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What Is A Double Ocarina?

A double ocarina is a type of multi-chambered ocarina – in this case, an ocarina that has two sound chambers. Most ocarinas are single ocarinas, and have only one chamber. The sound chamber is another term for the hollow body of the ocarina, which produces the instrument’s sound (read more about how the ocarina works). So a double ocarina basically has two compartments. Some types have a separate hole in the mouthpiece for each chamber, which enables each to be played separately, whereas others just have the one.

Double ocarinas are used by people who want an instrument with a larger range, or who want to be able to play harmonies. Let’s look at these two types of double ocarina in more detail.

Using a double ocarina to play an extended range

One downside of the ocarina is its limited range; single ocarinas usually have a range of just 1 to 1.5 octaves. Extended range double ocarinas, however, can usually play two octaves (sometimes with a couple of extra notes). This makes them more versatile than their single counterparts, especially if you want to play music other than folk tunes (most folk music can be played on single ocarinas). With these ocarinas, you switch over to the second chamber after coming to the end of the first chamber’s range.

Using a double ocarina to play harmonies

Some double ocarinas (sometimes known as duet ocarinas) are designed not to have an extended range, but instead to play harmonies. Ocarinas are pitched in specific keys – for example, you might have a ‘C ocarina’, a ‘G ocarina’ etc. The C ocarina will play the notes in the C major scale (as well as the sharps and flats if it’s a chromatic ocarina), and so on. A harmony double ocarina is basically be two instruments in different keys combined into one, and will let you play harmonies by playing two notes at once – one from each sound chamber. This can produce some really nice effects. Harmony double ocarinas are tuned at different intervals, so you can get instruments that play in unison, fourths, fifths, octaves etc.

Double Ocarina Designs

Like their single cousins, double ocarinas come in different types of design, including the three most common – the transverse, pendant and ‘hybrid’/inline styles.

Transverse Double Ocarinas

double ocarina by STL Ocarina

Double Ocarina by STL Ocarina,
available from Amazon

Transverse double ocarinas are played like a flute, with the instrument held to the side. They’re sometimes known as sweet potato ocarinas, thanks to their shape. They have a varying number of holes, which in turn determines how the notes are fingered. Transverse ocarinas are probably the most recognisable type to many people, and there’s a wide choice of these double ocarinas to choose from. Most sweet potato double ocarinas are designed to play an extended range, rather than harmonies.

Pendant Double Ocarinas

English pendant double ocarinas have a different design in that they’re rounder in shape, are held in a vertical position (like a recorder), have fewer holes, and use a different fingering system (cross-fingering). Langley ocarinas are a well-known example of this type, with one double ocarina currently available in the range.

Inline/’Hybrid’ Double Ocarinas

Inline ocarinas (such as this one) combine features of both the transverse and pendant styles. They’re held vertically like a pendant ocarina, which makes them comfortable to play for long periods, but they have the simpler linear fingering system of many sweet potato ocarinas, making them easier to learn.

Double Ocarina Sizes

Like single ocarinas, double ocarinas come in different sizes, with correspondingly higher and lower pitches. So, you can find soprano, alto, tenor and bass double ocarinas.

Other Multi-Chambered Ocarinas

As well as double ocarinas, you can also get triple and even quadruple ocarinas which – as the names suggest – have three or four chambers rather than two. These have an even larger range, and are correspondingly more expensive.

Buying A Double Ocarina

For the largest range of double ocarinas, it’s best to shop online, as they’re something of a specialty instrument that won’t be widely available in most music stores. You can see a list of popular sites where you can buy ocarinas here, and don’t forget to check out more general sites like eBay and Amazon, where you can often find some good bargains. However, since double ocarinas are relatively expensive, it’s a good idea to do your research and look for reviews and demos of the models you’re interested in before buying, as the quality and characteristics of different ocarinas vary a lot.

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