The Ocarina Flute – a Great Little Instrument For the Outdoors

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The ocarina is a small flute that both adults and kids – people of all ages – love to play and listen to. It is one of the easiest of the wind instruments to play and learn, in fact, most ocarina players have taught themselves to play.

Many ocarinas are small, portable, and rugged enough to go anywhere – rock climbing, on vacations, on camping trips, in your purse or pocket, in your kids backpack, or canoeing. The ocarina is a great way to introduce a person of any age – kids or adults – to music as well as an instrument that can be played and enjoyed through all stages of life.

So now that you’ve decided that you are going to buy an ocarina the question is which one to choose. With so many ocarinas to choose from, in different shapes and sizes, made of clay or wood or plastic, some with four holes and others with twelve… with so many possibilities choosing the right one can be difficult. Ask yourself the following ten questions. When you can answer them confidently, you are ready to choose your new ocarina.

  1. What kind of music do you want to play with your ocarina? If you want to play simple, slow melodies then most ocarinas will work. If you want to play fast and technically challenging music, most will not work. Make sure you hear sound samples of the ocarinas you are considering, and make sure they can play the kind of music you want to play.
  2. How far (musically) do you want to go with your ocarina? Do you want something to entertain you for a few weeks? Or do you want a serious instrument that will let you progress to advanced levels of musicianship? If you want to go far musically and will put in the practice necessary to get good, get an ocarina that you won’t grow out of… that will let you progress to virtuosity.
  3. Do you like its looks? When you think your flute is beautiful, you will very likely carry it more, show it to your friends and family more, play it more, improve more rapidly, and enjoy it much, much more.
  4. Do you want a wood, clay, plastic or metal ocarina? Here’s a couple of thoughts. Clay is glass-like in that it can shatter or crack if dropped. Fine wood ocarinas are beautiful. There are hordes of cheap plastic ocarinas. There are some plastic ocarinas which are top quality instruments that are made of high tech plastics like polycarbonate. Metal ocarinas are pretty rare, but some are definitely stunning.
  5. Do you like the sound? Have you heard this ocarina performed live? If you haven’t, have you heard nice recorded samples?
  6. Where will you be playing your ocarina? Will you be playing for others? Perhaps in public performances? Do you need to be able to play your ocarina along with other musicians without a microphone (for amplification)? Most ocarinas are subdued and quiet. A few ocarinas have great playing volume and could readily be played in public without a microphone.
  7. What ocarina style do I like, inline or transverse? The two general styles are inline and transverse. The inline style is played like a clarinet or recorder where you would blow through the length of the flute. The transverse type (like a sweet potato ocarina) is played like a standard flute (Boehm) where the flute is held perpendicular to the head. Personally I find the inline style to be more comfortable when for extended sessions.
  8. Are you a die-hard fan of the video game Zelda The Ocarina of Time? If so, then you might want an ocarina like the one Link plays.
  9. How much ancillary materials (self-study materials, inspirational music, music books, etc.) are there for the ocarina you are considering? How experienced are you musically? How much help will you need in learning to play? Keep in mind that the ocarina has limited tonal range (maxing out at an octave plus three).

Sheet music and music books must fit into the tonal range of that particular ocarina. If you want to play seriously, make sure that there are companion products to support your progress for the ocarina you are considering.

  1. Where will your ocarina go? Do you want your ocarina to fit in your purse or pocket? Do you want to be able to hang it around your neck? Do you want to take it caving or rock climbing? Will you be careful when transporting your ocarina? As far as portability goes, not all ocarinas are created equal. Ceramic ocarinas can crack or shatter. Bulky ocarinas won’t fit in your pocket. If there isn’t a neck cord, you can’t wear it around your neck.

If you’re looking for an instrument that fits into your life, as opposed to the other way around, the ocarina very well may be the musical instrument that you’ve been looking for. For many of us, playing an instrument is something we have long wanted to do, but never got around to. Maybe this is a good time to get started?