Ocarina anatomy

Ocarinas are usually formed from a single piece of ceramic, but different parts of the instrument are given different names. These are labelled in the diagram below. Note that while a single chambered ocarina is shown, multichambers feature the same components; they just have multiple of each.

Ocarina anatomy

Body

An ocarina's body forms a hollow chamber which is used to produce sund. It also features multiple resting points for fingers, the tail and cappello noted below.

Mouthpiece

The mouthpiece includes the windway where the player blows. It is often slightly angled for ergonomic reasons.

Voicing

I personally use the term 'voicing' to refer to the ocarinas sound production mechanism as a whole. The voicing consists of:

  • The windway, where the player blows,
  • the sound hole, which allows air to enter and exit the chamber,
  • and the labium, an edge which splits the airflow.

Ocarinas function by creating negative and positive pressure cycles in the chamber. The air crossing the sound hole is directed towards the inside or outside depending on the pressure in the chamber, and this creates sound. The sound hole is never covered while playing.

Toneholes

The ocarina's toneholes are covered by the fingers. They are used to play different notes by opening or closing different holes, following the instruments fingering system.

Ocarinas have 10 primary holes, 8 on top plus 2 thumb holes. In addition, an ocarina may have a number of subholes which are addressed below.

Subhole(s)

In addition to the main finger holes, ocarinas can feature one or two subholes, additional holes placed beside another hole. These are used to play lower notes and are played by sliding a finger forwards, covering two holes with the pad of one finger. The ocarina shown here is an 11 hole with one subhole above the right hand ring finger. This can used to play a semitone below the tonic.

Not all ocarinas have a subholes, and they are covered in detail on the page An introduction to the ocarina's fingering system.

Tail

The tail of an ocarina is a support point used to stabilise the instrument while playing the high notes. When not covering its tonehole, the right pinky finger supports the instrument by placing it on the tail.

Cappello

The 'cappello', Italian for 'hat', is a support point on the left hand end of the chamber. The left index finger may be placed on it while playing the high notes. How it is used is addressed by the page 'How to play the high notes of single chambered ocarinas'.