The recorder, or alternatively known as the 'wooden flute', is an excellent choice for a first instrument because it is possible to learn the fingering and start making music with little difficulty

The player’s breath is directed through the narrow channel in the mouthpiece of the recorder and across a small opening, creating a vibration which then is transmitted down the air tube. Different notes are played by the covering and uncovering of the holes down the length of the instrument using the thumb and fingers.

Recorders come in a variety of sizes, from 'short and high' to 'large and deep'. The four most popular sizes are:

  • The Soprano (sometimes called the Descant) is about 30cm long,
  • The Alto is slightly bigger and therefore deeper at around 45cm long,
  • The Tenor – slightly larger still at 62.5cms The largest and therefore the deepest is the Bass recorder at 90cm long.
The most common recorders are the Soprano and Alto. The longer the recorder, the deeper its pitch so your fingers will be farther apart. It doesn't really matter which size you start with, because the skills are easily transferable but it is usual to begin on the Soprano because of its portable size and lower price.


The recorder is well suited to playing the ancient music of the Baroque and Renaissance eras as well as folk and popular music of modern times.

Here are a few examples where you can hear the recorder in action...

Charlotte Barbouras part of the BBC Young Musician of the year competition in 2012 demonstrates in this recording the flexibility of the instrument for expressing a variety of emotions…
…she also, portrays a confident example of the agility of the instrument in this piece of music from the Baroque era.

This example of Vivaldi’s Recorder Concerto ‘La tempest di mare’ allows us to hear the recorders unique tone and appreciate its ability to sound above a chamber orchestra.

This recording is one of Teleman’s Suite in A minor, it once again demonstrates the recorder's ability to project above other instruments despite it's modest solo volume.

FUN FACT: King Henry VIII loved playing and listening to the recorders so much that he owned more than 70 of them.

Getting Started

The recorder is a very satisfying instrument to learn to play due to the fact that it is inexpensive and easier to master than most other instruments

Here are the key items that we recommend you need to get you started on the road to becoming a great recorder player!


We recommend Yamaha Descant Recorders for beginners as they produce a nice sound and are high quality. They come in a variety of colours including brown, green, blue and pink. There is also the classic Brown/Cream Yamaha recorder which is a higher model with an improved sound and a nicer case.

As you become more advanced (grade 6+), wooden recorders from manufacturers such as Dolmetsch are available (from around £60) which produce a further warmer and more delicate sound than their plastic alternatives.


One of the attractions of the recorder as a starter instrument, is the easy maintenance and portability. Whilst most recorders come in a cloth case with plastic cleaning stick, alternative accessories are available for those who play more frequently.

Over time, your saliva will build up inside the recorder and eventually deteriorate the body, particularly so on wooden instruments. There are two main types of clearing stick to remove the saliva build up:

  • A recorder plastic cleaning stick is usually provided with your first recorder. You are then required to purchase a cleaning cloth so that you can thread it through the eye of the cleaning stick and clean any excess saliva in your recorder after use.
  • The alternative Cleaning Stick/Mop is much more convenient as it is much more compact (it does not require a cleaning cloth), simpler to use and carries out a much more thorough job.
This is a small plastic descant recorder thumb rest that clips securely to the main body of the recorder to add extra comfort and balance as you play, making practice more pleasurable!
Whilst your new recorder usually comes in a cloth bag, padded recorder cases provide greater protection. We recomend Mapac padded recorder bags which come in a variety of colours, including Blue, Red, Black and Purple.

Beginner Books

Here are the best selling recorder tutor books for beginners:

Recorder Magic Book 1 is a colourful book ideal for younger children which guides you through the notes on the instrument by putting short stories and rhymes to help you remember them. The book is also available as a Recorder Magic Book 1 with CD edition so you can play along with backing tracks and learn how the pieces should sound - much more fun!

Recorder from the Beginning Book 1 is described as being tailored to beginners of aged 7 years and over. It assumes no previous knowledge of music or the recorder and so guides you through the basics in simple terms building up your confidence to be able to play the short entertaining pieces towards the end of the book.

Abracadabra Recorder Book 1 is a clear tutorial book that introduces you gradually to the notes and features of the recorder. This book is described by the publishers as being "ideal for teaching recorders individually and groups" as each short piece is accompanied by a more complicated version so you can play along with other players.

Finding a Recorder Teacher

It is highly recommended when starting an instrument to employ a qualified teacher to make the learning process interesting and fun. Teachers can be found across the UK at schools, local music services and musicteachers.co.uk or if you live in our locality please do not hesitate to contact us for details of suitable teachers.

Music Centres - playing in orchestras & ensembles

Music centres are set up in many towns to give students an opportunity to meet like-minded people whilst putting their playing into practice. The centres often have a wide variety of ensembles which you can join if you wish. It provides great opportunities to perform in concert situations across the UK and even sometimes Europe. Here is a list of Music Centres/Services in the UK.

This resource was written by:

Sarah Hayward

Sarah Hayward Bmus (hons), MA

Sarah is a sprightly coloratura soprano and active violin and viola player who enjoys interacting with other musicians and teaching her students. Sarah is part of DS Music’s Education Outreach & Marketing Team and is passionate about the expansion and Educational Outreach of the company in order to help give everyone the opportunity to access music. Be the change you wish to see in the world. Music has the power to change people so help me use it to change the world!! :)

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