The basics of playing the ocarina by ear

Contrary to popular belief, playing the ocarina by ear is not something you must be born with. It is like reading or speaking a foreign language; until you learn the meanings of the words it sounds like gibberish.

A melody is a series of notes of different pitches, and learning to play the ocarina by ear means learning to associate the notes that you are hearing, to the notes on your ocarina.

let's consider 3 notes with a low, medium and high pitch. You can hear them by clicking on the buttons below. Note that it is not important which notes they are right now, just listen to how they sound in relation to each other.

If you play with these for a while, you will notice a few things:

  • Moving from Low to Medium, and from Low to High sounds different.
  • Moving from Low to High sounds different than moving from High to Low, even though the pitches are the same.
  • Playing any note followed by the same note also has a distinctive sound.

The distance between two notes is called an 'interval', and intervals sound different depending how far apart the notes are.

Playing a simple melody by ear

Now let's put this into practice by playing some simple melodies by ear.

The tool below generates melodies using the 3 notes introduced above, and you can play by clicking on the buttons as before.

Either play around with it, or continue reading for some more guidance.


Playing these melodies by ear is a simple 3 step process:

Step 1: Listen to the notes

Start by listening to all 3 notes one after another, and remember their pitches and how they sound.

Step 2: Listen to the melody

It can feel intuitive to try to play by ear by playing in real time over what you are hearing, but this really isn't a good idea. Doing that, you're only giving yourself a fraction of a second to hear the note!

This is why the second step is to listen through the whole melody a few times without playing. The goal is to hear and memorise the structure:

  • Notice how the melody changes from note to note.
  • For each note, does it sound like High, Medium or Low?

You may find it useful to draw the shape of the melody on paper at first, a simple line graph of the pitches. For example, if the melody was 'medium, low, high, low', you could draw it like this:

Step 3: Play

Once you have worked out which notes to play, you can play them by clicking on the buttons.

Now lets try it on the ocarina!

Now you know the basics of playing by ear, you're ready to try it out on the ocarina.

As was demonstrated above, it is easiest to get started playing the ocarina by ear when you know the range of notes being used. We are using a few notes from the middle of the range as they have more stable pitch.

The following tool uses pitch detection to know when the correct notes have been played. Click 'Learn!' to get started.

Tips and guidance

The process of playing by ear on a real ocarina is about the same as above:

Play the 3 notes on your ocarina to hear how they sound

Play the 3 notes shown in the fingering chart above on your ocarina so that you can hear how they sound. You may find it useful to use a tuner to make sure you are playing them in tune.

Listen to the melody.

Listen to the entire melody and hear how it changes from one note to the next. Like before you may find it useful to draw out the shape of the melody.

Play it by ear on your ocarina.

Try playing the notes on your ocarina. The tool will show you when you've played the correct notes.

The tool shows how accurately you are playing with a horizontal line:

  • If the line is at the bottom the note you are playing is lower than what you are hearing.
  • If it is at the top, it is higher than the played note.
  • If it is in the centre, you are playing the same note, and are in tune.

If you are struggling, try slowing down the tempo. Also note that process of elimination can be used. If a sequence ascends by 3 notes, and the melody only uses 3 notes, then you know it starts on the lowest note.

Congratulations

By this point you should have been able to successfully play your first music by ear on the ocarina, congratulations!

Level 1

1 - G,A

Listen
Learn

2 - G,A

Listen
Learn

1 - G,A,B

Listen
Learn

2 - G,A,B

Listen
Learn

3 - G,A,B

Listen
Learn

4 - G,A,B

Listen
Learn

1 - G,A,B,c

Listen
Learn

2 - G,A,B,c

Listen
Learn

2 - G,A,B,c

Listen
Learn

2 - G,A,B,c

Listen
Learn