IAN ALLEN- Sydney -AUSTRALIA 

Introduction- By Tynon- Ian hunted me down of the web, he  was after  a primo didgeridoo to add to his collection and a couple for the boardroom of his accounting practice. Good for him, he makes a habit "it sounds- pun intended" of  then having to stop for a jam  during work hours for clients who want to hear them. What a great excuse to play the didgeridoo. Well orchestrated Ian. When I finished the full custom didgeridoo  he travelled up and we met in person.  Great to meet a fella,  my elder who  at the age most folk are complaining about mid life crisis, he takes up a new instrument and   explores it with a passion of someone half his age. I've enjoyed immensely his  calls  and emails, his interest in our biz and his good ideas. His interest in the didgeridoo covers all aspects and aside from playing for enjoyment, he is off learning off others and focusing on his technique as a player. He continually tells me  he has bought his last didg for the're taking over the place, but I wonder ?

Didg Quiver Origin & Story                                                                    Well my first didg was a four foot length of cardboard pipe, I don’t know how I came by it but I used to keep it behind the buffet and bring it out to inflict on friends and family when appropriate. It made a nice sound and it got me started.  After a while younger members of the family got to it  and the mouthpiece became soggy and eventually it suffered severe stress fractures. That allowed me to move on.

On holidays at Rainbow Bay I dropped in to the Tweed Heads aboriginal arts and craft centre and met a chap there making didgeridoos. We were privileged to be invited to attend a special dance and didgeridoo playing put on for promotional purposes, filmed by an international film crew.  Didn’t buy a didg just then,  though I was impressed with the dance, the range of sounds achieved by the player and his ability to keep on going.

Well.the desire to have a didg better than cardboard was starting to get hold. As we were passing through Brunswick Heads (of all places to look for a Didg) I was unlucky enough to see nice little number in the window of  a pawn shop and for $40 I made it mine. Dreadfully hard to play as the hole was only about a quarter of an inch wide throughout, no wonder it was in the pawn shop! However I progressed to circular breathing with it.  Reminded me of  the first cow I bought many year ago when hobby farming. It was a lovely looking thing but the holes in the teats were so small an hour later and I was still milking. The next person who  bought her also thought she looked lovely.

While in Tweed Heads I bought a book from the Arts & Crafts centre on how to play and circular breathe and it was certainly useful.Later I discovered a little bamboo beauty in Tasmania, (they’re actually everywhere) again for a very modest price and developed my playing on this one. By now the family were beginning to get used to the droning and now and then I would even receive encouragement.

Continuity of  play for any length of time was a problem.  A visit to Tynon of Bellingen provided a release from the restrictions of my text book readings and better things started to happen. Apart from the knowledge I also acquired my next didg a true players model, beautifully structured didg with amazing back pressure and this increased the enjoyment of playing 100 fold.

A trip out west to visit family provided an opportunity to drop in to the only two shops  in  a place called Tomingley where I acquired my next two didgs. The skin shop there also had cat skins for sale, the first (and last) I have seen. The first didg was a long and thin one well painted, a nice easy player for a beginner and it’s the one I now share around, however the second was a very bent one with nice painted artwork and it has a very deep sound. Not an easy player but a favourite with listeners. I will get around to fitting a new mouthpiece someday which may improve it.

Now the reader should be warned of a couple of things about Didgs.

I have found that no matter how many you have, you will always be looking for another one, and be careful because when you hear one being played by someone else, it always sounds like the best didg you have heard.

So inspired had my wife become with my playing that when we happened to be passing by Brendon O’Neill’s didg shop in Parklea markets (now since closed)  she insisted that I buy a very special ironbark model that was on special due to the closure. It has a unique sound, very deep and clear.  It was about then that certain parties were saying that they thought I had enough didgs. Well nearly.

Now you wouldn’t believe it….. just as I was arranging to visit my brother in Coffs Harbour, (Tynon’s magnificent shop at Bellingen just happens to be on the way) I made a visit to the outback shop in Darling Harbour and was knocked out  by the magic playing of  Marshall Wiley in their promotional show. So I became the proud owner of a Frankie Lee didg. Very nicely decorated in a subdued kind of way and a great player as well.

By now I had learned of the different keys that were available but whenever I was choosing I tended towards the deeper tones around a D or C. My advice is to choose very carefully and to seek out the different keys as you can enjoy them in their different ways as your playing improves.

Shortly after the Frankie Lee aquisition we travelled to Coffs Harbour and dropped by Tynon’s (at Bellingen) who had  a substantial range of new didgs. Along with some excellent advice we came home with two new didgs. One the sweetest and lightest bare natural D you could imagine along with a very large boomer made specially for me out of a base that Tynon had on hand joined  together with a top that a friend of mine had given me from the Territory where he had found it lying in a creek bed. It is a favourite piece and always plays well.

Next step along the way,Tynon referred me to Mike Edwards for some lessons and to improve rhythm. Now Mike plays the darndest didg…… as well as anyone I’ve heard and it would be nice to acquire that sort of talent, so I keep trying.

Naturally, when you go for lessons you will find you won’t have the correct didg so I then acquired my second last one which is from Arnhem Land. It is in the shorter style with smaller mouthpiece expanding to a much larger bell. These are usually in the key of E or F and played faster than the long ones, a very intriguing instrument and I am really enjoying trying to master it.

Now at my last lesson, Maestro Mike was playing a much smaller high key and beautifully decorated didg that could go into the boot of my car very easily. Only time or my pocket will tell.

Not long  down the track, a trip to Bali came about.

As you might have expected I managed to find the only shop selling carved solid wood didgs (with covers) at an astoundingly cheap price, They were also beautiful players without mouthpieces and had been hollowed out presumably with a lathe. Yes that was and will be the last one for the quiver………at least for a while.

I have had a great deal of enjoyment putting my collection together and also enjoyed making the quiver (rack) to keep them in good order. I hope you get as much enjoyment as I have had.  Good luck with with your collection, take care in choosing and you won’t be disappointed.

Ian Allan

 

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