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The ocarina is an ancient flute-like wind instrument. While variations exist, a typical ocarina is an oval-shaped enclosed space with four to twelve finger holes and a mouthpiece that projects from the body. It is often ceramic, but other materials, such as plastic, wood, glass, and metal may also be used.
There are many different styles of ocarinas varying in shape and the number of holes:
- Transverse (Sweet potato) - This is the best known style of ocarina. It has a rounded shape and is held with two hands horizontally. Depending on the number of holes, one just needs to open one more hole than the previous in order to ascend in pitch. The two most common Transverse ocarinas are the 10-holes (originated by Giuseppe Donati in Italy) and the 12-holes.
- Pendant - These are usually very small and very portable. Two kinds exist. One being the "English" Pendant, which uses an English fingering system (4-6 holes). The other being the "Peruvian" Pendant, which uses a Peruvian fingering system (8-10 holes). English Pendants are more common.
- Inline - These are often called a "fusion" of the Pendant and the Transverse. This style is known for being very small and compact, yet there are more holes than the pendant. This allows one to ascend in pitch with the linear finger pattern rather than finger combinations.
- Multi chambered ocarinas - Better known as "Double" and "Triple" ocarinas, this type exists within the three broad categories of ocarina. These ocarinas overcome the disadvantage of ocarinas of having a limited range of notes. A Transverse Double ocarina typically plays 2 octaves + 2 notes, and a Transverse Triple ocarina plays with a range about 2 octaves + 7 notes. Double ocarinas for Pendant and Inline ocarinas also exist. Double Inline ocarinas are specially designed to be able to play chords, for harmonic playing.
- Ocarinas with keys have been produced by several makers, mostly experimentally, beginning in the late 19th century. Keys and slides may be added with the intention of either expanding the instrument's range, or to enable the fingers to reach holes that are widely spaced.
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