Is the Duduk Hard To Play? Generally speaking, yes and no. Playing any musical instrument to a good or professional standard is not easy, and requires much practice, patience, and perserverance. Learning to play Duduk is considered to be harder then most instruments mostly due to the lack of understanding towards it in the western world. We don’t know much about how to practice and learn the amazing techniques used to create the haunting sounds of the music that comes from the instrument, and then take into account the complex melodic and rhythmic modes used, it becomes much less simpler to develop then say learning to play piano. Personally, i’ve only dabbled on clarinet before, and the Duduk was the first time for me to play a double reed instrument. In the beginning it was indeed difficult, but with patience, and some great information from online resources & people, I was able to develop my playing over the course of 1 year to a good standard (for a beginner that is!). How Long Will It Take Me To Get Good? This is a very hard question to answer. Some people are just quicker and better at things then others. It took me about 9-10 years to become a decent guitarist of a professional standard, whereas I have colleauges who achieved that standard in less then half of that time! Same goes for Duduk, or any other instrument, in that if you practice on a daily basis, focus on developing your studies (and not mindlessly noodle around), you will continue to develop & grow as a musician. Main thing is to remain humble and realistic, yes we all want to sound like Djivan Gasparyan, but that’s not going to happen overnight….. How much does a good Duduk cost? And is the Duduks made by Master Simon on Ebay any good? Ok… This is a question i get asked allot, and I’m going to be very honest (read brutally honest). First of all, there is no such thing as a professional level hand made instrument for $40… Those Meys that i’ve seen online for 40 bucks are made from plastic resin & are not Duduks. Secondly, there is no such thing as a professional instrument for $100 bucks either…. This is what we call a student level instrument. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a student level instrument, yes sometimes they have tuning quirks, don’t sound great, or look great, but they’re designed for you to learn on, without losing a large chunk of cash, and for this purpose, any Duduk around that price is OK…. The big issue that comes with buying a low quality Duduk is the issue of the reed. The Duduks reed (or Ghamish) is responsible for a large part of the tone of the instrument, and if it is a low quality reed, not only will the tone be bad, but also, it may cause the instrument to not be in tune, require a ridiculous amount of air to resonate, and may even create a wrong sound altogether. My first Duduk came from the UK (ethnicinstruments.co.uk) and Matt was very helpful in the matter. The instruments made by Karen Hakobyan are fine instruments (for beginners), the main issue though was the reed, not only was it very stiff, but also didn’t tune well. Literally, the veins in my face would be bulging at the amount of breathe I needed to produce a sound. Eventualy through a very good persons advice (Steen / Geesemaildk) I got two very good reeds from Vache Sharafyan, which not only produced a sound more true to the Duduk, but were much easier to blow on and didn’t make me feel like my head was going to explode. Where did you get your Duduks from? I got my A and Bb duduks from Gevorg Dabaghyan, via Vache Sharafyan. They’re pro level, are much more denser then my first Duduk, look beautiful, and sound amazing. They also came with 2 very good reeds. Do I have to know how to play any other instruments before starting on Duduk? Not really no. It helps if you have, just so you’d have prior background in music theory, and understanding about scales & intervals, since this is a large part of learning to play the Duduk and it’s music. Do you give lessons? In my past F.A.Q the answer was no, since I had only been playing a short amount of time. After playing for several years, creating a successful Youtube video series of lessons (which can be found in the Duduk Video Lessons page on this site) & writing a book on the subject (available on Amazon & via this website also) I do offer lessons via Skype. Click here for more info or choose “Skype Lessons” under the Duduk section of my website. How do I get the reed to open up? Do I use water? Generally speaking, if it is a new reed, you should avoid using water or too much moisture, to avoid its shape warping. Try using the moisture from your lips and breath, and try blowing on the reed, and leaving it for about 10 minutes. Then repeat the same thing. If after about 30 minutes, the reed is still not open enough, you may dip the tip of the opening in water, shake off the excess water, and cover it with the cap again. Wait about 5 minutes, and hopefully it should start to open up, but it depends on the reed you have. If the weather is warm & humid, you can expect the reed to have issues with keeping moist enough. There are several tricks to this, most of which I would not recommend to a beginner who is not experienced enough to know how the reed is responding, and could over time damage or ruin the reed. I created a YouTube video which can be of help in learning how to properly warm up the reed: How do I do Vibrato? How do I “Bend” the notes? Depends. There are instances, where lifting the fingers whilst blowing will slide the note up or down (glissando), and there are times where it is done by the lower lip (on trilled notes I believe, and on notes on the higher register once all fingers are uncovered). For the lip based bends on the higher notes, avoid squashing the reed with the teeth, the pressure should come from the cheeks and the lower lip. If done correctly, you will get a clean higher note, incorrectly, and you’ll hear a choking buzzing sound. The reed plays a major role here, on some reeds I can only uplip from a High A to a Bb, whereas on a good reed, i can actually bend up to a minor 3rd (in this case, bend up to nearly a High C). Once again, as time progresses and your cheek muscles and breath control improve, this technique will become easier for you, and you’ll be able to combine it with vibrato. How do I hold notes for longer? Generally, depending on your state of fitness & the reeds you use, you find its hard to maintain a note for a long time. This is something which you’ll gradually learn to improve over time. Most people take deep breathes from the chest and are not used to controlling their breathing. For Duduk, we rely more on the diaphragm, and abdominal breathing. This means inhaling and exhaling via the abdomen. Try breating in and out using your stomach, not your chest, and you’ll understand more about how this is achieved. With support from your abdomen, and with practice, you’ll be able to take deeper breaths of air, and distribute the air with more control, meaning you can play longer phrases without problems. How do I do those “shakes” or “trills” that I hear in Armenian tunes? The “Xargh” technique as it’s known in Armenian is a simple technique in concept, but rather challenging in development since it requires some co-ordination and a lot of relaxation mixed with tension to get the right “effect”. There have been several explanations of this technique to me, and thus far, I don’t really concur with any of them. The trills done in armenian tunes seem to be a mixture of techniques. A trill in normal music is a rapid succession of a note and an interval done two or three times (minor second, major second, minor third, major third, etc). On the duduk this is done it seems via the fingers and the lips in some form, and is mixed with vibrato at the same time. The sound is very distinct and hard to describe, it’s like a flurry or “shake” of pitches usually. It’s sometimes done on one note, or usually down or up a scale. There are two videos now on YouTube called “Duduk: how it is made” narrated by Gevorg Dabaghyan and has English subtitles. Gevorg masterfully shows the technique’s two separate parts and then shows them at slow and faster speeds. What is the tuning of my Duduk? More then most like your Duduk is in A. This means the Duduk is tuned to the scale of A Major (A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G#, A). The starting note though is actually the 6th degree of the scale, so with all 8 finger holes and the thumb closed, it is actually an F#, then it goes up the scale. The range of the Duduk is about an Octave and a fourth (so that means it goes from a lower F# to a higher F#, and then up to a B (which is a fourth if you think of F# as being one). If you have a good reed and good technique you can play a C note, but it’s very difficult to do, and is usually used as a grace note, not a note to be held for long or to sustain as part of a melody. Also be aware that in some musical notation, the Duduk is treated as a transposed instrument, that is to say that if you see a piece of music, and see the C note (“Do” for those used to solfege), you should actually play the A note. So the A actually becomes the “do” (those of you who use non fixed solfege will be familiar with this concept. This is how it’s possible to see a piece of music which has notes which are higher then the range of the Duduk. An example of this would be the musical notation for the piece “Hovern Engan” (The winds have dropped). The notation shows to start on F# G then A… But the notes are actually D# E and F# on the Duduk. For the A duduk this means it’s transposed a Minor Third, and for Bb Duduk, its a Major Second. Be aware that this isn’t for all Duduk music Notation, some pieces are notated using the actual pitches. Can I only play one fixed scale on the Duduk? Nope. The Duduk is capable of playing chromatically, and as such, is capapble of playing multiple scales, despite being tuned to a fixed scale. By using Half holing (uncovering the holes only partially) and using the lips and certain fingerings, you can play allot of scales on the Duduk. Naturally some are easier to play then others, and some don’t work well at all. Check out some of my videos on Youtube for some scales that you can practice. What is the name of the Scale(s) I hear played in Duduk music? Depends really. The scales that are played are usually Modal, and belong to the “Mugham” system of scales. Every country in the Middle East has it’s own system, which is looseley related to all the other systems. In Egypt it’s called Maqam, in Persia, it’s Dhagstah, in India, it’s Raga. The Mugham system is interesting in that unlike the Persian & Egyptian system, the quarter tones are not part of the scale, but are considered embellishments to certain modal phrases and intervallic movements. Unfortunately there is very little in the way of literature on the subject, and I’ve only been able to find a website that has a book on the subject, which although I found abit confusing, has been very helpful on explaining the system. At the moment I’ve slowly been working on learning the Mughams, and soon will learn the rules involved on the intervallic movements involved in improvising using them. When I’ve learnt more on the subject, I’ll add a section to my site on the subject. In the meantime feel free to conduct your own research! Do these scales use tunings or notes not found in the Western Major Scale? Yes they do. The intervals used are more natural, in that a Minor Second might be sharper then a Minor Second on the Piano, and that a Major Third might be slightly Flatter also. The issue of tuning is interesting since different regions and modal systems all use variations in tuning. Microtonal music in this sense can be very daunting since although it might be fractionally sharper or flatter, it would be considered an incorrect mode, or considered non musical & improper. This is what makes Middle Eastern Modal systems so daunting to us Westerners who’ve spent so many years learning to play strictly in tune…. now we need to force ourselves to play out of tune! (or conversely as a colleague of mine said “more in tune!”) Where can I learn more about Middle Eastern Music? Generally speaking, there are allot of books published on the subject matter, and a plethora of great websites. Amazon would be the best starting point. There are several books on the subjects of modes of the countries in the region (Egypt, Persia, Iraq, Etc.). Got a Question to ask? Contact Me!