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Understanding Donchian Channels

Updated: Jan 2

Donchian Channels, developed by Richard Donchian in the 1950s, are a useful technical analysis tool used in trading to identify market trends, potential breakouts, and retracements.

This tool is particularly popular in financial markets for its ability to simplify and visualize price movements and trends.

Overview and Mechanics

  1. Structure: Donchian Channels consist of three bands - an upper band, a lower band, and a middle line. The upper band is determined by the highest price in a given period, while the lower band is set by the lowest price in that period. The middle line represents the average of these two extreme values​​.

  2. Candlestick Charts: They are often used with candlestick charts, providing a clear visual representation of stock performance over a period, with each candlestick indicating a sub-period (e.g., day, week, hour)​​.


  • Upper Band: Highest price in the prior n periods.

  • Lower Band: Lowest price in the prior n periods.

  • Middle Line: The average of the lower and upper bands.

The "n" period can vary (minutes, hours, days, weeks, months) depending on the timeframe under study, with 20 days being a typical period used in Donchian Channels​​.

Trading Mechanics and Strategies

Market Position Indications: The position of the market relative to the bands can indicate market trends. If the market is trading towards the upper band, it may signal a bullish trend, suggesting a long position. Conversely, if it's moving towards the lower band, it indicates a bearish trend, suggesting a short position​​.


  • Bullish Approach: If the price goes above the middle line, it indicates a bullish trend, suggesting a long position. Traders might close these positions if the price hits the upper band without breaking through it, anticipating a decrease towards the middle line​​.

  • Bearish Approach: If the price drops below the middle line, it suggests a bearish trend, prompting traders to open short positions. These positions are held until the price hits the lower band​​.

Breakout and Reversal Strategies: The breakout strategy involves entering a trend early with the expectation that the price will break through the upper or lower band. The reversal strategy, on the other hand, involves waiting for a trend reversal before taking a position​​.

Applications and Variations

  • Volatility Indicator: The width of the Donchian channel indicates the market's volatility. A narrow channel suggests low volatility, while a wider channel indicates higher volatility​​.

  • Adaptability: Originally based on daily values, today's trading platforms allow traders to set the "n" period based on their preferred timeframe (e.g., day, hour, minute)​​.


Donchian Channels, a pioneering concept in early technical analysis, continue to be a valuable tool for traders. By visualizing the highest and lowest price points over a set period, they offer a clear indication of market trends and potential reversals, making them an essential part of many trading strategies.

As with any trading tool, successful application requires understanding and adapting the indicator to fit specific market conditions and trading styles.


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