Hello, and welcome to this class, where you will learn how to play this amazing instrument called a “Recorder”. My name is Mike, and I made this class for you, to give you a great foundation for playing this instrument.
I learn learn how to play the recorder, you will be able to play any songs and music you want, in any style and genre. And finally, if you keep up practicing consistently, you will even be able to play with emotion, expression and use advanced techniques in your performances on the recorder.
Check out the Class here: Learn How to Play the Recorder
Let’s have a look at the Class Overview:
- Learn all the Basics of Playing the Recorder
- Get Practical Tips, Exercises and Examples
- Improve your Playing with Advanced Techniques
- Play Songs on your Recorder
Why the Recorder is Amazing
Well firstly, the recorder is a remarkably versatile instrument. It has a lovely, romantic and classical sound. But you can play any type of music you want on it. From classical music, to folk music, to modern pop music…and even film, TV and game soundtrack music which is my personal favorite.
Famous examples of the recorder used in popular music culture is an alto recorder in the Harry Potter soundtrack, as well as a bass recorder used for the main riff in The Mandalorian, Star Wars soundtrack.
In the recorder family of instruments you can also cover several registers in music, with a different size recorder for each range. From the standard soprano recorder that most of us start on, to alto recorder, tenor recorder, bass recorder and even lower.
Furthermore, the recorder is one of the rare open hole flutes, that is a fully chromatic instrument. Let me explain: “Chromatic Instrument” means that it is designed to be able to be easily playable for all 12 notes of music. On top of that you have over 2 octaves in range on a recorder. Which in turn means that you can play any song ever written, in any style of music, on this instrument.
Finally, the recorder is a in fact capable of so much expression techniques, variation and emotion. Such as for example: adding decorations, playing in legato, making slides, bends, and doing vibrato. So yes, the recorder is a pretty amazing instrument.
Let’s Start Learning the Recorder
In this class we will focus on the soprano recorder, but when you have learned how to play it, you can move on to other recorders if you want to. Because they all share the same fundamental playing techniques as well as advanced expressive options to add emotion into your performances.
Now I welcome you to a new amazing adventure in music, where you will learn how to play the recorder. So let’s start your journey, right now!
How to Get Started
Quick Overview of the Recorder
Let’s start with a quick overview of this instrument, and how it works. The Recorder belongs to a family of wind instruments called “fipple flutes”, just like the Irish tin whistle, and the Native American flute. This means that you blow air through a mouthpiece, and that air goes over a fixed edge where the air is split, which produces the sound.
However, the main difference as well as advantage of the recorder compared to other flutes in this instrument family, is that it has more holes and even a thumb hole. This makes it possible for you to play all 12 notes of music, with over 2 octaves in range. In short: you can play any music ever written, in any style, on your recorder.
Recorders are made from 2 or 3 parts, that you simply connect by pushing the tubes together. But before you do, make sure to apply some grease on the joints for lubrication. This is to make sure the parts can easily be put together and taken off again. When you join the parts, you want to have the row of holes directly in line with the centre of your mouthpiece.
Something you will need to make a habit of is to get rid of the condensation in the flute you get condensation after you have been playing for a while, otherwise the moisture will cause the notes to sound weak and bad.
You do this by holding your fingers across the sound hole, and then blow hard through the mouthpiece. If you don’t cover the sound hole when you do this, you will get a shrill loud sound, so make sure to fully cover the sound hole to mute the sound, when you blow.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Cleaning and maintenance of a recorder is easy too. You can use a cleaning rod with a piece of cloth to get rid of moisture and dust inside the instrument. And I recommend a micro fibre cloth for cleaning the outside.
Finally, when storing the instrument when you don’t play, make sure to avoid direct sunlight as well as heat or cold. This is especially important if it is made of wood, as wood can warp or crack. It’s also best to remove the head joint when you store it to make sure no moisture is stuck in the joints, which could cause damage over time.
Alright, let’s keep learning, because in the next lesson you will start playing actual notes on your recorder.
How to Play a Recorder
We will start with the basic of how to play the recorder. So how do you play notes on this instrument?
The short answer is: You simply place your fingers over the holes on your instrument to pick which note you want to play, and then blow air through the mouth piece. There are only 2 things you need to be careful about. How soft or hard you blow into the instrument, and that your fingers close the holes of each note correctly.
This is the advantage of the fipple flute design that the recorder is based on. You don’t have to worry about shaping your lips and directing the air stream like you do on a side blown flute. This makes the recorder very easy to pick up and play for anyone.
Now let’s practice playing your first notes on your recorder. Press down 3 fingers on the top 3 holes, plus the thumbhole. Then blow gently for about 5 seconds, and try to keep a consistent air flow as you hold the note. You just played the note G.
Now lift your third finger, while still keeping the first 2 holes and thumb hole closed. Blow gently again, and you are now playing the note A.
Finally, remove the finger from the 2nd hole, and you are playing the note B.
Congratulations! You have now played your first 3 notes on the soprano recorder. G, A and B. You can now practice these 3 notes, up and down, hold them for at least a few seconds each. And I want you to try to play each note with a consistent and clean note, by keeping a consistent air flow as you hold each note.
Playing your First Tune
Let’s use the 3 notes you learned, and play a simple tune with them. And afterwards I will give you a fun exercise to practice with completely creative freedom.
But first, let’s learn an important lesson in music. Which is that all music, all songs, can be thought of as a series of phrases.
Just like lyrics of a song, or the text of a book, the melody of a tune is also broken down in shorter phrases. You can even sub divide a longer phrase into shorter phrases if you prefer.
This is great news for you, since learning a song phrase by phrase, is so much easier, compared to trying to learn it all at once.
So your lesson here is to always think of music as connected phrases, and use this to your advantage when you learn to play the song.
Ok, so let’s practice playing a simple tune on your recorder now. Play these notes, and notice that I have separated the tune in phrases:
- G – A – B
- G – A – B
- B – B – A – A
- B – A – G
Tricky Part 1 – Covering the Holes
The first tricky part is learning to cover the holes completely, because if you get any air leaking out the tip of any finger, you will get that super annoying squeaky sound that we all hate.
And even if you don’t get a squeak, leaking air from any hole will change the pitch of the note, so that you will play the wrong pitch.
This is why it is so important when you learn this instrument, that you are extra careful to make sure you cover the holes perfectly, for every note you play. And whenever you get a squeak, double check where you leak air, and correct that finger to cover the hole 100%.
Tricky Part 2 – Breath Control
The second tricky part of playing the recorder, is learning to control your breath pressure, because if you blow too softly the note will be weak and fragile.
And if you blow too hard you will overblow the note, which either pushes the note into the next octave, or end up in that in between place between the octaves, which sounds bad and is also part of the beginner sound we dread.
In most cases, the problem will be that you blow too hard. So practice breathing gently, and blowing very softly through your recorder.
Tricky Part 3 – Finger Placement
The third tricky part is learning the finger placement for each note. And you will soon get a complete finger chart, but first I want you to understand an important principal of wind instruments and notes.
As with all other flutes, if you close all holes you will get the lowest note, called the “bell note”. And the more holes you open up, the more you reduce the air column inside the flute that vibrates as you blow air into it, and this will produce higher and higher notes.
Then to access all 12 notes of music, you will also need to learn the cross fingerings you need for specific notes, which will be one of the hardest things to learn on this instrument, but when you do, you will open up a whole other world on your recorder. Because you will be able to play every song ever written, in any scale or key of music.
Recorder Fingering Chart
Now before I show you the fingering chart, I have an important lesson for you to learn. Which is that you only need to learn 1 fingering chart for the recorder, and then use the same fingerings regardless of what type of recorder you play, for example a soprano, alto or tenor.
The difference is that the starting note will be different, but the actual relationships and intervals between the notes will be the same.
Let me show you a practical example: if you learn the fingerings to play a specific tune on your soprano recorder, let’s say the first notes from the Concerning Hobbits theme from The Lord of the Rings.
Then if you play the exact same fingerings on an alto recorder, tenor recorder etc. you will hear that it is still the exact same melody, only lower in range and tone.
A soprano recorder starts on the note C5. An alto recorder starts on F4, and a tenor recorder starts on C4…also called middle C. And a bass recorder starts an octave below the alto, on F3. Here’s a recorder fingering chart, and the corresponding notes for recorders in different ranges.
I highly recommend that you practice playing each note, up and down, as well as jumping around between different notes. You want to become used to the fingerings for each and every note over the full 2 octave range.
And over time the more you play and practice every note and interval on your recorder, the more you will to develop your muscle memory and instinct for how to play every note on your recorder.
This means that you will be able to pick out melodies for any songs, without any sheet music or fingering tabs, simply by using your ear and your muscle memory for which note and fingering will come next.
I want to give you a few quick tips to overcome beginner mistakes, and improve your playing on the recorder:
1. Avoiding Squeaks
The most common reason is that you don’t cover all holes completely, so make sure there is no air leaking out the edge of your fingers. The other common reason is that you blow way too hard. Try to be more relaxing, the recorder does not need much air at all the play, especially not in the first octave.
2. Shaping the Notes
You can actually shape the start of each note, by controlling the attack of your air stream. From hard attacks for a more focused note start by articulating “tu” or “du”. To softer note attacks by doing a “hu” sounds. To very smooth note transtions, called playing legato, by keeping the air stream flowing, and then simply changing your fingerings.
3. Low vs High Notes
The lowest note on the recorder requires the least air pressure, which is why you need to blow very gently into it to play those lowest notes in the first octave. But the higher you go, the more you need to push the air in order to get that note. I would recommend sticking to only the first octave until you really feel comfortable playing all the notes, and then move on to the second octave.
Techniques for adding Emotion & Variation
If you play in a stiff and rigid way, you will end up with that beginner sound without any emotion and expression.
The good thing is that you can in fact do a lot of things to add variation, decorations, expression and your own emotion into your recorder playing.
You can add an extra grace note or decoration every now and then into your performance. For example, quickly lifting a finger and putting it back over hole again. Or tapping a finger on a hole just below the note you play.
You should also learn how to play notes legato, meaning connected in a smooth way, because it will sound more lyrical and beautiful for most melodies. Practice keeping the air stream flowing, and slowly lifting or placing a finger on to a hole above or below the note you currently play.
Since the recorder is an open hole flute, you have amazing capabilities for doing note bends and slides. When you play any note, you can either slowly angle your finger up to bend the note upwards. Or slowly angling a finger down to a hole to bend into the note.
One of the most best ways to add emotion into any note in music, is by doing a vibrato. On an open hole flute like the recorder, you can either do finger vibrato or breath vibrato. If you pulse your fingers on the hole below the note you play you can do a finger vibrato. And if you pulse your air stream when holding a note, you can do breath vibrato.
Congratulations and Good Luck!
If you want to learn more about playing instruments, how to make music, and other topics within music, I have a link below to my music courses that you can check out:
If you want to learn how to play songs on your recorder, I have a video series with notes for many different songs, here on my YouTube channel:
Congratulations for taking your first steps in learning how to play this amazing instrument, and I wish you good luck on your journey! =)