How to Play Ocarina

By
reviewed
Reviewed by
Last updatedLast updated: July 06, 2021
Prime Sound is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here

The ocarina is a fun and easy wind instrument that comes in various shapes and sizes. While they look different from a recorder, they produce similar sounds. You’ve probably heard it if you’re familiar with Nintendo’s Zelda games.

It’s a rare instrument that you may not easily find in stores. It’s best you shop for them online to find the best ocarina. Once you have one, it’s time to learn how to play ocarina.

Unlike the other instruments, ocarinas don’t cover a wide range of sounds. It’s vital you shop for one that can play the pitch you want, and the higher the range, the smaller the instrument.

While shopping, remember to choose one that best suits your skill level. For instance, it’s easier to learn with a four-hole or six-hole ocarina than with a 12-hole ocarina.

Also, it’s better to get one made of porcelain or ceramic. Peruvian-made ones are usually untuned, while plastic ocarinas usually sound too airy.

Learn How to Hold Ocarina

How to Play Ocarina

Now that you have your ocarina, the next thing is to know how to hold it as it’s essential.

Holding an ocarina isn’t complicated. The right hand usually faces out while the left hand usually faces inwards. However, there are few other things you need to know.

Your right index finger covers the hole nearest to the mouth piece. Next, your left index finger goes on the last hole to the left. Your thumbs go over the holes at the bottom.

The rest of your fingers should go over the remaining holes.

Ocarinas usually have extra holes. These are known as sub holes and split holes. You play them by covering one or both of the holes with the pad of a finger.

There is a third hole on the bottom where the sound is produced. It’s called voicing and must never be covered during play.

Try to Produce Clear Sound

As with any type of vessel flute, you must breathe properly if you hope to produce beautiful sounds with your ocarina.

Now take a minute off and practice breathing. Breathe deeply into your stomach, not chest, till you feel it bulge slightly. Then exhale. Do this a couple of times till you’ve mastered it.

If done correctly, you shouldn’t feel your shoulders rise.

Now, take the ocarina to your mouth and gently blow into it. It may not sound clear at first but keep at it till it sounds clear and distinct.

Try to keep the instrument parallel to the ground with its weight resting on the right thumb. Remember to breathe correctly while also maintaining good posture. It’s usually best to stand while playing any wind instrument. Still, you can play sitting straight and keeping your shoulders back if you prefer.


Play Several Notes

Now you can try your hands at playing several notes. Start with the basic scale: the C major scale.

To become proficient, you need to be able to move up and down your scale smoothly. To achieve this, you should focus on memorizing your finger patterns and the sound they produce.

Next, you should focus on your speed. But for now, practice slowly and then increase the pace gradually. The basic fingering for the C major scale on a four-holed ocarina is detailed below:

  • Middle C: 1 2 3 4
  • D: 1 X 3 4
  • E: 1 2 3 X
  • F: 1 X 3 X
  • G: X X 3 4
  • A: X X 3 X
  • B: X 2 X X
  • C: XXXX

The “X” represents the hole that should be open at any particular time.

Fingerings differ according to the number of holes each ocarina has. For instance, the four-hole ocarina and the six-hole ocarina use the same basic system.

Ocarinas usually come with manuals; consult yours to see the correct fingering. You can also get books or sign up for ocarina lessons if you need to.

Practice the scales in ascending and descending order till you don’t have to think about it anymore before playing.

If you can, you should learn musical notations so you can play your favorite tunes with the ocarina. Still, if you can play by ear, go ahead, but this usually takes time.

Master Different Techniques

Before you go to playing full songs, it’s best to learn techniques that will improve your playing skills. Practice blowing as soft as possible as blowing too hard can make your production worse and also requires more lung power.

Learn the different fingering techniques like the standard, Asian, or Italian fingering techniques. You can also check out the Pacchioni system; it can come in handy in some tricky situations.

Know your instrument’s planes of balance. This is what makes it possible for you to support your ocarina with a few fingers.

Instead of lifting your thumb, you can just roll it off. And after lifting your right pinkie while playing, it should go to the outer edge of your instrument to balance it.

Listen well and correct your intonations. Also, make good use of articulations and develop a good understanding of music.

It’s normal to experience soreness in the first few days of practicing. However, if this persists, you should adjust your posture till you find a comfortable one.

It’s Time for a Song!

It’s time to play your first song.

You can find tons of ocarina tabs on the internet. Just punch in “4 hole ocarina tabs” (or any other number as the case may be) with the name of the song.

Go for the simple ones first, like “Mary had a little lamb” or “Aulde Lang Syne”. This helps give you a good base and more confidence to move onto more complicated songs.

Practice slowly and don’t give up if you don’t get it at first; it takes time.

Final Thoughts

How to Play Ocarina

Playing the ocarina can be entertaining and is relatively easy if you put your mind to it. Just like anything you learn for the first time, it doesn’t appear easy at the start, but you’ll quickly grasp it.

If you haven’t purchased your ocarina yet, our experts’ recommendation is The Muse model. It is a handcrafted ceramic instrument with an F-Bb pitch.

As you practice, you will notice the things you find tricky or challenging. It might be a particular rhythm or a finger movement, take note of them and practice them in isolation.

You’ll soon fall in love with the ocarina and the simple but beautiful melodies that they can produce. Hopefully, now you know where to start on how to play ocarina, and you can begin to master it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *