What is a Recorder?
“The recorder is very old, almost as old as notated western music,” writes John Everingham, the owner of Saunders Recorders, a specialist dealer in recorders in Bristol, England. Instruments that are immediately recognizable as recorders have been discovered dating back at least 700 years.
The different sizes of recorder are: Bass, tenor, alto/treble, soprano/descant and sopranino recorders. (Photo: Public Domain/WikiCommons)
When was it played?
The Recorder was popular during the middle ages until approximately 1850. It fell out of fashion in favor of the flute and clarinet until the 20th century when it experienced a revival. The sound of the recorder is often described as clear and sweet, and has historically been associated with birds and shepherds. It is notable for its quick response and its corresponding ability to produce a wide variety of articulations. This ability, coupled with its open finger holes, allow it to produce a wide variety of tone colors and special effects.
How to play the Recorder
The two keys to a good sounding recorder performance is to completely cover the holes (as needed) using the soft pads of the fingers and to use gentle airflow. Squeaks mean that a hole somewhere isn't covered correctly or that the player is blowing too hard. The more holes are covered, the more likely a squeak will occur.
Most recorders use both traditional notation and fingering charts. A fingering chart is a pictoral example of your recorder.
Are you ready to play the recorder? But there's no music class today?
Squeaky's Recorder Playhouse is a website designed to help students:
Once we have mastered the basics of music notation, we can follow the Songs link to:
This site also has a Parent's Guide link to read more about the site and how to help our young musicians best navigate it.
Another great site for elementary students is Visual Musical Minds which has play-along videos and songs for the recorder (as well as other instruments and voices)
Recorder Concerts Click on any image to hear that group play some amazing recorder pieces.
Handel Water Music (Recorder ensemble)
John Dowland (1563-1626): The Earle of Essex Galiard [a5] - The Royal Wind Music
Yesterday: The Beatles. Orlan Charles: Recorder(s)
Ever since the 1960s, the student recorder has been manufactured in plastic, which is near-indestructible and can actually sound quite good. “Some of the very cheapest recorders can produce sounds very close to the very best, but at a hundredth of the price,” says Everingham. It’s an accessible instrument. Unlike, say, a saxophone, or even a guitar, no real technique is needed to actually make sound come out. You simply blow, which gives young students a big step up in the learning of the recorder. And the soprano recorder is a perfect size for a small child’s hand, so there’s no need to make a smaller version for younger players.
The soprano recorder came into being as a teaching tool in the early to mid-20th century thanks to the efforts of one Carl Orff, a sort of revivalist German composer. His Orff Schulwerk was an approach to teaching music that relied on rhythm and creative thinking above rote memorization. It also called for an array of simpler instruments, largely those that mimicked the vocal range of a child.
The rationale: if a child can sing it (or play it), he or she is more likely to understand it. The instruments should also be inexpensive, simple to understand, and easily stored. That’s where the soprano recorder comes in, along with other common teaching instruments like the glockenspiel.
Where can I get one?
At Galileo we have recorders that your student can use, however if you wish to purchase one you can do so for $5. The specific look and style may be slightly different depending on the brand, but the basic sound and technique of the instrument is the same. Please avoid dollar store recorders, they are a cheaply made toy and as a result they sound terrible.
How do you clean them?
Recorders are not shared by students. All instruments, cleaning rods, and cases are clearly labeled. At the end of each year the recorders and cleaning rags are washed before summer break so that they will be clean for the next school year.