How Many Ocarina Finger Holes Are Best?

The ocarina is made with a varying number of holes. The number and design of the holes significantly affect the way an ocarina is played.

"Fingering Patterns" or "Fingerings"?

"Fingering Patterns" or "Fingerings" refer to the combination of holes that are covered to make a note. If an ocarina has 10 holes, when all 10 holes are covered, it will play the lowest note. When one hole is uncovered, it will play a different note. Different ocarinas finger in different ways depending on how they were designed.

There are some significant things to consider here:

  • It may seem like the less holes there are, the simpler the fingerings would be. But this is NOT the case. For example, there are quite a few 4-hole ocarinas out there. Because there are only 4 holes, you have to make some seemingly random hole coverings to make a note.
  • What you really should look for in an ocarina are simple fingering patterns. They are easier to learn and remember.
  • What would the ideal fingering pattern be? The most intuitive fingering would be an ocarina that fingers like a piano. On a piano, the notes always move up as you move from left to right. In an ocarina, the ideal would be to move up in pitch as you uncover one more hole at a time.
  • The more consistent a fingering scheme is, the more intuitive it is, and the easier it is to learn.
  • One important note on ocarinas with complex fingering patterns (which is often the ocarinas with fewer holes) is that it is difficult to play technically challenging (fast) music. Because complex fingerings cannot be changed as easily and quickly as simple patterns, you cannot very well play music that requires quick note changes. This would make it quite difficult to play the very quick note changes (ornamentation) common to Celtic music, etc.
Next: The different materials that the Ocarina is made of.

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