How to Play the Recorder

A recorder is a wind blown instrument that originated from ancient times and was heavily used in the renaissance period. They come in varying sizes and the descant or soprano recorder is the most common one to play. Students usually learn this one before branching out into any of the others. So how do you play the recorder?

When you learn to play the recorder you learn

1. How to produce the sound.

2. How to vary the sound.

3. How to read recorder music including learning note names, note lengths and basic notation.

Let’s have a look at these in more detail.

1. How To Produce A Recorder Sound

A recorder comes in 2 or 3 sections consisting of the mouthpiece and body piece or pieces.

A sound is produced when a player covers the end   hole  and closes their lips further down the mouthpiece, usually about an inch and then blows air down through the mouthpiece  hole  and down the tubing out the other end and any uncovered  holes , causing the air to vibrate.

2. How To Vary The Sound

The recorder body has 5 single  holes  and 2 double  holes  on the upper side and 1 single  hole  underneath for the thumb. These  holes  are covered by your fingers in various fingering patterns or configurations to vary the sounds.

When the air vibrates down the recorder tube, it will escape out the other end and through any uncovered  holes . The more  holes  you cover the lower the sound is because the length of the air column is longer.

Just imagine covering

1. the upper top 3  holes  with 3 fingers and the thumb  hole  with the thumb. The air distance is the distance from the top of the mouthpiece to the end of the third  hole . * * * @ @ @ @

2. the same  holes  as in 1 but with 2 more  holes  covered. The air distance is also from the top of the mouthpiece to the end of the fifth  hole  this time. * * * * * @ @

The note produced from this configuration is lower than the note produced in 1 because there are more  holes  covered creating a longer air column and less  holes  for air to escape.

NB * =  holes  covered @ =  holes  uncovered

When you learn the recorder you learn specific finger patterns for each specific sound or note the recorder can produce and the recorder range of notes is greater than two octaves. You will also learn that you put your left hand above your right hand, like with all wind instruments.

3. How To Read Recorder Music:

Music is written in the form of notes and rests using the treble clef.

You need to know the following to play recorder music.

barlines: the horizontal lines seen at regular intervals

double barline: indicates end of piece

bar: music written between the barlines

time signature: the fraction type number seen at the beginning of each line of music to represent the number of beats or counts per bar.

note lengths: You will meet these ones first but in varying orders depending on the book you learn from.

crotchet ( quarter note ) = 1 beat

minim ( half note ) = 2 beats

semibreve ( whole note ) = 4 beats

dotted minim ( dotted half note ) = 3 beats

quaver ( eighth note ) = 1/2 beat

They are represented by specific symbols so you know how long to play a note for.

note names: These are represented by the first 7 letters of the alphabet A B C D E F G plus their flattened and sharpened forms. These 7 letter names repeat themselves. If you know how to play the piano then it is easy to visualise using the white and black keys.

So basically when you learn how to play the recorder you need an understanding of how to produce a sound and vary it using different finger patterns and what some basic notation is including note lengths and note names. Then you will be able to play pieces and have fun making music.