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Ocarina: Ancient Flute-like Wind Instrument

Sunday November 16, 2008

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

The ocarina is an ancient flute-like wind instrument believed to date back some 12,000 years. While several variations exist, an ocarina is typified by an oval-shaped enclosed space with four to twelve finger holes and a mouth tube projecting out from the body. It is often ceramic, but many other materials, such as plastic, wood, glass and metal may also be used.

Ocarina-type instruments have been of particular importance in Chinese and Mesoamerican cultures. The Ocarina played an important role in China’s long history of song and dance. The ocarina has similar features to the Xun, another important Chinese instrument. Cortes’ expedition to Mesoamerica resulted in the introduction of the ocarina to the courts of Europe. Both the Mayans and Aztecs had produced versions of the ocarina, but it was the Aztecs who brought the song and dance that accompanied the ocarina to Europe. The ocarina went on to become popular in European communities as a toy instrument

You can now play the Ocarina with your iPhone! You have access to several keys and modes that can be changed in order to play a full variation of songs. Rest the iPhone on your ring fingers and thumbs with the headphone jack facing away from you. Use your index and middle fingers to cover the four holes. In order to play your Ocarina, you will need to blow into the microphone (you will see a small gold arrow where to blow). The mic is sensitive, so try not to blow very hard (if you are puffing your cheeks, you are blowing too hard).

I feel like the iPhone Ocarina is the most engaging application out there. It is a lot fun and with a little bit of effort one can learn to play some great songs; you can also transpose your own songs on to the Ocarina. There is a “globe mode”, where you can listen to what people all around the world are playing on the Ocarina. Download the Ocarina by Smule for your phone and start making music with your iPhone!


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