Saturday, 2 December 2017

Learning to Play the Ocarina

Happy World Ocarina Day!

If you follow my Instagram, you might already know that I'm learning to play the ocarina. It's very slow going: so far, I've only had time to practice once a week, if that. Currently I'm working through the lessons put out by David Erick Ramos on his YouTube channel. His tutorials are so helpful and he seems like a really nice guy too, so I decided to sign up to his Patreon.

I'd been wanting to get back into playing a musical instrument again for the last few years. When I finally got around to doing something about it, I decided on the ocarina for several reasons. I have a keyboard and was briefly learning to play it about 7 years ago, but it requires a lot of space and there's no room to set it up in the house at the moment. I also thought it would be really cool to learn tribal drumming, but didn't want to annoy my neighbours too much! I decided on the ocarina after I saw this video of a Mori girl (YouTube) playing one, which someone had posted in the Mori community on Facebook. I thought it was so sweet and it had such a lovely sound. It's not that dissimilar to the recorder, which I enjoyed learning when I was a kid. I like the kinds of music that the ocarina is suited for, and the instrument is also very small and portable.

I actually have two ocarinas, and there's a bit of a story behind it. I saw a replica of the ocarina from Zelda: Ocarina of Time on ebay for a reasonable price and bought it. I've never actually played the game, but I thought it would be cool to have it. Straight afterwards, I went to YouTube to find information about learning to play it, and came across David Erick Ramos's channel. In one of his intro videos, he says that if you have the Zelda replica (the cheaper one), it's probably no good. Nine times out of ten, they're not tuned properly. I was devastated!!

I was hoping against hope that my ocarina would be that tenth one that's properly made. But I had to wait for it to arrive in the mail to find out. It was an agonising 2-week wait. Meanwhile, I watched more videos and learned the history of the instrument, about the different types, etc. Eventually, I decided that if it hadn't arrived in two weeks, I would go to a music shop and buy a guaranteed proper one. I did some research and came across Melbourne Music Centre. They were the only shop in Melbourne that had more than one type to choose from. I went there after work the same day and had the most amazing experience. I highly recommend them.

The ocarina I purchased was a mid-range acrylic one: the Min (or Minin) Student Ocarina made in Korea. It's a 12-hole model tuned to C. (I'm very rusty with my musical terms, but that's what I was told!) Ironically, the Zelda ocarina arrived the very next day. It's also a 12-hole ocarina, made from ceramic. When I play a scale on it, it doesn't seem too wonky, but as far as I can tell, it's tuned a bit lower than C. I use my Min one for practice as at least I know for sure that it's tuned properly.

I'm thinking of making some videos if I can manage to get to a half-decent level -- or even if I don't, perhaps. It might be fun to share my learning process, and do a little bit to keep the internet real. Even the best musicians started somewhere!


  1. I did an ocarina workshop last year! It is a really fun instrument to play :). I would love to see your videos, if you make them!

    1. That would have been great! I'm really enjoying it. I've been mucking around with taking some videos and editing them. I'll post them soon, hopefully.
      Have a lovely week! xx