Why does my ocarina screech on its high notes?

An ocarinas high notes can screech for a number of reasons, here are the most common:

You are blowing too hard

The sound of an ocarina changes with blowing pressure. They will screech if you blow too hard, and the high notes can be especially sensitive.

One of the critical techniques of playing the ocarina is learning to control your breath pressure. You may use a chromatic tuner to check the pitch of the instrument and raise or lower your pressure:

  • Blowing the high notes too softly will result in an airy sound.
  • Blowing too hard will make them sound rough or screech.

You may find that the ocarina screeches before it plays the correct pitch. If so please see the next point.

Playing in a cold environment

An ocarina's high notes can screech if you play in a cold environment.

The pitch of all wind instruments is affected by temperature, they play flatter when cold and sharper when hot. This can be compensated for by raising your breath within a limited range. In very cold environments the high notes will screech before they reach concert pitch.

There are a number of ways of dealing with this, please see 'Playing ocarinas in tune in warm or cold environments'.

Note that 'cold' is relative: if an ocarina was tuned to play in a warm climate of 25°C, 15°C would be cold for it. In this case the high notes may be unplayable even though it does not feel cold to you.

Bad ocarina or poor tuning

If your ocarina's high notes still screech after checking these points there is a good chance you have a bad instrument. Unfortunately a lot of ocarinas in mainstream outlets are of very poor quality. If an ocarina is poorly tuned, its chamber volume and voicing mismatched, or a poor chamber shape used, the high notes will be prone to screeching.

If this is the case get a better instrument. Pure Ocarinas where designed from the start as serious musical instruments.

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