By Josh Simons on Dec 12, 2008
This is Ocarina's main screen:
You hold your iPhone horizontally and blow gently into the microphone. As you "cover" and "uncover" the fingering holes on the ocarina you create different notes. For the musically challenged like me, there is an extensive set of community-contributed fingering diagrams for music of all kinds in the Ocarina Share Your Score forum. Here, for example, is the diagram for "Amazing Grace":
This by itself would qualify Ocarina as my favorite iPhone app, but Smule has taken this expereince one step further by giving you the chance to listen to other people playing their iPhone ocarinas and they've done so in a beautiful way:
You can zoom and spin the globe, watching and listening as others' compositions ascend, spiralling into space. Perhaps it is the quality of the sound--I'm not sure, but something in this invokes in me a profound sense of both loneliness and community at the same time. If you try it, I think you will see what I mean.
One last practical detail before you start playing. As Eric informed me, it turns out Ocarina uncovered a bug in Apple's multi-touch display that causes some combination of finger touches to not register reliably on the Ocarina, which can be quite frustrating. To work around the problem, Smule has implemented an alternate layout for the fingering holes, which you can enable from the preferences screen. See below:
You can also ground the iPhone in a variety of creative ways to avoid the problem. All the weird details are here.