The Best Ocarina Instrument Should You Buy, And Why

Trying to decide on which ocarina to buy when you are a beginner is hard. There are lots to choose from, all with fantastic shapes, colors, and designs. They also have different amounts of holes. It’s exciting, you can get carried away. But it’s worth spending the time to check you are getting the right one.

You should buy an alto 12 hole ocarina like the night by noble if you are an adult. If you are a child with small fingers go for one of the six-hole ocarinas by a popular brand like STL or Songbird.

The choice of ocarinas is both exciting and daunting. Although, I looked into it a lot or I thought I did. I made a fatal mistake with one of my ocarina buys. I share this and other things I learned so you can buy your ocarina with confidence.

What To Look For When Bying An Ocarina

Ocarina Size

The fantastic thing about ocarinas is they come in all shapes and sizes. This makes them very versatile.

The smallest is usually the 4 or 6 hole pendant size. Perfect for younger children or for fun but slightly more complicated to play with than the 12 holes.

Then there are the 12 hole ocarinas. These are the most popular for teens (check hole size) and adults.

Next is the triple ocarinas. These have an extra set of holes on one side. Ocarinas don’t have a large octave range like the standard flute. The extra holes give the ocarina more range. I don’t recommend that you start with these.

Smaller ocarinas have a higher pitch than the bigger ones. Although the sound does vary from ocarina to ocarina.

The Easiest Ocarina To play

The easiest ocarina for teens or adults to play is the standard 12 holes sweet potato. For children, the easiest ocarina to play is the 6 holes pendant ocarina.

Important Warning About Ocarina Holes For Small Handed Ocarina Buyers

Nebula Ocarina Hole Back

When I said I made a huge mistake buying my ocarina this was it. I spent around £/$56 on a standard (not a bass) 12 hole ocarina.

When it arrived the holes were huge! They are 1/3 bigger than the Nebula and bigger than other ocarina holes of the same size instrument.

They are much bigger than my sister’s ocarina and the Night by Noble. So definitely not a standard size.

I was gutted. I’d set my heart on this ocarina. It was the one I’d first heard. And it was being played by a woman so it didn’t occur to me that it would be too big.

The hole size makes playing a nightmare. My little finger slips into the hole. My thumbs don’t really cover the back holes. There’s always a slight gap.

The problem was that although it is a standard size ocarina, it’s not a standard shape. I assume that is why the holes are so big. But as you can see below in the table even the standard shape sweet potato ocarinas have different sizes holes for the same size ocarina.

If you have bigger hands and fingers this probably won’t be a problem for you.

The smaller 6 hole ocarinas have smaller holes and many are more suited to children.

Most adults will be fine with standard hole size.

Ocarina Brand And NameBack Holes Size mmBack Holes Size in Inches
Night by Noble
(Amazon affiliate link)
STL Nebula8/9mm0.31/0.35
STL Axe13/14mm0.51/0.55
STL Axe Thumb Hole Size

It’s actually quite hard to tell exactly so allow a 1mm difference. But you can see all three are the same AC size instrument in theory but all have different hole sizes. I assume because of the different shapes and materials used.

My thumb is tapered but where you play the ocarina it’s not big enough. It leaves small gaps. Even playing with the ocarina higher up the thumb doesn’t work as it shifts the whole hand and makes playing uncomfortable (and still leaves a gap). I can just get away with the Night by Noble. The Nebula would have been fantastic.

Ideally, you want a minimum of a couple of mm (0.08inch) on each side of your thumb. It gives you room for the movement of your hand.

If in doubt ask the supplier, if they don’t reply then I’d go elsewhere.

The Playability & Ocarina Shape

Actually thinking about it there were two mistakes, not one. This one was I bought an odd-shaped ocarina. The shape makes it harder to play and to hold. Actually, I don’t really play it, it’s still in its box. But I did try.

If you’re a beginner the best shape ocarina to get is the sweet potato. Go for a standard shape and not a fancy one as they are easier to play. As I say the unusually shaped ocarinas can be a bit tricky to play even the longer sweet potato.

Check any patterns on the ocarina don’t make it harder to play. There are a couple of STL ones that look amazing that have the swirls on them but the swirls go across the holes. The one that comes to mind is the water element one.

Sound Confusion

Now this one gave me a bit of a headache when first buying as different manufacturers call their ocarinas different things for the same sized ocarina so rather than saying alto, STL says tenor for the same sound.
Some ocarinas have it marked them like the nIght by Noble that says AC which stands for alto in C. I spent ages looking for a nIght by Noble tenor and the video to explain it came out just after that. Argh!

Be very careful of some of the YouTube demos by some of the companies. They are enhanced. The ocarinas do not sound the same in real life.

Ocarina Quality

Ocarina quality is very important. There are a lot of cheap ocarinas out there that are more for show than use. They sound awful. Amazon sells them which is why many people advise against getting your ocarinas from there. Actually, both my sister and I got our Night by Nobles from Amazon and they are excellent ocarinas to play.

Because the ocarinas are made out of natural materials like wood or clay and are often hand made each one sounds different. Always go for a good brand. Even then the quality will vary.

Again the shape also makes a difference.

What Is The Weight Of Your Ocarina?

Ocarina weights vary. This may not be an issue for you but over playing time the weight can make a difference to how long you can play for.

  • Night by Noble weight 144g (0.32lb)
  • STL Nebula weight 332g (0.73lb)
  • STL Axe weight 232g (0.51lb)

Ocarinas Are Made From Different Materials

Ocarinas are made from different things. They are usually made from plastic, wood, clay, or porcelain.

Clay/Ceramic Ocarinas

Clay is the most popular material for ocarinas. Many of the fantastic designs are clay ocarinas.

Created properly clay makes for fantastic sounds.

Clay is the most popular material for ocarinas today.

It’s difficult to say which clay ocarina to buy because there are so many to choose from and everyone has different tastes. Go for one of the reputable brands. I have put a list of places you can buy your ocarinas from further down in this article many of these are actual brands.

Wooden Ocarinas

I love wood. The temptation is to always go for wood. It sounds beautiful. But I learned my lesson with the recorder.

Much of that also applies here.

Wood is usually more expensive than plastic for the same quality.

Wooden instruments are harder to look after than plastic.

They are affected by the conditions around them. Things like temperature and humidity can affect and change the instrument.

Wood needs to be treated so it doesn’t dry out.

Also, as wood is a natural material & they are more likely to be handmade than plastic which means each one is different. This can affect the sound and quality of the instrument.

Porcelain Ocarinas

Porcelain is refined clay. Made from kaolin which is china clay.

Plastic Ocarinas

Plastic ocarinas may not be as appealing as the amazing designs you see like the dragon ocarinas or the elemental ones, but they are the best choice in my view for a beginner player, epically if the player is younger.

Plastic is cheaper.

It’s much easier to look after than wood as it isn’t affected by changes in humidity and temperature and doesn’t need to be treated.

They are much more breakproof than clay. This doesn’t only apply to children or teens. It also applies to adults. It’s very easy to drop your ocarina and smash it. When you reach the higher notes you are only supporting it with 3 small points. It’s easy to do it wrong. Bye-bye expensive ocarina! Many do have a space for a neck string to go on so they don’t drop as far.

On one YouTube demo, one guy throws his Night By Noble across the room to demonstrate. A little scary, but an effective demo on the sturdiness of the instrument.

The sound is often more reliable than clay or wood because once the item is designed the can be reproduced consistently.

Plastic is lighter in weight than clay.

Which Plastic Ocarina To Buy

If you are going for a plastic 12 holed I’d recommend the Night by Noble. (Affiliate Link) I got mine from Amazon and love it. Both my sister and I have this one. She got hers after she bought her Nebula because of the weight and fear of breaking it. Even though they sent the wrong Nebula she is stuck with it. She says she prefers the Night by Noble to play.

If you’re not keen on black they do a white one as well. If you really want something a bit brighter then go for one of the Songbird ranges. I don’t have any personal experience with Songbird but they have a good reputation and quality starter ocarinas. I believe STL also does a beginners range.

All this is why I recommend the Night by Noble (Amazon affiliate Link). The sound is quite good as well. There’s really not much in it compared to the clay ones in my view. It has a cleaner stronger sound. My STL is very wispy, but that may be because I struggle with getting my fingers over the holes. My sisters two sound almost identical.

It’s a lot lighter to hold and the sound is reliable. Yes, it’s a bit airy on the top notes, but this is an issue with many ocarinas. It’s still a favorite of some of the popular and experienced ocarina players on YouTube even though they have lots of expensive ones.

It’s not fancy I know, but it’s a good solid instrument. It’s fairly sturdy and will take a bit of rough treatment. It doesn’t break as easily as the clay ocarinas. So it’s great for carrying around.

Don’t get the night by noble if you are smaller though. If the ocarina is for a smaller child even the standard 12 holed sweet potato will be too large regardless of the make. Get a 6 holed ocarina for smaller children.

Once you are experienced you can always get a fancy ocarina. You will enjoy playing it much more then. (I’ve popped in the buying locations for ocarinas below)

This video is one I found while I was looking to buy an ocarina.

The Cost Of Ocarinas

12 holed ocarinas can run from only a few £/$12 right up to £/$ hundreds depending on which one you get. Plastic is the cheapest. followed by clay and then porcelain. Clay ocarinas can range from around $/£50 and go into the hundreds.

Prices vary a lot. I wouldn’t go for the lower-priced ocarinas, which as I say are mostly toys. If going for 12 holed a clay ocarina I’d go for one for around or above £/$50. Plastic ocarinas I’d go for ones that are at least £/$30-£/$40 depending on which one you decide on. This is the average price range of quality plastic ocarinas.

If going for a six hold ocarina even the STL ones are around £/$8-12 the clay ones about £/$30.

I wouldn’t get an expensive one the first time out as they are easy to drop as you hold very little of the instrument when you reach the high notes. This is why many have chords.

How Do You Choose An Ocarina To Buy?

  • To choose your ocarina you need to follow a few guidelines. I have included much that I learned when buying my first ocarinas here. But as a quick recap and guide for a beginner. Go for the following:
  • Set Your budget you should be able to get a good beginner’s ocarina for approximately between €/£ or $20-$40 from the specialist suppliers.
  • What size ocarina do you want? 6 hole or 10/12 holed alto Or tenor (STL tenors are the same as altos). The actual physical size of the instrument
  • What shape do you want? I recommend the standard sweet potato for beginners if you are going for a 12 hole ocarina.
  • Do you want plastic or clay?
  • Remember all you need is good quality and a great-sounding ocarina that’s easy to play. You can always get a 2nd one later and upgrade. Most people end up with several anyway.

Where You Can Buy Your Ocarina

Buy your ocarina from an ocarina dealer if you can (Listed below). You can get them on Amazon if you are careful.

Where you buy your ocarina depends on which ocarina you decide on and where you live or how long you are willing to wait for it. Please note the list below is the list of supplies and not a recommendation as I haven’t dealt with all of the companies.

List of Ocarina Suppliers

Affiliate declaration: Please note that for most of these I am not an affiliate. I have put in (affiliate link) next to the link where I am.

CompanyOverviewWhere LocatedShips To
STL OcarinaA very popular ocarina company with some fantastic designs. Not happy with them however as they never bothered replying to my email. They do a beginner range and are known for their popular Legend of Zelda range.USAWorldwide
SongbirdAnother popular ocarina brand. Have been going since 1989. They have some great beginner ocarinas. There are also some quality plastic ones in bright colors as a great alternative to the night by Noble and fun 6 holes ocarinas. I haven’t any personal experience of these though.USAWorldwide, check their country list on entry to their site
ThomanSell mostly Thoman ocarinas and some other lesser-known brands. They are a specialist music supplier, not just ocarinas.Germany
OcarinaWindThis company has 100% handmade ocarinas that are accurate tuning. They also do Zelda ocarinas. Again I have no experience of this company but they have been going a while. They have great Trustpilot reviews. Although not many.USANot Clear, It looks worldwide
Ocarina KingOcarina King is a supplier of different ocarina brands like STL & Songbird. This is the company my sister and I used. They may be OK, they did deliver very quickly. But they messed up my sister’s order and sent the wrong item. The gem in the item was broken. So, I cannot recommend them from personal experience. Although I have seen others in the FB community that have had good service and great ocarinas.**Netherlands
The Flute ShopSell different ocarina brands like STL & Songbird. These have the same address and telephone number as Ocarina King.** Netherlands
SoundscapeAlso a supplier of ocarinas. Has the same address as Ocarina king and the Flute shop.**Netherlands
EtsyIndividual sellers sometimes sell ocarinas on Etsy.
Ocarina WorkshopThey specialize in workshops and learning the ocarina however they do sell some lovely hand-made 6 holed ocarinas.UKInternational delivery
Amazon (Affiliate link)Amazon does sell ocarinas, there’s overall not a lot they don’t sell.
Some YouTubers don’t recommend Amazon as many of the ocarinas they sell are cheap replicas and don’t sound very good.
I partially disagree. Amazon does sell perfectly good ocarinas. They sell the Ocarina Workshop, Songbird, and Night by Noble. That’s where my sister and I got our Night by Nobles.
However, I would proceed with caution, the cheap ones aren’t that good. Make sure you are getting a good make if you buy on Amazon.
Many countriesWorldwide

**They are the same company. I don’t know why they have different names. But they have been around since at least 2018. Looks like they sell different things on different sites. I get the feeling we were just unlucky with our purchase. They didn’t correct the error.

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