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use of the recorder in Celtic music

24 Oct 97 - 01:16 AM (#15135)
Subject: use of the recorder in Celtic music
From: rosebrook

I'm wondering about the use of the (instrument) recorder in Celtic music. Are they used much? What are the pros/cons of using them as opposed to, say a flute or penny whistle? Anyone out there using recorder as their instrument of choice for playing this type of music?

24 Oct 97 - 08:26 PM (#15168)
Subject: RE: use of the recorder in Celtic music
From: Sir

There is certainly no reason not to use a recorder in celtic music. There is no reason not to use a tuba, a sitar or a conga drum. A recorder won't sound exactly like a tin whistle but then it shouldn't. Instruments, the same as people should be allowed to have their own voice and still be heard. -Sir

24 Oct 97 - 08:52 PM (#15169)
Subject: RE: use of the recorder in Celtic music
From: Cliff

There is an interesting group from California called Distant Oaks who have some baroque influence and use various recorders in their music. They have a website with some wav files. I think you can get to it from the Ceolas Website. Cliff.

24 Oct 97 - 11:58 PM (#15173)
Subject: RE: use of the recorder in Celtic music
From: Moira Cameron

As a avid recorder player, I am a little bit biased. I have in fact put a lot of thought into this very question. All in all, if you want the best of all possible worlds, you should probably be able to play both tin whistle & recorder in celtic music. I, of course, prefer playing the recorder. I like its tone better, especially the wooden recorders. I play four different recorders; the sopranino (the smallest), the soprano (the standard recorder), the alto and the tenor. When I want to play something that sounds like a tin whistle, but with a rounder, wood tone, I play the smaller sopranino and soprano recorders. However, sometimes the slow lilting airs, like Morgan Megan, or O'Carolan's Draft sound better on the larger, deeper sounding alto or tenor recorders.

As far as the pros and cons are concerned, a lot of it depends on what type on sound you want to have and what type of celtic music you want to play. I find the fast paced reels and jigs difficult to play very well on the recorder, simply because the instrument's fingering is more sensitive and tedious than the tin whistle. The recorder isn't as flexible on fast pieces. However, on the slower, more melodic tunes, nothing beats the mellowness and depth of the recorder. But of course, I'm biased.

25 Oct 97 - 03:21 AM (#15180)
Subject: RE: use of the recorder in Celtic music
From: Bill

Howdy rosebrook,

I play the same types of recorders as Moira plays in addition to lots of strings. I get to celtic music at times and play it often with those who specialize in it much more than I do. They might have some complaints about my playing of the instrument, but they have always been very supportive of the use of the recorder with their celtic music. Duets with whistles or flutes and recorders (using the same voicings as Moira suggested) have been very well received. Go ahead and play the recorders with celtic tunes and folks. If you're overly concerned about reaction from hard-core celts, just keep an eye and an ear open as you play so that you will know what they think about your use of the instrument. There are those in old-time and bluegrass who insist that their music should only be played with certain combinations of instruments. I let them play their strict ways, and I play with others unless there's no other music around -- and then I play as close as I can to their ideas while trying to make just a little trouble by doing something out of their set ways every so often. I don't think I've made any enemies that way, but I have sometimes felt the circles closing me out.


25 Oct 97 - 04:45 AM (#15186)
Subject: RE: use of the recorder in Celtic music
From: Frank in the swamps

My instrument is really the guitar, but I've always loved the recorder. I toot a little but never was any good at it, no breath control. I know the instrument is ancient, it was common in medieval times and I've seen photo's of old recorders made out of bone and ivory. I'm not going to claim any scholastic authority here, but the recorder was known all over western europe at an early date, and wood has always been available to poor folks. I'll bet Celts were playing wooden fipple flutes before they were playing tin whistles. In any case, Scots & Irish tunes are what I try to play on it myself. Sounds great and has more historical authenticity than guitar.

Frank I.T.S.

25 Oct 97 - 07:28 PM (#15219)
Subject: RE: use of the recorder in Celtic music
From: dulcimer

Sir and I play together frequently with recorder, tin whistle, dulcimer, guitar and more. His alto recorder (I think) goes very well countering the D or C or B whistle and is most effect to set the mood slow Celtic airs. So I hardly endorse using a recorder.

26 Oct 97 - 07:15 PM (#15253)
Subject: RE: use of the recorder in Celtic music
From: alison


I'm a whistler, but I have nothing against recorders having played descant and treble for years before I learnt the tin whistle. On a purely technical note, as mentioned above the whistle is easier to play especially on the faster tunes, (probably due to the lack of thumb hole, and the easier fingering). Being Irish I tend to prefer the whistle in Celtic music and the recorder in Madrigal type stuff. I also find it easier to bend notes and ornament on the whistle which makes the slow airs sound lovely. (They sound even better if you play tham on one of the lower whistles like a Bb, A, G, F or low D.

Recently I bought a plastic Susato whistle which I think are available in the US. The mouth piece takes a bit of getting used to but the tone is beautiful, and sounds very like a recorder, (with the advantages of whistle fingering.)

Happy playing



27 Oct 97 - 08:18 PM (#15341)
Subject: RE: use of the recorder in Celtic music
From: dulcimer

Just saw the Hildebrand from Maryland playing music from the 1830's in American. Their ending piece was the White Cockade, a moderately fast dance/march tune. They used a fiddle and a RECORDER. Interesting.

10 Feb 00 - 05:56 PM (#176358)
Subject: RE: use of the recorder in Celtic music
From: sophocleese

Just found this thread from a while back. I play recorder and now have three, sopranino, soprano and alto. I also have tin whistles. I go back and forth between them all but really prefer recordr and am learning most of my tin whistle tunes on recorder. I like the sweeter tone of the sopranino in the high notes. There are some keys where its easier to play tin whistle but one recorder can play in several keys more easily than one tin whistle.

10 Feb 00 - 09:05 PM (#176453)
Subject: RE: use of the recorder in Celtic music
From: alison

I have heard people playing recorders recently for Irish music... they used whistle type ornamentation (slides etc)..... and they sounded great.....

the treble and tenor recorders sounded like low whistles... very mellow



10 Feb 00 - 09:28 PM (#176462)
Subject: RE: use of the recorder in Celtic music
From: Troll

I have several friends who play recorder on Scottish and Irish tunes. They have a bit of trouble with the real fast tunes but still manage to keep up pretty well. It just takes practice.

We have a recorder player in our klezmer band and use him a lot on the slower tunes as a break from the fiddle and clarinet.


10 Feb 00 - 09:36 PM (#176471)
Subject: RE: use of the recorder in Celtic music
From: pastorpest

I am a serious recorder player, and have played in period instrument groups and even in an orchestra for Britten's opera "Noyes Fludde" which uses recorders. Baroque recorder music uses tongueing with every note, phrases are like a string of pearls: each note is distinct. Most recorder how-to books assume this classical music technique. The penny whistle likes to immitate the pipes and most tongueing is elminated. Even when a note is repeated, separation is often effected by a cut or other ornament rather than stopping the air. There is lots of sliding from one note to another with whistles by graually lifting or seting a finger on the holes. I have found that most whistle techniques can be transferred to the recorder and then your recorder playing is much more versitile.

I strongly urge you to hear the recordings of Hesperus. Scott Reiss, the recorder player in Hesperus, is a highly skilled and sensitive recorder player. One Hesperus recording is "Unicorn" on the Dorian label ( The sliding techniques with "blues" recorder are obvious on this CD. Two more recent Hesperus CDs are "Celtic Roots" and "Early American Roots" ( Hear these and you will never question how appropriate the recorder is in Celtic music again. Sorry I have no idea how to do the blue clicky thing!

One further note. It is hard to convince beginning recorder players that the best plastic Aulos ,Yamaha, and Zen-On recorders are superior to wooden recorders except for high quality (and expensive!) wooden recorders. I have good wooden recorders that get used before audiences: mostly I practise on plastic.

10 Feb 00 - 09:54 PM (#176482)
Subject: RE: use of the recorder in Celtic music
From: John in Brisbane

OK, I'll admit it, I'm a bit of a Gyro Gearloose when it comes to instruments, But I actually stole this idea from Chris Wendt - sadly now passed away. He used to get the best (or worst) of both worlds by placing his recorder mouthpiece over his D whistle base. They happened to be a fair fit which he supplemented with a turn or two of masking tape. The sound was much less shrill and he could still do the fancy stuff with slurs and slides. Give it a try. Regards, John

10 Feb 00 - 09:58 PM (#176485)
Subject: RE: use of the recorder in Celtic music
From: Troll

Thanx for the tip John. I'll pass it along to our recorder player. He's always game to try something new.


11 Feb 00 - 01:45 AM (#176553)
Subject: RE: use of the recorder in Celtic music

The Celts usually put an bag on it and pumped the bag with their arm. [That way you don't get tennis uillin.]

11 Feb 00 - 01:10 PM (#176753)
Subject: RE: use of the recorder in Celtic music
From: GUEST,Sam Pirt


He will convince anyone that recorders can play ANY music be it Galcian, Flamenco, Irish. His playing will blow your head off if you get chance to hear it. He has recorded 2 albums - Brotherhood of stars and Os Amores Libres.

Cheers, Sam

11 Feb 00 - 05:28 PM (#176847)
Subject: RE: use of the recorder in Celtic music
From: GUEST,Rich(stupidbodhranplayerthatdoesn'tknowanybe

Dear Sir, There is so a reason not to use a tuba, sitar or conga in Celtic music. Irish music has developed as a result of being played on certain instruments. While a number of instruments have been absorbed into the genre over the years (guitar, mandolin, cittern, harmonica,bones shakers, triangle etc. ), they have all been things that complimented without drastically changing the overall sound. A sitar, a tuba, and a conga all have types of music they are well suited to. As far as a recorder, as a purist, I'm not a big fan, but it can fit if played tastefully. But then, that's just my opinion. Slan, Rich

11 Feb 00 - 08:17 PM (#176907)
Subject: RE: use of the recorder in Celtic music
From: Mulligan might be interested in Dale Wisely's comparison "between the tinwhistle, the recorder, and the

Norelco Triple Rotary Head Electric Shaver ."

In it he quite effectively points out the differences between these three devices....the most notably being that the recorder and the norelco shaver almost always sound crappy.