As I once again walk out of studio my didgeridoo world spins faster. As I step anew on stage I smile for I know my sound will not be a disaster. Sun and wind disperse heavy clouds of uncertainty into soft rain of revelation and horizon shows new ways of great possibilities as I enter the deeply mysterious ERA of Presence.
Int(r)o the presence
I am now again at the starting point of my closed didgeridoo circle. This happens always after spending lots of time in studio, and I definitely did when I was experimenting and recording didgeridoo for Dubokobud. Trying to make it speak clearly, articulately and undoubtly. So what do new experiences tell me? They ask of me presence , in every way, but I will especially describe what it means in the didgeridoo construction and articulation sense.
We all know what presence is. We know it intuitively. It is too primordial idea to explain. Yet what does it mean in sound sense? In descriptive manner it is the quality of sound which puts sound more forward, more pronounced, more aggressive, more expressive. In frequency terms, in a narrow sense, it refers to a small band between 5 and 7kHz. However, in wider sense, also described so in book “Mastering audio – the art and the science“ by Bob Katz, it refers to a big range between 2 and 10kHz.
Presence in didgeridoo
As I start to speak for the zillionth time about sound of the didgeridoo, I seem funny to myself. So I will make it even more funny with some drawings. Didgeridoo is an instrument whose spectrum falls, sometimes drastically after the basic bass. Bassicaly it looks like this:
The bass of didgeridoo
Many didgeridoo players are attracted to didgeridoo because of its bass. So what is this presence story all about and where is bass in it? Let me draw you a story. Lets rotate the graph before a little bit to make it vertical. A bass of didgeridoo will become the base of our structure and the strong bass didgeridoo usually looks like this:
Once recorded this didgeridoo spectrum will become more flat due to equipment taking its presence toll and it will look like this. You can even see the presence fly away!
On the contrary, didgeridoo with less bass will have more of the other frequencies in relative terms, this means the initial picture will be more like:
Didgeridoo Presence in reality
I have recently had a great opportunity what presence means in reality. I was in the room when Dave played Oldhar very softly, and still this soft sounds with lots of presence went over the music that was playing relatively loudly in the bacground. If it was only bass, it would be only underneath it all, as a carpet. Then I realized again very strongly that bass is energy whereas presence and articulation is information!
Presence in the recording room and the sound of Fantastic Four
We now come to the real McCoy of didgeridoo presence. Sound examples from studio! These were done post Dubokobud, in a simple microphone setup. I had 4 instruments. Two that we could describe as combination of Iglica III and Moytze and something else. One that could be described as Moytze + CrystaLake, but more to Moytze side. The fourth one was Oldhar.
In every sound sample I tried to include both Earth and Air code (old/new- closed/open). Didgeridoos have somewhat different frequency response due to the code and certain technique of a code.
When observing the spectrum know that the upper line (orange) shows the maximum amplitudes some frequency has reached during the sound sample. The lower (yellow) shows the sound at certain moment when I was listening – not so important, although I tried to capture it in a relevant moment. Another very important fact to be aware of is that only relative relations are important. The absolute height of the sound is not. Only the relations between the peaks.
This is a new Duende didgeridoo that showed a remarkable spectrum and usefulness of sound. At the moment we have nothing to compare it to. Just listen and try to connect it in your mind to the graph presented. The low line was not caught in a very strong moment…
This is also a new Duende didgeridoo that is somewhat darker than the upper one. Know that the peak around 3,5kHz came out only once as a product of air code. Low line caught in the good moment of air code.
C didgeridoo – Zmayek
This is the King of Presence! The Shining Articulator! This is why I had to include such a long sound sample 😉 It is an ironbark didgeridoo, a variation of Moytze, more open up and down in spectrum. If by now you can read the graphs, you will know how extraordinary it is that the spectrum even climbs up to the higher end. Sub bass and 6kHz are almost on the same level! Also we have a peak at 12kHz! On a more precise analyzer on this didgeridoo you would see much more teeth in the graph.Know that during whole recording the lower line was close to the upper line, considerably more than in other didgeridoos. This is very important to know because it ties this picture to the totality of sound, whole expression, not just one point. The peaks between 125 and 500Hz come from the toots I played, not so very gently. But again, the basic experience and understanding you need to get from the sound sample itself, not by graph.
This is a special treat to reveal the spectrum of Great Oldhar. As you can see, it is very very strong in low mids. These are the singing frequencies, overtones in the range of human voice. This gives the feeling of multiple instruments, depth of sound. Presence compared to the bass is in very good relation. Sub bass and 3.7kHz are almost in same line, upper presence 3-4db lower. This is not so prominent in sound because of the strong low end, which puts yin-yang balance to the darker side. But as you can notice, the richness of this didgeridoo sound transcends even more the two dimensional graph. As listening reveals a great sustain and „shine“ on Oldhar’s sounds.
So I choose to give you some reference point for these didgeridoos, as they are very uncommon. So I take as an example a didgeridoo I made few years ago, before the Duendes. It is a 205cm long pine, drilled and chiseled, so sound was taken care of. The difference is also greatly in the hardness of the wood.
Pine didgeridoo in A
It is up to you now to compare the sound and the graph to the upper 4, but the difference could/should be obvious.
This is not an example of a strong bass didgeridoo. I found no such recordings at home. You can find and make it yourself, analyze it, and observe if the difference is even stronger. If you do this, feel free to send me the appendix for this article!
As you know, I don’t like to make conclusions, only observations. I’ve presented you 5 different didgeridoos, their recordings and their spectrum. So if you take only 3rd didgeridoo (Zmayek) and the last one you have the following situation. In my world it is a comparison of a high end didgeridoo and a good mid range didgeridoo. The price difference is about five times. Being around 2500€ for the first one, and around 500€ for the second one. Same difference is in the price of the recording equipment, being around 10000€ for the first one and around 2200 euro for the second one. There is also a significant difference in skill, power and knowledge of the players.
So all summed up, it is a cosmic soup in which you cannot be absolutely certain what ingredients give what flavours.
Dark side of presence
This is almost a contradiction in terms, as presence is brightness. This falls partly into the category „too much of a good thing is still too much“. The other aspect is that presence is a complex matter of no matter – so many colours, so many flavours. With flavours some are so rich even if they are not very salty. Some are salty and there is nothing else there. Very similary it is with our magical mix of frequencies. We need nice presence. It can be deep rich golden presence, or glittering of emerald, or it can be shining yellowhite of the sun reflection on the see, it can be everywhere where it can shine so divine!
Stop for one more moment, please.
Before this article affects the way you perceive didgeridoos, get to know your didgeridoos. Before you pursue your new wishes, ideas, projects and goals in didgeridoo try to figure out where you are and what is around you. Try to figure out what you would benefit most from. Don’t take anything I write for granted. I might be wrong. Check it out yourself. And if you feel you found something, I would be honoured if you shared it with me. As always I am looking forward to your own dooings which enrich this tubical world we find Cosmos in. So let me know how and where you are…