Ocarina Wiki

The ocarina is an ancient vessel-flute wind instrument. There are several variations that exist, from pendants to transverse to the large pregnaphones, all of which have a closed body at both ends to create an enclosed cavity and is perforated with anywhere from 4 to more than 17 holes.

French traduction:

L'ocarina est un ancien instrument à vent.Il y a de nombreuses formes et version qui existent,des pendantifs en passant par les transverses,de quatre à plus de Dix Sept trous.


Pendant: A small ocarina which is meant to be worn as a necklace.

Pendant ocarinas are known to have several fingering systems employed to play the pitches of a musical scale. The English 4 hole system which was developed in the 1960's by an Englishman, John Taylor is well suited to the size constraints of a small pendant ocarina. The English 4 hole system allows a 13 note chromatic range to be played using cross fingering and half-hole playing technique. The English 4 hole fingering system has also been modified to what is termed "extended" with the addition of one or two thumbholes which allow extra notes to be played. Other fingering systems are also used, such as 4 hole Peruvian, 8 hole Peruvian (6 on front, 2 on back), 9 hole system (7 on front, 2 on back).

Note: The above mentioned list of fingering systems is not exhaustive, it is just a sample of systems that may be used on pendant ocarinas.


Transverse: An ocarina with a mouthpiece which is or is nearly perpendicular to the main body of the ocarina, such that a players breath is blown across the width of the ocarina. Some modern day ocarinas may have a mouthpiece which is acutely angled up to 45 degrees, but are still considered a transverse ocarina.

The transverse ocarina has a great following among ocarina players and has been in existence since the 1850's. Only a few "modern" fingering systems have been developed or improved upon since then and the most notable are the 10 hole Donati system, named after the "father" of the transverse ocarina, Giuseppe Donati of Italy, and the 12 hole fingering system by Takashi Aketagawa of Japan in the late 1920's. Aketagawa was able to improve the Donati 10 hole system by adding 2 extra toneholes which enabled the ocarina to play 2 sub-tonic notes.

The beauty of both the Donati and Aketagawa systems is that the musical scale can be played easily by uncovering toneholes in a sequential pattern that is easily learned by most beginners. Other fingering systems for the transverse ocarina do exist, like 7 hole and 9 hole, which are basically the Donati system with fewer holes which limit the playing range of the ocarina.

The English 4 hole and 6 hole extended system remain a popular choice for smaller transverse ocarinas. This is not to say that the English 4 hole system is strictly relegated to smaller sized ocarinas, it can easily be used on bigger ocarinas as well. Still other fingering systems exist, like 8 hole Peruvian (6 on top, 2 on bottom) for instance.

Note: The above mentioned fingering systems is not exhaustive, it is just a sample of systems that may be used on transverse ocarinas.

These ocarinas are also colloquially called "sweet potato".


Inline: An ocarina with a mouthpiece which is parallel or inline with the main body of the ocarina, such that a players breath is blown along the length of the ocarina. Some pendant ocarinas fall into this category as well.

The inline ocarina is a relatively new development when compared to the long history of the transverse ocarina. The inline borrows the fingering methodology of the transverse but places the toneholes in parallel directly across from or slightly offset from each other on the top of the ocarina, plus two toneholes to be covered by the thumbs underneath. Current commercially available inline ocarinas have either 9, 10 or 12 toneholes. The 12 hole version having the greatest range. Many players find the inline ocarina comfortable to hold and play. In particular those players who have played either the penny whistle or recorder may really enjoy the inline ocarina.

  • 8 holes is common, but they have been known to come with varying numbers of holes


Multichambered ocarinas were created to extend the limited playing range.


  • These can be ornamental or specialized designs
  • Jug (jugarina)
  • Pregnaphone
  • Gemshorn
  • Tea cup (teacarina)
  • Keyed
  • Tunable


Ocarinas can also be categorized by the materials that they are created from. Common ocarina materials include: clay (ceramic), wood, and plastic. Other materials such as glass or metal can be used, but are not as common. It is also noted that ancient variants have been made from animal bones, antler, gourds, jade, quartz, and even seed pods.


A third way to categorize types of ocarinas is their country of origin.



  • Australian


North American

South American

See Also[]