Using articulation and ornamentation on the ocarina

While I have outlined the articulations and ornaments that ocarinas are able to perform, you may still wonder how to apply them in practice. The first step is to identify the phrases of the tune. A musical phrase is like a sentence, a complete musical 'idea'. Depending on the genre, phrases may have a consistent or varying length. The phrases of dance music tend to be regular while songs often vary. It is usually best to get their phrasing by listening to a performance.

This page gives two examples: a song called The Foggy Dew, and a jig called Out On the Ocean. These are meant to exemplify how phrasing differs in different genres of music. Don't worry if the examples are not to your taste, as the same concepts apply to all melodic music.

Phrasing and articulation in songs

The Foggy Dew is a song about the Irish Easter Uprising. It is a ballad with 6 verses an no repeated chorus, though the melody itself does repeat. The basic melody follows:


X: 1
T:The Foggy Dew - melody
Z:2006 John Chambers <jc@trillian.mit.edu>
R:air
M:4/4
K:Em
Bd |: e2 dB e2 dB | A2 B2 D2 EF | GBAG E2 ED |1 E6 Bd:|
|2 E6 EF | G2 B2 d2 cB | A3 A B2 GA | B2 gf ed Bd | e6 |
Bd|e2 dB e2 dB|A2 B2 D2 EF|GBAG E2 ED| E6 |

When the lyrics are added, both the notes and their durations vary to fit around the lyrics. The instrumental version above appears to be formed from merging several parts of the original song melody. I have written out the repeat in full as the melody differs.


X: 1
T:The Foggy Dew - lyrics
M:4/4
L:1/8
K:Em
   B2| e2   dB  e2   d2   | A2  B2  D2    EF  | GB3   E2 E2 |  E4 z2 |
w: As  down th-e glen one    Ea-ster morn, to a  ci-ty fair rode I
   B2   |e2  d2 e3 d    |A2 B2 D3      E | G2B2       E3     E | E4 z2 |
w: There Arm-ed lines of march-ing men in  squad-rons passed me  by
\
   E2 | G3    B   d2   B2 | A3 A    B2   G2 | B2 g2 f3 d | e6 |
w: No   pipe  did hum, no   bat-tle drum did  sound its loud ta-ttoo
  Bd |    e2 dB     e2   dB      | A2 B2     D2   E2  | G2 BG E3 E | E6 |
w:But the An-ge-lus Bell o

If you listen to a performance, you will hear that it is usually phrased as follows, with slurs denoting phrases. The basic idea is to follow the lyrics: where a comma or period would be placed is usually a phrase break. Note that you should not reference The Chieftains' performance with Sinéad O'Connor for basic phrasing, as the phrasing of that performance is unusual. I have a note on this at the end of the section.


X: 1
T:The Foggy Dew - phrasing
M:4/4
L:1/8
K:Em
   (B2| e2   dB  e2   d2   | A2  B2  D2)   (EF  | GB3   E2 E2 |  E4) z2 |
w: As  down th-e glen one    Ea-ster morn, to a  ci-ty fair rode I
   (B2   |e2  d2 e3   d |A2 B2 D3)   (E | G2B2       E3     E | E4) z2 |
w: There Arm-ed lines of march-ing men in  squad-rons passed me  by
\
   *E2 | G3    B   d2)   (B2 | A3 A  B2)   (G2 | B2 g2 f3 d | Ge6) |
w: No   pipe  did hum, no   bat-tle drum   did  sound its loud ta-ttoo
 (Bd |    e2 dB     e2   dB      | A2 B2     D2)   (E2  | G2 BG E3 E | E6) |
w:But the An-ge-lus Bell o

It is important to note that, when a melody has a pickup note (anacrusis), that the end of a phrase is often not the end of the bar. As the above has a quarter note pickup [see above], the end of the phrase ends a quarter note before the end of the bar. Bar lines mark the basic structure but often do not directly indicate phrasing.

Basic articulation

The goal when playing is to make phrases sound independent. On the ocarina, you control phrasing using gaps, as varying volume and timbre is near impossible. A good starting point with phrasing is to begin each phrase tonguing the first note, then slur all of the remaining notes in the phrase, using brief tongued articulations between notes of the same pitch. You can also achieve this distinction if you realize that tongued articulations can be strong or weak depending on how long you stop the air. If possible, a phrase should be played in a single breath, or at least made to sound like it is.

The first phrase can be played normally by tonguing the first note, but its final note should be cut slightly short. I've indicated this by shortening the final quarter note and adding a rest. This creates an audible gap between the phrases and makes them sound distinct. Normally, you would not create such a long stop, but you should get the idea. Doing this makes the individual phrases apparent so the song stops sounding like a single string of notes.


X: 1
T:The Foggy Dew - basic articulation
M:4/4
L:1/8
K:Em
   (B2| e2   dB  e2   d2   | A2  B2  D)z   (EF  | GB3   E2 E2 |  E4) z2 |
w: As  down th-e glen one    Ea-ster morn, to a  ci-ty fair rode I
   (B2   |e2  d2 e3   d |A2 B2 D)z   (E | G2B2       E3     E | E4) z2 |
w: There Arm-ed lines of march-ing men in  squad-rons passed me  by

Adding interest

While this is a start and gives the music a good structure, it is still rather plain. So now you can add variations to the articulation. You don't have to play a whole phrase as a single slur; it can be broken into sub-phrases. As long as these articulations are weaker than the articulations between the main phrases, it will still sound like an independent phrase.

You can either experiment or see what others do by listening to performances. Notes that are barred together are often intended to be grouped together, placing emphasis on the first of the group. This can be done on the ocarina by tonguing the first note and slurring the rest of the group.


X: 1
T:The Foggy Dew - Sub-phrases
M:4/4
L:1/8
K:Em
   B2| e2   (dB)  e2   d2   | (A2  B2)  Dz   EF  | (GB3)   E2 E2 |  E4 z2 |
w: As  down th-e glen one    Ea-ster morn, to a  ci-ty fair rode I
   B2   |(e2  d2 e3)   d |(A2 B2) D2z   E | (G2B2)       E3     E | E4 z2 |
w: There Arm-ed lines of march-ing men in  squad-rons passed me  by

The main thing that separates phrases is change, not necessarily a gap. If you have a series of short staccato notes followed by a series of legato notes, they will be perceived as two phrases.


X: 1
M:4/4
L:1/8
K:D
| Dz Fz Az Dz | (D2F2A2D2)

Using finger articulations

Another thing that you can to add interest to a performance is to use finger articulations instead of tonguing. Any time you have a series of notes at the same pitch, you can separate them using cuts and strikes instead. When using cuts and strikes in this way, it is common to alternate them: first cut, then strike. While these articulations are common in folk music, there is nothing stopping you trying them in other genres.


X: 1
T:The Foggy Dew - Finger Articulations
M:4/4
L:1/8
K:Em
   B2|  e2   (dB)  e2   d2   | (A2  B2)  D2   (EF)  | (GB3)   E2 "CT"E2 |  "ST"E4 z2 |
w: As  down th-e glen one    Ea-ster morn, to a  ci-ty fair rode I
   !trill!B2   |(e2  d2) e3   d |(A2 !slide! B2) D3   E | (G2B2)     E3     "CT"E | "ST"E4 z2 |
w: There Arm-ed lines of march-ing men, in  squad-rons passed me  by

You can alternate cuts and strikes for as long as needed. Not all music is suited to multiple cut/strike articulations, so don't try to force them in everywhere.


X: 1
M:4/4
L:1/4
K:D
| ( "CT"G "ST"G "CT"G "ST"G | "CT"G "ST"G "CT"G "ST"G | )

Slides and emphasis

In order to create emphasis on the ocarina, you need to do something that sounds different. A straightforward way to do this is to use slides—either finger slides or breath slides. They are particularly emphatic when making an ascending leap. The ocarina's high notes are naturally louder, so they carry their own emphasis and adding the slide amplifies this effect. When a slide is used between two notes that are close together, the effect is more ornamental than emphatic.

I've added a slide between the first and second note. Notice the little line next to the E in the second bar: this indicates a slide. I'd play this as a finger slide, though you don't have to slide all the way from B to E. You could begin the slide from D. Also note that I've slurred across the bar line. This pattern of slurring across the bar and sliding into the upper note is common in Irish music but otherwise quite rare.


X: 1
T:The Foggy Dew - Slides
M:4/4
L:1/8
K:Em
   (B2| !slide! e2)   (dB)  e2   d2   | (A2  B2)  D2   (EF)  | (GB3)   E2 E2 |  E4 z2 |
w: As  down th-e glen one    Ea-ster morn, to a  ci-ty fair rode I
   B2   |(e2  d2) e3   d |(A2 !slide! B2) D3   E | (G2B2)     E3     E | E4 z2 |
w: There Arm-ed lines of march-ing men, in  squad-rons passed me  by

Emphasizing with trills and mordants

Another way that you can create emphasis is to trill the note you wish to emphasize. This would be a short trill of only a few changes. In this instance, as the trilled note is short, it may work to play two or three fast trills on the first half of the note and play the second half on pitch. You could also use an upper or lower mordant, which is essentially a single trill played like so: note, upper (or lower) note, starting note.

As this is a traditional Irish song, it is worth noting that musicians in this tradition rarely, if ever, use trills. I'm sharing the sample here since it can work well in other contexts. There are examples of Irish traditional musicians using trills if you look for them, mostly in slower music.


X: 1
T:The Foggy Dew - Trills
M:4/4
L:1/8
K:Em
   B2| !trill! e2   (dB)  e2   d2   | (A2  B2)  D2   (EF)  | (GB3)   E2 E2 |  E4 z2 |
w: As  down th-e glen one    Ea-ster morn, to a  ci-ty fair rode I
   !trill!B2   |(e2  d2) e3   d |(A2 !slide! B2) D3   E | (G2B2)     E3     E | E4 z2 |
w: There Arm-ed lines of march-ing men, in  squad-rons passed me  by

Emphasis with finger articulations

Finger articulations can also be used to create emphasis. If you place a cut and a strike shortly after each other, they shift to become emphatic instead of ornamental. This can go under multiple names like a roll or a doubling. I've added an emphatic roll to the final note of each section. This is achieved by splitting the half note into an eighth and a dotted quarter note. If you wanted to make this emphasis even stronger, you can shorten the time between the cut and strike. Note that placing them closer together requires that your cut and strike are short. This demands both player skill and a fast responding instrument.


X: 1
T:The Foggy Dew - Emphatic Roll
M:4/4
L:1/8
K:Em
   B2|  e2   (dB)  e2   d2   | (A2  B2)  D2   (EF)  | (GB3)   E2 E2 |  ("CT"E"ST"E3) z2 |
w: As  down th-e glen one    Ea-ster morn, to a  ci-ty fair rode I
   !trill!B2   |(e2  d2) e3   d |(A2 !slide! B2) D3   E | (G2B2)     E3     E | "CT"E"ST"E3 z2 |
w: There Arm-ed lines of march-ing men, in  squad-rons passed me  by

Varying phrasing

If you listen to several performances of the song, you will hear it phrased in different ways. The Chieftains' performance with Sinéad O'Connor, available on YouTube as of writing, is particularity interesting. It begins as a free time air, morphs into a march or ballad, then ends in a similar style to the opening. How the melody is phrased varies a lot between these sections.

The first part of that performance is phrased approximately as follows. Slurs are used to denote phrases. If you've never seen it before, the half circle with a dot is a fermata; it means that the note is held longer than the rhythm implies, at the performer's discretion. This arrangement works in the context of a sung slow air. I'm not sure how effective it would be as an instrumental to an audience who doesn't know the lyrics.


X: 1
T:The Foggy Dew
M:4/4
L:1/8
K:Em
   (B2| e2   dB  He2)   (d2   | A2  B2  HD2)    (EF  | GB3   E2 E2 |  HE4) z2 |
w: As  down th-e glen one    Ea-ster morn, to a  ci-ty fair rode I
   (B2   |e2  d2 e3)   (d |A2 B2 D3)   (E | G2B2       E3     E | E4) z2 |
w: There Arm-ed lines of march-ing men in  squad-rons passed me  by
\
   *E2 | G3    B   Hd2)   (B2 | A3 A  HB2)   (G2 | B2 g2 f3 d | Ge6) |
w: No   pipe  did hum, no   bat-tle drum   did  sound its loud ta-ttoo
 (Bd |    e2 dB     e2   dB      | A2 B2     HD2)   (E2  | G2 BG E3 E | E6) |
w:But the An-ge-lus Bell o

Phrasing in traditional dance tunes

As these tunes were written to carry a rhythm for dancers, they almost always have regular phrasing. Typically, these tunes are formed from two 8 bar parts, called 'A' and 'B', each of these itself being formed from four 2 bar phrases. As the phrases are so regular, it is easy to miss them if you don't know what to look for.


X: 1
T: Out On The Ocean - phrases
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
|:(E|D2B BAG|BdB A2) (B|GED G2A|B2B AG)
(E|D2B BAG|BdB A2) (B|GED G2A|BGE GB):|
(d|e2e edB|ege ed) (B|d2B def|gfe dB)
(A|G2A B2d|ege d2) (B|AGE G2A|BGE G2):|

Everything mentioned for songs applies equally to folk tunes with the exception that trills are rarely, if ever, used by traditional players. The following score is the tune written out with sub-phrases, slides and finger articulations. Rolls are written out in full. Play a descending slide between the first E and D. Note that the breath marks(commas) where added to show a few places where notes could be dropped to take a breath; they are not mandatory.


X: 1
T: Out On The Ocean - ornamentation
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
|:(E|!slide!D2)(B "CT"BAG)|(BdB A)!breath!z (B|GE)(D G2)(A|B"CT"B"ST"B) (AG)
(E|!slide!D!breath!z) (B "CT"BA)(G|BdB A!breath!z) (B|GE)(D G2)(A|BGE G!breath!z):|
(d|e2"ST"e "ST"ed)(B|ege "ST"ed) (B|G!breath!z) (B d)(ef|gf)(e dB)
(A|G2)(A B2)(d|ege !breath!d2) (B|AGE "CT"G"ST"G) (A|BGE "CT"G2):|

Note that there is more to this, including other tune types like Reels and Hornpipes. I have a page on these details in progress.

Occurrences of irregular phrasing in traditional dance tunes

While the phrases of these tunes are usually regular, there are exceptions containing what I would consider irregular phrasing. The second part of the tune Haste to the Wedding is often played as follows, with a bar of two dotted quarters. They are often played staccato and are accompanied by a 'clap' when dancing. In my opinion, this audibly splits this phrase in half, making it irregular.


X: 1
T: Haste To The Wedding - B part with phrasing
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
|:(afa afa|bgb bgb)|(afa agf|ede efg)|
(a3 f3)|(ede fdB)|(A2g faf|ded d3):|

Final

On the ocarina, good articulation is perhaps the most important thing to create an interesting performance. As the ocarina cannot easily utilize volume dynamics, it is easy to create a lifeless performance without it. Hopefully, these examples have given you some ideas about how to use articulation and ornaments in your playing.

Exercises

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