There’s no shortage of applications from the App Store that allow iPhone users to let their inner musician come out and play. We’ve got guitars, pianos, and synthesizers galore to choose from. But an important detail to point out about these iPhone applications is that each one of us could potentially play exactly the same exact tunes because the audio produced is really only a result of preloaded sample sounds. Besides your own creativity in putting the sounds together, it’s all static. Ocarina from Smule (anyone noticed that I love what these folks are doing?) however, brings us change to this category of apps.
Ocarina makes your iPhone as true to a real instrument as it could get. It does this by allowing you to dictate the audio that’s being input, as you blow into the mic of your phone. So like a real wind-based instrument, the sound that’s produced is all up to you. The obvious difference being that Ocarina is analyzing and digitizing the audio output in real time as opposed to wind through holes in a typical instrument.
I’m no musician — I’m lucky I can play the radio — but the Ocarina is just fun to play with even if you have no clue what you’re supposed to be doing. With four ‘holes’ on the screen, you can control the notes your Ocarina plays as you blow into the mic. Smule is even kind enough to offer ‘tabs’ for playing real music! (Here’s the link to Kumbaya for instance.) If you’re not musically gifted (welcome to the club) you can go to the globe view and listen to others from around the world. (I believe there was a Jeff from Southern Cali that’s been particularly impressive.) The visuals in globe view are particularly impressive.
And for those of you who’s first thought when you heard ‘Ocarina’ was of the classic video game, Zelda, you’re on the right track. There is a ‘Zeldarian’ mode that makes your Ocarina sound dead on for the video game. I still haven’t caught someone on globe view playing the game’s music, but I’m hopeful. The only immediate feature for Ocarina that I can see as missing, is a way to record your haunting airs…
As with other Smule apps, Ocarina will cost you 99 pennies to have a real musical instrument wherever you take your iPhone. For those iPod touch-only owners who may not be thinking clearly, you have to have an iPhone for this application to work. (E.g. don’t buy this application and then leave a review that it doesn’t work for you!)