Learning the ocarinas fingerings

Side Note

This page assumes that you understand the fingering system and know how to hold your ocarina correctly.

The easiest way to learn the ocarinas fingering is to approach them a few at a time. Pick two or three and cycle through them. Moving your fingers as needed and saying the name aloud or in your head. This trains your subconscious and you'll know them instinctively after a few days.

It is a lot to think about blowing, tonguing, fingering and the note names all at once. Consequently it is best to learn the fingerings without playing at first. Hold the ocarina in front of you where you can see what your fingers are doing. Remember to hold your ocarina lightly and cover the holes completely. You should be able to feel the holes under the pads of your fingers. Consciously correct whenever you mis-cover a hole.

This page focuses on C ocarina fingerings. If you are playing an ocarina in a different key that is not a problem. You can play it using C ocarina fingerings, treating it as a transposing instrument. Alternately you can substitute the sounded notes from a fingering chart.

C, D and E

The best way to memerise the fingerings is to work on a few of them at a time. To start with practice the lowest 3 notes: C, D and E. Finger each one in sequance and say it's name aloud. I advise practicing this slowly to a metronome, about 60 BPM one note per tick.

  • Finger and say C
  • Finger and say D
  • Finger and say E
  • Finger and say D

Repeat this until you become comfortable with it. If you have not played a wind instrument before moving your fingers like this may be challenging, this is normal. Be patient and practice this slowly for a few mutinies. When you sleep these actions will be automated by your subconsious. It will start to feel natural after a day or two.

F, G and A

Once you are happy with those work on F, G and A. Use the same method described above, moving up and down through the fingerings and saying there names.

Notice that A is played by lifting the left ring finger and not the pinky. The pinky is used to support the instrument and to play it's highest note. Lifting the ring finger by itself may feel awkward at first. It may help you if you move this finger with a finger of your other hand. This is shown in the video below. Whenever you play the A put the right pinky on the ocarinas tail to support it.

A B and high C

Work on A B and high C using the same method, these are straightforward.

high D, E and F

The final notes are also straightforward but require special fingerings:

  • When you move from C to D, put your left index finger on the cappello
  • to move from D to E, roll The left thumb off it's hole
  • To play the high F, lift the pinky

You should play C, D, E, F, E, D repeatedly and slowly until you get used to them. They are demonstrated in the video below.

Accidentals

To learn the Accidentals for your ocarina please check it's fingering chart. The fingerings for accidentals depend on chamber acoustics and vary between ocarinas. Use the same method described above to learn them. A good way to practice accidentals is to play scales which include them.

Limiting your finger movements

It is common for new players to lift there fingers much higher than needed. Lifting your fingers too high achieves nothing and may actively harm your playing. In particular it will hold you back when you try to play faster.

That being said, it is possible to have your fingers too close to the holes. A finger just above the hole will cause the pitch to be flatter than it should be. Usually lifting your fingers about two centimeters is enough, though it is a good idea to check using a tuner. Play a note steadily as a long tone and slowly lift your finger, taking note of when it no longer alters the pitch. You have to be careful not to change your blowing pressure while doing this.

Excessive finger movement
Controlled finger movement

To learn to control your finger movements practice lifting and replacing your fingers slowly in a mirror. Aim to keep them close to the holes. If you practice with one hand at a time you can use the other hand to block excess movement. How to do so is shown in the pictures below.

Exercises

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