Ocarina Glossary

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If you are lost in the technical language of the ocarina and vessel flutes in general, fear not!

Check out our ocarina glossary of the most common terms you may come across.



The Glossary

Aerophone: any instrument that produces sound by vibrating the air without the use of strings or membranes, and without shaking the instrument itself. The ocarina is an aerophone; a guitar is not.

Back Pressure: the pressure felt by the player while blowing into an ocarina.

Budrio: a small town in Bologna, Italy and since 1853 the birthplace of the modern ocarina. See ocarina history.

Budrio Ocarina: an ocarina made by professionals in Budrio.

Classification: a way of categorizing ocarinas of different sizes and pitch ranges (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass).

Chamber: the enclosed space or cavity within the body of an ocarina. Multi chamber ocarinas have more than one.

Diatonic: notes arranged in specific intervals as designated by western tonality.

Double: colloquial name for an ocarina with two chambers (extended range). It is also known as a double ocarina.

English Fingering System: the finger hole sizes and combinations used by an English pendant.

English Pendant: a small, circular ocarina with 4 to 6 tone holes that uses the English fingering system. Both were designed by English mathematician John Taylor.

Extended Range: an ocarina with two or more chambers, used to create additional pitches beyond the ocarina’s average pitch range

Fipple: a constricted mouthpiece, common to end blown flutes like the recorder. Vessel flutes with a fipple are ocarinas.

Harmony Ocarina: an ocarina with multiple chambers, used to play simultaneous pitches for complex harmonies

Gemshorn: a medieval German ocarina made from the horn of a chamois or European goat.

Helmholtz Resonator: a cavity in which vibrations of the air are amplified. The ocarina and the body of a guitar are examples of this. See ocarina physics – how ocarinas work.

Inline: a recorder style, linear ocarina, that points away from your face.

Labium: sharp, rounded edge against which the player blows to produce the sound.

Ocarina: a vessel flute with a fipple, first designed by Guiseppe Donati 1853, Italy. The name is Italian and means “little goose”, named for the shape of the instrument.

Octave: an interval of eight notes in the diatonic scale (e.g.: from C4-C5 on the keyboard)

OoT: stands for “Ocarina of Time”, a famous ocarina featured in the Legend of Zelda video games. See ocarina of time replica.

Peruvian: the name for ocarinas made in Peru, South America. Especially if made in the style of traditional Peruvian ocarinas, usually having 4 to 10 holes.

Pitch: the highness or lowness of a sound, which may also refer to a specific note on the keyboard.

Quadruple: colloquial name for an ocarina with four chambers.

Range: the set of notes that an ocarina can play from lowest to highest.

Rising Airflow: see “Strong Airflow”.

Scale Degree: the number for a particular note of a scale in relation to the tonic.

Single: colloquial name for an ocarina with one chamber.

Soft Airflow: an ocarina that requires the player to blow at a steady rate throughout its range.

Squeak: the windy sound made when an ocarina is blown too hard (over blowing)

Strap Hole: a hole in the body of an ocarina where a strap or cord can be attached.

Strap Loop: like a strap hole, except that a look is extending from the body of the ocarina.

Strong Airflow: an ocarina that requires an increasing amount of air as you progress up the range

Sweet Potato (Piper): the American nickname given to the standard Budrio Ocarina, like the Ocarina of Time, because it looks a lot like a sweet potato. In the early 1900s, the instrument was also called the “Sweet Potato Piper”.

Tabs: a simplified way of reading music by using small pictures of a particular ocarina to represent notes. Can also be done using numbers.

Tonic: the first note in a key or scale, which also means it is the note an ocarina plays if all the finger holes are closed.

Transverse: a horizontal style ocarina that points not in the direction of your nose, but typically to the right.

Triple: colloquial name for an ocarina with three chambers.

Tuning: the key in which the ocarina is tuned to, or the act of tuning the ocarina.

Vessel Flute: a wind instrument that creates sound through a hollow chamber.

Windway: the corridor of the mouth piece of an ocarina through which the air is blown into the instrument.

Xun: an ancient Chinese vessel flute similar to the ocarina. See Chinese Xun.

Zelda Ocarina: a replica of any ocarina featured in the Legend of Zelda video games; typically the OoT.

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