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Runs With Scissors
05-14-2006, 05:11 PM
This weekend I decided it's time I learn to read music. I'd also like to learn a new instrument (I play guitar).

I thought a recorder would be perfect.

Then I started looking on the internet...and apparently there are different types. Soprano, tenor, different keys, etc...probably even more choices than that, but I stopped because I knew to ask here first :)

I know nothing about any instrument (except guitar)...

What advice can you give me? I just want to play for fun...and I'd also like to accompany my friends while they play guitar. I'll also be getting a book to teach myself...will any instructional book work with any recorder?

Thanks!

K364
05-14-2006, 05:57 PM
The Soprano Recorder is quite shrill, might as well buy an Irish whistle.

I would get an Alto... they were used in Bach's time until superceded by modern transverse flutes. A little bit harder to play than soprano because the low notes cannot be overblown.

The Tenors and Basses are specialty instruments and are surprisingly expensive.

ErinPuff
05-14-2006, 08:34 PM
Soprano and alto recorders have different fingerings (or, rather, the fingerings are used for different notes). Most instructional books are probably for soprano recorder.

exastris
05-14-2006, 11:12 PM
Soprano and alto recorders have different fingerings (or, rather, the fingerings are used for different notes). Most instructional books are probably for soprano recorder.

Tenor recorders are in the same key as sopranos, so you can use the same books. You'll just be an octave (maybe two? its been a while) lower.

I second not learning soprano. A good tenor can set you back a lot, but you can get a decent one for not too much. Of course, you can get a really crappy soprano for a couple of bucks, but it will sound like garbage. A nice wood tenor recorder has a great sound.

FlyingRat
05-14-2006, 11:16 PM
I saw this thread and just had to upgrade to a paid subscription! I play recorder and have had a great time with it (I started in college, then joined a music group in the Society for Creative Anachronism after I graduated) so it's great to see someone else taking an interest in the instrument.

I would second what K364 said about the various sizes of instrument: sopranos are a little shrill, and altos tend to have a more pleasing range plus the larger size is better suited to most adult hands. ErinPuff is right about the different keys-- sopranos, tenors and the like are in the key of C, whereas altos and basses are in the key of F-- although there are good instructional books for both.

There are also a bunch of different kinds of recorders other than the size. Renaissance instruments are based on early models and have a really wide bore with a more restricted range. Most recorders you are probably looking at are Baroque or Modern in design-- these have a narrower bore, a "fancier" outside, and can handle more notes. I would avoid anything that says "Renaissance" for the time being, as they are less versatile.

I don't really know of any particular books to recommend for a beginner, as I haven't needed one in a while. I have heard that the Von Trapp books (yes, the Sound of Music people) are good.

One critical thing to keep in mind is to make sure you get a decent instrument, as this will have a huge effect on your success as you learn! It is far, far better to buy a good-quality plastic recorder (especially when you are starting out) than to buy a cruddy wooden recorder: if you have a bad instrument it will be harder to get it to do what you want, and you will get discouraged more easily. Do NOT get a Gill instrument, for example-- in my experience, they are pretty much crap.

One model I would very strongly recommend would be the Yamaha 300-series plastic recorders, which have a great and very reliable sound (and being plastic, are generally more consistent). I have one of their altos which is made from woodgrain plastic (so it looks and sounds a little nicer) and cost me about $60 from the Antique Sound Workshop (http://aswltd.com/yamaha.htm). It is a great recorder and while I have a nice wooden one for performing, the Yamaha is very easy to carry with me and I don't have to worry about it getting banged around. I think this is the best possible thing for a beginner to start out with: it's inexpensive, yet it gives a much better and more consistent sound than most recorders three times its price.

A couple of excellent places to look for recorders online:
- Antique Sound Workshop (aswltd.com)
- Boulder Early Music Shop (bems.com)
- Von Huene (vonhuene.com)

There are more, but I'm blanking at the moment. All of the above places have excellent customer service (although the ASW guy is a little cantankerous) and will be very happy to help you pick an instrument that is going to work with you at your skill level. (I have dealt pretty much exclusively with Von Huene the past few times: they will ship you instruments to try out, so you can make sure you're buying something that feels right.)

Gotta go to bed now, but feel free to ask anything else (or PM me)!

QuarkChild
05-15-2006, 12:52 AM
I learned on a soprano but quickly switched to an alto because of the shrillness factor. I would recommend against a soprano.

K364
05-15-2006, 01:22 AM
FlyingRat: obviously you are the SDMB Recorder Guru!

Tell me, is there usually a problem breaking in a new wooden recorder? I remember from my youth that two of them I had cracked around the "reed" (if that's what you call it)

Tomcat
05-15-2006, 04:31 AM
I have a 4 year old kid that I want to get a recorder for. I was thinking I'd get one for myself and we'd both learn. So...Her being small, me being big, me not wanting to buy two books, should she get a soprano and me a tenor? OR do they make different sized alto's?

-Tcat

auRa
05-15-2006, 05:19 AM
Oh boy! Oh boy! Finally a subject I know something about!

I have a soprano, alto and tenor, all in wood. A few years back I also had a sopranino on loan for a while, but I was living at home at the time and my mother made me return it. :) I like playing alto the most: like others have said, the soprano can be a bit shrill, especially when going up hight, and as my fingers are quite stubby playing the tenor can be a little difficult if I haven't done it for a while. However, most people I know who teach the recorder start their students out with the soprano because it's set in the key of C and is therefore a very basic starting point, and then move on to the alto when they've played the soprano for a while and have got the hang of the basic fingerings. (Also, you'll have an easier time playing other music - for example pop tunes - with a recorder set in C, since the notes will correspond to what you've learned already and you don't have to think "Well, okay, that's C, so on the alto, that would be the fingering that's a G for the soprano... Okay, the next one's F, so that would be...". Of course, you can just play the notes as if you were playing a larger soprano, but then they'll be half an octave lower. Works fine if you're playing alone, but with accompaniment..)

In Finland, music classes in lower school usually involve learning the recorder (because it's quite easy to learn and cheap to buy); there is nothing, I repeat, nothing worse than 30 white cheap plastic recorders belting out "Hot Cross Buns" out of tune, out of key and out of tempo. :) Invest in a good quality plastic recorder for starters. I second the Yamaha suggestions, but there are different qualities of plastic recorder. I had a plastic black-and-white Yamaha soprano and alto for 10 years and now my brother uses them; the sound is quite pleasing. The woodgrain plastic that FlyingRat mentioned is higher quality (although the woodgrain design rubs off where your thumb is); the black-and-white is kind of in-between, and the cheapest ones are plain white or black and sound really plasticky.

My first wooden recorder lasted two weeks; my dog ate it. (Serves me right for leaving it on the chair where a six-month-old teething puppy could get to it.) The ones I have now, boxwood Moecks, I bought in 1999 and have really pleasing, full sounds.

I have to confess, though, that I kind of quickly breezed through the breaking-in process, even though it's highly recommended that when you start playing a wooden recorder, you only play it for short periods at first to allow the wood to "live". I was too impatient and wanted to get right to business straight away. :) The recorders sound fine now, I don't know how much better they would sound if I'd followed instructions. (Then again, I'm a very negligent recorder-owner anyway; it's been almost 8 months since I last oiled them.. Tough love, I say.)

-auRa, 16 years and counting of responding to the question "You play whaat?! "-

Zabali_Clawbane
05-15-2006, 07:46 AM
I own a Yamaha Baroque Soprano/Descant myself. Can you go into a music store that has the different varities so the sales person could demonstrate the differences and help you choose which tone appeals to you that way? One thing to remember with the recorder, do NOT blow harder for the low notes, blow softer. Also, don't put your teeth on the mouthpeice.

Zabali_Clawbane
05-15-2006, 07:54 AM
This Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recorder) explains the difference in a Baroque recorder, and this site (http://recorderhomepage.net/finger.html) teaches the fingerings on a recorder. I learned to play the recorder in grade school, and loved it. When I was able to I bought my own professional quality instrument so I could play for my own pleasure.

Zabali_Clawbane
05-15-2006, 08:00 AM
Adding, that I wouldn't get a Soprano recorder if it wasn't Baroque. I prefer the Baroque tone, and if I had to buy one that wasn't I would probably get an Alto.

FlyingRat
05-16-2006, 09:35 PM
FlyingRat: obviously you are the SDMB Recorder Guru!


Wow, I have a title! (Not that I really deserve it...I'm by no means an expert, I just went through this exact same situation when I started playing recorder about 10 years ago.

Tell me, is there usually a problem breaking in a new wooden recorder? I remember from my youth that two of them I had cracked around the "reed" (if that's what you call it)

I believe the proper procedure is just to play it for a while each day, say 5-10 minutes: don't play it longer, and don't skip a day. This gets the wood seasoned enough to behave properly. After a month or two you can start playing it longer. That said, I didn't follow this procedure religiously when I got my current favorite recorder :smack: and it didn't seem to have harmed anything. Just be careful not to overplay it at first.

The problem you had with your recorders breaking may have had something to do with the type/brand of recorder. Do you happen to remember what they were? Also, it's always important to keep the instrument in an environment with steady temperature and humidity (for wooden recorders, at least-- I like the plastic one because I can leave it in my car if necessary).

FlyingRat
05-16-2006, 09:38 PM
The ones I have now, boxwood Moecks, I bought in 1999 and have really pleasing, full sounds.

A bunch of the other people in my music group have Moecks. They are really nice! Is there a place you usually get yours from? I chose a Kobliczek over a Moeck last time because I liked the sound better, but it was tough to sort through the options.

I have to confess, though, that I kind of quickly breezed through the breaking-in process, even though it's highly recommended that when you start playing a wooden recorder, you only play it for short periods at first to allow the wood to "live". I was too impatient and wanted to get right to business straight away. :) The recorders sound fine now, I don't know how much better they would sound if I'd followed instructions. (Then again, I'm a very negligent recorder-owner anyway; it's been almost 8 months since I last oiled them.. Tough love, I say.)


Guilty as charged...I haven't noticed any differences in the sound either!

FlyingRat
05-16-2006, 09:42 PM
One more post and then I'll quit: this page (http://aswltd.com/infobull.htm) has some good information about choosing a recorder, if you don't pay too much heed to his obsessiveness over tuning. (I think that unless you have a REALLY good ear or plan to play professionally, you will probably be fine with a recorder "out of the box" as long as it's a good one to start with. The Antique Sound Workshop guy-- I forget his name-- will retune any instrument you order from him to be more perfectly on pitch, but if you're playing with other people witn un-altered instruments, this might present a problem. I like the customer service at Von Huene much better, anyway.)

DocCathode
05-16-2006, 10:05 PM
Is playing a bass recorder a significantly different skill? My father has one (he's also got a beautiful tiny recorder, and one made of flamewood with an ivory covered mouth piece) and I've often wondered if I (I have NO musical talent. NONE. Right now you're thinking I have more than I have.) could learn to play it. It sounds beautiful, and looks cool.

FlyingRat
05-16-2006, 10:22 PM
Is playing a bass recorder a significantly different skill? My father has one (he's also got a beautiful tiny recorder, and one made of flamewood with an ivory covered mouth piece) and I've often wondered if I (I have NO musical talent. NONE. Right now you're thinking I have more than I have.) could learn to play it. It sounds beautiful, and looks cool.

I have a hard time playing bass recorder because of its sheer size. It is a difficult instrument to hold (and I have long fingers) because of the angles involved, so that adds another level of complexity to it. (That said, maybe I just haven't tried a bass that was "configured" correctly for me: there are different models with different mouthpieces, etc. precisely to make it easier to play.) Otherwise, the fingering is pretty much exactly the same as an alto recorder, so if you learn to play one, you can play the other.

I would seriously try holding the bass recorder and having your father show you where your fingers would have to go-- that might decide the issue for you, depending on how comfortable it is. (If you like it, go for it! Bass recorder players are few and far between in my experience, so one more is always welcome.)

(Oh, and if you think the bass recorder is cool, try the contrabass (http://texasearlymusic.com/gallery/alsq040228/h_alsqwk018.html), also known as the Big-Ass Recorder (tm). The contrabass is twice the size of a bass. There is also a sub-contrabass, which would be three times the size. :eek: )

DocCathode
05-16-2006, 10:32 PM
Thank you. I don't think reaching will be a problem, the bass has a bent neck. Dad and all of his cool stufff are in Florida. Since in a few years he'll take up residence in a small patch of dirt, I'm wondering if I can learn to play his instruments. I know I can sell them. I have a few musically inclined friends I could give them too. But, I'd really like to learn to play them. I worry though that I would keep them, give up, and leave them in a closet for decades.

Carnac the Magnificent!
05-17-2006, 09:30 AM
Oh boy! Oh boy! Finally a subject I know something about!

[/I] "-



I have a general question re: soprano recorders. I have an old one that's made of wood. No manufacturer name stamped on it. Problem is, my fingers have to be [i]just so[/b]--and I'm talking almost on the subatomic level--to get the notes to play right. Otherwise, it squeals like crazy. Moreover, I can't play the lower register loud whatsoever. The higher notes are rather shrill. The instrument is so fussy that learning it doesn't appeal at all

> Does this sound typical, or more like a cheapo recorder?

Which recorder--preferably an alto or tenor--will give me the biggest bang for my buck? Can I get something decent for, say, $150?

auRa
05-17-2006, 10:22 AM
A bunch of the other people in my music group have Moecks. They are really nice! Is there a place you usually get yours from? I chose a Kobliczek over a Moeck last time because I liked the sound better, but it was tough to sort through the options.

Well, I don't really "usually" get mine from anywhere, since the last ones I bought 7 years ago.. :D I bought mine from a shop called Woodwinds in central Helsinki. They don't have a website that I can find, and I also can't seem to find any other information on them on the web. I hope they haven't gone out of business... I haven't visited them for a while because I get my music from my instructor or from libraries.

> Does this sound typical, or more like a cheapo recorder?

Honestly, I have no idea. The only recorders I've had do that were plastic and really, really cheap and awful. However, this might be a case where it's an old recorder that hasn't been played or oiled in a while, so the wood might be a bit off. What do you think, FlyingRat? I've been lucky enough to never encounter this with a wooden recorder.

Which recorder--preferably an alto or tenor--will give me the biggest bang for my buck? Can I get something decent for, say, $150?

It's hard for me to say, because I'm in Finland and you're..probably not. :) So the prices will probably be a little different. However, from the German Musik Produktiv (http://musik-produktiv.de/shop2/shop03.asp/ob_id/173/sid/!x32fific) site I found these alto recorders with prices in euros. The one I currently have is the Moeck Rotthenburg in boxwood (Castello-Buchs), which is 269 euros. However, on the next page are the plastic Yamahas (http://musik-produktiv.de/shop2/shop03.asp/sid/!x32fific/ob_id/173/seite/2/nur_lieferbare/nein) (scroll down) which I think sound really good for plastic recorders, and they only cost 20-30 euros. I'd say $150 could, at least in Europe, buy you three or four good plastic recorders or one okay wooden one. (I don't really know about quality since I've never played an Adler, but the ones on the Musik Produktiv site are between 120 and 140 euros, which would be in that price range.)

trupa
05-17-2006, 12:20 PM
I was very pleased with the plastic tenor recorder from Yamaha (around $40 Can. iirc) . I wanted a tenor because I had learned the soprano fingering in grade school already, but wanted a less shrill sound. I find it has a lovely peaceful, contemplative tone, that is well suited to playing sad or melancolic Irish music, or more reflective church music, for example. I find it very hard to make it sound happy, though.

Funnily enough, playing the tenor made me rediscover the soprano, which can sound much more joyfull. I found that playing the soprano in a place with no echo or reverberation, like a big carpeted room, or outdoors, really cuts down the shrill/squeak quality, and makes the instrument sound "purer"somehow.

It was a bit of a stretch for my fingers at first., though, expecially on the right hand & the lower notes.

BTW, my three year old loves to hear his favourite songs & nursery rhymes on them, and it was very useful in getting him to participate in singing activities.

At the moment, I don'think my level of playing would justify a wood instrument, though.

Angua
05-17-2006, 02:22 PM
I was very pleased with the plastic tenor recorder from Yamaha (around $40 Can. iirc) . I wanted a tenor because I had learned the soprano fingering in grade school already, but wanted a less shrill sound. I find it has a lovely peaceful, contemplative tone, that is well suited to playing sad or melancolic Irish music, or more reflective church music, for example. I find it very hard to make it sound happy, though.


I used to play the tenor as part of a consort -- its a beautiful instrument with a gorgeous sound, and a lot of what I got to play were the base lines. :( As for getting a tenor to sound happy, a light prelude or fugue, does it, but you can't play one of those on your own!

At the moment I have a gorgeous wooden soprano that I bought about 6-7 years ago, which I love to bits. I learnt on a cheapo plastic one, and graduated onto more expensive plastic ones. The tenor I used to play was an Aulos, which whilst not the best, were certainly able to produce a beautiful sound. I think I had something a bit nicer in the consort I was in, but can't remember off hand.

We should start our own SDMB Recorder Consort. ;)

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