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The Recorder

Published: Mon March 23, 2009


The recorder often provides the first tuned musical instrument playing experience for children.

The first school recorder is usually made from ABS resin, although many professional players prefer wooden recorders.Wooden recorders are harder to play consistently as tuning varies with different atmospheric conditions and they take more looking after. As such wooden recorders are not suitable for beginners groups.

The descant recorder is easy to play and is the most popular model used in schools. Internationally it is sometimes referred to as the soprano model. There are various sizes of recorder - the treble (internationally referred to as the alto) is the next popular model and for ensemble playing the sopranino, tenor and bass recorders are also used.

The descant and tenor recorders are in the key of “C” whilst the sopranino, treble and bass are in the key of “F”.

What to look for

  1. Get the teacher’s advice before shopping; they will often want the whole class to have the same brand of recorder.
  2. A recorder can be of one, two or three piece construction. Check which version the teacher would like the children to play.
  3. Normally the three piece construction is the preferred descant choice as there is flexibility with individual tuning and finger positioning for small hands. However some teachers prefer the single piece model as there is less to fiddle with!
  4. On a three piece recorder the top part is the head joint and you blow into the beak of the head joint. The middle part is the body joint and the bottom is the foot joint.
  5. Good recorders are supplied with a cleaning rod, pot of joint grease and a fingering chart.
  6. There are toy recorders on the market. The best way to ensure you get a properly tuned instrument is to buy it from a musical instrument retailer.
  7. The recorder is a finely engineered musical instrument and should be supplied in a protective bag; its joints should be regularly greased and should fit together snugly. To separate the instrument twist the joints - do not pull apart.
  8. There are German fingering models on the market, these recorders are different and should not be purchased for normal use in the U.K.
  9. For anyone with finger or hand difficulties there are some specially adapted recorders available.
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