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Since it's so cheap and easy to pick up at any age, many musicians first learnt the ropes with the help of the humble recorder. Simply learn the fingering and blowing techniques and you can play an array of songs and melodies to help build a solid foundation of musical knowledge that can then be transferred to any other instrument.

Soprano, Alto & Tenor Recorders

There are actually many different types of recorder. The most well-known is the soprano recorder , then there's the slightly larger alto recorder , the even larger tenor recorder and the extra-small sopranino recorder . More uncommon variations include the double bass recorder, the great bass recorder and the bass recorder . Most children learning for the first time will play a soprano recorder. If you need any help picking out the right recorder for you or for your child, then see our Recorder Buyer's Guide .

Wooden or Plastic Recorders

Of course, a beautifully carved wooden recorder has a really traditional look to it, but a plastic model from a big name like Yamaha might also be a great choice. The sound of a recorder is generated by airflow pushed through the body and out the end, so whether the instrument is made of wood or plastic actually makes less difference to the sound than you might think. A more experienced player will tend to be better at noticing the difference than a beginner, and while wood is considered better, don't let that stop you from picking out a plastic recorder. Also, while wooden recorders can look beautiful, they are more difficult to clean and take care of than plastic recorders.

Children's Recorders

Plastic recorders can be a great choice for beginners of all ages, including children, especially since a plastic model will survive getting dropped or thrown. They're cheaper than wooden recorders, and perhaps more importantly, it's easier to keep a plastic recorder clean, so they're considered the more hygienic choice for children. Soprano recorders are also recommended for children, simply because they're small enough for growing hands to manage and most beginner's books also written for soprano recorders. Then there's the fingering - so, the way that the note holes have been drilled - where German fingering is considered the easiest to learn when compared to Baroque fingering. There's also a difference between models with a double or single hole: a model with a double hole is easier to play than a model with a single hole, but the difference isn't really that great. If your child is just about to start lessons, then it's worth asking their teacher which model would work best for the class.

German & Baroque Fingering

The fingering refers to the way that the note holes of a recorder have been drilled. German fingering is different from Baroque fingering, and you can get both German and Baroque models with either single holes or double holes for specific notes. Closing holes and leaving others open is what determines the pitch of the recorder. Sometimes, you only need to close a hole halfway, so a model with double holes makes it a lot easier to 'half-close' a hole. The difference between German and Baroque fingering is to do with the size of two specific holes. The Baroque version actually came first, and after a little tinkering over the centuries, resulted in the German variation which is easier to play for beginners. If you've been playing the recorder for a number of years, then you're unlikely to have any issues switching between the two, but if you're serious about taking recorder lessons, then have a chat with your teacher about which kind of model would be best.

Learning to Play the Recorder

Playing any musical instrument involves learning two essential things: playing technique and music theory - so learning to read music. If your child wants to learn to play the recorder, it's best if they take lessons rather than study alone. However, any fully-grown beginners are likely to do fine by simply teaching themselves. It's not hard to get a good sound out of a recorder and after you know just one or two things about the fingerings and how the notes are laid out, you can quickly start learning to play melodies. With the help of a few good recorder books , plenty of patience and a lot of practice, then you'll only get better. Of course, if you want to play at a higher level, then lessons are recommended.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Recorder

How much does a good recorder cost?

You can easily pick up a great recorder made by a good brand for as little as ten pounds, and by paying £20 you can get a recorder that's designed for more experienced musicians and serious beginners. Professional orchestral recorders are, of course, in a different class and can cost thousands of pounds.

What kind of recorders can you get?

The recorder family is pretty big. From the lowest pitched to the highest pitched, you have the double bass recorder; the great bass recorder; the bass recorder; the tenor recorder; alto recorder; soprano recorder; and sopranino recorder. Most children start playing a soprano recorder.

How long do recorders last?

Recorders last for a really long time, especially if they're made of plastic. Wooden recorders are more sensitive to moisture, so need to be cleaned regularly and well cared for. To keep your recorder in top condition, we also stock a range of recorder accessories.

How do you play the recorder?

By blowing through the mouthpiece of the recorder, air is forced through the hollow body and projected out of the end, producing sound. By closing or half-closing the holes that are drilled into the body of the recorder, the air pressure is increased or decreased to change the pitch of the sound. Compared to instruments like the saxophone, it's very easy to play a recorder well, but it still takes a lot of practice and studying to master it.

Which recorder should I get?

The soprano recorder is the most common starting point for learning children. Adult beginners usually feel more comfortable with the larger alto recorder. For more tips, see our Recorder Buyer's Guide.

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