Smule’s iPhone App Turns iPhone into an Ocarina – An Ancient Flute-Like Instrument

iPhone App - Ocarina

We have seen some great apps developed for the iPhone, however the latest iPhone app developed by Smule called Ocarina has to be one of the coolest iPhone apps.

We have seen iPhone music apps which brought instruments such as Piano, Guitar, Drummer to the iPhone (I had reviewed them when they were available for the jailbroken iPhone) but Ocarina is the first true musical instrument created for the iPhone.

Before I get into the details of Ocarina, the iPhone app, let me give you some background about Ocarina, the instrument.

A description of Ocarina, the instrument from Wikipedia:

"The ocarina is an ancient flute-like wind instrument. While several variations exist, an ocarina is typified by an oval-shaped enclosed space with four to twelve finger holes and a mouth tube projecting out from the body. It is often ceramic, but many other materials, such as plastic, wood, glass, and metal, may also be used.

The ocarina is a very old family of instruments, believed to date back some 12,000 years."

Ocarina - The Instrument

A description of Ocarina, the iPhone app:

The Ocarina
synthesizes sound in
real-time, just like a regular instrument, based on actual gestures including
wind input, tilt, and finger placement over the four holes overlaid on the
multi-touch pad. 

iPhone App - Ocarina

When you launch the iPhone app, you will see a very simple user interface as seen in the screenshot above. There is an antenna at the bottom and an arrow at the bottom-right corner showing you which microphone to blow into and also four dots on the screen which mimic the holes of ocarina – the instrument. To play, you blow into the iPhone’s microphone while fingering notes using the 4 holes on the ocarina.

Smule claims that "unlike other iPhone audio apps, the sound is not pre-compiled
but is generated by the notes, gestures and nuance of the individual performer."

When you tap the antenna, it loads the menu bar, giving you four options (from left to right):

iPhone App - Ocarina

  • Tapping on the first button takes you back to the instrument mode.
  • Tapping on the next "globe" icon gives you a 3D Globe view where you can actually listen to what fellow Ocarina players are playing around the world (the app makes use of iPhone’s GPS) and also rate their performance. The 3D Globe view is very impressive and addictive.

iPhone App - Ocarina

  • The next icon is Settings where you can change the key and tonality of your Ocarina.
  • The last icon in the menu bar is Information, where you have links to "how to play", a video tutorial and also a link to report an issue with the iPhone app.

Just like any other musical instrument, Ocarina on the iPhone also has
a learning curve so you will need quite a bit of practice to play your iPhone Ocarina.

Smule has published a bunch of scores (each score is presented using a simple 4-hole diagram) and other tips on their website to help you learn Ocarina.

Here’s a video of an iPhone Ocarino band doing Stairway to Heaven:

Another impressive video of Zeldarian mode:

Ocarina is a must have for music fans and is currently available for $0.99 as an introductory time offer
(there is no information on when that will end) and you can download it
using this iTunes link.

As always, tell us what you think about Ocarina in the comments below.

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