The Aircode

I would like to present something that has been around for a while in didgeridoo playing. But you could not really read or learn anything about it.
So I would like to present my viewpoint, what I know about… open didgeridoo playing. Both end open didgeridoo playing. Playing didgeridoo with separation of lips from the mouthpiece. In short: The Aircode.


I don’t remember history very well. But I would say that Aircode era started something like 5 years ago, maybe a bit more. Before Aircode era there had to be the non-drone era which is sort of prerequisite for lip control necessary for aircode. The first song I consciously remember as being early aircode technique is Korvo Eksaltiko… This is, I think, the first recorded performance:

and this is the second one.
The song that followed Korvo Eksaltiko is Lake of Awareness, being just a few months younger…
I remember that also Gauthier and Zalem around that time started to play kind of open didgeridoo, but when and what exactly, is better that they tell by themselves as I am a bad (baaaad) didgeridoo chronicler. Nowadays I see aircode present around all players around the globe in many different expressions, which is for me very nice to see. The dynamics of cosmic development it is…

Aircode development

After Korvo Eksaltiko and Lake of Awareness I was very drawn to explore more about the aircode as it was a new kind of didgeridoo playing then, totally undiscovered. So I was experimenting with putting it in almost every song afterwards, realizing it very often works. It is like another sound from the same instrument. But strength of sound and complexity of techniques grew from year to year… The next important step for me that I remember was first recording of “Duboki oblici oblaci” that came as accident during my practice 3 or 4 years ago.. I published this recording on Myspace and it could still be there, I don’t know 😉 Out of Duboki oblici oblaci the whole Dubokobud has risen. This was the greatest step for me, realizing I can make a complete album out of totally new way of playing didgeridoo. Many didge players did not like it for that reason. Many DID like it for that same reason – mostly not didgeridoo people. Interesting, isn’t it? Anyway the crucification of me for the nonsenses I do on didgeridoo has slowly passed away and now I really need some new crazy step to be on this beautiful cross again…

One way to experience development is to hear the first version of Ĉielefanto

compared to the half improvised expression of Ĉielefanto from a recent concert. The footage was cut from first few minutes…

Aircode – the name

Well, after recording Dubokobud it was clear to me that it was sort of new coding for didgeridoo sound. Something that actually parallely existed all the time, but we did not see it. So I called it Aircode as it sounded so open and spacey. Later I started to use the term Earthcode for drone kind of playing, closed end playing, the “normal” playing.

Aircode techniques

All techniques of aircode playfulness come from the same playfulness of didgeridoo playing. All or most of the movements are the same. The difference is between what you do with your lips. Aircode is basically no-drone didgeridoo playing with perfect timing and spacing of separation from instrument. Something that sounds like a kick drum in earthcode – a TUP, will sound like a frame drum – TOONG – in aircode. Instead of cosmic synthesizer of done you can get air drum that reminds of steel drum. If you involve nice singing. Singing in aircode is a totally new dimension as you sing with intrinsic resonances of the open didgeridoo. This can change the scale in which you “think” when you sing into your didgeridoo.

Aircode vs Beatboxing

It is a common statement that I hear from people that aircode is “just” beatboxing. To be able to give some meaning to this statement it sounds reasonable to know at least something about aircode and something about beatboxing. I know something about aircode and a very little something about beatboxing. And aircode is NOT beatboxing.
Aircode derives from movements of didgeridoo playing. The nature of the movements is the one which makes sense when tube is involved. Both with contact, semi contact or no contact. Nature of these movements uses also a lot of sound of tube. Even in aircode with no contact you trigger intrinsic resonances of the tube and play and sing accordingly. As far as I know human beatbox follows the sound of the beatbox. Which is great on its own right, much greater in following than all didgeridoo playing together. If I knew beatboxing better I would be more competent to speak about this. But from this point it seems to me that there is another difference in the nature of the two. Beatboxing can be incredibly rich, incredibly fast sound articulation from your mouth usually to the microphone that is a few cm or less from mouth. On the other hand, aircode triggers sounds of tube with partial, little, or no touch, with regard to timing and distance, in nature of “didgeridoo movements” with projection to the microphone that is often 2.5 meters away from the mouth.

Aircode – the next generation

Sometimes I get the question about where didgeridoo world is heading in terms of techniques and music. Particularly I get this regarding to my own playing. So one reply to this question is…ahem! As a great non-expert in guitar playing I answer using an analogy. If you imagine “old” western didgeridoo playing is something like playing chords on guitar like pop/rock and if aircode is something like string picking in a more classical style, then I would say flamenco is a nice option to go next. So combinations of earthcode and aircode in such a way that it is not always obvious sections of one and other, but a blend of both. Something like the last song of Dubokobud, Pi.14 which eventually evolved into this…

But we will have to add some surprise, won’t we?

What is possible is still an open question that likes to be asked…


7 comments… add one
  • Nuno Pinto de Carvalho February 28, 2013, 12:51

    Hi there! Great article!

    Interesting thing about beatbox is that I started to learn this technique (around 5-6 years ago) because I wanted to improve “rhythmically” my way of playing didgeridoo. Doing beatbox helped me explore a lot of new sounds. Some of those I didn’t think it was possible to produce with the mouth.

    For beatbox there are different techniques. There is also one similar to circular breathing that allows you to breathe from your nose while doing the beats (without incorporating the inhale/exhale into the beats of course) 😀

    In the didgeridoo we can do some “beatbox” sounds using the same beatboxing technique, but most of them will be unrecognizable by beatboxers because of the didgeridoo itself.
    There are also a lot of other sounds that we can try in the didge, but will sound the same and pass unnoticed during the drone. This is because beatbox is beatbox and has its own way yo 😛

    About the similarities in “Aircode vs. Beatboxing”, it is true that beatbox helped me to improve my didgeridoo playing, but I consider these two different techniques. Both use “mouth beats” but in a very different way (the same for the earthcode). In case of beatboxing, there is very less air projected and most of the sounds are produced differently, including the voice.

    See you around,
    Nunek 😉

    • Du March 1, 2013, 09:39


      This is really a great contribution to this article! Thank you so much!


  • Pamela Mortensen March 3, 2013, 00:54

    Aircode is definitely different from beatboxing. I do far more aircode playing than beatboxing and I find it to contain a bit more mystery about it than beatboxing in the way of sound. Especially, when the mouth is a bit away from the mouthpiece and the air is directed to just inside the mouthpiece. The only way i can describe the sound is of water from a pressure hose hitting the pavement with a “PSHHHH”

    Another favorite for me is to pop off the mouthpiece just as I put the “tup” through the didge. Depending on the didge, I get a very ringing ‘bung” sound that is GORGEOUS to my ear adds a lot of color to go along with other techniques both drone and non-drone.

    Although I may never do as much exploring with this, I do appreciate you sharing this technique as yet one more way to create beautiful sound with this instrument. Thank you! 🙂



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