The Ocarina

The Ocarina is a member of the Wind instrument family.It orignates from Chinese and Mesoamerican cultures and was invented by Giuseppe Donati in 1853. It is sometimes referred to as Sweet Potato and Globular flute.

The front of an Ocarina
0x010C, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Ocarina Back
Tyty4net, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The first ocarina-like instrument appeared about 12,000 years ago, and not only did it appear in one place, but in different civilizations that were very far from each other. It has its origin in South, Central and the southern part of North America, but there was also a Chinese instrument very ocarina-like, called Xun. The Mayans, the Incans and the Aztecs all created clay ocarinas in the shape of birds or animals which they played along with other percussion instruments and dances. In the region of what is now Peru, the craftsmen made ocarinas also from clay, but they had the costume of painting the front part with different patterns and decorations; the Peruvian ocarinas could have the mouthpiece in the shape of an animal too. There was also some bird shaped ocarinas found in India about 5000 B.C.

A clay ocarina is made by firstly making the mouthpiece from clay and using a flat stick to allow air in, it is then added to a bigger piece of clay which will form the rest of the ocarina.
The clay mouthpiece is smoothed onto the clay ocarina body facing upwards so that the air hits the roof of it which it then bounces off causing the sound. A small hole is made in the body and it is carefully hollowed out, after, the hole is sealed back up and the finger holes are made, once it has dried it is painted.
Ocarina front
Tyty4net, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Ocarina front
Patian, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Classical, Jazz and Traditional are some of the genres music that are played using the ocarina.

How do I play the instrument?

Hold the ocarina with your right hand facing out and your left hand facing you. Right index finger goes on the hole closest to the mouth piece. Left index finger goes over the hole near the leftmost edge. Now place all of your fingers down. Thumbs on the bottom holes. Cover the holes with the pads of your fingers, sealing them firmly but gently. The ocarina should feel comfortable and steady. You can begin playing by blowing through the mouth piece and covering the holes based on the notes that you want to play.

Are there any instrument silimar to this one?

Tin whistles and flutes are similar to the ocarina

How long does it take to learn?

It takes about 3 months to learn to play. It can take 3-4 years to become highly skilled.

Is there special equipment needed for the instrument?


Ocarina being played
rod_waddington, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Rock with a Star!

Let’s enjoy the sound of this instrument through this wonderful performance by Sojiro

Sojiro playing at Budrio Ocarina Festival 2015