Introduction to the ocarinas fingering system

Side Note

This assumes you understand octave registers and how they are named, if not please read Octaves and scale formation.

The Italian ocarina uses a simple linear fingering system smiler to the tin whistle and Boehm flute. Starting with all of the holes closed is the instruments tonic note. If you are playing an ocarina tuned to C, this note will be C.

Some ocarinas add a range extension below this fingering by adding one or more 'sub holes'. If your ocarina has this don't cover it/them.

From here the right pinky is lifted to sound the second note of the scale, the ring finger to sound the 3rd the middle finger the fourth scale note and the index finger sounds the fifth.

The 6th is played by lifting the left ring finger. I have seen a lot of people instinctively lift the left pinky which is wrong. The pinky is used to support the instrument and to play it's highest note. Incidentally this pattern of using the ring finger is the same as the transverse flute and tin whistle. The seventh is played by lifting the left middle finger and lifting the left index finger sounds the octave.

The second octave begins by lifting the left thumb. Then the right thumb is rolled off and the left pinky is lifted last to sound the highest note.

If you are playing an ocarina in a different tuning the above fingerings remain the same, but the sounded notes change. For example an ocarina tuned in G plays a 'G' when all holes are closed, and sounds a G major scale, G A B C D E F# G.

The chromatic notes

Unlike the natural notes the ocarinas chromatic notes do not have holes of there own, with the exception of the low split hole. They are played by 'cross fingering', covering the holes out of sequence. For example:

The pitch produced by a cross fingering depends on the acoustic behavior of a given chamber. While the fingerings above will be close to the desired note they may not be optimal. It is best to check the finger chart for your ocarina. My fingering charts always include the best tuned fingering for a given instrument.

As these fingerings vary between ocarinas it is best to learn them as you need them. Begin by playing some tunes in the primary major scale at first, then learn something with a few accidentals like F major on an ocarina in C.

Alternate fingerings

Often the same chromatic note can be played with a few different fingerings. These are given in my fingering charts as alternatives.

Where possible the primary fingering should be used as it offers the best tuning. However when playing very quickly the alternates can be useful. At speed the most important thing is to keep a consistent rhythm and smooth phrasing. Listeners hear an 'average' intonation as there is little time to hear the individual notes. Consequently it is OK to allow tuning to drift slightly if it allows you to play smoothly.

Exercises

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