Vocal tract resonances and the sound of the Australian didjeridu (yidaki) II. Theory

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The didjeridu (didgeridoo) or yidaki of the Australian Aboriginal people consists of the narrow trunk of a small Eucalypt tree that has been hollowed out by the action of termites, cut to a length of about 1.5 m, smoothed, and decorated. It is lip-blown like a trumpet and produces a simple drone in the frequency range 55 to 80 Hz. Interest arises from the fact that a skilled player can make a very wide variety of sounds with formants rather like those of human vowels, and can also produce additional complex sounds by adding vocalization. An outline is given of the way in which the whole system can be analyzed using the harmonic-balance technique, but a simpler approach with lip motion assumed shows easily that upper harmonics of the drone with frequencies lying close to impedance maxima of the vocal tract are suppressed, so that formant bands appear near impedance minima of the vocal tract. This agrees with experimental findings. Simultaneous vibration of the player`s lips and vocal folds is shown to generate multiple sum and difference tones, and can be used to produce subharmonics of the drone. A brief discussion is given of player preference of particular bore profiles. (c) 2006 Acoustical Society of America.
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Hollenberg, Lloyd
Tarnopolsky, Alexandre
Wolfe, Joseph
Fletcher, Neville
Smith, John
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Journal Article
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UNSW Faculty