My Notes on Ocarinas from Mountain Ocarinas


February 5, 2017

Intro

This page contains notes I've made on the ocarinas from Mountain Ocarinas (and yes, that pun was very intentional). I plan to expand this in the future, and but I mostly wanted to get the accessible fingering chart out to anyone who needs it (see below).

Physical Description

As of the time of this writing, MO is selling only the polycarbonate ocarina in the key of G. They no longer stock their C model, or any instruments in their previously offered wood, warmstone, or aluminum. This is partly due to problems with their suppliers, and partly to their work on re-designing their ocarinas from the ground up to make new and exciting models. I don't mean to sound like a bad advertisement, but I'm honestly excited about the upcoming Coda model, a combination of G and C that will have easy fingering, two octaves, and other goodies.

Anyway, all that to say that what I'll be describing is the polycarb G. By all accounts, other materials look identical, save the colors and feel of the outer surface. The shape, hole placement, and other essentials is unchanged across their entire line. Plus, except for its being an inch longer and with a slightly wider sound hole on top, the C is identical to the G.

Finally, the description. Picture a three-dimensional rectangle, four and a half inches long, maybe an inch tall, and roughly two inches wide. Now round the sides, so that if you look down on it from above (looking at the two by four and a half inch face), you'd see all the sides curving very slightly outward. The vertical faces don't curve along their vertical axes.

Next, shave some material off the edge, so that one of the undersides slopes up toward the top face a bit, starting near the back. In other words, from top face to bottom face, the back slants up to form a slightly narrower end than the end opposite this slope. The slope begins a little over half way along the rectangle.

Next, the mouthpiece. Narrow the end opposite the slope we just talked about, but in such a way that this narrowing is visible from your view of the top face. Put another way, the two sides of the rectangle will move toward each other, meeting in a curved shape. As that happens, the bottom face again slopes up, but this time starting closer to the end than the slant we talked about earlier. It is also much sharper here; if I had to guess, I'd call the angle between this slanted bottom face and the non-slanted part of the same face about forty degrees. Again, this angle meets with the curved part, forming a narrow, curved area barely a quarter inch thick. Into this is cut a horizontal slit, which is what you blow into.

Finally, the easy part. Cut a rectangular hole in the top face, not quite an inch back from the end of the mouthpiece; this is where the magic bits that make the ocarina sound live. Just beyond the end of the rectangular opening is a set of holes, one on the left of the top face and one on the right. Each hole heads a column of three more holes, making four per column in total. Your fingers cover or un-cover these as you play. On the bottom face are two larger holes, one slightly ahead of the other, meant for your thumbs to operate.

The polycarbonate ocarina feels light, but solid. It has a rough surface; enough to be grippable, but not at all an unfinished or "cheap" feel. There is a very obvious seam where the top plate is set onto the rest of the instrument, but it is smooth to the touch and serves more as an accent than something you'd expect to be sanded away. It's hard to explain, but the whole thing feels rugged and solid. It also weighs very little, making it comfortable to hold. I sometimes wish it weighed more for notes when only a thumb or two is covering a hole, but you get used to that.

Finger Position

When you play this instrument, you hold it so your fingers and thumbs cover the holes. Your thumbs are on the bottom, fingers on the top. So long as you put a thumb on each of the large holes, a finger on each of the smaller ones, and the mouthpiece in your mouth, you almost can't get it wrong. The finger positioning is well thought out and dead simple. I'll leave breath, finger movement, and other techniques to MO's website and videos, but at least now you should be able to start off in the right place.

Fingering Patterns for Specific Notes

The following chart is thanks in large part to Mountain Ocarinas forums user kypfer, who was kind enough to translate all the fingerings shown in this GIF for me (here's the original post).

I made this because every fingering chart I've ever found is graphical. Being visually impaired, I rely on a screen reader to use my computer and phone, and so could not take advantage of any charts. I've created this resource in hopes that it makes the journey of other blind adopters of these instruments easier than mine was. This is for a G ocarina, but the same patterns will work on a C, just moved down six half steps.

Note that the octave numbers rely on the standard piano-based system, where middle C is known as C4, with the next highest C starting octave 5, and so on. Thus, the pitch of the G ocarina's lowest note, F sharp 5, is the F sharp note found after the C above middle C. Its highest note, B 6, is the note below the C on a keyboard that will start octave 7, three octaves above middle C.

If that was all crazy gibberish to you, don't worry, you don't need to know any of it to play an ocarina. The octave numbers don't matter much here, given the limited range of this instrument. It just helps more experienced musicians to know the number for reference or to get an idea of what notes to expect without actually having an ocarina to play for themselves.

The column defining the pattern by numbers uses the below numbering system. Each fingering is given in three groups, separated by commas. Each group is left fingers, then right fingers, and finally the thumbs, left and then right.

  • 1: left index finger
  • 2: left middle finger
  • 3: left ring finger
  • 4: left pinky
  • 5: right index finger
  • 6: right middle finger
  • 7: right ring finger
  • 8: right pinky
  • 9: left thumb
  • 10: right thumb

Another way to think of it is alternating left, right, left, right. The first numbers are the four fingers of your left hand, the next are the fingers on your right, your left thumb is next, and we end with your right thumb. I apologize to you piano players, for whom this system will be very confusing, but given how you hold and play an MO ocarina, this made more sense to me. Plus, I'm not a piano player, so I had nothing to un-learn in coming up with this.

Note Octave Number Finger Pattern Left Fingers Right Fingers
F sharp 5 1 2 3 4, 5 6 7 8, 9 10 thumb, index, middle, ring, pinky thumb, index, middle, ring, pinky
G 5 1 2 3 , 5 6 7 8, 9 10 thumb, index, middle, ring thumb, index, middle, ring, pinky
G sharp 5 1 2 3 , 5 7 8, 9 10 thumb, index, middle, ring thumb, index, ring, pinky
G sharp (alternative) 5 1 2 3 4, 5 6 7 , 9 10 thumb, index, middle, ring, pinky thumb, index, middle, ring
A 5 1 2 3, 5 6 7, 9 10 thumb, index, middle, ring thumb, index, middle, ring
A sharp 5 1 2 3, 5 7, 9 10 thumb, index, middle, ring thumb, index, ring
A sharp (alternative) 5 1 2 3, 6 7 8, 9 10 thumb, index, middle, ring thumb, middle, ring, pinky
B 5 1 2 3, 5 6, 9 10 thumb, index, middle, ring thumb, index, middle
C 6 1 2 3, 5, 9 10 thumb, index, middle, ring thumb, index
C sharp 6 1 2 3, 6, 9 10 thumb, index, middle, ring thumb, middle
D 6 1 2 3, 9 10 thumb, index, middle, ring thumb
D sharp 6 1 2, 7, 9 10 thumb, index, middle thumb, ring
E 6 1 2, 9 10 thumb, index, middle thumb
F 6 1, 7, 9 10 thumb, index thumb, ring
F 6 2, 9 10 thumb, middle thumb
F sharp 6 1, 9 10 thumb, index thumb
G 6 9 10 thumb thumb
G sharp 6 1, 9 thumb, index none
A 6 9 thumb none
A sharp 6 1 index none
B 6 none none none

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