Teacher Hub

How to... Start an Ocarina Group

Written by David Liggins20/10/23

Playing ocarinas gives pupils a great musical start. So where do you begin? Would you like to use ocarinas in lessons with whole-classes, year-groups, or the whole-school? Or would you like to start small: lunchtime and after-school clubs can be a lot of fun. Once you know how many pupils you will teach, make sure you have the right ocarinas and matching teaching resources to support the sessions. Download this free handbook to help you prepare.

Choosing Ocarinas

Ocarinas appear in many shapes and sizes, from submarine-shaped Zelda ocarinas to those in bird and animal forms. Ocarinas are usually made of clay or plastic. Whilst terracotta bird ocarinas look beautiful, they are not well-tuned. Go for concert-tuned unbreakable plastic instruments to play together in class. Those with the 4-hole English fingering system have been invented and designed for class use and Chamberlain Music stock them here.

As with all wind-instruments, it is best if each player has their own. If you do need to share, then number or label each ocarina so the same player uses the same instrument every time. And if ocarinas are to share, use a sterilising liquid to clean the mouthpiece regularly and wipe the finger-holes, keeping the string-end dry.

Ocarina Music

Ocarina music books are specially written for the English 4-hole Ocarina with tablature under the notes and illustrations that anyone can follow. As teacher, you do not need to be able to read music to start an ocarina group. Start simply. For very young children, both Music Zero-to-Hero and 1-2-3 Ocarina take it a note at a time. Dexterity grows week-by-week until, by the end of the year, pupils are playing lots of tunes and singing songs that range up to a full octave.

For KS2 pupils, progression routes and pieces are ready for you. Familiar tunes in the 'Play your Ocarina' series introduce all the notes from the start and 'Adventurous Music-Making' books introduce great music through composing and exploring. Each title has a new focus: Code-Cracker, Music-Maker, World-Explorer, Time-Traveller. Any of these books will fill a year of lessons and develop playing, singing, and musical understanding. Each has a step-by-step guide for teachers.

Musical Backings

Teacher Books include audio CDs and lesson notes on how to teach each song. MP3 downloads of performance and backing tracks are available. When children play together, ocarinas sound surprisingly mellow. When accompanied by orchestra, they sound classical; with sax and drums, jazzy; and with tabla and sitar, Indian. Each individual backing takes pupils into a new world of discovery. And each song develops new musical skills and understanding.

Ocarina Group Performances

The whole idea of playing instruments should be to entertain audiences. The English 4-hole Ocarina is so simple, versatile and portable that you can play in assembly without any fuss. Pupils sing and play together to show off their skills. Simple unison tunes lead on eventually to adventurous arrangements of works in up to four-part harmony that are ready-made for ocarinas and voices. Children learn what it is like to be a musician through performing.

Music Curriculum

The handbook mentioned earlier shows how whole-class ocarina-playing can fulfil all the requirements of the English National Curriculum, Modern Music Curriculum, National Plan for Music, and more. Most importantly, ocarina-playing gives you, the teacher, the chance to lead memorable lessons that are life-affirming, musically excellent, and fun for children.