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 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...
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.
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!
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.
- 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.
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
Music Centres - playing in orchestras & ensembles
This resource was written by:
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!! :)