Teacher Hub

Whole-class Ocarina Teaching

Written by David Liggins20/10/23

David Liggins from Ocarina Workshop shares his insights into how ocarinas can be a viable and rewarding class instrument:

Whole-class instrumental lessons can be the highlight of the week with the right instrument and teaching-methods. Of all tuned wind-instruments, the English 4-hole Ocarina is the most child-friendly and teacher-friendly. And these small vessel flutes allow players access to a broad range of notes and repertoire. Even children with tiny hands can play the ocarina.

The principle is simple. Breathe gently into the mouthpiece to make a warm pitched sound. Open and close the four different-sized finger-holes to discover a range of musical notes: with all holes open, the sound is high; with all covered, it is low. Pupils cannot overblow to play higher notes or squeak, as on the recorder, so they master all eleven notes (octave plus semitones) calmly and steadily. Extra notes are on offer for those who continue playing beyond their first few years of lessons.

Establish in advance how to organise your ocarinas. If each child has their own, no cleaning is needed. If Ocarinas are shared between classes, make sure to clean the mouthpiece with sterilising fluid and wash off with water, wipe the finger-holes, and keep the string-end dry. Identify each ocarina with a name or number attached to the string, or write on the body of the ocarina with an indelible pen. Then the same child can pick out the same instrument every lesson to save time.

Ocarinas are delivered assembled, tuned and ready-to-play, leaving more time for the music!

Children are always excited to try something new, particularly when they can wear brightly coloured ocarinas close to their heart. Make sure they watch and listen before you give ocarinas out to the whole class. Show them how you wear the ocarina and then play them a tune. Pupils should spot how you breathe into the ocarina with a steady continuous breath to make a warm sound, and move your fingers (first two on each hand) to change the notes.

As soon as the whole class can make a good sound, they are ready to play first tunes in the ocarina books. Each title has easy-to-follow ocarina tablature that young readers can follow, and that intrigue teenagers as well. And as soon as they can play tunes, encourage pupils to gently tongue the notes to separate each one and make a clean sound.

To equip your classes with the right ocarinas and books, Chamberlain Music offer the Ocarina Workshop 4-hole Ocarina boxed in packs of 12 with all the music books and resources that you need. 36 Ocarinas and 36 books boxed with teaching resources fit into the space of a xylophone and cost a similar price – 36 children and a teacher equipped for the cost of a single instrument! Teacher Books and progress charts accompany each title in the Ocarina Workshop series.

Roll out ocarina-playing as a whole-class, year-group or whole-school activity. The 32-page colour Ocarina-Playing Handbook will show you how. It includes teaching-tips and a full listing of all music titles to help you choose the best playing-levels for progression. Some schools begin a new book every year and continue progressing musically over four or more years of ocarina-playing, making the ocarina an amazingly cost-effective instrument.

Ocarina-playing gives pupils a great introduction to music. Any teacher can teach and any child grow musically through playing and singing. Enjoy musical success and lots of fun. And be surprised at how soon your children can play tunefully, in harmony, and in concert

Check out the full range of Ocarina Workshop ocarinas and books available from Chamberlain Music here