iPhone Music Makers: iPhone Ocarina Takes Me To Hyrule

Nov 7th, 2008 // Comment

Developed by Smule, Ocarina is a new iPhone application that simulates the playing the ancient flute that features prominently in a few Legend of Zelda games. The Ocarina has been around 12,000 years or something and is made to be shaped like a bird, whose sound it mimics. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask are two of my all-time favorite video games, so I gladly sprang for the 99 cents to download this guy on my iPhone. I was very happy with what I discovered.

This program gets a lot right at the beginning. First, it’s pretty obvious what you’re supposed to do with it: You pick your iPhone like it was, uh, a piece of pizza or something and bring it to your mouth, with the mic acting as a mouthpiece. A helpful onscreen indicator tells you to blow into the mic and when you do, the ocarina makes a sound, indicated by green sonic waves emanating from a little radio tower thingy. It’s all pretty intuitive, and you can change the key and style of ocarina. I set it to Zeldarian, of course. I’d like a little more explanation as to what each style means, but the video tutorial included is helpful.

The tone is not incredible, and I detect a slight portamento effect–the notes sort of slide back and forth between each other–which doesn’t seem terribly realistic. When I turned up the volume all the way, the tone got distorted, so it’s best to roll your ocarina out at 3/4 volume. Also, you have to blow into the mic, and I’m not totally sure I’ve perfected that technique. It definitely translates how hard you blow into the instrument’s volume, but I never got it to be perfectly consistent. Practice makes perfect, I reckon.

Here’s where things get mega-nifty, though. Ocarina can pinpoint your current location to track you down and broadcast your song to anywhere. You can click the little globe icon and listen to what people around the world are playing on their ocarinas at that moment! Do you know what I discovered? I’m a terrible ocarina player. Some people were getting all Prokofiev up in there, so let’s just call what I do “free jazz.”

As far as Ocarina goes, it’s a bargain at 99 cents. You can buy it at the iTunes Store.

[HT: Gadget Lab]

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