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The Alto Ocarina

The alto ocarina is the most popular ocarina size. These ocarinas have a clear, relatively high pitched sound, but not as high as the tiny soprano ocarinas. The blend in well with most other instruments, and the clarity of their sound also enables them to work well as a solo instrument.

The exact range of alto ocarinas will vary, depending on things like the type of ocarina it is, the key it is in, and the manufacturer. But as a rough guide, an alto ocarina in C might start at A4 or B4 and go up to E6 or F6.

Single alto ocarinas usually have a range from an octave to a 12th, which enables them to play most folk and popular tunes, as well as many other types of music. Extended range double alto ocarinas have aroudn two octaves.

Types of Alto Ocarina

Transverse (Sweet Potato) Alto Ocarinas

These so-called ‘sweet potato’ alto ocarinas are probably the best known type. They are played sideways, like a flute, with each hand covering several finger holes (the number of holes will vary depending on the instrument). They’re instantly recognisable to anyone who’s familiar with Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time game, as this type of ocarina was featured in the game. 10 hole and 12 hole alto ocarinas are very common, although some instruments have fewer holes.

Focalink alto ocarina

Focalink Alto Sweet Potato Ocarina, available from Amazon

Pendant Alto Ocarinas

English pendant ocarinas usually have a more round shape, and are played in a vertical position, like a recorder. There are fewer finger holes (4 – 6), which are placed either side of the instrument (often with one or two thumb holes on the back), and the hands are held opposite each other. Pendant ocarinas have a more complex fingering system, using ‘cross fingering’ rather than following a linear pattern. English pendant alto ocarinas are often pitched in the key of D, although instruments in C and G can be more common elsewhere. Pictured is my John Langley alto ocarina in D.

‘Hybrid’ Inline Alto Ocarinas

You can also get alto ocarinas that are held in the same vertical position as pendant ocarinas, but they have a similar fingering system to transverse ocarinas, with the notes following a linear pattern. This makes them easy to play, and comfortable to hold for long periods of time as well. Mountain Ocarinas are a good example of this type.

Buying An Alto Ocarina

Alto ocarinas are widely available online, as well as in some music stores, markets, craft shows etc. You’ll find the best choice on the internet, and often the best prices too. Here is a list of some places to buy ocarinas, and don’t forget to check out sites like Amazon and eBay too, where you can often find quality ocarinas at bargain prices.

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