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The Tenor Ocarina

Tenor ocarinas are a popular choice among ocarina players, along with the alto variety. The tenor ocarina has a slightly deeper pitch than the alto ocarina, which appeals to many people (me included). It also blends well with other instruments, and can be used to play a wide variety of music.

The range of notes covered by the tenor ocarina will vary somewhat, depending on the manufacturer and the key in which the ocarina is pitched. However, many single tenor ocarinas have a range from around C4 to F5 – but bear in mind that this is approximate.

Most single tenor ocarinas have a range from an octave to a 12th, which is enough for playing most folk and popular melodies, as well as a lot of other types of music too. You can also get tenor double ocarinas, which (depending on the instrument) will either let you play an extended range of about two octaves, or will be pitched in two keys, so you can play harmonies.

Types of Tenor Ocarina

Transverse (Sweet Potato) Tenor Ocarinas

Most people are most familiar with ‘sweet potato’ tenor ocarinas. These are so-called because their shape is similar to that of a sweet potato. They’re also sometimes called Zelda ocarinas, since this type was featured in the popular Nintendo game The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

These ocarinas are played like a flute, with the instrument held to the side of the head. The finger holes are placed in rows, with one row for each hand, and the number of holes can vary, although 10 and 12 hole tenor ocarinas are common. They’re often pitched in the keys of C, G or F, although you can get them in other keys too.

tenor ocarina by STL Ocarina

Tenor Ocarina by STL Ocarina, available from Amazon

Pendant Tenor Ocarinas

The other common type of tenor ocarina is the English pendant style. These generally have a more rounded shape, and are held in a vertical position in front of the body, like a clarinet or recorder. Pendant tenor ocarinas have fewer holes (usually four finger holes and one or two thumb holes), and these are placed opposite each other. Pendant ocarinas are a bit trickier to play, since they have a more complex fingering system, which is the result of their smaller number of holes. English pendant ocarinas are often pitched in the key of G.

‘Hybrid’ Inline Tenor Ocarinas

Another popular type of ocarina combines the easy linear fingering system of transverse ocarinas with the comfortable vertical playing position of pendant ocarinas – so they’re a kind of hybrid of the previous two styles. A nice example of this type is this wooden tenor ocarina from Charlie Hind.

STL ocarina, from Amazon.com

STL Tenor Ocarina, available from Amazon

Tenor ocarinas are also available in more unusual designs, such as this one (pictured right), from STL Ocarina.

Buying An Tenor Ocarina

You can find a wide selection of tenor ocarinas online, as well as in some music shops. If you’re looking for the best choice and prices, the internet is normally the best place to look, as many stores don’t carry the better quality ocarinas you can find online. Here is a list of some good sites where you can buy ocarinas, and don’t forget to see what’s available on sites like Amazon and eBay too, where you’ll frequently often find quality ocarinas at bargain prices.

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