Ocarina App for iPhone

Written iPhone Music App Review

The Ocarina application by Smule is the first true native instrument designed specifically for the iPhone, and currently one of the most popular paid downloads in the Apple App store.

If you have never heard of an ocarina before, you’re probably not alone. It is the instrument made famous by the hugely popular Zelda game on Nintendo 64, The Ocarina of Time. It’s easiest to imagine the instrument as something resembling a small flute.

How does it work?

The Ocarina application essentially turns the iPhone into a digitized version of this instrument. When you open the Ocarina application you are presented with the ‘Ocarina’ screen which is the format in which you can generate music. The screen presents four circles or “holes” – placing your fingers over which, in different combination’s, create different tones and notes.

Blowing into the microphone generates sound, and this is how you produce a note. It is remarkably sensitive to how hard you blow. Blow softly or from further away, and you will get a quiet note. Blow hard and you will get a louder note. To play a song you simply hold down the touch-sensitive circles on the screen in different combination’s. As mentioned, there are four “holes” on this instrument – giving you a total range of 16 notes.

You can also tilt the iPhone forward or to the side to create a vibrato quality to the sound.

Features and Impressions:

I had a play around with the Ocarina for awhile, but trying to work out a song is rather difficult. Thankfully Smule’s website (http://ocarina.smule.com) has a large collection of user-generated songs that have been tabbed specifically for the iPhone Ocarina app. You will find everything from the Star Wars theme to The Beatles. The Ocarina “sheet music” is very easy to read and simply shows the finger positions for each note in the song. Thrashing out the Imperial March was rather amusing, and not really as hard as I’d initially thought it would be. What’s hard is being able to play any of the tunes without the music in front of you!

You’ll find that many of the songs on the website are set in a different key, i.e in G or in E sharp – and also in a different modes, Ionian, Zeldarian etc. Both the key and mode of the Ocarina can be changed within the application, and it’s necessary to do so if you want to be able to play certain songs.

Another cool feature of the Ocarina app is the ability to view a virtual 3D map of the world, and hear in real-time what other users are playing. You can skip between users, and the globe will rotate to show the position of the person playing, with virtual notes emanating skyward from their location. You can, if you like the tune, show them some “love” by touching the heart shaped icon on the screen. Others can do the same for you – although I am sadly yet to receive any.

The Ocarina App by Smule is available in the Apple App store online, and is priced at $0.99c.

It’s more of a massive novelty than anything else, but at that price – I’m sold.

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One Response to “Ocarina App for iPhone”

  1. I think that everybody who owns an iPhone and has played Ocarina of time will be grabbing this app. Everyone will want to be the first in their group of friends to master the songs Link played throughout the game. I like how they are leveraging the instruments popularity among their demographic. Clever marketing there. Now, was that just a lucky coincidence, or did they plan it that way?

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