Playing your first music on the ocarina

Normally, at this stage in a guide on playing your first music on the ocarina, I'd be introducing you to some simple practice music like 'Mary had a little lamb'... But I'm not going to do that.

Arguably the most valuable thing you can do as a beginner to music is to start learning to play music that you like. Hearing something that you recognise emanating from your instrument for the first time feels awesome. Through playing, you begin to develop a natural understanding and music stops being a black art.

Getting started playing music that you like on the ocarina is just a matter of breaking it down.

- learning the rhythm

- learning the notes

Learning music that you know is usually pritty easy as you probably already know the rhythm, the timing, and you just need to find out which notes to play.

There are quite a few ways of doing this, for example:

  • You can watch someone else and copy their fingerings.
  • Another option is to figure out some tunes by ear.
  • You could also get started with sheet music, which is easier than you may think.
Getting started playing with sheet music Getting started playing by ear

Tablature or 'tabs' are another option. They are visual representation of the fingering and order of notes, depicting how to play a given tune on some instrument. They can be a great place to start and are intuitive.

However, tabs—especially ocarina tabs—have serious limitations and will quickly limit your progress. As you will have to abandon them, it can be more efficient to use other approaches from the start.

Allow yourself to suck!

Allow yourself to suck. Do not judge your ability on your first experiences as they will not be your best. Nobody sounds good immediately, but with persistent effort it does get easier.

Note that in playing it is really important to find somewhere that you can play at full volume without concern for bothering anyone. Its also important to note that the sound of the instrument changes depending on the space you are in. Ocarinas can sound awful if you are playing in a really small room.

The destructive approach to learning music

As with learning the fingerings, a great way of learning to play songs or tunes on the ocarina is by breaking them into small parts.

Playing an instrument requires many different skills to come together at once, and is best approached by breaking things down, and practising them separately.

If broken into small enough parts, even the most complex music can be approached, regardless of your skill level. Music becomes more complex by adding detail, and if you zoom in, it gets simpler.

Say for example that you wanted to learn 'out on the ocean', a common Irish jig:

You don't have to learn the whole thing in one go. Instead, it can be broken down into small fragments that you can practice individually. For example, here is the first part of out on the ocean:

First, put this first part on loop and learn the rhythm by clapping it in time with what you are hearing.

Look up the fingerings for the notes on your instrument, and practice moving between them.

With practice, this will start to become automatic, and at that point you just move on to learning the next phrase.

Software like audacity and reaper can be used to loop sections of recordings for you to learn from.


Find a balance for yourself between playing music that you like, and start with simpler music to be able to play full, recognizable pieces sooner.