Is the ocarina a good instrument for young children?

While children certainly can learn to play the ocarina with a good approach, I cannot say that the ocarina is universally a good instrument for young children as there are many factors at play. Teaching music is a complex affair because everyone learns differently.

People are often drawn to ocarinas as they look simple, yet the ocarina's simple appearance can be deceptive.

Wind instruments often look easier than they are because many playing techniques happen inside the body. For example, the tongue must be used to create articulation. This can be unintuitive to children who generally 'puff' into wind instruments, creating a very indefinite sound.

It is extremely important that guidance is provided to a child learning the ocarina, or any other instrument for that matter.

Exposure to instruments is a good first step, and generally playing around with one will allow a child to learn how it works, but this is not enough. Personally, I never grasped music as a child largely because I lacked this guidance, even though I was surrounded by instruments.

I think that music is best taught to children by breaking it down into skills that later come together:

  • Introducing some simple rhythms by clapping, or making it into a game of touching different body parts to a beat.
  • Pitch and how different notes sound together can be introduced using a xylophone or similar.
  • The two concepts can then be combined, playing notes to a rhythm to form a melody.

By introducing and developing skills separately, when they are later combined its much easier for a child to grasp. From this point a good next step would be to introduce intonation, how notes sound when flat or sharp, and the ocarina is a great instrument for doing that.

The page 'Teaching music to children' covers my thoughts in more detail.

Do be aware that ocarinas are loud, cannot be muted, and have a very piercing tone. They can be fatiguing to listen to for prolonged periods. Learning an instrument absolutely demands repetitive practice. Thus, if you are a parent and your child takes to the instrument, you'll hear this sound for years.

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