Ocarina Squeak and the Dreaded MSP Syndrome?

The ocarina, and fipple flutes in general (recorders, whistles, etc.), tend to have significant problems with squeaking. If you're not sure what squeaking is, it is when a wind instrument jumps in pitch to a irritating, ugly, raspy, airy sound. It is generally caused by not blowing "just right."

Classic Squeaking Example: Recorders

If you play or have played the recorder, you will be intimately familiar with this example...

Recorders are notoriously susceptible to squeaking, especially when playing the lowest note (all holes covered). You must play the lowest note of a recorder very softly or else you will squeak it. In fact, this need to play the lowest note so softly gives the recorder a characteristic sound where the low notes are very soft -- the low notes soft and the high notes loud.

Because recorders are limited in volume in this way, it limits the expressiveness with which you can play. If you want to play the low note, it must be quiet. No if's, and's, or but's.

Some musicians or "would be musicians" have developed Manic Squeaking Phobia Syndrome, sometimes referred to as MSP Syndrome or just MSPS. MSPS can be induced in a number of ways. Two of the most common are:

  • When performing in public either before a large or small audience, the musician mis-blows a note and makes the dreaded squeak. The budding musician is aghast at the experience. The more repeatedly this happens, the more likely it is that MSP Syndrome will develop. Note that it is primarily the reaction to the experience that brings on MSPS.


  • A young musician is enthusiastically learning to play the ocarina or recorder at home. The new musician enthusiastically practices the instrument at home unaware of the undesirableness of the squeaking. Over-zealous siblings, or sometimes even parents, complain about the squeaking and make unfavorable comparisons of the young musician's squeaks to other things ought not mentioned on this website. The child eventually develops MSP Syndrome.

Keep in mind:

  • When looking for an ocarina, try to find an ocarina as squeak resistant as you can.

   It will...

  • Allow you to learn faster
  • Help you play more confidently and aggressively. Fear can be debilitating. As with many things in life, confidence is essential for success. The more confident you are in your ocarina, the better you will play.
Next: Volume Control and Expressive Ocarina Playing.

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