Weekend Head to Head Review: Ocarina


Well-known member
Jul 5, 2008
Visit site
Chris' Review:

Ocarina is a nifty app that attempts to turn the iPhone into a musical instrument. And for the most part, it succeeds.

By utilizing the multitouch and the microphone features on the iPhone, this application converts the iPhone into an electronic version of a woodwind instrument. To play the instrument, you blow into the iPhones microphone. Now, obviously the iPhone is not a woodwind, but it uses the sound vibrations in the mic to mimic the effects of blowing into an instrument. Blow harder (louder) and the sound is louder. You can just make a sound which the mic will detect and it will still behave the same way, but blowing into it is much cooler.

With your fingers, you cover the four "holes" to produce different notes. Depending on the pattern of covering, you can produce different tones. It does take some practice to cover the "holes" correctly, and this was one of the issues that I had with the program. With a real instrument, you have a tactile sense where the holes are - with the iPhone it is simply how the fingers are placed on the multitouch screen. As such, it is much harder to judge where your fingers are, and where they are supposed to be. I found many times that my fingers were not correctly positioned by a fraction of an inch, resulting in the ocarina not playing correctly. Maybe it is just me, but it would be nice to at least have a "beginner" settings where you don't need to be as exact with your finger placement. Also, I found at times the iPhone was a little sluggish responding to holes being covered or uncovered - again, disrupting the sense that you were "playing" a musical instrument.

Once you get the hang of it though, it really is pretty cool. You can download music sheets to learn to play some songs, so there really is an impressive "wow" factor when using this application. Within the application, you can also adjust the root tone and the mode you play, influencing the sound your iPhone will make.

One really cool feature is the sharing option. You can choose to share your music with the world. If you do so, when you are playing, anyone can "tune in" to listen to your music. Likewise, you can tune in to listen to what other people are playing. Unfortunately, there isn't anyway to save any favorites of the "other people", meaning you can't really look for someone when you look to see who else is playing.

One major function that I found missing was the lack of an ability to record your tunes. It is great to play and fool around with, but it would be even better if you could record the music you play (to either listen to at a later date, or to send to someone via email!). The ability to record your tunes (or even others when you are listening to them) seems to be a rather obvious feature, and I am surprised it wasn't included.

Pros: A cool, unique program that really can amaze people
Cons: Difficult to learn to play, no ability to save or record music

All in all, this is really a program that shows off some of the functionality of the iPhone. And if you play this for people who are not familiar with the iPhone, it will really know their socks off. Having said that, to become proficient in it really takes some work (of course, it does for any musical instrument) and there isn't any sort of built in tutorial or learning mode. Still, for $.99, this program is a good one to have even if you just want to impress people, and and still fun just to fiddle around with. Four out of five stars.

Matt's Review:



When I first heard about the Ocarina app, I thought to myself ? o okay, it?s just another music instrument app. After purchasing the app, I was mistakenly surprised, it exceeded my expectations.

This app turns your iPhone into a virtual Ocarina. It is a very nifty little app.


The app begins with 4 blue dots (or holes) and what looks like a little tower icon at the bottom-middle of the screen. To the right of it there is a little yellow are indicating where you should blow. Yes, blow, you must blow into the mic in order for the app to create a tone. In conjunction with blowing you use your fingers to ?cover up the holes? to create varying tones. The audio is quite good, even when playing repeated notes, however, the sounds echoes (or as if it was been played in a large empty room). As you blow into the mike, green ?waves? are emitted from the tower-looking icon, this will be explained later.

Something that really impressed me was the breath-velocity & sound-output. Depending on how hard you breath into the mic, it will affect how loud the tone is.

By tapping on the tower icon (wifi-looking-tower-thingy), a toolbar will appear with four icons (left to right) ? the first is the Ocarina screen, the second is a global view, the third, a settings page and the fourth, is an about page.



Upon tapping the second icon from the left (the global view) what looks like Google Earth will appear (but of course you can?t do much zooming here) there are several yellow dots on the globe, these indicate other Ocarina users. The app will automatically begin displaying a tune in this view, what you are hearing is someone else broadcasting their tune, (hence the tower emitting green circles in the Ocarina-view). At the top-left of the screen a heart icon is displayed, it you tap it, and then you are simply saying you enjoyed what the user was playing (you can view your stats in the about page). Next is the user that is broadcasting, their user name (you can create your user name in the settings tab). Then the icon on at the top-right allows you to skip to another user. What I really like about this view is the ability to visually see the stream coming from the user?s location as well as each tone that is being played.


On the settings screen, you can name your Ocarina, change the root (the lowest note that the Ocarina begins its scale on [I think.]) You can change the modes, the colors of the ?holes? and the ?breath? You can switch on/off the ?Play melodies when asleep? or ?Share your melodies,? I believe these options are self-explanatory.

Overall I was extremely impressed with this application for a mere $0.99 .

-Extremely interactive, great for anybody!
-Sound is very good
-Very cool global view
-Stream live to the world!

-Sound echoes (reverb)

This application is nearly perfect to me, I am giving it a 5/5, mainly because it?s a great app for $0.99, I however would like to see improvement on the sound output, as the echoing sounds annoy me a little.

More screenshots cane be found here

Video is coming soon!