What makes a great ocarina?


The 3 point ocarina hold

The 3 point grip, please note that I have curled my fingers to clearly show the 3 contact points, this should not be done in practice.

The ocarina poses particular ergonomic challenges as playing higher notes leaves fewer fingers to stabilize the instrument. In particular the highest note since all the holes must be uncovered. To address this Pure Ocarinas are designed to be played using the 3 point grip - figure right. This is a very stable hold, yet still makes it easy to leap from the lowest to highest note. For more information on this technique please see (How to hold an ocarina)

All pure ocarinas include a functional capello. The capello is the ramp on the left hand side of the chamber and is a secure resting place for the left index finger. Equally the slight curve in the tail prevents the pinky sliding off the end. They are balanced to place the centre of gravity over the right thumb, giving just enough upwards force on the pinky to feel secure, without being tiring. The reduced weight and careful balancing makes it easier to play the ocarina agilely, as less effort is needed to hold the instrument.


Pure Ocarinas are tuned with an even breath curve across the entire playing range. The subhole is tuned in line with the rest of the curve, without the abrupt breath cut found in many Asian 12 hole ocarinas. As ocarina's are inherently unstable in pitch, this regularity makes it easier to hit notes on pitch when playing at speed.

As ceramic is a variable material, the holes of each ocarina are adjusted individually to create an even breath curve.

Glaze free finger holes

Ocarina glaze free finger holes

As the ocarinas tuning depends on the relitive sizes of the finger holes, should any glaze stray into a hole it will reduce the hole's size and negatively effect the tuning. Due to this, I painstakingly wipe all the glaze out of the finger holes and do not spray apply glazes.

11 holes - no accute bend needed

The physical principles that make the ocarina function are fragile. As more holes are opened the player must provide more air until a point is reached where tone production stops altogether. 12 hole ocarinas function right on this limit, forcing design compromise resulting in quiet, muddy low notes or weak top notes. Combined with an iregular breath curve.

Sticking to 11 holes works within the instrument's physical limitations, allowing all notes to sound clearley. This also means the ocarina can be tuned with an easy to manage breath curve and no arbitary breath cuts. Pure ocarinas do not require the accute bend.

As the ocarina is inherently limited in range, I find the best option for playing tunes which need lower or higher notes is by choosing an ocarina key that fits the desired range, or by playing a multichamber ocarina.

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