PVC Didjeridu

The didjeridu is a traditional instrument of the aborigines of Australia. It is made from a tree or tree limb, often a variety of eucalyptus, that has been hollowed out by termites. These instruments are very expensive, so beginners will often make their own didjeridu from materials like ABS or PVC pipe. Some professional players continue to use instruments made from these materials. Here is how I make mine.

I like to use PVC pipe one and a half inches in diameter. Hardware stores sell PVC pipe in lengths of ten feet. Four feet is a good length for me, so I ask the people at the store to cut my pipe into a four foot piece and another of the same length or maybe a little longer.

You can stop at that point. You can do a lot with a plain length of PVC pipe. The end of the pipe you blow into could use some work though since the plastic is a bit sharp and makes marks on your face when you play it straight out of the hardware store.

I round the edges of the pipe off using a pocket knife and sandpaper. Many players like to make a mouthpiece out of bee's wax because it allows you to make the hole smaller and softer.

Buy large block of bee's wax from an art supply store and cut off a portion. One good sized block will supply many mouthpieces. Soften the bee's wax in hot water and work it by hand into a ring the size of the didjeridu. Stick the ring of bee's wax onto the pipe and form the mouthpiece to suit. Let the wax cool and harden. Hardened bee's wax keeps its shape well and can always be adjusted as needed.

If you want to get fancy, you can paint your PVC didjeridu.

The first step is to rough up the surface of the pipe and get rid of all the blue markings. This means going over the whole pipe with rough sandpaper. Wipe off all the dust with a damp towel and let the pipe dry. Paint the pipe any color or pattern that pleases you. Suitable paints will be labeled as being good for plastics.

I decided to try for a fake wood look with my first attempt. I painted my pipe with white primer paint and allowed that to dry. Then I applied wood stain with a brush in streaks to get a wood grain look. After the stain was dry, I coated the whole thing in polyurethane to make it shiny. Finally, I coated a section of the pipe where I usually hold it to play with glue and wrapped it with rough cord to make a hand grip. I was pleased with the results and have given several of these away as gifts.

Some people like to change their PVC didjeridu by heating the PVC and shaping it with gloved hands and tools. I can not personally recommend this since my own efforts have resulted in scorched pipe, but other people have achieved pleasing shapes.

Playing the didjeridu

My own method of learning to play the didjeridu was to check out several CDs from the library, listen to them, then keep blowing into my new PVC didjeridu until I got the same sounds. It is helpful to have at least one CD that is a recording of native players or a modern player playing "unplugged" so you can tell what one person with no special equipment or mixing can do.

While the didjeridu will only generate one note or tone determined by its length, there is a lot the player can do with rhythm and vocalizing. Blowing in time to create a beat, speaking or humming while playing, barking like a dog or making bird noises, all these and more will turn up in recording.

If you continue to play the didjeridu, the one technique that you will eventually want to learn is circular breathing. This allows you to keep a continuous sound going and is one of the signatures of didjeridu playing.

Searching on the Internet will yield lots of helpful hints and more structured methods.

Some albums

These are the didjeridu albums I listened to to start with:

Dr Didg

    • Outback: Dance the Devil Away (1991)

    • Outback: Baka (1990)

    • Out of the Woods (1995)


    • Terra Incognita (1987)

Native players

    • Didgeridoos: Sounds of the Aborigine (1995)