Chamber switching on multichamber ocarinas

To play music on a multichamber, you have to move the instrument to blow into the windway of the chamber that you are fingering, called chamber switching. A naive approach to this is to slide the ocarina from side to side, but this causes problems. If the pressure against the lips is maintained, the mouthpiece will grip against the lips, pulling on the skin. This may be uncomfortable and makes switching difficult or impossible, depending how much pressure you are using.

Chamber switching is easier if this pressure is released, so the process to switch chambers is as follows:

  1. Slightly move the ocarina away from the lips, such that the mouthpiece is not touching them. This distance should be minimal, only what is required to break contact.
  2. Move to the desired windway.
  3. Move the mouthpiece back into contact with the lips.

Note that this video does not have audio as I am not blowing the ocarina. I don't recommend blowing while practising at first.

For the purpose of the above video, I have exaggerated the movement. There is no need to move this much in practice. As your skill improves, you will reduce the amount that you move the ocarina from your lips. The main thing is to reduce the pressure against the skin and, consequently, friction. This may feel awkward to begin but, like everything, it gets easier after a few days.

Note that there are two ways of switching chambers, moving the instrument and rotating the head. I think an optimal approach would involve doing both at once, so that each only moves half as far.

An exercise for chamber switching

A good way to practise chamber switching is to simply alternate between two chambers:

  • finger a G on the first chamber and an E on the second, assuming an Asian tuned C ocarina. See 'The fingering systems of multichamber ocarinas'.
  • To a slow metronome, play the note on each chamber alternately: G, E, G, E. Use a tuner to check your intonation, and aim to play both notes in tune from the start.
  • It is a good idea tongue chamber switches to avoid creating off sounds. However, this can be done very lightly to create a legato switch.

Holding a multi while chamber switching

Holding a multichambered ocarina while chamber switching is much simpler than playing the high notes of a single chamber. Because only one chamber is active at a time, you can support the instrument by covering the holes of the inactive chamber. Thus the task of supporting the instrument alternates between your hands.

The correct position of the right hand on a multichamber ocarina. Fingers all follow a similar alignment, and are gently curved along their length. The holes are covered with the pads of the fingers

The position of the left hand on a multichamber ocarina. It should be more vertical, with a gentle curve along the fingers. A controlled finger movement on the ocarina, the finger is kept close to the hole, so that it only needs to move a small distance to close it again

Some multichambers are balanced such that they can be supported between the right thumb and pinky finger. This is ideal because the ocarina is normally supported by the right thumb and other fingers serve only as additional support. You usually have to apply some amount of force to the pinky in order to balance the ocarina.

Please note that I have curled my fingers for clarity. NEVER do this while playing.

The primary balance plane of a double ocarina, with the instrument supported by the right thumb and pinky fingers

The only time chamber switching may become tricky is when playing the highest notes on either chamber, as there aren't enough fingers down to push the ocarina to the other windway. This can be accommodated for by placing your left index finger onto the cappello, the same as you would on a single chamber. Again, note that fingers have been curled for image clarity only.

A view of an ocarina from the front, showing a good position of the right index finger on the cappello

A demonstration of a good hand position for the cappello, with the index finger placed vertically against the body of the ocarina

If a right thumb hole exists, you can usually deal with it by holding the ocarina with your other hand. However, if you need to chamber switch while playing the highest note, roll the right thumb instead, like the 3 point grip on a single chamber. Generally, multichambers without a right thumb hole are superior as the right thumb can then serve the single function of supporting the instrument.