The duduk have 2 main parts: The body (barrel or tube) and the most important part is reed. I can say the most important is reed, as it is responsible for producing sound. The ghamish (double reed) is pretty large, which connects to tube is creating resonance and we can listen the sound. If you own bad quality reed, you will get in result very poor sound with limited note range. Good duduk reed will produce good timbre and give you possibility to get up to 2,5 octave range! Nice, yes, But do not buy duduk from ebay, you will never find good reed there, except of some sellers, like us, who sometimes drop our duduks there to see if somebody interested to buy quality, professional duduks. It seems on ebay and amazon markets nobody interested to buy quality duduk for about 200 backs. But it is another story 🙂
Body of duduk is made traditionally from aged apricot wood, it is usually handmade and shaped, and the holes created using hot poking irons. Because of this, not all duduks are the equal, like shakuhachi or other handmade instruments especially in wind.
The duduk in the past was tuned differently, but the modern duduk is now tuned to western scale: The major scale.
Family of the duduk
Like other wind instruments, the duduk has a family, there are all sizes wich in effect are their actual pitch/range. There are duduks to cover Tenor, Soprano, Alto and Piccolo, as well as Bass and Baritone ranges. The assigning of the Duduks to these ranges is debatable, since the range of the actual instrument is not as wide as the names these ranges usually have, and for the most part, most people consider to have duduk in key of A, Tenor, which is the most popular pitch.
Duduk in key of A, is the most common, as the most Armenian scores written in this key. Bb (Si Bemol) also common for Armenian, but it is often used for playing more Eastern music. C duduk alto common, because it tuned to C Major scale, and the most Western melodies tends to be in this key. G duduk become poplar, because it have deep tone and it tuned to G Major, which is suitable for performing some eastern scales. Less poplar duduks are higher ranged duduks, such as D duduk and higher up to F. They are very small, and they are not easy to play. There is Bass duduk, which sometimes used for low drone notes, used usually in quartets and some cases used in solo.
About Duduk Reed
In Armenia, reed named Ghamish. The double reed of Duduk is on the biggest in the world. As I said before reed is the most important piece of duduk, as it is directly responsible for tone and intonation along with tube. There are several types of reeds, soft, hard and medium. Thinner or soft reeds have more nasal sound, often associated with Eastern music, while the harder reeds tend to have a bigger rounder sound, most associated with European sound like clarinet or Bassoon.
For beginners the best way to start is to use soft reeds, but it does not mean that the professionals are not using the soft reeds. Many professionals are using soft reeds to get most nasal sound.
In order to make playable reed, it is needed to be opened. To open the reed, you need to place some water inside from the bottom side for a several seconds. Then drip out and let the reed rest for 7-10 minutes. After 10 minutes the reed should be opened slightly. If no, blow on the reed, and gently squeeze the sides, and depending on how hard you squeeze the variation of pitch. Do not squeeze to hard. The idea is just open it enough to blow into and produce sound. Do it for 3-4 minutes, wet the reed tips with your mouth and leave it again for several minutes. By now the reed should be almost playable. Attach it to the body using the method mentoned before, and try playing the Tonic of your duduk.
In the traditional music the duduk is always played slurred and never articulated with the tongue. Of course it is possible to do so, however limited: very fast notes can be played in short fragments. Nevertheless the duduk feels most natural when played slurred.
Strong accents are very possible as well.
Flatter tongue: possible if carefully used (the reed gets very soaked by this technique and is rather unplayable after a while)
The vibrato on the duduk is produced by moving the lips and never with the diaphragm. The vibrato is very flexible and can be produced from very slow to very fast.
Once the jumps are used within the particular major or minor scale of the individual duduk they can be produced up to a high tempo. As soon as you add chromatic notes the tempo and the jumps have to be adjusted accordingly.
The duduk sounds most round and warm when played in the lower dynamic range. Once you play in the forte-register the sound gets rather sharp and slightly nasal. Range:ppp-ff
Slow glissando over the whole range of the duduk is principally possible. Quick glissandi only within a third.
Work well on the duduk
What instrument is similar to duduk?
Duduk, Balaban, and Mey are almost identical, except for historical and geographical differences. It is usually performed in pairs: while the first player plays the solo, the second plays a steady drone called dam, and the sound of the two instruments together creates a richer, more haunting sound.