The ocarina is a wind instrument with finger holes and a distinct oval shape. It's typically made of clay or ceramic and the player produces sound by blowing into a moutpiece hole while covering a series of other holes. The ocarina has an ancient history and has been significant to many cultures throughout the world
History of the Ocarina
The ancient ocarina, sometimes referred to as a vessel flute, has a very long and complex history. The first instruments resembling an ocarina were played by the Ancient Aztecs and Incas several thousand years ago. Historical records suggest the ocarina as a hollowed wind instrument could be as old as 12,000 years. In Ancient China, ocarinas of the Shang dynasty (approximately 1100 BC) were egg shaped but constructed of the similar clay and ceramic materials that even modern ocarinas are made of today. In Europe, the popularity of the ocarina started in the 16th century when visiting European explorers took back Aztec and Inca performers to play in front of European courts. These performances were well received and the instrument became slowly better known in the continent, perhaps leading to the creation of “the gemshorn” a horn-shaped ocarina that had some limited popularity. Italian instrument maker Giuseppe Donati created his own brand of this instrument in the late 19th century that could play all the notes on a chromatic scale. He dubbed his instrument “the ocarina” and the various shapes of this design became gradually more popular across the world. Design developments in the early 20th century by British and Japanese inventors such as Takashi Aketagawa added more finger holes, enabling the player to reach a higher number of notes. The ocarina remains relatively unchanged after many years and is a culturally significant instrument to many countries around the world.
Inventor: Unknown

Where to Buy

$20 - $100

Hear the Ocarina

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How to Play

A small, egg-shaped wind instrument with finger holes, played by blowing into the mouthpiece.

In Popular Music

The ocarina has a strong association with Japanese anime and the ‘Legend of Zelda’ games. It features prominently in the song ‘Song Of Time’ from the video game ‘The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina Of Time’ from 1998. The ocarina has also featured in ‘Mayu’s Theme’ from the soundtrack of popular series ‘Captain Harlock’ in the English release of ‘Endless Oddyssey’.

Famous Players

Satoshi Osawa, Cris Gale, Giorgio Pacchioni

Close Relations

Recorder, Xun
Video Credit: David Erick Ramos - Ocarina
Understanding the Ocarina










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