Xun (Chinese ocarina, music instrument)

by licheong, published

Xun (Chinese ocarina, music instrument) by licheong Oct 25, 2014
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This is a Chinese musical instrument called xun. Similar to the Japanese ocarina, this instrument is blown at the top like you blow a flute, and the pitch can be controlled by covering the finger holes. The 6cm smaller version has a higher pitch and it contains 6 fingerholes. The 8cm version has a slightly lower pitch and it contains 8 fingerholes.

Here is a video showing an earlier version of it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vallobApQc

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Yeah mine doesn't make any noise. Too bad because it looks so cool.

Alright I printed it, tested it, and it only makes one note with all the holes closed. Is there anything I can do to make it work? drilling the holes? Vapor smoothing?

Printed the 8cm one but unfortunately any sound come out of it, started to print the 6cm hoping for better luck...
The one in the video is the 6 or 8cm?

Beautiful model sadly i could only play one note with it!

Unfortunately mine doesn't make a single sound... big waste of plastic.


printed pretty much flawlesly on a Tronxy x1 at .6mm res in pla but it does not really sound anything like instrument, more like if you would brow into small bottle.

I had one in clay a few years back which was exceedingly difficult to play. I have moderate experience with top-blown flutes but the Xun sure is hard. Good luck for those who print it!

it does work here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBRC6B-SzzY note: i know he is playing a real one in the video link but it will give you an idea

Darn, i made one but my fingers are too big x(

I noticed that on your photo you have much larger fingerholes, which appear to be the correct size compared to my clay Xun, while in the 3D model all holes are small and approximately of the same size. Do I understand it right that the fingerholes are not made in tune and you tune it after the print by enlarging the holes? The area of the holes should increase towards higher notes, as determined by the physical formula for a Helmoltz resonator.
I had the same problem as many others that it initially did not sound when I opened one or more fingerholes, but this can be solved by sharpening the blow edge and by undercutting it, which means taking some material away from the edge inside of the blow hole.

This actually worked for me. Like all the other comments, I could only get a note with all the holes closed. I took a pen knife and sharpened up the edge above the side with the most holes (the "front" of the instrument), and now I can play all the notes, though the highest ones are still a little difficult.

I made the 8cm with PLA, took 17 hours approx on an Ultimaker 2+. Too bad I have the same problem making it sound when opening one of the holes. Is there any tips on how to modify it to be audible?

Just to be clear, the ocarina isn't a Japanese instrument. It's from South America.

I haven't printed the xun yet, but I'm planning on it. Will printing in PLA make much of a difference in sound?

What would happen if I added a fibble to its mouth piece or a whistle. It will be more like an ocarina that way and easier to play

That might be a pretty good idea. Also a simple notched area like on the shakuhachi or Quena might improve the Xun's playability.

That's kind of what I'm saying. Make the upper lip 'sharper', similar to a fipple. No mouth piece, as that's not what the Xun traditionally is. It's more like a fancy jug with holes in it than an ocarina. Once he uploads the source files, I'll improve it subtly to make it easier to play.

Hi Nimaid,
Sorry for the late reply. I was busy in the week and forgot about it. I made the model in Rhino (mac). You can download from here:
Thanks very much!

The reason this is hard to sound (especially with multiple holes uncovered) because the lip isn't a sharp angle. Look up how a Helmholtz resonator works to understand why the sharp lip is important. If you upload whatever source files you used, I could fix it properly for you.

Hi Nimald, thanks very much! I've just looked up Helmholtz resonator, that is very useful information! I've made the Xun like that because it is how the instrument looks like historically, but very probably a tube or a mouthpiece could make it sound better! I shall upload the source files soon.

Actually, all you need to do is to make the lip sharp, like the fipple on a whistle. Upload the source files, and I'll show you what I mean.

If the sound is very hard to get and is very quiet, try printing with a higher full density. The more solid the walls, the more loud and efficient the xun will be. I have also found the larger one is easier to start on as it has a bigger hole in the top but it does take more air to produce sound.

Hi, I've printed a 6cm (nylon) and 8cm version (porcelain) and they both make some sounds.

Try to test it with all finger holes covered first, and you need to find a particular blowing angle to produce a sound, just like how you blow a flute. Make your mouth looks like whistling and blow an air stream focused at 45 degrees downwards, put the Xun as close as your Chin, then rotate it slightly outward to find the right angle. Hope it helps!

It could be hard to get a sound at higher register, that's why I drilled fewer holes on the 6cm version.

I printed the 8-cm and had the same problems with making it sound.

I printed the 6-cm version and for some reason did not work (didn't sound). Maybe air is escaping somewhere in the build (I printed a low resolution -0.30 mm). Would that have something to do with it?

Is there a reason why the 6-cm version doesn't have the two holes in the back?

I just started printing it and then I saw this comment. Your printer has a resolution of 300 microns. Mine is 200 microns hopefully I didn't just waste a whole lot of plastic. I will post my results when it is done.

Mine had some openings in it, but I improvised and brushed some elmers glue over where the air was coming out and it seemed to do the trick. My issue now, however is I can get it to sound right only with all of the holes closed. Once I open any of the hole I just get air, I'll have to try those files in the comment above