The ocarina is an ancient and mesmerizing wind instrument that produces beautiful, flute-like tones. While ocarinas are made from various materials and come in different shapes and sizes, they all share a simple system of finger holes used to produce notes. Ocarinas can transport us to faraway lands with their haunting melodies.
If you’re captivated by the ocarina and looking to purchase one, you’ll find there is an extensive range of ocarina types to explore. To help you discover the diverse world of ocarinas, here is a comprehensive guide to the major ocarina varieties and how to choose the best instrument to match your musical needs.
Common Types of Ocarinas
Ocarinas fall into several broad categories based on the number of chambers, material, shape, and other characteristics. Here are the most common ocarina types available:
Single Chamber Ocarinas
- Pendant Ocarinas – Made popular by Giuseppe Donati, pendant ocarinas are shaped like an elongated teardrop with a string for wearing around the neck. Pendants come in plastic, ceramic and wood.
- Inline Ocarinas – Inline Ocarinas feature all the holes in a straight line. They come in the round “bullseye”, oval and elongated shapes. Good for simple, soothing tunes.
- English Pendant Ocarinas – These round or oval-shaped ocarinas have a flat side that sits against the player’s chest when worn as a pendant. English pendants produce very pure, clear tones.
- Multi-Chamber Ocarinas
- Double Ocarinas – Double Ocarinas have two chambers aligned horizontally with a shared mouthpiece. Each chamber has separate holes, allowing more diverse melodies.
- Triple Ocarinas – As the name denotes, triple ocarinas have three chambers in a horizontal line. Each chamber has overlapping musical ranges for advanced playing.
- Quadruple Ocarinas – The extremely rare quadruple ocarina has four chambers aligned in a row. Only expert players can master this ocarina’s exceptional range.
Specialty and Orchestral Ocarinas
Beyond the common chambered ocarinas are exotic specialty and orchestral varieties:
- Tab Ocarinas – Tab ocarinas have holes on tabs that stick out like wings versus inline holes. Tabs allow greater separation of holes for big hands.
- Fipple Ocarinas – Similar to recorders, fipple Ocarinas use a windway rather than just blow directly across the mouthpiece. This allows more precise control.
- Bass Ocarinas – These larger ocarinas come in double, triple and inline styles to extend the ocarina’s range into bass tones. Great for multi-octave music.
- Contrabass Ocarinas – Even bigger than bass ocarinas, these giants produce super deep tones at the bottom of the ocarina’s range. They use very large chambers.
- Panpipes – Panpipes use multiple ocarina-like chambers attached in a row. Each pipe produces just 1-2 notes. Panpipes allow glissandos to slide between pipes.
Ocarina Shapes and Design Styles
Ocarinas not only vary by type and chambers but also by their visual shape and decorative styles:
- Animal Shaped Ocarinas – Ocarinas modeled after animals like pigs, frogs, fish and owls. Whimsical but more fragile due to slender shapes.
- Geometric Ocarinas – Ocarinas are made in abstract shapes like spheres, pyramids, cubes, and cephalopods (squid-shaped). Intriguing to display.
- Imitation Instruments – Ocarinas shaped like mini saxophones, accordions, guitars and other instruments. Fun for musicians of other instruments.
- Storybook Ocarinas – Ocarinas portrays characters and scenes from stories, movies and video games. A creative way to play your favorite tale.
- Art Ocarinas – Decorated with elaborate original artwork, paintings or ornate filigree. Each becomes a musical masterpiece.
- Feng Shui Ocarinas – Ocarinas are accented with gemstones or designed according to feng shui principles to enhance energy flow. For a holistic living.
- Custom and Handmade Ocarinas – Totally unique Ocarinas crafted by individual artisans from scratch or customized to your preferences. Match your personality.
Major Ocarina Materials
Ocarinas are crafted from various materials that impact the look, feel, and sound:
- Ceramic Ocarinas – The traditional material, ceramic creates bright yet mellow tones. Displays intricate decorations well but fragile.
- Plastic Ocarinas – Durable, affordable and come in vivid colors. Not the highest sound quality but great for kids and beginners.
- Wood Ocarinas – Give a warm, organic sound. Different woods create unique tones, like cherry or cedar. Delicate with age.
- Crystal and Glass Ocarinas – Transparent for visual appeal. Produce a crystalline purity of tone but extremely fragile.
- Metal Ocarinas – Made from brass, silver, or gold. Offer bold, strong tones and intricate metalwork details. Heavy.
- Stone Ocarinas – Ocarinas hand carved from soapstone, jade or marble. Visually striking with clear, bright tones. Very heavy.
Key Considerations When Choosing an Ocarina
With this overview of the broad ocarina types and styles available, keep these key considerations in mind when selecting an ocarina:
- Your musical skill level – beginners fare better with simpler 4-10 hole ocarinas
- Desired musical range – 12 holes or multi-chamber ocarinas allow more diverse notes
- Visual appeal – pick a shape and decorative style you find particularly beautiful
- Portability – smaller pendants travel well, while larger ocarinas are better for home use
- Price – smaller plastic ocarinas are budget-friendly, while handmade specialty ocarinas can be costly
- Accompanying instruments – match the ocarina’s key and range to the instruments you want to play with
Take your time, listen to tone samples, and weigh your priorities. While the dizzying ocarina selection may seem overwhelming at first, keeping these criteria in mind will help guide you to finding your ideal instrument.
Getting Started on the Ocarina as a Beginner
Once you’ve selected the perfect beginner’s ocarina, you’ll be eager to start playing beautiful melodies. Here is some advice for getting started:
Learn Notes and Finger Positions
Memorize your ocarina’s note names and the finger positions to produce each note. Start by playing each note slowly and deliberately.
Focus on Your Breath
Controlled breathing is crucial to ocarina playing. Blow gently but steadily into the mouthpiece while keeping an airtight seal with your lips. Support notes with your breath.
Use a Tuner
Use a chromatic tuner to ensure the notes you are fingering correctly match the pitch. This will develop your pitch accuracy and ear training.
Build Up Finger Dexterterity
Gradually increase playing speed by practicing scales and simple beginner songs. Work on lifting your fingers cleanly between notes.
Maintain Good Posture
Sit or stand tall to allow deep breaths. Bring the ocarina to your mouth versus straining your neck down. Keep your arms relaxed.
Access Online Tutorials
Use the wealth of Ocarina tutorials on YouTube and Ocarina blogs to continue expanding your skills.
With a high-quality beginner ocarina that you love and these starter tips, you’ll be mastering beautiful ocarina melodies in no time!
Intermediate Ocarinas for Developing Players
Once you have the basics down and want to advance your ocarina skills, upgrading to an intermediate instrument is a smart next step. Here are top options for intermediate players:
A 12-hole ocarina gives you a fuller note range versus a basic 10-hole starter ocarina. Look for an inline, oval pendant, or English pendant shape 12 holes.
Double and Triple Ocarinas
The additional chambers on double and triple ocarinas allow you to play multi-octave music and enrich your sound. Focus on a double first before tackling the triple ocarina.
Focalink Ceramic Ocarinas
Focalink makes professional-quality handcrafted ceramic ocarinas ideal for advancing students. Their Alto C triple ocarina is exquisite.
The organic sound of wood enhances an intermediate player’s musical expression. Seek hardwoods like cocobolo or rosewood versus softwoods.
If you have bigger hands, a tabbed ocarina makes reaching all the holes easier. STL Ocarinas offers excellent tab ocarinas.
Moving up to an intermediate ocarina that matches your skills will be incredibly rewarding and motivating. Don’t hesitate to consult your teacher on finding the ideal next ocarina for your progression.
Advanced and Professional Level Ocarinas
Once you’ve reached an advanced skill level, you’ll want an ocarina capable of professional quality performance and elegance. Here are exquisite ocarinas to consider:
Handmade in the USA using gorgeous exotic woods, Songbird ocarinas are true works of art with top-tier sound quality, especially their triple ocarinas.
ICO Legendary Collection
Imperial City Ocarinas crafts the Legendary Collection of extraordinarily ornate and rich-sounding multi-chamber ocarinas with details like abalone shells.
Ceramic Art Ocarinas
Art ocarinas from acclaimed ceramic studios like Thomas Stahl, Mark Holdaway, and Donna Shore offer unparalleled beauty and tone.
Custom Focalink Ocarinas
Focalink lets you customize nearly all aspects of their ocarinas, from chamber style to decorative elements. Design your dream ocarina.
Tenor and Bass Range Ocarinas
Serious players yearning for an expanded range should learn the tenor and bass ocarinas, like GLG’s gorgeous painted 6-hole bass.
The sky’s the limit when selecting a pro-level ocarina! Seek advice from your teacher, read reviews of acclaimed ocarina makers, and follow your artistic passions.
Important Ocarina Accessories
To help you get the most out of your ocarina playing, invest in these handy accessories:
- Protective Case – Safeguard your ocarina in a padded rigid case or soft pouch when not playing.
- Tuning Meter – Ensure accurate tuning with a digital chromatic tuner or pitch pipe.
- Songbook Stand – A foldable metal stand lets you easily read sheet music hands-free.
- Cleaning Kit – Use a feather or brush and cloth to keep your ocarina’s finger holes and windway clear of dust.
- Neckstrap – Neckstraps allow comfortable playing of larger ocarinas and ease the strain on your hands.
- Reed Case – Spanish ocarinas use breath-activated reeds; store them safely in a protective reed case.
- Fingering Chart – Print out a fingering diagram for quick reference while learning notes.
- Recording Equipment – Capture your music with a microphone, recorder, or mobile device and software.
Take your ocarina playing to the next level by equipping yourself with useful accessories that enable you to get the highest sound quality and ease of performance.
Joining the Global Ocarina Community
Once you’ve caught the ocarina bug, one of the best ways to improve your skills and enjoyment is by joining the vibrant global community of ocarina enthusiasts:
- Take virtual or in-person lessons from acclaimed ocarina masters.
- Attend Ocarina camps and conferences to meet fellow players.
- Join clubs and musical groups focused on the ocarina.
- Follow and interact with the many Ocarina players online via social media groups and forums.
- Watch videos and live streams by world-class Ocarina musicians.
- Read books, magazines, blogs, and newsletters about Ocarina culture.
- Listen to Ocarina’s music on streaming platforms and internet radio stations.
- Share your own Ocarina recordings and videos with the community.
- Arrange duets and ensemble performances with ocarina players near you.
Immerse yourself in the global ocarina community to exponentially expand your skills, collaborations, and appreciation for this entrancing instrument.
The ocarina is an ancient yet timeless instrument that never fails to enchant with its evocative sound. As you can see, there is an incredibly diverse world of ocarina types, materials, shapes, and playing styles to explore.
With this guide to get you started, may your own ocarina journey be filled with magical music and joyful discovery! Let your imagination soar as you make your mark on the storied legacy of the Ocarina.