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How to Play a Recorder

How to Play a Recorder

Playing a recorder is a matter of using the right combination of blowing and fingering techniques. This article concentrates on some tips on playing a recorder.
Stephen Rampur
There are a variety of different wind instruments in the musical instrument family. One of the most underrated ones is the recorder, which many of us might not be aware of. People have a misconception that this instrument is only ideal to be used by kids who have an interest in playing wind instruments. It is an instrument similar to a flute, which demands a lot of blowing and fingering to play. It is also referred to as the English flute. Traditionally, these instruments have seven holes over the body and one hole at the bottom for the left thumb to cover. Recorders differ in sizes, but typical ones are 30 cms long. For a beginner, it is recommended to buy a plastic recorder than a wooden one. Before learning to play a recorder, let us first get to know the basic aspects of recorders.

Parts of a Recorder

The very first part of the instrument is the beak, also called the mouthpiece. This is what gets in contact with the player's lips. The part that you blow into is known as the head joint which consists of the beak. The window on the instrument is the rectangular hole located on the mouthpiece. The holes on the body are called the finger holes or simply tone holes. The foot joint is the very end part of the instrument. Note that on some models of this instrument, there are two additional holes right beside the sixth and seventh holes. Some models may even have two holes on the bottom instead of one. These are the basic parts of a recorder. Now let us take a look at some considerations before you start playing.

Before Playing a Recorder

Be it a plastic or wooden recorder, its windway is subjected to some kind of clogging with the air that players blow in. In order to solve this problem, it is suggested to warm up the mouthpiece of the recorder for around five minutes before playing. You can do so by holding the mouthpiece with your fist for a while, so that the temperature inside becomes the same as that of the hot air blown in. The following part consists of information on playing a recorder.

How to Play a Recorder

Holding the Recorder
Holding the recorder can be kinda tricky if you do not keep some things in mind. You need to hold the recorder using the thumbs of both hands supported by the fingers. Practically, you will have to use all fingers to balance the instrument while changing placements on the holes. The left thumb should be positioned on the bottom hole on the recorder. The left and right fingers go on the tone holes, except the pinky of the left hand. The right thumb is only used for balancing the instrument properly.

Blowing in
The lips should be relaxed to play the instrument easily. The beak should be placed in the middle of the lips and should not touch the teeth. Blowing correctly can be practiced by using the 'tonguing' technique. Blow into the beak in the 'tooooo' manner. You can make variations to this such as 'too too too' or a long 'toooooooooo'. While doing so, it is very important that you use the right breathing pattern.

Left and Right Hand Notes (In C as Standard)
Now comes a very important lesson which is notes for fingerings. To produce the 'B' note, place the left hand's thumb on the bottom hole and the pointing finger over the first one on the top. To produce an 'A' tone, you will have to place the left hand's middle finger on the second hole. Adding the placement of the ring finger over the third hole and blowing will produce the 'G' sound. To produce the 'F' sound, all holes expect the fifth will have to be covered. For the 'E' sound, the last two holes will have to be kept open; whereas for the 'D' sound, only the seventh hole has to be kept open. The 'C' sound will be produced by covering all holes on the instrument.

Left and Right Hand Notations
In the notations, the number '0' refers to the left hand's thumb, whereas the numbers '1', '2', and '3' are fingers of the same hand. In the same manner, numbers 4-5-6-7 are fingers of the right hand, leaving the thumb. The ticks after the notes denote that those are high notes, with very high notes having two of them. A 'dash' means that those holes are to be kept uncovered.
  • A = 0 12- ----
  • B = 0 1-- ----
  • C = 0 123 4567
  • C' = 0 -2- ----
  • D = 0 123 456-
  • D' = - -2- ----
  • E = 0 123 45--
  • F = 0 123 4-67
  • F# = 0 123 -56-
  • G = 0 123 ----
Using these tabs, you can practice some of the following tunes:
  • Mary Had a Little Lamb = B A G A B B B A A A B D D, B A G A B B B B A A B A G
  • Twinkle Twinkle Little Star = D D A A B B A, G G F# F# E E D
  • Happy Birthday to You = D D E D G F#, D D E D A G, D D D' B G F# E, C' C' B G A G
By reading this article, I hope you might have got some useful information about how to play a recorder. Playing a recorder proficiently needs a lot of practice and creativity in tones.
Hands girl playing of recorder
Playing recorder
Girl with a Recorder