I was introduced myself to the sweet sound of ocarinas by my friend Charlie Hind from Hind Ocarinas... He makes ocarinas in wood and since I've developed a love for its sweet mellow sound... Maybe you might be familiar with this instrument with origins in Africa more than 30000 years ago due to the videogame "Legend of Zelda" that made it more popular and demanded.
Today we´re covering another crafter of this wind instrument Song bird Ocarina that makes them in ceramic.
Since 1989, Darryn Songbird has been refining the craft, to create pieces that are visually pleasing, feel good in the hands, rewarding to play, and most importantly, sound exquisite. He has evolved his mouthpiece to convey a wide range of blowing styles, providing a rich tone throughout, from a soft whispery breath to vigorous firey breath. The tuning is precise, and provides for a fully chromatic 12 tone scale.
One of the good things of the company is the affordability of the instruments... also aside of the standard models they have made some models a bit more fantasy oriented
Above: One of the most popular and pretty designs "Dragon Tooth Ocarina" alto 12 hole ocarina with a range C to F
One of the highlights of Songbird ocarina are the lovely ceramic sculpted "Muse" Ocarinas... these ones stand out isn't "she" pretty? In the website you can watch it in ·3D so you can see the sculpture made by artist. The ocarinas have 10 hole (one entire octave+ 4 notes)
You can see how it looks and how it sounds here
The website includes also some song books, and some lovely bags and pouches to carry the ocarinas. They're really cute looking specially this pointy ones
They have also an inexpensive collection of pendant ocarinas, my favourite is this one, because of its "tribal" look. I really like the simplicity of this one shaped like a bone.
Above: Eagle bone ocarina
For lovers of "Legend of Zelda" they keep a sister site more focused in the love of this videogame called Zelda Ocarina where you can read more about their ocarina crafting.
The kantele is the Finnish version of an instrument known throughout the world as either a zither or lap harp.
The Finnish kantele is basically a triangular shaped sound box with strings running across the top of the instrument. When the strings - usually tuned to a diatonic scale - are plucked, a kantele will produce ringing bell-like tones. It is similar to a harp in some ways, but because of the way in which it is built and the way in which the strings are attached, a compelling and unique sound is produced as it is played.
Kanteles are often divided into two categories: small ones and big ones. Small ones rarely have more than two octaves. The big ones usually have at least 32 strings and three to four octaves. Kanteles, especially the smaller 5 and 10 string instruments, are relatively easy instruments to learn to play. The larger kanteles of up to 36 strings require more effort to learn to play, but allow the player to perform more complex pieces of music.
Baritones are larger mountain or appalachian dulcimers with 29 1/2" scales, typically tuned AEA' or GDG' below a standard dulcimer, with a correspondingly bigger, deeper sound - really majestic on slow tunes, and ballsy like an Irish octave mandolin on flat-picked reels and jigs. A true baritone is not just a standard dulcimer with heavy strings - you really need the longer string length, bigger body, and altered bracing and bridge to optimize the sound. They come in 3, 4, 6, and 8 string varieties, with average dimensions about 2" longer than a standard dulcimer. With a 1 1/2 fret they also have a larger variety of chords for backup work than a typical DAD' instrument. An interesting equidistant 4 or 8 string option is ADAD and variations tuning (from low to high) that gives you more range, mirroring an octave mandolin - a baritone and standard combined in one instrument, with the ability to remove one outside course or the other, if you wish to play only 3 at a time. I can also build DAD' instruments with this scale length for a fuller sound and more sustain.
Above: Baritone Dulcimer by our endorser Ron Ewing dulcimers. As you can appreciate, it has some extra frets that are not commonly found in standard mountain dulcimers, Ron installed the half and one and a half fret and this has brought a wealth of new possibilities making it more chromatic.
I'm the happy owner of one Baritone dulcimer myself. Videos and audio samples coming soon, though now I leave you with a video from a more accomplished player than I am or will be for a while.
The Oscar Tribal thunder is a kind of "hank" drum creation from Oscar de Los Santos from Tribal Thunder is easily playable with your fingers/hands or the included mallets for greater volume. Rank beginners will have hours of fun instantly with no noisy learning curve!
This instrument is about 12" across and less than 6" high (weight about 6 pounds), but INCREDIBLY responsive. It is a resonator (no holes or ports, the sounds flows from within), tuned to 6 or 8 notes that sound as clear as a Tibetan Bell or Tingsha - and resonating just as long! You can easily play many multi-tonal sounds by tapping with different pressure, muting, or play full chords by striking more than one tongue! As suitably perfect for meditation as it is for a drum jam...or anywhere you feel like some music - easily played in your lap, on a tabletop or under your arm.
Since these have a relatively small footprint, you could surround yourself in a ring of differently tuned Oscar™ drums, or play with a group - and create your own orchestral soundscape!
Above: Picture of my own Oscar Tribal Thunder drum custom hand painted in purple gradient
My model is in Dminor but it can be done in other scales as well.
I know that many people may end up purchasing a hank drum when they are looking for a HANG (the very exclusive drums designed by Pan Art) They are certainly not the same thing, and that is precisely good. The Oscar has a lovely bell-sound quite distant from the more "caribbean steel drum" type of sound that the hang creates. And they are both amazing as different instruments despite their similar shape. The hang and hank are "companions" and are meant to jam together. And believe me jamming with this lovely oscar drum is soothing and rock! Below you can see me having fun with it! :) (<--proud owner) In my band it is my partner who often jam with it, being in Dminor works great along with someone playing the recorder in C, and the most haunting melodies arises.
I've featured it in several of my upcoming album songs. It really has a soothing relaxing sound and it also makes it a wonderful item for healing and music therapy.
He has become the major supplier of kanteles to North Americans in the last fifteen years. He builds traditional Finnish kanteles in a small shop in the woods a few miles north of Lake Superior near Duluth, Minnesota. He strives to build quality instruments that will bring joy to the players and listeners. He's not a factory - he approaches making the instruments as a craft and an art, not a "product". The goal of his work is to build instruments that he enjoys making and that a buyer will enjoy playing. Previous to making Finnish folk music instruments, Gerry was the editor of The Finnish American Reporter, a national publication for North Americans of Finnish descent about Finnish and Finnish American culture. He is currently the editor of New World Finn, a quarterly journal exploring Finnish culture (www.newworldfinn.com). Gerry has also been a woodworker for over thirty years - he was a builder and remodeler of homes, and a cabinetmaker. His love of Finnish culture and its music, and his woodworking skills have come together in the building of kanteles. planing the wood stringing the instrument In the winter of 1998, as a recipient of a Finlandia Foundation Grant, Gerry traveled within Finland and immersed himself in its "kantele culture". There he spent time with a master instrument maker, Rauno Nieminen, in Ikaalinen, Finland, and with other kantele builders in Veteli and Leppävirta. He also visited with players and teachers in order to better understand the needs of kantele musicians. As of 2009, over 1900 of his instruments are in the hands of musicians throughout the United States and Canada, Japan, Australia, and Europe. His work has been exposed to the public in a short documentary produced by WDSE-TV of Duluth, Minnesota for their Venture North program (May 1996), other local television stations, Minnesota Public Radio, and in numerous newpaper and magazine articles. In 1997 he was named a Minnesota Folk Artist and again in 1999 he was cited by the Minnesota State Arts Board for "preserving the time-honored tradition of creating Finnish folk instruments". In 2008, he was named an honorary member of Finland's national Kantele Association. Gerry Luoma Henkel More endorsements of Gerry's kanteles "During the past two years I have ordered all the kanteles for my students at San Diego State University and the University of San Diego from Gerry. I have also chosen to use Gerry's kanteles in my performances because the sound of his instruments is excellent." - Merja Soria, graduate of the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki Finland; instructor in music at San Diego University, and the University of San Diego; performer (vocals, accordians, kanteles) throughout the US and Finland. "I have examined Gerry's kanteles, and I have found them to be well-built, resonant and visually pleasing." - Oren Tikkanen, producer of award-winning (American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress) recordings of Finnish American music; writer about Finnish American music; and popular performer of traditional Finnish American and Finnish music. "I'm so impressed with what you have done, where you've taken your gifts and magic. I mean it - for you, as also do I, bring an American approach and interpretation to what we do. You have that liberal vision in how you see your instruments. And that is unique and ultra-hip." - Diane Jarvi, musician, songwriter and kantele player, in a letter to Gerry "To my knowledge, Henkel is the only professional kantele builder in North America. He specializes in the oldest form of the kantele, those carved from a single piece of wood. His carved kanteles are excellent." - Dr. Carl Rahkonen, Associate Professor, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Department of Music, and author of The Kantele Traditions of Finland
You can visit Gerry Henkel website and store at KANTELE.COM
Above: 5 and 10 string Kantele made by Gerry Henkel. In his site you can read about the story of this finnish instrument
Watch Gerry playing one of his kanteles
I have myself a 10 strings kantele made by Gerry Henkel, and it soothes my spirit you can´t imagine how "heavenly" souding such apparently simple instrument can be.
Oscar De Los Santos is a noted Artist, poet, inventor, and musician, as well as the youngest recognized Elder within the Six Nations Community and Medicine man. He is also the creator and author of The Warriors Roadway, and the founder of his own company called Tribal Thunder that makes handcrafted percussion, drums and wind instruments. From native american flutes to Indian Tabla there are a wealth of items to find your own rhythm, to enjoy, to spin, to play, to heal with it. he really does show the spiritual value of his craft.
Oscar is also the inventor of their popular Oscar Steel-tongue Drum, their own trademarked hank drum. I own an Oscar and I love it, my model has six notes but you can find models in different keys up to 8 notes. It has a lovely bell sound and very soothing and relaxing.
Above: the Oscar Drum, their most popular item in its standard and Slim model.
They make a collection of handcrafted drams, from djembe, to bodhrans and tabla. I'm going to highlight some of the ones I find more outstanding (and that I crave for LOL!)
I'll highlight the Ashiko Pony Drum: Named after the celtic Horse goddess Epona is a Tribal thunder special design, an hybrid drum mixing the qualities of the Ashiko and Djembe. The drums are built like the Ashiko (pine staves) but are somewhat shorter with larger heads (like a Djembe). The large head and small throat make for an incredibly powerful sound! The rings for this premium drum are leather wrapped and there are more ties for greater stability and balance in the head. Must be heard to be believed! I certainly would love to grab my hands around one!!
Above: the gorgeous Ashiko Pony drum
They also have smaller percussions and drums like this one:
Above: Small and portable dorskin drum (as all tribal thunder instruments) handcrafted
They also make other really interesting things... I have this lovely wind talk band... it sounds like Australian bull roarer but they´re very much more in control and you can even can change the pitch. All you have to do is to spin it and a storm-like roam will chant similar but different to the didgeridoo (which by the way they also sell)- It can make two harmonics depending on the angle used, I use it a lot to chant and meditate, shall upload a video using it as soon as possible.
And also flutes!
Be well Angel you are well Loved
Peace and Joy be with you!
Oscar de Los santos (aka. Oz)
Ron Ewing has built and played about 1700 dulcimers since 1970 to date and can offer his customers the benefit of considerable experience as both a craftsman and a musician.he does build fine, attractive instruments at reasonable prices, in a variety of styles, and use only solid domestic and imported woods, selected for their tonal quality, beauty, and compatibility. Ron studied engineering and English Lit in college before he got the bug to build and play upon hearing a recording of the wonderful Richard and Mimi Farina. he apprenticed with Chet Hines - a retired civilian engineer by trade, and a builder and player of some renown in his later years. He grew up in southern Ohio and learned the craft from his grandfather. After a couple of years he took over production and built about 200 dulcimers for Chet before heading off on his own to study guitar building and develop my own mix of the traditional and modern.
As a musician he has performed and taught throughout the country and is particularly known for his lively renditions of traditional Irish, Appalachian, and Euro dance tunes. He has guested on several recordings, including Jerry Rockwell's wonderful, "The Blackbird and the Beggarman." Most recently, I can be found playing the Irish slip jig "Drops of Brandy" with Jerry Rockwell and Leo Kretzner on "Dulcimer Celebrations" - a collection of live performances from Mountain Dulcimer Week at Western Carolina University.
You can visit, order and buy from his store at Ron Ewing Dulcimers
I am by the way the happy owner of one of Ron Ewing Baritone dulcimers and also I have one of his very useful capos. Below you can see a picture of me and Ron in his visit to us in Barcelona. I'm holding a Baritone and he´s holding a small "dulcimette" (lovely to travel with due to be so small and light)
You can see a special about Ron Ewing in Dulcimerica Podcast here
More information coming soon!
Charlie Hind grew up on St. Simons Island, Georgia. He first began experimenting with making wind instruments in 1975 while a student at the University of South Carolina, where he later received a Master's degree in music education, with an emphasis in clarinet and viola. Over the years he has designed and built recorders, flutes, xylophones, panpipes, and since 1982, has concentrated on a wide variety of ocarinas, which he sells worldwide through his online store.
Since 1975 his constant experimentation with wood and sound has resulted in the creation of many new and unique musical instruments. In 1985, after designing and building a pipe organ, he was inspired to come up with a way to make the organ "play by itself." This led to years of intense study of all types of mechanical musical instruments, culminating in the building of two cylinder music boxes completely "from scratch," an accomplishment rarely attempted in the twentieth century.
Three years later, he created the unique Ocarina Celestina, a hand cranked organ that plays twenty of Charlie's trademarked walnut ocarinas automatically by reading perforated paper rolls similar to those used by a player piano. It is the result of over 1200 hours of work and is the only one of its kind in the world.
Today his work is divided between the making of his family of walnut ocarinas, continuing the development of his new wooden sweet potatoes, providing personal assistance to customers through email and phone, and maintaining his website Hind Ocarina
Above: Inline ocarina line (including Double Ocarina)
Above: Sweet potato Ocarina
Above: Ocarina cases to protect your most valuable items
I have a lovely double ocarina from Charlie Hind that we review in depth in this article about the Double Ocarina
Above: me performing a double ocarina manufactured by Hind Ocarina
I'm not lying if I tell aloud this is the favorite and most special of my wind instruments for me. And what a challenge!! The Double Ocarina made by Charlie Hind can perform TWO melodies at the same time.
The Double ocarina are made from Black Walnut wood (much lighter weight than clay or ceramic ocarinas of the same size) and have a lustrous oil finish which protects the wood, highlights its ri The tone is pure and mellow.
Wood imparts to the ocarina an amazingly pure and mellow tone quality, and the instrument has the warm and comforting feel that only comes from wood. My ocarinas speak effortlessly and have a nice even tone from the lowest notes to the highest.
Each double ocarina comes with a fingering chart and complete care instructions. A thick corduroy drawstring bag was also provided so it will be well protected when stored for safe-keeping. He also sells hard cases in his site if you want to protect it properly which I recommend.
Above: Custom made Double Ocarina with engraved logo (you can custom order this to him)
The instrument consists of two separate chambers pitched a 5th apart. Each side can play one full octave using five finger holes, and the two voices can be played individually or simultaneously. When played together, they open up a whole new world of harmony never before experienced by most wind instrument players. The double ocarina is a good choice for anyone who is already accomplished on another woodwind, but beginners should learn one of the single ocarinas first, then step up to the double. The left chamber is in C and the right chamber is in F. It comes with a thick corduroy carrying bag, care instructions, and a music book/fingering chart with many songs written out with both melody and harmony.
Below you can watch a video with my cover of the theme "Jen play his pipes" from THE DARK CRYSTAL original movie score by Trevor Jones featuring myself playing a "DOUBLE OCARINA" made by instrument maker Charlie Hind http://hindocarina.com and Biel Fiol at the cello. I made a lot of research as fan of this movie looking for double flutes, and though I found many with drones and some notes none was versatile enough to play it till I found Hind's double ocarina. It's one of my most precious instruments, and I have to say it's not the easiest to play but Charlie provides a booklet with the basics, and you can also find in his Hind Ocarina youtube channel several video examples of the sheet music provided in the instruction book so you can be sure you´re fingering and playing it all right.
As it happens when you watch the instrument and you see the great amount of patience and love it requires to be done, equal compromise to learn it... but well below you can see me playing it... it can be done better, for sure, but it's not impossible! And on stage it's always eye-catchy!
Above: Priscilla Hernandez performing Double Ocarina
You can read more about Hind Ocarinas and the other models of ocarina he has available at his site HIND OCARINA.COM