Progression on Ocarinas

Some people mistakenly think that Ocarinas, being simple instruments, only produce simple music.

The opposite is true. Adventurous music can be played on the Ocarina at an early stage. Musical skills can be mastered more quickly with Ocarinas than with other musical instruments, leading to rapid musical progression.

The ease of playing an Ocarina doesn’t mean that it comes easy. These children have practised for four years to be able to tackle this piece by Handel. Notice how they pitch low C sharp by tilting their Ocarinas upwards, thus lowering low D by a semitone. This technique of ‘Nose-shading’ is introduced in Book 2 page 24.

Handel, Book 3 page 12

It isn’t necessary to move on to Book 3 or 4 to make progress. In Book 1 page 22, we add G sharp and A sharp to the D major scale already mastered. ‘All things bright and beautiful’ makes immediate use of this full range. Although playing the new notes feels strange at first, the children below seem to take it all in their stride.

This is because the smallest of the 4 finger-holes is a ‘semitone’ hole. Once children can play B, A and G, it is easy to cover this hole as well to play B flat (A sharp), A flat (G sharp) and G flat (F sharp). This chromatic fingering means that complex music can be played easily by whole classes of young ocarina players…

Ocarinas sound delightful when played in harmony. Harmonies and rounds appear in every Play your Ocarina book, and Book 3 is arranged with two or more parts for every piece. Make sure everyone is fully competent on the tune first; then see if everyone can play the harmony. These children at Witham Hall decided amicably amongst themselves who would play which part.

In some schools, orchestras and ensembles are formed using Book 3. Ocarinas can play both parts. Add flutes on one part and violins on another to add orchestral colour. Transposing instruments such as clarinets and trumpets will need their own parts writing out in the correct keys.

Yellow Bird in 2 parts, Book 3 page 11

Playing rounds is great fun. Lots of listening and concentration are essential if everyone is to start and to end together. Many rounds are also songs: so sing together first, sing in parts second, play together third, and play in parts fourth. Mixing ocarinas and voices can also be very effective in concert.

The Cuckoo in 3 parts, Book 2 page 19

Finally, always look to broaden your repertoire. These children are playing a nineteenth century cowboy song. Music can introduce us to new places geographically, historically and culturally and ocarina playing can be part of a rich and varied education.

Use Play your Ocarina books to whisk your children away to the WildWest (below), to the Tudors (Now is the month of Maying), to Ireland (Cockles and Mussels) and to the world of great composers (Ocarina Classics).

Home on the Range, Book 2 page 6

In viewing these performances, you might think that your group can play just as well as some of those shown.   If this is the case, you may like to enter the Schools Music Association Awards Scheme with recordings of your group. Apply at any time of year and see if you and your children can go for Gold, Silver or Diamond!

To see the Junior winners of the Outstanding Performance Award at the National Festival of Music for Youth 2005, move on to Ocarina Winners.