Even though not featured much in contemporary popular music, the ocarina still has a lot of players and admirers from around the world.
The instrument owes a large part of its popularity to its appearances in the cult video game franchise Legend of Zelda and the soundtrack of Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America.
Ocarinas come in many shapes, sizes, and materials. Though the smaller models with fewer holes might look like toys, standard-sized models are serious musical instruments.
7 Best Ocarinas for Starting Your Musical Journey
In this write-up, I’ll review some of my favorite ocarinas out there, followed by tips for buyers like you.
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The Forest Whisper, though affordable, is actually made as a collector’s item, and it certainly looks the part. The instrument is painted in gorgeous brown hues that go darker the further away from the center of the instrument. The surface is lacquered and gives off a beautiful sheen.
This great instrument is a great option for experienced musicians. However, it is forgiving enough even for complete beginners. You can play for your family in the living room and perform publicly with the Forest Whisper as it has a strong but pleasant sound.
If you decide to buy this ocarina, it may have a light smoky smell when it arrives. However, the scent should wear off when you start playing. This is due to the fact that the Forest Whisper is made of a special type of ceramic – smoked strawfire.
This 12-hole model is in the key of C, though the pitch ranges from A4 on the low end to F6 on the high end. The range includes both the flat and sharp notes. This ocarina is 7” long and pretty lightweight. Finally, the package includes the instrument, one neck strap, and an OcarinaWind pouch.
If you’re a fan of the Legend of Zelda franchise, especially the older games, this ocarina really needs no introduction. This beautiful instrument is shaped after the ocarina that appears in Ocarina of Time, probably the most popular installment in franchise history.
The Zelda Ocarina is a standard 12-hole model. Ten holes are located in the front and two in the back of the instrument. This model has the alto C tuning and is fully chromatic, meaning you can play all the flat and sharp notes.
This ocarina is available in a beautiful combination of blue and white. It has a white ring just below the mouthpiece with the Triforce logo painted on it. This is a great gift idea if you have a Zelda fan in your home or among friends and colleagues.
Aside from the instrument, the package also includes a carrying pouch, a song book with several easy songs, a brochure that invites you to join the company’s quality improvement program, a simple and thin neck strap, and a ceramic stand in the shape of a hand.
Not all ocarinas have to be made of ceramic. If you’re looking to introduce more variety into your musical world and try a different ocarina, then the Plastic Ocarina by Night By Noble is a great choice.
This plastic instrument is available in two colors: black or ivory. Both feature a smooth matte finish, with the only glossy part the mouthpiece. The fact that it’s plastic makes this ocarina more affordable and more durable than the majority of ceramic and porcelain ocarinas.
On the technical side, this is a 12-hole alto model with ten holes in the front and two in the back. It is tuned to the key of C and is fully chromatic. The sound is clear and consistent throughout the instrument’s range. The ocarina is of medium size and only players with exceptionally big hands might have problems playing it.
Another great thing about this ocarina is that you can pack it in your backpack and take it on the road since it’s made of sturdy plastic. This also makes it more appealing to beginners and casual players.
The Legend of Zelda Ocarina by TOTMC is one of many Zelda-themed models on the market. What sets this one apart is the attention to detail and overall build quality. This ocarina is also very affordable, making it a great gift idea if you want to surprise a Zelda fan.
The ocarina is available only in a blue color that’s very similar in appearance to the model that appears in the 1998 Ocarina of Time game. Just below the mouthpiece is a white ring with the famous Triforce logo painted on it. The triangles stand for wisdom, courage, and power.
The TOTMC is an alto C ocarina, meaning it’s tuned to the key of C. However, this 12-hole model can go a step and a half below and reach A4. The highest note possible for this ocarina is F6. It is important to note that this is a fully chromatic ocarina, meaning you can hit all the flat and sharp notes within the range.
The package includes the instrument, a neck cord, and a music booklet of simple songs.
The Legend of Zelda Ocarina by Deekec is among the best ocarinas you can choose to start your musical journey with. It is inspired by and looks very similar to the instrument featured in the various Zelda games.
This is an alto C ocarina tuned to the key of C. However, its reach extends beyond the standard C4 – C6 range. On the low end, it can reach A4 and up to as far as F6. Also, you can hit all twelve notes of the octave since this is a chromatic model.
The Deekec model is made of kiln-fired ceramic and suitable for a wide range of players. However, beginners and casual players can benefit the most from this affordable instrument. Pros might be better served with a more upscale model.
In keeping with the Zelda theme, Deekec offers this model only in blue. The package also includes a neck cord, a pouch, a hand-shaped stand, and a song book that contains simple tunes.
The 12-Hole Ceramic Ocarina by AWEF is one beautiful instrument and a great option for those who want an instrument that in itself is a piece of art. AWEF offers a number of interesting color options. The most prominent include Butterfly Green, Butterfly Red, Gradient Black, Gradient Blue, Smoked Black, and Water Blue.
Asides from the stunning looks, this great ocarina is also well-built. It is made of quality kiln-fired ceramic and professionally tuned before leaving the factory. In terms of range, this ocarina offers the standard alto C starting with A4 and ending at F6. As a fully chromatic model, it allows you to play all the semitones in between.
In terms of player experience, the 12-Hole Ceramic Ocarina by AWEF is great for beginners as well as experienced players. You can play simple tunes like Marry Had a Little Lamb and the more demanding classical stuff on this ocarina.
The 12-Hole Ceramic Ocarina is delivered with some neat accessories. The list includes a greeting card, a carrying pouch, a song book with simple tunes, and a strap cord.
The Cheffort 12 Hole Ocarina is inspired by the immensely popular video game franchise Legend of Zelda. This model features the famous blue color scheme with a white ring below the mouthpiece. The ring is adorned with the equally well-known Triforce logo.
This is a standard-sized alto C ocarina with a 12-hole construction. It has 10 holes in the front for the fingers and two in the back for the thumbs. The pitch range of this model is A4 and up to F6. Similar to many alto C models on the market, the Cheffort 12 Hole Ocarina is chromatic.
The instrument is 6” long and 4.3” wide, meaning it should be ok for pretty much any player. The only exception might be players with very big hands. This model is made of kiln-fired ceramic and is professionally tuned before shipping. The production process and chosen materials give this instrument a soft yet crystal clear sound and an excellent breath response.
The package includes the instrument, a black carrying pouch with a gold Triforce logo, a thin neck strap, a potentially highly useful finger chart for beginners, and a song book with a selection of simple songs.
Ocarinas are made of different materials, each giving the instrument a unique telltale sound. There are four main materials used for making modern ocarinas: wood, plastic, ceramic, and porcelain.
- Wood is a prominent material, though not as popular as the remaining three. It is reserved for the more expensive models, and wood ocarinas are often unpainted and only lacquered. Many different types of wood can be used, including the exotic species.
- Plastic is the most affordable material of the four. Plastic ocarinas are inexpensive and great for beginners. While not as tough as the wooden ones, some plastic ocarinas can be more durable than ceramic and porcelain models.
- The majority of ocarinas nowadays are made of ceramic, the kiln-fired variety to be precise. These are handmade and offer excellent resonance and sound. Ceramic ocarinas are also the most versatile, making them a good choice for both the beginners and professionals.
- Porcelain ocarinas are expensive and primarily made for professional musicians. They offer a great tone projection that’s far superior to other varieties. They also have exceptionally pure sound. Like the ceramic variety, porcelain ocarinas are handmade.
Ocarinas are available in a range of sizes. Similar to other instruments, the size determines the pitch of the ocarina. The range goes from bass to soprano, including tenor and alto sizes, too.
- Bass ocarinas are the biggest around. They are also the heaviest and have the biggest holes, which might not be ideal for kids and players who have small hands. Naturally, bass ocarinas have the lowest pitch.
- Tenor ocarinas tend to be smaller than the bass variety but bigger than alto and soprano models. These have a relatively low pitch, corresponding to the tenor range.
- Alto models are among the most popular out there. They’re small enough for players with small hands and children, but not too small for adult players. They cover the alto range and are likely to come with 12 holes.
- Soprano ocarinas are best suited for kids due to their minute size. They cover the soprano range and have the smallest holes of all ocarinas. Players who are endowed with big hands might find them almost impossible to play.
The pitch range can vary greatly from model to model, which you can tell from the number of holes. The more holes on an ocarina, the greater its pitch range. The number of chambers also plays a role. Single-chamber ocarinas usually have one or two-octave ranges. On the other hand, dual-chamber models often have three octave ranges, the better for experienced players.
Generally, ocarinas have between four and twelve holes. The smallest ones tend to have four to six, while the biggest ones can have even more than twelve holes. More holes means harder to play and may not be as recommended for beginners.
On the other hand, those with fewer holes are easier to learn at the cost of a limited range. The most popular alto C models tend to come with twelve holes and can reach as low as A4 and as high as F6. They also allow players to play all twelve semitones within an octave.
There are several shapes of ocarinas. The most notable shapes include transverse, inline, and pendant. Let’s take a closer look at each.
- Transverse ocarinas are also known as “sweet potato” ocarinas. These are the most popular and widespread. You need both hands to play a transverse ocarina. They are usually equipped with ten or twelve holes.
- Pendant ocarinas can be split into Peruvian and English. The former are a bit bigger and typically have eight or nine holes. The latter tend to be smaller and have either four or six holes. English ocarinas are among the smallest of all ocarinas.
- Inline ocarinas represent a middle ground between the other two. These are usually smaller than transverse ocarinas and have more holes than pendant.
Let the Winds Carry You
The ocarina is a beautiful instrument that’s also easy to learn. When buying one, make sure to check out as many models as you can. You’ll want to look at the materials used, size, build quality, number of holes, and the shape of the instrument. But, before you pull the trigger, consider if it fits your skill level and hand size.