Innovations on the Ocarina

Here are some unusual innovations on the ocarina. This page features many ocarinas that brake from the familiar form of the instrument in various ways.


The ocarina is easily the smallest wind instrument in the world. It also has the potential to be the largest.

Interface (fingering systems)

Many alternative ways of interacting with the ocarina have been made. More standard instruments have 4, 6, 10, or 12 holes, intended to allow players to play in the familiar twelve pitch system. Many other strange innovations on the ocarina have been made, often allowing expanded use of pitch.

Microtonal Ocarinas


Perforated Ocarinas


Multi-chamber ocarinas

Some ocarinas have added many chambers onto one instrument to allow for an extended range, different tibre, or for the instrument to be able to play harmony with itself. see Harmony for harmony ocarinas

Body Shape

This category if for ocarinas that have familiar fingering systems and sound ordinary but have unusual body shapes. This category is mostly an aesthetic alteration on the instrument.

Sound Profile

The timbre of the ocarina can be altered in various ways involving adding a mirliton, adding chambers that are played simultaneously, or altering the voicing to give it some turbulence.

Turbulence Flutes

These instruments are related to the ocarina in that they have a fipple and a windway, but they use a closed chamber and turbulence to alter the sound quality of the instrument. See Roberto Velázquez Cabrera to see some research into the construction and acoustics of early Mesoamerican instruments that featured sound production using turbulence. All contemporary instruments are innovations on these early instruments.



A harmony ocarina is an ocarina that has multiple chambers that are intended to be played at the same time. Instruments that have separate windways, allowing for each chamber to be voiced independently, are typically called a harmony ocarina and ones that have the windways combined, ones that are only capable of playing continuously from all chambers, are called huacas. Having multiple sound chambers one one ocarina that play at the same time allows for harmony to be built into the instrument. This principle also brings up some unusual problems with the interface, that have been solved in unusual ways. See Multi-Chamber Ocarinas for discussion about the interface.


The huaca is a type of harmony ocarina, typically with 3 or 4 chambers invented by Sharon Rowell. Unlike other chamber harmony ocarinas the huaca is typically intended to be played with continuous harmony between the chambers and have the windway combined and not separated as can be found on other multi-chamber ocarinas. Huacas typically have two medium and/or high pitched chambers played with the front fingers and a lower pitched chamber played with the thumbs and sometimes by the palms and forearms. Tunings of the front chambers can be chromatic (like a 4 hole pendant but using the 4 fingers of one hand each) or pentatonic. Tunings of the lowest chamber are generally limited to under a full octave. The chambers are typically tuned in harmony to one another but may also be in octaves or in unison. Many makers have adopted making huacas inspired by the instruments of Sharon Rowell and the instrument is generally considered a type of harmony ocarina.

Interference Ocarina

This instrument is similar to the Huaca but it does not have predefined pitch locations and is able to do pitch bends between the chambers. This allows the instrument to produce Interference.

Unusual Materials

Ocarinas are most commonly made out of ceramics and plastic on cheaper models. Most other materials have an exotic quality to them and are often paired with other unusual aesthetic alterations.





These are the Leather Poco pods by artist Garry Greenwood.
Here is the curious description from his (very ancient) website entry on them-1)

“Another invention of Greenwood's are the leather ocarina, named 'Poco pods'. The sculptor was interested to discover the difference between the traditional ceramic ocarina and one made from leather and he also wanted to discover the acoustic principle of the ocarina's characteristic 'whistle'.

These little instruments proved to be one of the most difficult projects Greenwood had undertaken with problems including the size of the finger holes, a lack of consistency in sound – in the prototype there seemed to be no relation between sound and finger – and controlling the tone. The last problem was caused by the large volume of air inside the pod which Greenwood found was greater then that of a bass recorder.

Greenwood's first instrument was basically flat. (All subsequent Poco pods are sphere-shaped) He used a piece of the body of the instrument but then spent two frustrating days trying to find the right distance between this and the mouth-hole. When he eventually found the right place he discovered that only one hole sounded, thus in subsequent instruments the holes were cut out after the piano key was put in place.”

There are no audio recordings of these instruments, but they looks well built and are very visually pleasing. I would guess that the tonal quality of making an ocarina out of leather would be similar to making an ocarina out of a very soft wood such as maple, birch, pine, or even something like basswood. I have one of the Charlie Hind wooden kit ocarinas in maple that has been very well sealed and the sound is very soft and thin. It has a sweet recorder like quality (recorders are also most often made of very soft woods like maple to give the sound a characteristic quality).

Makers of Unusual Ocarinas

Alan Albright- early maker of wooden ocarinas, made many experimental models.
Mestre Nado (Aguinaldo da Silva)- makes multichamber ocarinas
Susan Rawcliffe- has invented many unusual ocarinas
Garry Greenwood- leather sculptor
Roberto Velázquez Cabrera- Recreates mesoamerican ocarinas
Sharon Rowell- Inventor of the Huacas


ocarina.txt · Last modified: 2024/01/24 01:50 by mete
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