The Duduk and Its Music
For many Armenians worldwide, the soothing sound of the duduk symbolizes their identity. It
can uplift any mood and is used in lyrical, sorrowful, or dramatic compositions, as well as folk
dances and songs for any occasion. Although it may seem like a simple instrument, the duduk
can convey a wide spectrum of tunes that will linger long in your mind.
The duduk, the Armenian oboe, is a double-reed wind instrument characterized by a warm, soft,
slightly nasal timbre. The reed, called ghamish or yegheg, is a local plant growing alongside the
The roots of Armenian duduk music go back to the times of the Armenian king Tigran the Great
(95-55 BC). It accompanies popular Armenian traditional songs and dances of the various
regions and is played at events, such as weddings and funerals. Although there are also famous
duduk soloists, among them Gevorg Dabaghyan and Vache Sharafyan, the duduk is usually
played by two musicians.
One player creates the musical environment for the lead melody by playing a continual drone
held by circular breathing, while the other player develops complex melodies and
improvisations. There are four major types of duduk, varying in length from 28 to 40 cm. This
variety allows the sound of the duduk to express various moods depending on the content of the
piece and the playing context. The 40-cm long duduk, for example, is regarded as most
appropriate for love songs, whereas the smaller one usually accompanies dances. Today, duduk
craftsmen continue to create and experiment with different forms of duduks. Many Armenians
consider the duduk as the instrument that most eloquently expresses warmth, joy and their
Over the last few decades, the popularity of Armenian duduk music has faded, in particular in the
rural areas where it originated. The duduk instrument is played less and less in popular
festivities, but more often as a staged performance by professionals, risking to threaten the
music’s viability and traditional character.