Folding: how to fit music into the ocarinas limited range

Sooner or later you will find yourself wanting to play some music that does not fit within the ocarinas limited range. It is sometimes possible to work around this by 'folding' a tune. Swapping notes to reduce the sounding range while retaining it's character.

This is easiest when you are playing with a group; typically someone will be able to play the tune unmodified. However these variations can work alone. How well they are received by an audience depends on how well they know the original, and how confidently you play.

With any variation trust your ear. If it does not sound right try something else.

Shifting a note by an octave

It's very common to run across tunes that start on a low note, generally B, A, or G. For example:


X:1
T: Morfa

Simply play the note an octave higher:


X:1
T: Morfa

Shifting a whole phrase by an octave

In some cases an entire musical phrase can be raised or lowered by one octave. Take Merch Megan, for instance:


X: 1
T: Merch Megan (Megan’s Daughter)
R: waltz
M: 3/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
d>c |: B2 G2 G2 | e4 d2 | c2 B2 A>G | F2 D2 d>c |
B2 G2 G2 | e4 d2 | c2 B2 A2 |1 G4 d>c :|2 G4 d2 |
g2 gaga | f2 fgfg | e2 efge | f2 d2 d2 |
g2 gabg | f2 fgaf | ebagfe | d4 d>c  !D.C.!|

The A part of this tune has a range of D to E. So it easily fits on either a C or D ocarina. As it is written the tunes B part is unplayable as it goes up to B.

The B part up to the D.C. never descends below D. Thus it can be brought into range by shifting the whole section down an octave.


X: 1
T: Merch Megan - folded version
R: waltz
M: 3/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
d>c |: B2 G2 G2 | e4 d2 | c2 B2 A>G | F2 D2 d>c |
B2 G2 G2 | e4 d2 | c2 B2 A2 |1 G4 d>c :|2 G4 D2 |
G2 GAGA | F2 FGFG | E2 EFGE | F2 D2 D2 |
G2 GABG | F2 FGAF | EBAGFE | D4 d>c !D.C.!|

As the octave shifted section is a complete musical phrase the transition does not sound jarring. This simple fold sounds fine to my ear when played by itself. It will also work perfectly well with the original tune in a group.

Eliminating leading tones

You will frequently run across tunes which finish on a leading tone, the semitone below the tonic. For example:


X:1
M:6/8
L:1/8
K:Cmaj
"F" F3 FGA | "C" GFE D2E | "F" FEG AGF | "G" FE[B,] "C" C3 |

How could this be handled on a 10 hole ocarina? In the theme of the previous section both the leading tone and the final tonic can be moved up by one octave. Reducing the range, yet retaining the same musical feel.


X:1
M:6/8
L:1/8
K:Cmaj
"F" F3 FGA | "C" GFE D2E | "F" FEG AGF | "G" FE[B] "C" c3 |

This kind of variation is very common practice on any instrument. When a tune is played multiple times it's an easy way of breaking monotony.

Another option is to play a different note as a harmony. A lot of the time you can substitute the leading tone for the second of the scale, in this instance swapping B with D.


X:1
M:6/8
L:1/8
K:Cmaj
"F" F3 FGA | "C" GFE D2E | "F" FEG AGF | "G" FED "C" C3 |

This works because the previous notes are usually leading down towards the tonic. Depending on the tune you may be left with a straight rundown as above, or a repeat note, two D's before C. Both are fine.

Not all notes are equally important

Some notes of a tune are more important than others. The following tune, 'hummingbird' by Jamie Smith is a perfect example of this. As the whole tune is quite long I've only shown the B part:


X: 1
T: Hummingbird - B part
C: Jamie Smith
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
BddB d2 ef | g2 fd edBe | dBBA B2>e | dBBA G2GA |
BddB d2 ef | g2 fd edBe | e2 ef g2 gb | baaga2 ba |
g2 fg e2 eg | dBBA B2 Bd | e2 ed B2 AG | AGEG G4 |

This could be approached in two ways. You could play it on a D ocarina and attempt to alter the high A and B. Alternately you could play it on a G ocarina and alter the low end.

In this instance the second of these options is superior. The phrase with the high A and B is important to the overall feel of the tune. The low E in the final bar is much less so. What can it be replaced with?

The note can be replaced with a rest, which is the safest option if you are playing with others. You could also replace it with a long G note, or a rundown. These 3 options are shown below.


X: 1
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
"^Rest" AGz G G4 | "^G Note" AGG2 G4 | "^Rundown" AG BA G4 |

Playing a harmony

The melody of a tune is almost always written around an underlying chordal sequence. Knowing these chords is a great help when adapting a tune. Say you wanted to get rid of the low B flat in this:


X:1
T:Gwenynen Gwent (The bee of Gwent) - A part
M:4/4
L:1/8
K:Fmaj
C2 | "F" F2 FE F2 G2 | A2 F2 "F7" C2 _E2 | "Bb" D2 B,2 G3 F | "C" E2 D2 E2 C2 |
"F" F2 FE F2 A2 | "Bb" D3 C D2 F2 | "C" E3 F G2 E2 | "F" F6 :|

The offending note is in bar 3. If you look above the line you'll see the letters 'B♭', the chord of B flat major. A quick web search will reveal that this chord contains the notes B♭, D and F.

The out of range note can be replaced with any one of these 3. You'll have to experiment to see what works best for a given tune. For this one I think it works to replace B♭ with F.


X:1
T:Gwenynen Gwent - A part - folded version
M:4/4
L:1/8
K:Fmaj
C2 | "F" F2 FE F2 G2 | A2 F2 "F7" C2 _E2 | "Bb" D2 F2 G3 F | "C" E2 D2 E2 C2 |
"F" F2 FE F2 A2 | "Bb" D3 C D2 F2 | "C" E3 F G2 E2 | "F" F6 :|

You are going to run into cases where the out of range note does not fall into the chord as in this example. These are called 'passing tones.' In these cases I recommended looking at the structure of the melody and trying a few notes. You'll find something that sounds alright.

When single notes do matter

There are instances where an out of range note is more important than first appears. I.e. the lone high A in Cooleys reel:


X: 1
T: Cooley

This high A matters because of the ascending note run before it. The whole previous section builds an expectation that you will hear the high note, which leads to despair when it is absent. Because of this I don't think this tune can be faithfully adapted.

What to do when you cannot adapt a tune

If you are playing alone the best option is to play a multi-chambered ocarina, a different instrument with more range. Or find a different tune. The world is not short of them.

Where you are playing with a group you may be able to play accompaniment instead. Abandon the melody and play the root notes of the chords. This works best with lower keyed instruments as they can better blend into the background.

This needs to be done with care as it can easily spoil the sound of the whole group. I'd be cautious of doing this on an alto range ocarina, and would never do so on a soprano ocarina.

Harmony playing is often employed by bands to create variation through a performance. For example someone may play accompaniment the first play through, then start playing the melody when it's repeated. It creates a distinct change to the sound of the music.

If you are playing accompaniment you need to stay consistent. Switching to and from harmony can be jarring. At a minimum play a whole phrase as harmony.

Exercises

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