The ocarina is a lesser-known but beautiful woodwind instrument with an equally beautiful history.
In its ancient form, the ocarina played an important role in Chinese, Japanese, and North American musical cultures, including those of many indigenous tribes such as the Aztecs and the Mayans.
The version of the ocarina more people are familiar with today is the one created and named by Giuseppe Donati in 1864 and later developed by the mathematician John Taylor to play a wider range of notes.
The ocarina produces a hauntingly melodic, flute-like sound, typical of the vessel flute family to which the instrument belongs. It’s also relatively easy to play. So, if you’re eager to learn a musical instrument that sounds as beautiful as the aerophone flute, but is much easier to pick up, the ocarina is an ideal choice!
If you’d like to learn to play the ocarina, the first thing you’ll need to do is, of course, purchase the instrument itself. We’ve simplified this part for you by compiling a list of the best ocarinas widely available on the market; you just need to pick your favorite and get practicing!
Looking for an ocarina that will really blow you away? Here’s our top choice:
Night By Noble Plastic Ocarina
- 12-hole model
- Accurate pitch
- High-quality plastic
- Ergonomic rubberized finish
- Available in black and ivory
OUR TOP PICK
This plastic ocarina from Night By Noble is one of the most popular ocarinas on the market thanks to its modernized construction which provides a highly accurate pitch and a comfortable playing experience.
Pitched at Alto C and tuned to 442 Hz, like most standard ocarinas, the 12-hole Night By Noble ocarina sounds beautiful both on its own or in a group since the pitch will easily match the majority of standard ocarinas for melodic harmonies.
Something we especially love about this ocarina is its ergonomic design. The plastic construction with a rubberized finish is comfortable on both the fingers and the mouth, so you’ll be able to play for hours!
Although made of plastic, the construction of this ocarina is high-quality and has a good weight to it so that you can tell you’re playing a good-quality instrument.
As a nice added touch, you can purchase this ocarina in either black or ivory to suit your own personal style and aesthetic.
This isn’t the most affordable ocarina on the market by any means - in fact, it runs higher in terms of price than many other models. However, for this level of quality and tonal accuracy, we think the price is definitely worth it!
- 12 holes
- Impressive pitch accuracy
- High-quality construction
- Ergonomic rubber finish
- Black and ivory color options
- Not the most affordable
For complete beginners to the ocarina, we recommend this beginner ocarina model from AKLOT.
The 12-hole construction of this ocarina gives it good tonal accuracy in Alto C PITCH and also allows you to play a wide range of notes and tunes.
Another bonus of this ocarina is that it looks absolutely stunning, with a smooth, straw-fired ceramic surface that feels nice to hold and play. The ergonomic qualities of the AKLOT ocarina are enhanced by the smooth cut of the holes.
If the quality and ergonomics of this ocarina weren’t enough to convince you, the AKLOT beginner ocarina also comes with additional features and accessories to help you on your journey towards mastering this instrument.
These features include a carry bag for safe transport and storage, a beautiful, beaded strap to keep the instrument safely on your person while playing, and a songbook to help you develop your repertoire!
- 12 holes
- Straw-fired ceramic construction
- Smooth-cut holes
- Includes carry bag and strap
- Songbook provided
- Quite fragile
OcarinaWind’s ‘Forest Whisper’ ocarina is one of the best-sounding ocarinas out there, so if your priority is creating beautiful, atmospheric music, this is the instrument we would recommend.
Pitched at standard tuning level (Alto C), this 12-hole ceramic ocarina has been designed for superior pitch accuracy. In fact, each individual hole and note was tested before firing by an expert tuner to ensure the highest possible level of accuracy.
One of the most impressive things about the ‘Forest Whisper’ ocarina is its construction. Each ceramic ocarina from OcarinaWind is lovingly fired in a kiln with natural straw, which not only lends a natural, smoky smell to the instrument but also gives its notes a gentler quality, perfect for playing soft, soothing music.
Also included with this ocarina are a strap and a songbook featuring not only a selection of tunes to play but also a tutorial to help even absolute beginners to master the instrument quickly. A protective bag has been provided so that you can keep your new ocarina safe and in perfect condition for a long time.
- 12 holes
- Accurate pitch
- Good for high notes
- Kiln-fired with natural straw
- Includes strap and carry bag
- Songbook with tutorial included
- Some inconsistencies in product quality
One example of an ocarina that shines in just about every area is the MIFOGE ocarina model.
This is a straw-fired pottery ocarina that has been lovingly handcrafted and finely tuned by professionals to ensure the best quality, durability, and pitch.
Even the high notes of the MIFOGE ocarina, which are so often the downfall of many ocarina brands, have a gentle, brassy quality, and the 12 holes, tuned to Alto C, provide a wide range of possible notes to play.
Besides its musical quality, which is, of course, the most important thing, this ocarina is also visually stunning, with a glossy, smooth finish that highlights the pottery’s natural color changes.
Complete with neck cord, protective cover, and songbook (complete with tutorial chart), this ocarina comes with everything you need to start learning and playing the moment you receive it.
The MIFOGE ocarina also makes a beautiful gift for family or friends, not just because of its high quality and stunning finish but because the packaging includes lovely, minimalistic gift wrapping. This ocarina is sure to bring a smile to the face of the woodwind musician in your life!
- 12 holes
- Made from natural materials
- Beautiful finish
- Good for high notes
- Protective cover and neck cord included
- Includes songbook
- Comes gift-wrapped
- The protective cover feels a little cheap
This wooden ocarina from Homely Connect has a very natural, authentic look and feel, so it’s perfect for musicians seeking a beautiful and traditional-looking ocarina that also sounds amazing.
The Homely Connect ocarina is made from maple wood and carved to perfection to produce a pleasant, Alto C pitch.
The quality of the material and the expert tuning makes this ocarina an attractive and beautiful-sounding instrument that performs well solo as well as with accompaniment.
Another potential reason to choose this ocarina over other models is the absolutely beautiful gift bag it comes in, which can be used to protect your ocarina on a permanent basis. The bag also means that this ocarina will work perfectly as a gift to someone special!
Also in the bag are a mouth cover, mouth cleaner, and strap cord, so you can always keep your new ocarina safe and clean as - well - a whistle!
However, as one might expect, the one slight drawback to the Homely Connect maple ocarina’s superior quality is a higher price point. This is the most expensive ocarina on our list overall, so although there’s definitely an advantage to learning on such a high-quality instrument, beginners who are just looking to try the instrument out might initially want to opt for a less expensive model.
- 12 holes
- Natural maple material
- Expertly tuned
- Beautiful gift bag
- Includes mouth cover and cleaner
- Strap cord provided
- Quite expensive
Best Ocarina Buying Guide
We hope you’ve been as impressed by our selection of best ocarinas as we have been. Now that you’ve seen what’s available, it’s time to select your new instrument!
There’s a lot to consider, so don’t rush - take the time to read through our buyer’s guide for more information about the different types of ocarinas on the market and all the accessories that come with them.
If you’ve looked closely at each ocarina we’ve reviewed in this article, you’ll probably have noticed that ocarinas can be made from a wide variety of different materials.
Of course, the material an ocarina is made out of will impact the way it looks, but also so much more. The material used to make an ocarina will determine how it sounds, how it feels, and how durable the instrument is.
Traditional ocarinas are usually made out of clay or ceramic. Both of these materials provide excellent sound, particularly if the clay has been straw-fired, which not only gives the notes a gentler quality but also gives the instrument a pleasant, smoky smell.
The downside to clay or ceramic ocarinas, however, is that they are much more fragile than other models and, therefore, much easier to break if dropped.
Plastic ocarinas are also an option now that modernized ocarina models are widely available. Although the idea of a plastic ocarina might not sound as appealing as an instrument handmade from natural materials, there are many benefits to playing a plastic ocarina, hence why the Night by Noble plastic ocarina is featured as our top choice!
For one thing, it’s important to remember that ‘plastic’ doesn’t have to mean ‘cheap’. Good-quality, weighted plastic can lend real durability and a satisfying feel to your instrument while also producing incredible sound!
With plastic ocarinas, it’s also possible to finish the instrument with a rubber texture. This helps to make the ocarina more non-slip in your hands, as well as softer and more comfortable to hold. There’s also less of a requirement to be careful while cleaning since plastic is less likely to be damaged by abrasive than clay or wood.
Another popular material from which ocarina materials are made is wood. A particularly good wooden material for ocarinas is maple wood. Not only is maple wood an eco-friendly choice of material, but it’s also a durable one.
In fact, maple is one of the toughest wood varieties in the world, so a maple ocarina is a real long-term investment.
Maple wood is also visually appealing and easy to clean. However, even though maple is very hard, it scratches easily, so you’ll still need to be careful while handling it and you’ll definitely need a protective cover.
Traditionally, ocarinas can vary a lot in terms of how many holes they have. Some ocarinas only have 4 holes, while others have 6.
However, most modern ocarinas now have 12 holes, as do all of the ocarinas on our list. The reason why 12-hole ocarinas are now so popular - and the reason we’ve exclusively promoted them in this article - is that more holes offer more flexibility in terms of notes and tunes that can be played.
A 12-hole ocarina will play 13 individual notes which total just over an octave and a half of range.
If you’re looking for a version of an ocarina that can be mastered extremely quickly, you might prefer an ocarina with fewer holes since there will be fewer notes to learn. However, in terms of musical range, 12-hole models are usually the better choice.
Tuning and Pitch
Standard ocarinas are usually pitched at alto C and tuned to somewhere between 440 and 442 Hz. This is the pitch matched by each of the products we’ve reviewed in this article.
Now, of course, there are varieties of ocarina that are tuned and pitched slightly differently for various reasons, and if one of these appeals to you, that’s great!
However, the reason we’ve chosen only to feature standard alto C ocarinas is that it’s much easier to learn from more resources with standard tuning.
You’ll also find that it’s easier to play as a group with other people or with CD accompaniment if your ocarina is in standard pitch. Most other ocarina owners will be able to harmonize with your instrument in alto C, and a wider selection of sheet music will be available to you.
If you really want to become proficient at playing the ocarina, you may need the help of one or two extra features or accessories to help you along the way.
If you don’t yet have a teacher in mind or an accessible ocarina tutorial to work from, you might benefit from an ocarina that comes with an included songbook.
Many of these songbooks also include picture tutorials that show you how and where to position your fingers for best results, as well as sheet music of beginner-level songs to play.
Moving onto accessories, a useful attachment to have for your ocarina is some form of neck strap or cord. With the help of a cord, you can keep your ocarina securely fastened around your neck at the beach or at events like festivals, where you may wish to play intermittently.
This is an especially useful feature for ocarinas made out of some of the more fragile materials we discussed earlier because it provides a safety net of sorts to prevent the ocarina from being dropped.
Speaking of damage-prevention, it can also be very useful to have some form of cover, case, or bag to store your ocarina in when you’re not using it.
As we mentioned earlier, some ocarinas can be quite fragile depending on what kind of material they’re made out of, so it’s good to have something to protect yours while it’s not in use. Dust and debris can also get inside the ocarina and interfere with the sound, so using a protective bag or cover may allow you to clean your ocarina less often.
However, even with a protective case, you will need to clean your ocarina regularly to ensure it stays hygienic. This is the case for any instrument that you play with your mouth, but luckily, because ocarinas are much smaller and made of less separate components than other instruments such as flutes and trumpets, cleaning is likely to be a much quicker process.
All the same, it’s nice to receive everything you need to maintain your ocarina at once without having to purchase things separately, so if you want to have all your most important accessories ready for when you start learning, we recommend investing in an ocarina that comes with an ocarina cleaner.
Another reason why this is a good idea is that different materials will require different cleaning procedures and implements, so by purchasing an ocarina with its specific cleaning utensil, you’ll know that you’re caring for your instrument as well as possible.
Best Ocarina - FAQ's
What does ‘ocarina’ mean?
Earlier, we mentioned that the more modern version of the ocarina was invented and named by Giuseppe Donati in the mid-nineteenth century.
The word ‘ocarina’ is Italian for ‘little goose’, which is an adorable reference by Donati to the ocarina’s unique whistling sound.
Why do ocarinas have different numbers of holes?
The reason why you can find ocarinas on the market with different numbers of holes is largely down to the way the instrument has been adapted and re-invented over the centuries.
The version ocarina that was invented by Giuseppe Donati in 1864 actually varied quite a lot in terms of hole numbers, with models featuring anywhere between 7 and 10 holes.
However, when John Taylor reinvented the instrument in 1963, he gave it 4 holes, which was especially impressive given the fact that the new, fewer-holed instrument could still play an entire octave.
Today, as we mentioned previously, most ocarinas have 12 holes to allow for an even wider range of notes.