A duduk is a cylindrical double reed instrument in the oboe family, which also includes the oboe, the oboe d’amore, the English horn, the heckelphone, as well as the Chinese suona and guan, the Japanese hichiriki, the Korean p’iri, and the European shawm. Known in various parts of the Middle East by a variety of names, the duduk is made of the wood of the mulberry or apricot trees. So if you hear about the bālābān of Northern Iran, the Turkish mey, the balaban of Azerbaijan, the qamāta of the Turks and Kurds, the balaman of the Qārāqalpaks, you may gather that it is an instrument with great similarity to the duduk of Armenia and Georgia.
The duduk, pronounced /doo DOOK/ has, like many of its counterparts, a reed and a body. The tone is often described as rich and warm, and has the nasality associated with the oboe family. Like some of the similar instruments, it has eight fingerholes and a thumbhole. Do not, however, confuse it with the duduk of the west Bulgaria, which is a 6-hole member of the flute family, rather than an oboe.
According to player Pedro Eustache, the duduk has the ability to extend its range by two interesting techniques. The embouchure technique called “lipping up” can be used to extend the duduk range a minor third higher. And by closing the lowest hole with the knee, an G3 can be reached on an A duduk.
Noted duduk players include Djivan Gasparyan, Chris Bleth, Albert Vardanyan, Gevorg Dabagian, Mirtitch Mahossian, Sergei Karapetian, Pedro Eustache, and Vatchatchian Avakian. The duduk has become a popular international instrument in movie soundtracks, with Peter Gabriel, for example, using it in the soundtrack for The Last Temptation of Christ. Gasparyan has played duduk in the soundtrack for movies such as Ronin, Gladiator, Syriana, and Blood Diamond, and Bleth in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.