Mudcat Café message #1846596 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #94923   Message #1846596
Posted By: Liz the Squeak
30-Sep-06 - 02:25 AM
Thread Name: Recorders type/range?
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
We have a range of recorders in the house (11 descants alone!) from a variety of makers and materials. Here's my experience.

Plastic - better for lengthy plays, as it doesn't absorb the water/drool. Can necessitate the application of some towelling to a lap to wipe said drool if playing for more than 3 hours (bit like banjo players).

Wood - gives a softer sound with some interesting depth, but not really suitable for sessions. Best left for solo gigs, mediaeval shows or recordings. Having said that, the Dolmetsch wooden recorders have more stamina and a properly waxed one can be played for an hour or so more than an unwaxed one. We have an unwaxed mediaeval style no brand that can only last 30 minutes or so without needing a drying out spell... (bit like Kate Moss).

Yamaha - 1 descant, 1 bass. Indistinguishable from the other better made plastics, good clear sound and easy to maintain. The bass has a bent neck, an extra joint to twist, a thumb rest and neck strap so that those with shorter arms can sling it round like a sax and play. Needs a really long stretch for the bottom notes but it can add an extra dimention to a session (Bass is the second largest recorder, no special mouthpiece).

Aulos - my favourite, because the mouthpiece is a slimmer shape. We have a range of these from garklein to tenor. Garklein (or piccolonino, plays in C''') can be a bit dog whistleish if overblown, but can add some amazing descants to a session (watch peoples' faces as it cuts through the densest session fug!) Needs slim fingers. The sopranino (next down) can also do that, but is a few tones lower (C'') and a bit easier to manage with chubbier digits. The descant, treble and tenor are joys to play, they don't clog easily and come apart easily - no need for extra greasings.

Dolmetsch - my first recorder, inherited from my sister. I bit the hell out of the mouthpiece (one sticky out front tooth cured by a cycling accident) but it has lasted nearly 40 years. Easy to maintain, good to play. Used to be THE school recorder (Aulos were the 'expensive' ones), not easily overblown. Once had the opportunity to play a hand turned rosewood sopranino which was like playing with the angels.... cost in 1980 was 500.. but then it was turned by the last Herr Dolmetsch himself!

Moeck - my wooden treble - good tone but very worn (it was second hand), takes practice to get the high notes right as the back hole is more of a gash now. Better in sessions than the one Manitas has, for staying power, but not so good on tone after a while. It seems very soft to me, which explains the damage to the back hole. Suspect previous owner was a 'pincher' instead of a 'roller'. 'Pinchers' bend the thumb and force the fingernail into the hole. 'Rollers' roll their thumbs (like giving fingerprints [not that I'd know.. I watch a lot of cop shows]) to expose the hole. Rolling is easier on the recorder and means you don't need to keep trimming your nails.

Price - think of what you can afford and think of how you'll use it. If you can afford 100 on a recorder you're only going to play at home occasionally, then fine... give me the 100 and you can have any one of my descants except my Aulos. If you want something you can beat the heck out of, but will still sound good, then you don't need to spend more than 20. I'd recommend buying cheapish now and upgrading when you feel the need.

Are you the sort of person who leaves things on tables or chairs? Are you the sort of person who sits on things? (Don't laugh, once saw a guitar player in a session lay his instrument on a seat then sat on the head cos he forgot his ass was bigger than the gap he'd left... oh we singers did laugh!) If you're either, don't take an expensive recorder to a session.. they snap, they break and they roll off tables.

If you just want something to train up on, then go for a better make plastic. Personally I would recommend Aulos. Limpits' school recommends Yamaha... take your pick. Octave ranges differ with experience but the average is 1.7; Manitas says 2 and a bit but I'm going to challenge him later over that.....

Descant is the one most commonly used, sometimes called the soprano. Has a range from middle C to high A (standard range for soprano voice), so is good for accompanying singers.

Treble is the next one down. Range is from F below middle C to C (standard range for alto voice) and is best for Irish sessions that tend to be in Bb.

Tenor is the one after that. Range is from C below to almost C above middle C (standard range for tenor voice) and can add a depth to some sessions that is sadly lacking. Just playing the tune an octave lower, or a couple of drone notes on the chord can broaden a tune out wonderfully.

I'm of the opinion that the recorder is a much maligned and underused session instrument. They're transportable, they're easily maintained and they are versatile. Whistles are fine, but a recorder can bring a certain something.....

Good luck with your lessons but most of all, enjoy!