Holding a multichamber ocarina

Holding a multichamber ocarina is much the same as holding a single chamber. The right hand comes in from the rear with the mouthpiece facing toward you. The left hand comes in from the opposite side. A double is shown here, but the ideas are the same for ocarinas with more chambers.

Side Note

As it is difficult to see what your fingers are doing in normal playing position, I recommend using a mirror. You can also bend your elbows to move the ocarina away from your mouth. As with single chambers fingers with sharp bends usually indicate a problem.

As there name implies multichamber ocarinas have multiple chambers, each of which has it's own windway, voicing and finger holes. In the diagram below the holes within the red area are connected to the first chamber, those shown in the blue area are for the second chamber. Triple ocarinas add an additional chamber next to this one with a 3rd set of holes.

The positioning of the left hand on a multi chambered ocarina is identical to that of a single chamber, it only has to cover a single set of holes. As with singles you should keep your fingers gently curved along there length. Joints with sharp angles usually indicate a poorly placed finger or poor hand posture, see the page on singles for more.

One row of holes for the first chamber and one row for the second.

The right hand is also similar to a single chambered ocarina, but it has two or three rows of holes to cover. While this looks complicated it isn't in practice, while playing up to higher notes you move the fingers to the second chamber. Normally only one of these rows is covered at any time.

The right thumb needs to be positioned to allow the fingers to cover there holes. If the ocarina has a right thumb hole this will guide the placement of the finger. Otherwise the thumb should be positioned approximately in the middle of the two rows of holes above. On a triple the thumb should rest roughly opposite the finger holes of the second chamber.

If you can bend your thumbs backwards don't do so. The right thumb carries most of the weight of the ocarina, if it is constantly forced back it may become painful. Pure ocarinas include a ramp for the right thumb to stop it bending backwards.

The action of moving the fingers between the chambers comes partly from the wrist and partly from bending the fingers. The thumb normally remains stationary. Please see the video below.

Blowing a multichamber ocarina

Most of the technique used to blow multi-chambered ocarinas is the same as single chambers, if you have not already I strongly advise reading 'how to blow an ocarina correctly'. The main difference is that each chamber has its own windway and voicing.

While playing a multi-chambered ocarina only one chamber is played at a time. The nature of the breath curve means that they do not play in tune if played together. Constraining the air to a single windway is done by forming an aperture with the lips. This aperture should be moderately sized as it will create a noisy tone if too restricted.

LIGHTLY touch the mouthpiece of the ocarina against the aperture using just enough pressure to create a seal. You should have as little of the mouthpiece in your mouth as possible. Positioning it too deep in your mouth creates excessive friction which makes chamber switching very difficult.

As when playing a single you should angle the ocarina so you are blowing directly down the windway. Tilting it sharply up or down kinks the air passage and results in a noisy tone.

While the action of switching chambers appears to be simply sliding the ocarina from side to side, there is more to it. When in playing position the ocarina is pressed lightly against the lips, if this pressure is maintained while switching the mouthpiece will grip against the lips, pulling on the skin. This makes switching difficult if not impossible. 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 wind-way.
  3. Move the mouthpiece back into contact with the lips.

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 does feel awkward to begin, but like everything it gets easier after a few days. While switching chambers it is a good idea to stop the airflow with the tongue. However this can be done very lightly to create a legato switch.

An exercise for chamber switching

A good way to practice chamber switching is to finger an G on the first chamber and E on the second, assuming an Asian tuned C ocarina. That is, all of the left hand fingers closed and the right hand covering all holes on the second chamber.

To a slow metronome play the note on each chamber alternately, G, E, G, E. Start and finis the notes using the tongue and use a tuner to check your intonation. Aim to play both notes in tune from the start.

Holding a multi while chamber switching

Holding a multi-chambered 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. As you are playing you are passing the instrument between your hands.

Some multi-chambers 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 only time chamber switching may become tricky is when playing the highest notes on either chamber, 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.

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 multi without a right thumb hole are superior as the right thumb can serve a single function of supporting the instrument.

Thoughts on...

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