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Recorders type/range?

23 Sep 06 - 08:23 AM (#1841465)
Subject: Recorders type/range?
From: Mr Red

Joy is learning the recorder. The problem is the range of notes available to play a tune in the key of D (or is it G?).
The tune she is on is Bobby Shaftoe and the book recommends a descant or a wooden recorder.
So she bought a wooden recorder (it sounds nicer!) and they didn't have a descant. It has a range from middle C to one octave and a note. Bobby Shaftoe seems to like the E &/or F higher.
This was at a festival - and the assistant wasn't a woodwinder.

So the questions are: what questions to ask of the shop so that they don't peddle "what they got".
And what range would a descant have? (OK it would be in a lower register but hopefully suitable for a session which usually means D & G)

My Advice was to buy cheap and accept the fact of buying again. It still is. But hopefully with a clearer picture.

Joy can play the piano.


before we buy another recorder I will suggest what I found here on the mudcat
need advice flute, recorder, cold weathe . Tech: Recorder sounds like a whistle . Recorder Questions

23 Sep 06 - 08:43 AM (#1841470)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: manitas_at_work

A descant should have much the same range as a D whistle but with an additional C natural at the bottom ie. 2 and a bit octaves. How big the bit is will depend on the quality of the instrument and how well you can play it. There are some weird and wonderful fingerings for therd octave some of which include the use of the thigh!

Theoretically you can play in any key as the fingering has been set for that purpose but in practice you will find it harder the further you get away around the circle of fifths from C because of the increasing use of cross fingerings. C, G, C, A, F and Bb would be perfectly easy to play but after that I think it gets uncomfortable although the good news is that 99% of British Isles folk tunes (and probably indeed European) would occur in those keys or their relative minors.

23 Sep 06 - 09:43 AM (#1841480)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: Howard Jones

It sounds like a descant (also known as a soprano). It will be about a foot in length. This is the size that children usually learn on, so most music shops will stock descants and this is what they'll give you if you ask for "a recorder" without being more specific. The other common size is the treble, but this is considerably bigger and in F. Bigger still are the tenor and bass, and there is also a smaller size (sopranino, also in F).

The descant is fine for folk music, playing in D and G is easy and A maj can be managed. You get the relative minors of course, including Am as the instrument is in C. Other keys are possible but the fingering gets more complicated.

She should be able to play higher notes than the top D, but this is done by "pinching" the thumb-hole and blowing harder, both of which take practice. Presumably she's working from a tutor book, this should explain how to get the higher notes. If not, she'll need to find a player to show her how - a local music shop might be able to help. Quite a few teachers, even if they're not musicians, can play a bit of recorder, as of course can many kids of primary school age as it is the usual "starter" instrument.

23 Sep 06 - 03:43 PM (#1841555)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: Marion in Cornwall

If you follow the link to the Hampshire Recorder Sinfonia site,you can look at all the different sizes of recorders and see the notes that each can play marked out on a keyboard diagram. And if you're near Bristol there's a great shop that sells only recorders and whistles: Saunders Recorders where you can get any information you may need.

Hope this of some help


23 Sep 06 - 04:41 PM (#1841596)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: GUEST,Jack Campin

Versions of Bobby Shaftoe I can find seem to mostly be in G with a range of an octave D to d.

It sounds like the "wooden recorder" you got was a tenor (recorders of any size can be made out of either wood or plastic). It should have a range of *two* octaves and a tone from middle C without trying too hard, so the tune should fit. But unless the recorder has an unusually strong lower register it would be more effective transposed to D, which would give it a range from A to a.

Perhaps you could post an ABC of the exact version of the tune you've got, or a link to a scan or sound file of it.

23 Sep 06 - 07:43 PM (#1841703)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: Tootler

I have been playing Bobby Shafto for more years than I can remember in G on a descant (or soprano) recorder. It fits very nicely and the fingering is all straight forward.

If you have acquired a treble (or alto) recorder, you will not be able to play Bobby Shafto in G as the range is not right. The treble recorder, like most recorders has a range of two octaves and a tone comfortably and about two octaves and fifth if you are up to stopping the bell for some of the third octave notes, but the range runs from F to G" rather than from C to D" that you get with the descant. The tenor has a similar range to the descant but sounds an octave lower, its lowest note being middle C.

It is worth saying what make and model of recorder you are playing. BTW, modern plastic recorders from reputable makers are excellent instruments and fantastic value for money, especially the descants.

23 Sep 06 - 08:23 PM (#1841734)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: Mo the caller

I went to a recorder workshop at Whitby and we were told that it was not worth buying a cheap (i.e. under 100) wooden recorder as a softwood instrument would not last, and they would not be consistent. Some yours ago I bought a descant recorder for my son to learn at school (plastic mouthpiece, wooden body) and found that it was unplayable. The recommended makes are Aulos and Yamaha, and I certainly found that when I changed to an Aulos the second octave was easier to play.Not the cheapest but under 10, can you go wrong.
I like the sound of my wooden Treble (a 21st present many years ago, but its not much use in sessions)

23 Sep 06 - 08:50 PM (#1841743)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: GUEST,Jack Campin

The Moeck pearwood school descants are very good for the money. They often turn up second hand, either on eBay (going rate about twenty quid, I think) or in charity shops (the floor's the limit). They warm up faster than any plastic instrument and respond quicker than the mass-produced Yamahas and Auloses (i.e. ornamentation is sharper and clearer). I've got two of them. Even better is the Mollenhauer Dream descant - I think it's still under 100 quid new, tremendously powerful.

A wooden recorder will not last very long if it gets blasted and chewed by a primary school kid who's never had a musical instrument before and doesn't particularly want one now, but if you treat them sensitively they will last a very long time.

Recorders are not often made of softwood, though they are often made of softish hardwoods like pear or maple. The only softwood I know of being used is yew, which is harder than most hardwoods.

The problem with wooden recorders for folk playing is that you often can't play them for all that long at a stretch before the buildup of moisture in the wood starts to suffocate the sound. This varies a lot, the Moeck does pretty well. But I use a transparent plastic Yamaha descant or a black drainpipe Susato G alto most of the time because of this. Where I'm going to be more individually audible for a solo spot I'll use a wooden one like the Dream, but make sure it's properly warmed up first.

24 Sep 06 - 10:52 AM (#1842042)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: leeneia

"So she bought a wooden recorder (it sounds nicer!) and they didn't have a descant. It has a range from middle C to one octave and a note."
If the recorder's lowest note is a C, then it's either a soprano (descant) or a tenor. The tenor is unlikely, as it's quite expensive.

I just picked up my most unsatisfactory descant and was able to play an octave plus six notes on it.

I suspect that if Joy can only get an octave plus one, then she is simply not playing the high notes right. Chances are the problem is with her thumb. More than that I can't say without being there.

I think she should find a player or teacher and get a little expert advice on the matter.

24 Sep 06 - 05:14 PM (#1842329)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: Mr Red

I got Wikipedia to give me a few pointers
1) It is a descant recorder
2) Joy hadn't heard of forked fingering
3) Half holing was for future learning but should be a higher priority now.
4) Steve Rowley (local player/caller) is going to give lessons. Joy gardens for him so it will be relatively easy to organise.
5) Any ideas on oil/preservatives. The wood seems to be a fruit wood, though I seem to remember one she looked at might have been beech.

24 Sep 06 - 06:39 PM (#1842380)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: GUEST,Jack Campin

Oiling is a bit of a religious issue.

Some recorders don't need it because they've been pre-impregnated with wax. (Not as good an idea as it seemed at the time, and less often used these days). Some players don't oil at all, it doesn't make a huge difference.

The point of the oil is (1) to stop rapid variations in humidy level in the wood and (2) to improve the smoothness of the bore. Almond or grape oil work, mineral baby oil doesn't, linseed oil is weird stuff you have to understand better than I do to make use of it. Use a scrap of silk dampened with oil and push it through the bore with a kitting needle, or just twist and shove. You don't need a lot and you DO NOT want to get oil in the windway or on the labium (the sharpened edge that makes the sound) - that will lead to water droplets forming and badly buggering up the sound. Remember you can always add more, but you can't take it away if you've overdone it. Leave the instrument for a day or two without playing after oiling to let the oil soak in.

More important aspects to recorder care are not chew the mouthpiece and not to blow too hard (don't try to the clear a blocked windway by blowing, either shake or suck). And cut your left thumbnail short - I keep a pair of folding nail scissors on my keyring specifically for this. Also, never put anything sharp down the windway or near the labium, and don't store the recorder near a heater.

The instrument of mine where oiling made the largest difference was a wooden Rumanian whistle. It wasn't one of the usual crappy pokerwork type, and obviously had potential, but it was pitched in C sharp. The bore was very rough, so I sanded it out with fine sandpaper glued to a dowel and then oiled it. The smoother bore brought it up to regular D pitch.

25 Sep 06 - 03:32 AM (#1842638)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: GUEST,chris

My experience as a listener and a one time learner,for what it's worth, is that a recorder is a very difficult instrument for a beginner to play. It needs very good breath control to play it in tune and sounds really awful if played without good control (not as bad as a beginner on violin, but pretty close). Certainly not easy to play along with others,
but good luck anyway.

25 Sep 06 - 04:20 AM (#1842656)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss

Agree about the sound of a cheap recorder - likewise the violin. Why do teachers insist on starting kids off on instruments that make a really nasty noise you've finally mastered them? Beginners need to be rewarded with nice sounds from the off, so that they'll want to persevere and progress with joy and pleasure. The melodica is a much better starter than recorder or fiddle, or even the mouth organ - success from note one! And while we're at it, why do teachers inisist on plonking music in front of young kids? They should learn to listen and feel, then they'll always be able to play by ear, and only once they've got a handle on the whole thing should they try using the shortcut we call manuscript. That's how we learn to speak and then write (years later), and music is merely another language. Makes me mad to see young talent being trammelled in this way - so the poor dears are then stuck having to peer at sheets of squiggly lines for the rest of their lives!

If Bobby Shaftoe doesn't seem to fit the recorder that Joy has bought, she should just start on a different note and pick out the tune from there. All the fingers on the left hand is easiest for the first note in this case. The key doesn't matter one jot.

Enjoying the tune is all that counts!

25 Sep 06 - 05:13 AM (#1842683)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: Rockhen

A little off the thread, sorry, re recorder playing, ...not all teachers 'insist on plonking music in front of young kids...' This isn't a teacher rant, honest!... but...I teach music to children between 4 and 11. I try to give them as many different experiences of music as possible. I teach them to read simple traditionally written music but I also teach them how to do very simple improvisation.

My first aim before ANYTHING to try to help each child find one or more ways of having fun with music and taking that sense of enjoyment with them. We have fun in our recorder lessons and it is not a terrifying learn by rote experience. I play by ear and by music myself. I believe both skills are really useful and help you get the best of both worlds. I am very anti the idea that you have to stick to one method. Playing by ear is great and I have personally had more fun with music, that way, but it has also been useful to read music and allows you to be more flexible.

I teach recorder as well as class-based music. I am not an expert but can help start players off on the way to playing music. Although it is not always a beautiful sound, if the kids are getting pleasure from playing music on a relatively cheap instrument, with others, it is brilliant. The pleasure of all playing together and having fun is worth it.

I have seen children who will never master more than 3 notes on the recorder, play in front of their friends and family with a huge beam of pride, and that is alongside their friends who are far more advanced. Positive attitudes to each other playing music is so important.   It doesn't matter what instrument you learn on if you enjoy it and can have fun sharing music with others.

I vote we give recorders a break! (No, I didn't say break recorders!)
But, I think they have a very valuable place. I had an old pupil come up to me the other week, a hulking 6 foot teenage lad...I didn't recognise him at first then he said, "thanks for teaching me recorder, I am playing guitar in a band and it really helps me figure the frets out" He didn't have any other music lessons as the cost was too great for his family. That lad, and others like him, convince me that learning the recorder is worthwhile. It can be played beautifully and is a valid instrument in its own right.

Learning recorder at school has a lot of plus points....When children buy their first recorder, I usually suggest that their family invest in some cheap ear plugs.... :-)

25 Sep 06 - 05:58 AM (#1842694)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss

Hi Rockhen - You seem to have an enlightened attitude (if only all teachers felt the same) and I agree with all you say. Yes the recorder is a fantastic instrument in the right hands. I've never forgotten a recital at our school by the Dolmetch family (who were based locally) - pure magic. Learning to read music is a huge advantage, of course, as long as it's secondary to playing by ear. This is because music is an aural not a visual phenomenon. If you learn from the dots first it's then very very hard to acquire the aural skills you'll need to become a fully-rounded musician. But it's relatively easy to learn to interpret written music if you already have the landscape of music in your head. Aural first and most - that's the key. And on the same subject, teachers need to understand that dyslexia can apply to manuscript as much as to words - in fact sheet music is a minefield for us sufferers. So if a kid can pick up a tune from one hearing but not follow the 'flyshit' bear that option in mind, don't give him a hard time for being lazy (I was often punished because the only explanation they could find for my lack of progress with sight-reading was that I was being deliberately obtuse) - and NEVER punish a child over issues around practicing etc. Earplugs - good idea!

25 Sep 06 - 06:19 AM (#1842701)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: GUEST,Jack Campin

Tom Bliss is in a very small minority if he finds a melodica immediately intuitive. The fingering of the black-keys-on-the-left, white-on-the-right type is like nothing else and the piano keyboard type is no easier than a piano. The single reed sound is pretty harsh. They can work well as a chordal instrument, for reggae or (the way David McGuinness uses it) for Scottish music, but that means learning how to finger chords, and I can't think of any player who makes them sound good for tunes.

Many people can't get single notes out of a mouth organ. I can't, my lips just don't work that way. For us, it's an anatomical non-starter as a tune instrument.

25 Sep 06 - 06:25 AM (#1842703)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: Rockhen

I agree that you shouldn't give kids a hard time if they are struggling reading music etc. I don't. As we are off the thread, I have pm'd you. I find it interesting that there seems to be conflict between people over playing by ear or with music. I see them as both great ways and both equally valid.
So, get those recorders out, folks and have a go, I say! :-)

25 Sep 06 - 06:26 AM (#1842704)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: Rockhen

Opps, sorry Tom, can't pm as you are guest.

25 Sep 06 - 07:19 AM (#1842724)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: Mo the caller

Jack, tell me more about waxing, my Treble has a waxy coat that melts when it's warm.

25 Sep 06 - 07:28 AM (#1842730)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss

I don't think there's any conflict. It's like language - speech is basic for communication, writing is a useful way to reach more people over longer periods.

People who can only play from music may be defensive and claim it's best, but people who can do both understand that you can only interpret and make new music well if your listening skills are fully developed, and you've therefore acquired the ability to go straight from ear to finger or voice box via the subconscious - when you want to, that is.

Playing from music is only ever a shortcut to someone else's ideas. It's practical in ensemble situations, but it encourages you to play the way someone else thought it might sound good - rather than the way you feel it. (You can soon tell, in a session, who's learned a tune from a book but has not learned to listen to the other players around them). Playing from dots tends to limit the imagination, and inhibit that essential connection to the player's soul - and to other players. Dots are great if you're arranging for a brass band (as I am at this moment) but it's always best if you can play by ear too. And to do that you need to learn it first or you're likely never to acquire the skills, because you feel you can do it already.

And in folk, in particular, the aural tradition is the main stream.

The great thing about the melodica (and the piano - or even electronic keyboard) is that all the notes are laid out in a row - and there are no 'hidden' octaves or duplicates. You can see and feel the intervals, and therefore start to understand chords and harmony instinctively. There are no tuning issues, but you do have to breathe - which again helps you to feel the music inside.

Tom (who's just wasted a pleasant half hour on the tenor recorder - which I don't play anything like often enough)!

25 Sep 06 - 07:45 AM (#1842739)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: Mr Red

funnily enough - I suggested Joy should learn the piano accordian - at least it would be familiar territory - but though she is younger than me she is no child (an angel - I'll grant you).

With a former girlfriend's daughter I suggested she bought a tuner. She had a piano and could tune her violin even though I thought the problem was "tuning". I bought the tuner anyway, and the music improved immediately. There you are - just needs tuning "Thinks I". Then one day I saw her playing violin and watching the tuner.

Well, I found the right route but she had to walk down it!

25 Sep 06 - 07:51 AM (#1842744)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss

...and I was suggesting melodica for kids, before, or perhaps as well as, some other more complex instrument - not for serious tune-playing, (though I've been known to take one to a session and even used one on my last album). It's just the right hand of an accordion after all, but with the tube attached you can twist it round to the front for comfort. Love-em!

25 Sep 06 - 08:14 AM (#1842764)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: GUEST,Jack Campin

It's common for the wax in impregnated recorders to melt and migrate to the bore and the outer surface with time. Nothing you can do about it except keep cleaning it off. It's more important to get the wax drips out of the bore, as they can affect the sound there.

There are ways of making recorders that get round the problem entirely by soaking the instrument in a resin that penetrates the wood and then sets. One such resin needed massive doses of radiation to set, you'd put the recorder in a gamma-sterilizing machine. These techniques aren't affordable for mass-produced instruments.

According to Laurence Picken's book on Turkish folk instruments, spoons used for musical purposes in Turkey are often deep-fried in olive oil. He makes some guesses about the physico-chemical processes involved, but the end result seems to be that the wood is both more porous and less absorptive. Not sure if this is what you want for a woodwind, but I suppose you could take your recorder down to the chippie.

There are other things you can soak wood in. Basque whistles (txistu) are sometimes dunked in a jug of wine before playing. Clarinet and saxophone reeds need to be wetted before permance - one way of doing that which increases durability and discourages mould is to soak them in vodka before playing, or just store them in it. I've recently started dunking mine in gin and it seems to work.

I have heard of somebody who wanted to oil a flute for a performance and had no conventional oil handy, but did have a tin of sardines. So the flute got treated with the oil from that. As it was hot weather it became something of a multi-media show.

25 Sep 06 - 08:34 AM (#1842781)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: Mo the caller

I've had trouble with wax blocking one of the pair of small holes for the lowest note.
So it's not just on the outside then?

25 Sep 06 - 09:27 AM (#1842828)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: leeneia

"My experience as a listener and a one time learner,for what it's worth, is that a recorder is a very difficult instrument for a beginner to play. Certainly not easy to play along with others,
but good luck anyway."
My experience as a singer, guitarist, pianist, flautist, and recorder player is that this is a bunch of codswallop.

There is no best instrument for a class of beginners. Different people have different musical propensities and some instruments feel good to them and some instruments don't. But even if recorder isn't the perfect instrument for a certain kid, it's good for him to see what musical instruments are all about and how musical notation works.

Having an instrument and not being able to read music is like driving a car and not being able to read road signs. You can't go as far afield and you often don't know where you are. The belief that a person who reads music is locked into a straightjacket is silly; it's-more a matter of class conflict and testosterone poisoning than anything else.

25 Sep 06 - 09:42 AM (#1842840)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss

"Having an instrument and not being able to read music is like driving a car and not being able to read road signs. You can't go as far afield and you often don't know where you are. The belief that a person who reads music is locked into a straightjacket is silly; it's-more a matter of class conflict and testosterone poisoning than anything else."


Class confilct? I went to a public school and began playing the violin aged three on an instrument that had been given to my great-great-aunt by Clara Schumann, then went on to take a music scholarship and become a red riband chorister - (in spite of finding it very very very hard to read music)! It has NOTHING to do with class conflict. Goodness me :-)

There are far too many people who can ONLY play from music, purely because they were taught that a dot on a line meant put your fingers there, rather than that this sound in your head means put your fingers there.

In any case I'm not saying that you shouldn't learn to read music - quite the contrary, it's grand for those that can but you need to remember that birds on telegraph wires not as logical for some people as for others - in fact conventional notation is a pretty strange way to represent sounds to some minds (I see notes as colours, for example).

I'm saying you need to teach people to listen FIRST. Because if you don't, some never will - and that's a shame, (and, some say, an abuse).

25 Sep 06 - 10:18 AM (#1842870)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: Paul Burke

you could take your recorder down to the chippie

But you'd spend the rest of the week picking the batter off it.

It's quite common in Irish session circles to treat flutes to a little drink of Guinness before playing.

25 Sep 06 - 11:37 AM (#1842921)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: GUEST,chris

codswallop-I'm not convinced. I have tried to play guitar with someone who could play recorder - yes they could but they weren't aware of the effect that air pressure could have on intonation-something of a learning curve. I have also played in a brass band-similar issue -you have to 'hear' the notes in relation to other players. This is what makes certain instruments difficult for learners. With regard to the 'best instrument' some instruments are 'in tune'with other instruments i.e. accordions, pianos, concertinas etc. This cuts down on the number of things a learner has to cope with.
As far as reading dots or playing by ear. I agree that both ways are the best route. I don't have too much trouble playing guitar by ear but concertina is a whole different ball game I wish it weren't tho it would make playing concertina a whole lot less frustrating.

25 Sep 06 - 11:16 PM (#1843376)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: leeneia

Every musician should listen - to his own music and to the group.

Our two flutists were playing with our group one day, and I told them to play the song again and "listen to Megan." (She's our guitarist.) I told them she had a fine instrument that had just been tuned and that her accompaniment is the basis that we all build on.

From their expressions and remarks, it was clear that they had never thought of that before. So they tried it, and the improvement was immediately apparent.

However, if we did not know how to read music, we could not play nearly the number of interesting new pieces that we do. We are so busy, that most of our members probably wouldn't bother coming if they had to learn pieces by ear.

"Brain first, then hard work."    Eeyore

Although for me, modifying and personalizing a piece of familiar music is not hard work, it's pleasure.

26 Sep 06 - 12:57 AM (#1843419)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: open mike

the group gjallarhorn has a contra bass is marvelous
and baffling...and over 6 feet tall as i

26 Sep 06 - 09:21 AM (#1843629)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: Tootler

I have a contrabass recorder. It looks like the larger one of these

It may look odd but it has an excellent tone. The keys are large wooden flaps which makes for an easy reach and the fingering is exactly the same as any F recorder. The basic design is based on an organ pipe.

I occasionally play it in pub sessions where it always attracts interest, though usually positive once they have heard it. It is an excellent instrument for playing a bass line, even though it is a little quiet.

26 Sep 06 - 01:58 PM (#1843885)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: GUEST,catlin

I have 4"good" recorders that I use. Gill soprano and alto, an Angel (the heavy one, sold at Colonial Williamsburg or the like)soprano and a Horner(? about $15) sold at most smaller music stores. These are the best sounding ones I own. The alto works well in a smaller church/room setting as it's not too shrill. The only problem is transposing the music for it or capo-ing the guitar up enough to compensate. The sopranos are good for larger churches/halls/outdoors as they are a touch more shrill. I also own a wooden sopranino which I rarely play because it's shrill and I have large fingers.

As far as the link about playing Celtic music on the recorder...go for it. I play it all the time because I have a really hard time playing the pennywhistle ("it's NOT a recorder, it's NOT a recorder!"). I just "flap" the holes to give it that trilling thing that pennywhistlers do that makes them sound so neat. Just listen to the other musicians or you'll overpower them.

26 Sep 06 - 02:20 PM (#1843899)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: oggie

In the seventies I had a brief chance to play a sub-contra bass recorder. Eight foot long and a mind blowing experience.   From memory I believe it was made by Moeck at a mind blowing price!

I've used a Moeck Pearwood for 20 odd years and it's still going strong, ditto the sopranino but I find it a bit more tempermental in the upper octave. The main problem is remembering it's not a whistle, mainly solved by having a different repertoire for each, English and Morris on recorder, Irish/Scottish on whistle.

All the best


26 Sep 06 - 03:38 PM (#1843972)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: GUEST,Jack Campin

I have a Kung greatbass, like what's described as a "contrabass" on this page,
item 3710:

though mine has a single C key and is made of rosewood. I've tried a
subcontra (a fifth lower, seven feet high) in the same series and it
took a lungful of air on every note - continuous melodies were pretty
much out of the question. The greatbass isn't too bad, though for pub
sessions I prefer a Turkish G clarinet for the same job (louder, takes
less puff, more portable, covers the same range and then some).

Replying to catlin: you DON'T transpose for the treble recorder. You play
at pitch (or an octave up). For a folkie the point of that is that it lets
you play tunes with other people at the pitch they normally use - e.g.
try the fiddle strathspey "Miss Lyall". Most Scottish tunes have standard
keys, generally so they can fit the range of the pipes or first-position
fiddle, and if you transpose you'll be on your own.

26 Sep 06 - 04:17 PM (#1844008)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?

Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: Mo the caller
Date: 23 Sep 06 - 08:23 PM

I went to a recorder workshop at Whitby and we were told that it was not worth buying a cheap (i.e. under 100) wooden recorder

the mind boggles ...

26 Sep 06 - 07:39 PM (#1844110)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: GUEST,Jack Campin

Anon from Whitby quoted by Mo had a point in that are a lot of truly crappy old wooden descant recorders around, and ten quid would get you something very much better in plastic from Aulos or Yamaha.

But, there are good modern wooden recorders under 100 quid. The Moeck "School" series is one (so, probably, is their "Rondo" series, I haven't tried one). And the all-wood Mollenhauer "Dream" recorder is ideal for folk playing and costs 75 quid from Saunders (maybe not the cheapest but I like their attitude so that's where most of my more expensive recorders have come from).

26 Sep 06 - 07:54 PM (#1844115)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: IvanB

There was a movement about in the mid 20th century to treat the F recorders as transposing instruments, i.e., music for F recorders would be printed such that any player of multiple instruments would always use the same fingering for any given note on the printed page. If I remember correctly, Carl Dolmetsch was one of the proponents of this system, which would make it easier for school children to interchange instruments. Luckily, the idea never really caught on, probably as much due to the sheer volume of music that would have had to be redone as for any other reason.

I found it quite easy to learn the fingerings for both the F and C recorders. Although I admittedly have now and again picked up a recorder and started playing it in the wrong key, my error was quickly noticable and it only happened in practice, almost invariably in the first few readings of a new piece.

26 Sep 06 - 07:55 PM (#1844116)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: GUEST,Jack Campin

And to follow up my own post, Saunders has two of the Moeck "School" recorders going cheap at the moment:

27 Sep 06 - 03:51 PM (#1844372)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: leeneia

If you want to be a good recorder player, then spend your money on instruction, not on instruments. It is amazing the sound that a sensitive player can get from a cheap instrument.

Another good thing to do is to go to workshops, such as the Texas Toot or the Mountain Collegium. No doubt there are others. A workshop makes a fine vacation and you can make new friends as well.

Also, listen to recordings of good players.

27 Sep 06 - 08:29 PM (#1844649)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: Rumncoke

I have a small collection of recorders, and never did understand why
it is often stated that they require two different fingerings - but I have a very little understanding of music.

As far as I can see the fingering is exactly the same on all recorders, as long as you learn all of them and not just the ones at the begining of the book. Once you know all of the fingerings then you can play anything - or at least that has been my experience.

You do need to have different sizes if you want to play along with other people as they might pitch a tune so it goes too high or low for a particular recorder, but other than that, there seem to be few problems.

I have the wooden descant recorder I bought for school about 50 years ago, despite accidents such leaving it on the back shelf of a car in the heat so all the varnish lifted off as the wax oozed out of the wood, it has a sweet sound.

I only take plastic recorders out of the house. I lost the end of one recorder and had the keys of another damaged when someone tried to drag them out of my bag, so I am rather more careful these days and only carry them conceiled.

I play by ear, and practise tunes moving the starting note up and down as then it is not difficult to use all the fingerings from the back of the second book, if necessary, with no bother except for people asking 'what key is it?' and I can only shrug.

Dolmetsch used to have a website with information on playing recorders - I found it some years ago. If it is still there it is useful.


28 Sep 06 - 05:01 AM (#1844809)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: Howard Jones

Rumncoke wrote:

"As far as I can see the fingering is exactly the same on all recorders"

The fingering shapes are the same but the notes are different. Some recorders are in C and some are in F. This means that, for example, the fingering which gives you a C on a descant recorder will play F on a treble. To play C on a treble you use the same fingering which would give you G on a descant.

You can play a tune on any size of recorder using the same fingering, but it will play in different keys.

The Dolmetsch site is at and includes fingering charts for F and C recorders

28 Sep 06 - 05:04 AM (#1844810)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: GUEST,Jack Campin

There are several different fingering systems for recorders. The commonest are the "English" or "Baroque" system and the "German" system (invented in the 1920s). But there were others in the Renaissance - my Mollenhauer G alto modelled on an original by Kynseker uses an extra finger to get the C sharp, and my Susato plastic-pipe G alto does something similar in the low register while actinbg like a conventional "baroque" recorder in the upper one. I have a Hopf F alto that gives a rather flat F sharp with the usual fingering -12- ---- and a slightly sharp one with -1-3 ---- (okay for playing in meantone). Some C recorders need T12- 12-- for both G sharp and A flat, others play that as a meantone A flat and use T12- 123- for G sharp, or may be designed so you use T12-12*- (half holing with the ring finger) to get an equally tempered G sharp/A flat. Ganassi's system from the 16th century is *very* different, with some wildly complicated ways of getting the highest notes. Then there are some modern recorders like Tarasov's, designed to get extra-high notes or play microtonally, which use different fingerings across much of the range.

The more expensive your recorder the more likely it is to deviate from the standard Dolmetsch fingerings. For any recorder, it's worth checking whether the fingerings in the chart actually get the pitches they're supposed to - there will usually be a way of correcting it if they don't.

28 Sep 06 - 12:27 PM (#1845139)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: Tootler

To add to what Jack said, there are also a whole host of alternative fingerings. Most notes have more than one fingering and these can be useful in a number of ways. Individual Recorders do vary and slight adjustments to fingering are sometimes needed to bring particular notes into tune. A number of alternative fingerings are genuine alternatives. Second octave E on the descant/tenor (A on a treble or bass recorder) is the best example as it can be fingered in three different ways all of which are in tune. Other alternative fingerings are slightly sharp or flat relative to the standard fingering which can be useful if you want a loud or soft dynamic. Many standard trill fingerings are slightly off in one or other of the notes because they only involve moving one finger so a more rapid alternation is possible and the notes pass so quickly that most do not notice they are slightly out of tune. A similar consideration applies to decoration of traditional music. I do a B roll on a descant by briefly flicking my thumb off the thumb whole and then tapping with the A finger. I find using the thumb lets me keep better control of the instrument.

There's a very nifty utility for recorder fingerings available for download here. The fingerings are given on a little recorder picture and there is an indication of standard fingerings, trill fingerings, and whether a particular alternative is sharp or flat.

The Dolmetsch materials on the recorder and on music theory in general are still there. Just click here

28 Sep 06 - 01:46 PM (#1845216)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: shepherdlass

And, in addition to the comments regarding finding a good tutor ... listen to some great recorder players and be amazed at what this instrument can do! You'll be stunned by the acrobatics produced by the following:- Il Giardino Armonico (baroque string group plus an incredible recorder player); Red Priest (more baroque, but with a twist!); and Michaela Petri.

28 Sep 06 - 07:53 PM (#1845551)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: Tootler

Other recommendations: Amsterdam Loeki Stardust Quartet - They play everything from Mediaeval to Modern and all sizes from sopranino to Contrabass; Flanders Quartet, Broadside Band - they specialise in popular music of the 17th & 18th centuries and have made several albums of music from Playford and are lead by Jeremy Barlow a recorder player; Ensemble Unicorn who specialise in Mediaeval music and have a superb recorder player by the name of Michael Posch. The York Waits play music from Mediaeval to 18th Century and often feature recorders. In the folk world Magpie Lane often use recorders on their albums.

If you want loads of recorder CD's go to the Early Music Shop in Bradford, UK or check their website There's a link to their CD catalogue in the menu on the left. I couldn't bring it up just now.

28 Sep 06 - 09:01 PM (#1845591)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: GUEST,Jack Campin

And on a slightly different instrument, Davit Kipiani of the Georgian folk group "Rustavi" - he plays a salamuri, which is a kind of nine-hole recorder. (I'd like to try one, but I've never seen one, not even in north-east Turkey where Georgian traders often come over the border).

One instrument I really regret not buying was a ten-hole plastic descant recorder I saw in a music shop in Istanbul in 1981 (some of the holes were doubled). I presume it was designed for playing the Turkish makams, and it must have been a modern invention, there's nothing like it known in Turkish music history. Despite many visits to Turkey and trawling music shops all over the country, I've never seen one since.

I suppose I could make instruments like that by plugging the existing holes of a cheap plastic descant with epoxy and boring a completely new set at 90 degrees to the old ones. Anybody tried anything along those lines?

29 Sep 06 - 07:58 AM (#1845863)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: The Fooles Troupe

Perhaps the single most useful piece of advice about playing a recorder, most especially cheap plastic ones, is to NOT BLOW TOO HARD! - that sharpens the pitch, and can make the sound terrible... just like a room full of primamry school kids...

29 Sep 06 - 08:22 AM (#1845888)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: The Fooles Troupe

Back in the 1950's I was given a "Tipparery Whistle" - plastic, tapered down to far end - back hole - C pitch.

Saw one a few years ago, but it had been exposed to hot water and shriveled.

Would love one again...

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29 Sep 06 - 01:02 PM (#1846105)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: Mrs.Duck

I own four recorders three of which are aulios and the other a yamaha ranging from the piccolino to tenor. None are wooden although I also have a wooden tenor and descant but prefer the sound of the others.

30 Sep 06 - 02:25 AM (#1846596)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: Liz the Squeak

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!


30 Sep 06 - 06:53 AM (#1846705)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: Howard Jones

Even a cheap recorder should be able to get at least 2 octaves. On my Aulos descant I can get high D. On my Moeck descant, which overall has a better sound, I can get this note but it sounds a bit shrill. On both instruments I suspect my failure to get even higher notes is down to my poor technique rather than the limitations of the instruments.

I have found the wooden Moeck to be fine in sessions. However I don't usually play it all the time, so it doesn't get too damp. If I'm going to be playing constantly, especially at a festival where the sessions may go on all weekend, then I'll share the load with the plasic Aulos.

I agree with Liz the Squeak that recorders are great in sessions, they do have a different quality of sound. It's not just that the tone is different from a whistle (especially with a wooden recorder) but the greater use of tonguing gives a more defined sound.

30 Sep 06 - 07:37 AM (#1846723)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?

I have absolutely no problems getting two octaves and a tone out of my plastic recorders, including my Dolmetsch Bass. Theoretically you can get two octaves and a fifth though some of the third octave notes require you to stop the bell end (like Uillean pipers do).

For sessions I take Mollenhauer Dream Descant and Tenor and Plastic Yamaha descants. I use the transparent Yamahas as they are in nice bright colours and are just as good as those of more conventional appearance. It usually attracts comment from someone. I don't usually use a plastic tenor as I find the finger stretch a little uncomfortable for playing at speed, whereas the Mollenhauer Dream Tenor has shorter finger stretch than most and is quite comfortable and has a good tone.

I sometimes take my Paetzold Contrabass to sessions. Though quiet, it has a lovely tone and makes a good bass instrument and I am assured it can be heard. It definitely makes a good talking point and I will invariably be asked what it is.

30 Sep 06 - 07:43 AM (#1846727)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: The Fooles Troupe

Good whistle players use tonguing technique where/when appropriate - usually unconciously, so they may often deny conciously doing it at all.

30 Sep 06 - 02:14 PM (#1846989)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: Tootler

Equally it is possible to do flute/whistle style decoration on a recorder. You have to experiment a bit and problems come at different places. You can do a roll on low D because of the bottom C but a roll on high D is difficult. I have not worked out a satisfactory solution yet.

I tend to tongue a lot with the recorder and for the most part it works fine, though I am put in more cuts and strikes than I did, especially with slower tunes as it makes for variety.

I was at a workshop run by Cathal McConnell of Boys of the Lough a couple of years back and some asked about the issue of tonguing. He proceeded to play a tune on the whistle where he tongued most notes and said he knew someone who played like that. He said that was fine if that's your style. There are no hard and fast rules.

At Folkworks summer school this year a very good point was made that if you wish to tongue that's fine, but if are are able to use decoration, taps cuts and rolls etc. then you have the choices available and are in a much better position to develop an individual style.

What approach do others take to the use of decoration on the recorder? It would be interesting to know.

BTW, the anonymous Guest post two above this one was me. My cookie had vanished and I didn't notice.

30 Sep 06 - 03:46 PM (#1847053)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: GUEST,Jack Campin

Cathal might have meant Mico Russell as the Irish whistle player who tongued a lot. Davit Kipiani the salamuri player tongues almost every note, I presume this is the usual Georgian style.

I like doing combinations of tonguing and fingering to heavier accents, places where you might do a birl or throw on the pipes. Sometimes a microburst of fluttertonguing works for really strong accentuation. For an accent on (descant) G I'll sometimes do roughly the same fingering pattern as a piper would for a D, i.e. {GAGD}G, slamming three right-hand fingers down briefly. It's not as audible as it would be on a reed instrument but it works.

The reason I make so much use of a G alto for Scottish tunes is that the fingering is much like that of the Highland pipes when playing pipe tunes in the standard keys - some kinds of pipe ornamentation come almost for free.

The alternate fingering T -23 ---- for (descant) B is useful for doing turns on C.

01 Oct 06 - 12:39 PM (#1847589)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: Manitas_at_home

"We have an unwaxed mediaeval style no brand "

I think thats the Hopf descant, we also have a Hopf garklein. They're both renaissance style with parallel bore rather than the baroque tapered. It makes them a bit louder but less dynamically responsive.

01 Oct 06 - 04:42 PM (#1847758)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: oggie

I tongue more on a recorder but that might reflect a different repertoire to my whistle tunes. As a rule I seem to use more ornamentation on whistle where I play scots/irish but on a recorder I go for a cleaner melodic line and I tend to morris and playford era.


01 Oct 06 - 06:36 PM (#1847838)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: Tootler

If you are playing renaissance style recorders then it is quite likely that you have less than a two octave range.

I have a set of Mollenhauer dreamflute recorders. They give you something of the best of both worlds. Wider bore (and larger finger holes) giving more volume, but they use standard "baroque" fingering and have a full two octave range.

02 Oct 06 - 08:34 AM (#1848172)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: manitas_at_work

Yep, they have about an octave and a sixth.

02 Oct 06 - 08:57 AM (#1848189)
Subject: RE: Recorders type/range?
From: GUEST,Jack Campin

Renaissance recorders vary in range. My Mollenhauer Kynseker G alto goes well into the third octave, and Ganassi's "La Fontegara" (the first recorder tutor ever written) has fingerings up there - you can get reproductions pf Ganassi recorders, though they're very expensive. But I've tried a Kynseker bass that could only do an octave and a fifth (albeit at shattering volume).

Any recently made renaissance-type recorder from tenor up should be able to do two octaves.