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The Bass Ocarina

The bass ocarina is a large instrument, with a rich tone. It isn’t as commonly used as the alto and tenor ocarinas, but makes a great addition to any ocarina player’s collection, especially if you prefer an ocarina with a mellow, rather than a shrill, tone. Some bass ocarinas can be harder to play because the holes are widely spaced, so this is something to be aware of if you have very small hands. They also tend to be more expensive, because of their larger size.

As with other types of ocarina, bass ocarinas don’t have a standard range – instead, the exact range of notes of any given instrument will vary, depending on the manufacturer and the key the ocarina is pitched in. But as a rough guide, a bass ocarina might have a range from about C4 to about G5. You can also get larger bass ocarinas, which are deeper in pitch, and may be called a contrabass, ‘great bass’ or similar terms.

Single bass ocarinas have a range from 1 to around 1.5 octaves, meaning that they’re able to play most folk tunes and popular melodies. For a larger range, you could get a double bass ocarina – these can normally play two octaves, or in some cases, harmonies.

Types of Bass Ocarina

Transverse (Sweet Potato) Bass Ocarinas

Transverse ocarinas are probably the most familiar type to many people. They’re sometimes also known as ‘sweet potato’ ocarinas due to their shape, and are played in a sideways position, like the flute. There is a row of finger holes for each hand, although the exact number of holes will vary between instruments.

Transverse ocarinas are occasionally called Zelda ocarinas, because they feature in Nintendo’s hit game The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

Pendant Bass Ocarinas

Pendant bass ocarina

Pendant Bass Ocarina,
available from Amazon

A second type is the English pendant bass ocarina. These have a more globular shape, and are played while being held in a vertical position, like a recorder (although unlike with a recorder, you hold your hands opposite each other). Bass pendant ocarinas don’t have as many holes as the transverse type, and use different fingering patterns, which can be a bit more complex to learn. Good examples of bass English pendant ocarinas are the Bass and Great Bass models from John Langley, which are pitched in D and G respectively.

‘Hybrid’ Inline Bass Ocarinas

You can also get inline ocarinas which are a kind of hybrid of the previous two types. They have a linear fingering system similar to many transverse ocarinas, but are played in a comfortable vertical position like pendant ocarinas. They aren’t quite as common as the other two types, but are worth looking out for. A nice example of a bass ocarina of this kind is this one from Charlie Hind.

Buying A Bass Ocarina

You may find bass ocarinas in some music stores, but the best selection and prices are online – read more about places to buy ocarinas here. It’s also worth checking out more general sites like Amazon and eBay as well, as you can often find high quality ocarinas from good manufacturers here, sometimes at bargain prices. Just be sure that you look for an ocarina that has been tuned properly, and is actually designed as a serious musical instrument, rather than a novelty ornament.

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