Multichamber ocarinas

Multichamber ocarinas are an extension of the single chamber design. The first chamber (red in the image below) is almost identical to a single chambered ocarina. Additional chamber(s) are added to the right hand which allow notes to be played above the range of the first. A Double ocarina has one additional chamber which is shown in blue. Triple ocarinas simply add another chamber next to this one.

Each chamber has its own windway and voicing. They are played by fingering the desired note on the required chamber and blowing into the appropriate windway. It is analogous to fretting and plucking the desired string on a guitar.

The biggest advantage of multichamber ocarinas is there extended range. A larger collection of music can be played without modification.

Secondly, the individual chambers have a smaller sounding range. The portion of each chamber's range with the best tone may be used. Higher and lower notes which often have undesirable tonal character may be discarded. This gives a maker much more freedom to craft the tonal character of their instrument.

How multichamber ocarinas are tuned

First Chamber

The fingerings of the first chamber are almost identical to the fingerings of a single chamber ocarina. However, there is a subtle difference on the high end. Multichambers do not have a right thumb hole on the first chamber. Because of this it has a primary range of an octave and a note. If you have an ocarina in C this equates to C to D an octave higher.

The left pinky hole is usually tuned to the sharp second of the scale; D♯, for example. It can be tuned to an E giving a note of overlap with the second chamber. The downside of doing this is that it makes the hole much larger. People with smaller hands may have a hard time covering it.

Second Chamber

There are two different systems used to tune the second chamber: the 'Asian' and 'Pachioni' system. The differences between them are described below.

Asian system

The Asian system tunes the second chamber as a liner extension of the first. On a C ocarina the highest diatonic note of the first chamber is D. The second chamber begins on an 'E' and continues upwards to C an octave higher.

A double ocarina with Asian tuning has a total range of two octaves.

Pacchioni system

The Pacchioni system tunes the second chamber an octave above the first. If the first chamber is C, the second begins from C an octave higher.

Relative to the Asian system the total range is reduced by two diatonic notes. However the instrument gains two notes of overlap between the chambers. C and D can be played on both the first and second chamber. These notes are highlighted in blue below.

This overlap gives you more freedom to place chamber switches in places that align with the phrase breaks of the music. It also enables some trills that are impossible of the Asian system. D to E for example as both exist on the second chamber of a P system ocarina.

Finally, in music with stepwise patterns, having this note overlap hugely reduces the need to switch chambers. For example, Sí Beag Sí Mór by Turlough O'Carolan. Slur marks indicate sections played on the second chamber.

T:Sí Beag Sí Mór
(cd |: e3d c2 | c2 cd c2 )|A4 G2 | E4 G2 | AG  AB c2 | d4 cd|( e2 e2 d2 |
c4 e2 ) | A4 d2 | G4 c2 | E4 D2 | C4 d2 | A4 d2 | G4 cB | c6 | c4 cd :|
|: ( e2 ed c2 | dc de g2 | a4 g2 | e4 dc | d4 g2 | e4 d2 )| c4 A2 | G4 AG |
E4 D2 | C4 "⏜"e2|A4 d2 | (G4 g2| ag fe dc ) | d4 cB | c6 |1 c4 cd:|2 c6 ||
Side Note

This tune is usually played in D and works well on a Pacchioni system double in D. I have transposed it down a whole tone to stay consistent with the page.

Fingering of the highest note on the second chamber

On a double ocarina the highest note of the second chamber can be provided in two ways. A split hole for the right index finger or a thumb hole on the second chamber. The split hole is preferred by some people as it eliminates the right thumb hole, allowing the right thumb to be used exclusively for supporting the instrument.

If a multichamber does have a right thumb hole, it is not hard to deal with. As only one chamber is played at a time, the instrument may be supported by covering the holes of the inactive first chamber with the left hand.

Asian system doubles typically have a split hole on the right index finger. Doubles using the Pacchioni system generally have there highest note on the thumb. This difference exists because the highest note on the Asian system is a semitone, meaning the hole is smaller. The highest note on a P system is a whole tone and consequently the final hole is larger. The split hole is less practical.

Triple Pacchioni system ocarinas do not have a thumb hole as the higher notes are provided by the third chamber.


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