Recorders Part 3 – Technique


Recorder technique is slow and cumbersome due to the lack of keys.  They are best kept in diatonic passages with few chromatics.  At most, three flats or three sharps away from the home key of the instrument is as remote as recorders are comfortable with.  This means, for an Alto Recorder in F, something in A-flat or F minor is an extreme key, but doable.  D-flat major is considerably harder (but possible).

At the bottom of the register the two lowest chromatic notes (the C-sharp and the D-sharp on a C instrument, or the F-sharp and the G-sharp on an F instrument) are only produced by means of sliding the fingers to uncover a small half-hole.

All Baroque recorders have a standard range of 2 octaves and a major second.  Notes above this are possible up to a range of 2.5 octaves.  However, in order to make this range chromatic, the player must cover the end of the recorder with the leg, which makes technique up here very slow and cumbersome.

Note, the Garklein only has a range of 1.6 octaves.

Renaissance recorders usually only have a range of 1.5 octaves.

Transposition – Except for octave shifts, recorders do not transpose.  Players must learn two different sets of fingerings for the F and C instruments.  The bandestrator should not take the liberty to transpose recorder parts.

Dynamics – Recorders cannot do dynamics.  No crescendos, diminuendos, fortes, or pianos.  This is part of the quaintness of the recorder.

Articulation – All notes on the recorder are generally articulated (tounged).  This is part of standard technique.  Rarely are true slurs employed in Baroque music.  Today, players slur easily, though some of the higher notes can only come out with aid of the tongue.  Techniques such as flutter tonguing and double/triple tonguing are relatively easy on the recorder.

Need for a Modern Recorder

There really is a need for a modern recorder with keywork in order for it to be able to compete technically with the rest of the woodwinds.  It wouldn’t take much to accomplish this.  This could be done so easily.  Three keys for the right pinky (F, F-sharp, G-sharp or C, C-sharp, D-sharp), and one for the left pinky (G-sharp or C-sharp).  Any competent instrument repair man should be able to install these keys on an existing recorder.

Oh look, someone has made one!

Listen to the difference a modern sound concept makes:

An instrument like this is only used in a soloistic capacity with modern instruments.

Of course if you want to hear the extent of recorder technique, look no further to jazz:


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