Why mentors are awesome when learning the ocarina

My life has recently given me a great example of why having a mentor is so valuable when learning to play the ocarina, or learning anything else for that matter.

People frequently approach the ocarina without a mentor. I was no different. I started not only by myself, but with almost no guidance at all. In hindsight, I can see that this wasted a great deal of time. Some of the mistakes I was making, I only became aware of over a year after I started, when I went to the Budrio Ocarina Festival.

In comparison, my partner has recently been teaching me some Russian, and I've found this process notably less painful in spite of being much more complex. Having my partner as a mentor makes much of that complexity disappear.

For example in Russian, the functions of words are defined by changing their endings. I frequently get these endings wrong, but my partner corrects me straight away. A similar thing happens with pronunciation that is often comically wrong, but she will correct the mistake, and often joke about it. It’s really fun.

The immediate feedback of a mentor enables a very different approach to learning than if one is going solo. Making mistakes is a natural part of learning, but when something is approached alone, the learner is responsible for seeing and correcting them. This means that more needs to be learned up front.

On the ocarina for example, pitch is unstable and beginners frequently play really out of tune. To be able to notice this problem at all, they first have to develop a sense of pitch, and without that it could go unnoticed for months. Yet it is something that a mentor could point out immediately.

In effect, having a mentor takes a lot of the responsibility off the learner: they don't need to spend time learning to identify mistakes up front, but learn to correct them over time. Its also more natural, as the mistakes are learned as they happen in context.

So if you are a beginner learning to play the ocarina, I strongly recommend looking for a more experienced player to guide you. You'll save yourself a lot of pain and time in the long term. A mentor will help you:

  • Notice and correct mistakes
  • Discover new music
  • Improve your learning and practice methods

Also, if you are a more experienced player, don't be afraid to try mentoring others. As long as you know your own limits, its fine to help others.