No other musical instrument is able to convey the emotions of the Armenian people so honestly and eloquently as the duduk, Born in the early eons of Armenian history, it is purely Armenian. Because of its evocative and colorful timbre and warm sound, the duduk has become part of everyday life in Armenia. Today, no festive occasion, wedding reception or family feast is complete without a dudukist.
The duduk is a form of oboe hand-made almost always of apricot wood, with a 1,500-year history behind it. The duduk is strictly Armenian.
Traveling Armenians have taken it to Persia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, the Middle East and as far as the Balkans, where derivatives are played. The instrument itself is simply a hollow pipe with eight finger holes on the upper side and one thumb hole on the bottom. It has a warm, soft, slightly nasal timbre, but it is capable of a wide-range of melodies and drone notes sustained for long periods of time. It is invariably played with the accompaniment of a second ‘dum duduk,’ which gives the music an energy and tonic atmosphere, changing the scale harmoniously with the principal duduk.
The duduk is built in three sizes, ranging from 11 to 16 inches. It requires a specific type of double reed, categorized as a split or slit-tube reed. As a musical instrument, it has not changed through the centuries, but the manner of playing it has been perfected and its sound has been improved. Its range is only one octave; however, it requires considerable skill to play, – its dynamics controlled by constantly adjusting the lips and fingers. The tuning is basically untempered and diatonic, though chromatic notes may be obtained by partially covering the finger holes.
The duduk repertoire consists of folk ballads as well as upbeat dance music. Composers have even written orchestral pieces for the instrument.