Why you need to play ocarinas in different keys

Why do you need to play ocarinas in different keys? The main reason is range: a single chambered ocarina can only play about an octave and a fourth. This greatly limits expressive capability. Playing in a higher or lower octave dramatically changes the effect of the music. Also you don't want to play a long performance in the same key as it is fatiguing to listeners.

Multichambers go some way towards addressing this but they are far from perfect. Typical multi-chambers add range above that of an alto ocarina so don't give you lower notes. While bass multi-chambers exist they are large and heavy. They also cannot play as high as there are practical limits to the number of chambers. Beyond 3 or 4 you need very large hands to reach them.

This problem is easily solved by playing multiple ocarinas. You can play a bass, alto or soprano depending on the effect you want to create. Yet playing ocarinas in different octaves but the same key still isn't perfect. Due to the range limitation it is often only possible to play something in a single key, even multi-chambers can run into this problem. What if you want to play something that overlaps the range of two ocarinas?

Having ocarinas in different keys allows you to easily do this. The alto G range for example overlaps with both a bass and alto C, it can play higher than the bass and lower than the alto. This is an effective expressive tool as it's more subtle than shifting up or down by a whole octave.

Playing in the real world often forces you to use a certain range of notes. Groups often they have arrangements of music a certain key and they won't change to fit around you. Playing ocarinas in different keys is often the only practical way to accommodate this.

Changing the ocarinas tuning can also enable you to play in a required key with dramatically simpler fingerings. This is a great help with faster music and often allows you to play smoother. Simpler fingerings can open up new ornamentation possibilities.

You may be intimidated by the thought of playing ocarinas in different keys but it really isn't difficult. As all of the major scales are based on the same pattern you can play with the same fingerings. The result will sound like the same tune but you will be playing in a different key.