What do you want in an ocarina? Of the many ocarinas available to buy, how do you choose?
What Do You Want in an Ocarina?
As you think through which ocarina or ocarinas you want to buy, it may be helpful to think through some of the following things:
Do you want an ocarina that you can carry with you wherever you go? If you actually wear/carry your ocarina with you always, you will be surprised at how many chances you have to play. The ocarina can fit into your busy life instead of needing to fit an instrument in your busy life.
Does it matter to you between a transverse or inline ocarina? Or do you just want whatever plays best and/or is most comfortable?
Do you want to be able to play with other instruments?
What type(s) of music will you want to play? Many/most ocarinas work well for mellow, quiet, slow, subdued music. Many of those same ocarinas don't adapt so well to aggressive, fast and technically challenging songs (like adding in the crisp ornamentation common in Celtic music - cuts, rolls, etc.).
How Does The Ocarina Sound?
When comparing ocarinas, "How it sounds" is the bottom line for many people. Make sure you:
Hear a sample of how the ocarina maker's instrument sounds. If you want to know if you'll like the sound of an instrument, there's nothing better than hearing it played.
You can do this by...
Hearing the instrument played live
If on the internet, go to the website and listen to the sample recordings. How do they sound? Do you want to be able to play music like the samples? How much do you like them?
If the ocarina maker doesn't have samples available to listen to, give her a call and ask her to play. Many ocarina sellers have toll free numbers.
And have realistic expectations...
Keep in mind that whether listening to a live demonstration or when listening to sample ocarina recordings, you are hopefully listening to someone playing who is very good. This gives you an idea of what you will sound like after you spend time and progress with that ocarina. Don't expect to sound like the performer as soon as you pick up the ocarina.
How Does The Ocarina Look?
Not much needs to be said here. Looks are a personal preference. You should like the way the ocarina looks. If you like how the ocarina looks, you will:
Like it more
Enjoy it more
Very likely Play it more
So you'll get better at it
My Favorite Ocarina
I'll give you the short answer first. My favorite ocarina is the Mountain Ocarina.
I love the sound of Mountain Ocarinas. Listen to their sound samples, and you'll know what I mean. Their recordings are quite high in quality, and they should be listened either through a nice sound system or a decent set of headphones.
They have a excellent tone and playing volume. For a more detailed discussion of volume, go to the Expressive Ocarina page.
Being able to play loud is important if you want to play along with other instruments (without microphone amplification). Or if you play outdoors or in noisy environments.
It may not be apparent from the info on their web site, but relative to other ocarinas I'm familiar with, these ocarinas can play very loudly and can also play quietly. The sound samples are great, but since they are recordings, you can't tell the difference between these and other ocarinas that you would hear if you heard them played side by side.
I prefer the inline style ocarina, since it is more comfortable, especially when playing for longer periods of time. Mountain Ocarinas are inline.
Mountain Ocarinas are small and very portable. It will fit in my pocket or bag very easily. I like to be able to carry my ocarina with me wherever I go.
Mountain Ocarinas are extremely durable, especially the polycarbonate ones.
I like the assurance that if I inadvertently dropped it off the top of a tall building, it would still be playable after the fall :-) Seriously, their polycarbonate ocarinas are super tough.
I have small children, and they can be rougher on an ocarina than a tumble off the tall building.
10 Hole Fingering
I like the 10 hole fingering (on the Key of G instrument, 9 holes on the Key of C).
The fingering is intuitive, fingering much like a sax, clarinet or flute. The fingering is "linear", uncovering fingers one at a time to play the "C" scale. It is easy to learn and translates well to other instruments.
One thing that may not be obvious when looking into ocarinas is that there are some significant limitations to the ocarinas with less holes. You might think that less holes means simpler and easier. Not so. For more discussion see the Ocarina Holes page.
I like having all the sharps and flats available like the Mountain Ocarinas have. Since ocarinas have limited tonal range, it is very helpful to be able to play a song in the key that fits in the ocarina's range.
For more information about chromatic vs. non-chromatic, see the Chromatic Ocarina page.
Talking about "squeaking" may seem silly, but it really is a very significant consideration. The new Mountain Ocarina design (since some time in 2003?) is significantly improved in it's squeakproofness. It is virtually squeakproof. See the Ocarina Squeak page for more details on ocarina squeaking.
I have an one of their older ocarinas, and they have apparently made some radical improvements in the anti-squeaking realm. Their new ocarinas are virtually squeakproof.
I really like the looks of the Mountain Ocarinas. Their hardwood ocarinas are beautiful, and their polycarbonate ocarinas are nice replicas of their wood ones.
I hate to use the massively overused word on my web site, but it's the best word that comes to mind. I think Mountain Ocarinas are: Very Cool!
IMHO, Mountain Ocarinas has re-invented the ocarina.
Okay, enough rambling on MY ocarina preferences...
If You Want a Zelda Ocarina
If you are a die hard Zelda fan and want an ocarina just like Link plays then I would recommend you get a ceramic Zelda style sweet potato ocarina. You will find many ocarina makers on the internet. Some makers are:
If you want a wood ocarina
My favorite for wood is the Mountain Ocarina. If you're shopping for wood, you'll also want to take a look at the other wood ocarinas available on the internet.
The Hind ocarina is a very nice looking wood ocarina, and smaller sized (higher key) ocarinas are a little less expensive in general than the Mountain Ocarinas. Hind also has a larger selection of keys than the Mountain Ocarinas. There are sound samples available on the web site. Go to the Hind ocarina.
The North Country Workshop has some interesting wooden ocarinas. Go to their ocarina site.
Making Your Own Ocarina
If you want to make your own ocarina, I would recommend making a transverse (sweet potato) ocarina out of clay. There are many good web pages out on the net that explain how: