Benefits of plain ocarinas

One of the unique aspects of the ocarina is the ability to finish them in so many ways. Fired glazes, unfired finishes or nothing at all. The option chosen does affect the ergonomic playing characteristics of the ocarina.

The main thing to consider is that anything which seals the surface and creates a smooth finish will increase the resistance to finger sliding. If your fingers become slightly damp/greasey, they will tend to cling smiler to how a glass with a damp bottom may stick to a table. This makes sliding actions unpredictable, such as to cover a sub-hole. It may be fine in a cold environment, but if you start sweating playing smoothly can become much more difficult.

Unglazed earthenware does not experience this issue, firstly it has a micro-scale texture which reduces the actual area in contact with the skin, secondly it's porous which helps to keep the skin dry.

Any finish added increases the issue of skin clinging, natural shellac offers the least resistance of what I've tried, though it is still notably worse than plain. Fired glazes and synthetic varnishes/lacquers are the worst. Even matte glazes cling more that the raw finish, as they have a sealing effect.

While no finish is ergonomically best, it's absorbency does mean that the surface does stain very easily and the dirt is impossible to remove without re-firing. Do not attempt to clean plain ocarinas with chemical cleaners as they will soak in and cause the ocarina to smell.

Over time unglazed ocarinas take on a yellowish finish, which many people have likened to aged bone. Personally this does not bother me, the ocarina is ultimately a musical instrument and how it plays, not how it looks is the most important thing.

My advice with unfinished ocarinas is to not leave them lying around, keep them in something when you are not playing them and keep your hands/lips clean.

When playing an ocarina with a sealed surface it is possible to reduce the sliding friction by coating fingers with powdered chalk or talk, which works to absorb moisture and provides an interface between the skin and smooth surface.