Which ocarina type should I learn?
Now that you are aware of the types of ocarinas that exist, which ocarina type should you learn?
The variations that are playable can be broadly split into 'Melody ocarinas' and 'Harmony ocarinas'. They differ notably in their design, limitations, and serve quite different musical functions:
The following types of ocarinas are the most applicable to playing melodies:
- Transverse ocarinas, including multichambers
- Inline ocarinas
- Pendant ocarinas
Of these, I think that the best ocarina to learn for playing melodies is a transverse ocarina, as:
- The transverse ocarina has received considerable design effort and refinement by a lot of different makers specifically for serious playing, far more than any other design.
- Unlike pendants, transverse ocarinas, as well as multi-chamber transverse ocarinas, can be tuned extremely accurately. It makes your job easier by allowing you to focus on playing music instead of compensating for tuning errors.
- Inlines, while they use a very similar fingering system, have received far less design effort, especially regarding their ergonomics, and how to effectively support the instrument on the high notes.
Inline ocarinas may be preferable for you if you have RSI, arthritis or other disabilities. But do note that they are vastly less standardised, and made by fewer makers. Your choice will be much more limited.
Harmony ocarinas and Huaccas have interesting potential in musical performance given that they allow you to play in harmony with yourself an improvise. They are worth exploring for an enterprising player or composer, and do offer interesting musical possibilities.
However if you are inspired to learn to play these instruments you'll need to look elsewhere as I won't be mentioning them again on this website for a number of reasons:
- Firstly, I don't play harmony ocarinas, and thus do not have the experience required to offer advice on playing them.
- Secondly, harmony ocarinas are not standardised at all, which makes it extremely difficult to offer useful advice. It is impossible to know what, if any, kind of harmony ocarina you would be able to obtain.
I'd recommend studying the playing of Nancy Rumble, and doing your own research.
For the remainder of this website my focus will be on teaching the design and mechanics of the transverse ocarina, as they are the most standardised and available as noted above. Much of this information can be adapted to any ocarina / vessel flute, if you wish to.
Whatever you choose to learn, I'd advise choosing one type and sticking with it.
Playing any instrument well requires not just a conscious understanding of mechanics like breath pressure and fingering system, but deep subconscious knowledge commonly called 'muscle memory'. Developing that subconscious knowledge is done through the repetitive practice over months, if not years, and once done cannot be easily changed.
Consistency in instrument design, and a well thought out ergonomic basis is important as it allows you to continually build on and refine technique.