How Volume Control Affects the Expressiveness of the Ocarina
Expressiveness and feeling can be put into to ocarina music by varying volume and bending notes.
Varying the Volume
Varying the volume (playing louder of softer) is one way that expressiveness can be added to ocarina music. I call emphasis to the can be since not all ocarinas allow you to vary the playing volume very much. A few things to keep in mind about volume control:
- Not all ocarinas are equal. Some are definitely better than others in terms of volume control.
- Most ocarinas cannot be played with good (loud) playing volume. Playing too hard for a given ocarina will make a squeak or a bad note. If you find an ocarina with good volume control, you've found a remarkable ocarina.
- There is at least one ocarina maker (my ocarina of choice) who makes ocarinas with very good volume control. You can play notes quietly or with good volume. I'll save the specifics for the analysis and recommendations page.
Tones (notes) are made on the ocarina by covering certain holes and blowing into the ocarina. What might not be immediately obvious about making notes on the ocarina is that the pitch is also varied depending on how hard you blow. Blowing lighter for any given fingering will cause a lower (flatter) note.
Keep in mind:
- Expressiveness and very dramatic effect can be added to ocarina music by intentionally bending notes, especially on slower music.
- Bending notes is generally more appropriate in ocarina solo music than when played with other folk instruments.
- Since bending notes is actually changing the pitch/tone of the note, it can make the ocarina seem out of tune relative to the other instruments.
I'm not saying you can't...
- This is not to say that bending can't be used at all with other instruments but it must be done with caution. If not done right, it can clash when trying to play in harmony with other instruments.
Not every ocarina can bend equally...
- The more easily an ocarina squeaks, the more difficult it is to bend notes.
- Since bending notes is accomplished by gradually changing how hard you blow a note, you run the risk of squeaking on either the soft or loud end.
If you want to hear some really nice examples of how volume control and note bending can be used to add expressiveness, go to the Mountain Ocarinas site and click on their sound samples button. Go now to ocarina music.
Keep in mind that ability to bend notes and vary volume grows with your experience.
Next: The Ocarina Analysis and Recommendations.