Ocarina full review

The iPhone not only has the ability to play music created by other people, but thanks to the work of some enterprising developers, it can also make its own music thanks to Smule’s 59p Ocarina app.

Somewhat like the physical instrument of the same name, Ocarina provides four virtual ‘holes’ on the iPhone’s screen. To play the instrument you gently blow into the iPhone’s microphone port while covering and uncovering those holes to change the instrument’s pitch. (The requirement to blow into this port explains why this is an iPhone-only application. iPod touch owners need not apply.)

The resulting sound is a cross between an electronic pennywhistle and a recorder. You can add vibrato to the sound by tilting the iPhone down. You can also alter the volume of Ocarina by blowing more or less gently.

Ocarina can play in the seven traditional Western scales – Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aolian and Locrian – and a special eighth scale, Zeldarian. You can choose the root note for each scale starting with C on through two octaves of the chromatic scale.

Given that you’re playing your mobile phone, Ocarina is remarkably responsive, though it can make mistakes – particularly if you have a polymer protection screen fitted, or if the display is smudged. With a clean screen, Ocarina will nearly always detect your finger presses and lifts.

Ocarina is great fun to play once you get the hang of the fingerings – which you can find at Smule’s Ocarina website. There is also a sharing element: tap the Globe icon that appears at the bottom of the screen and you can listen to recordings of other Ocarina players.

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