trip Glen Horn has learned to play didge too and he’s gotten really good, a natural musician. Glen is a surfboard shaper so naturally he’s taken to crafting didgeridoos as well and he’s made some amazing Baja agave didgeridoos over the last couple years.
My gratitude goes out to Sam and Korb for inviting me along and to Glen for introducing me to agave. The sound of agave didgeridoos I’ve found far superior to the sound of bamboo, and it has set me off on an agave didgeridoo crafting experimental quest.
Photos by: Troy Page
This man is an amazing didjeridoo player, one of the best. The photo on the left is a workshop that he held in LA in 2008. A small group of my friends and I attended and after the workshop he held an hour long solo acoustic performance, very inspiring.
The photo on the left is a amplified performance that he gave at the InDidjInUs gathering this last August (2010) in Oregon. You can’t see it in this photo but there is a microphone extending down from his headphones which mics his nose. Yep his nose, so that he can capture the sound of his inhales as an additional rhythm. Genius!
photo left by: Keziah Benson
photo right by: Troy Page
See Ondrj perform by clicking here and here, and get some didgeridoo playing tips from Ondrj click here.