Free/Community Resources

4. Intro to Recorder

Lesson 4 Module 1

Something New - Recorder Fingering Chart

In spite of my personal preference for the ocarina as a first wind instrument, there is no denying that the recorder is the gold standard, and that far more Western music has been written specifically for this instrument.  As such, my children all got their own this week.  The translucent plastic recorders made by Yamaha are the most readily available that strike a nice balance between affordability and quality.  When I took my Orff education class, we were each given a Yamaha and an Angel recorder to work with, and I liked them equally.  But for kids, it's hard to compete with the appeal of having an instrument that looks like it might be a magic crystal or perhaps carved out of candy.  When my kids saw me browsing through different recorder options, there was definitely a preference for the clear look.  And as you can see in the video below, even a professional was impressed.  (By the way, I love her channel and recommend it!). Certainly the plastic version was more affordable for me to purchase individually for all of my kids!

I will not promise to fully develop a full recorder course at this time, since I still have work to do with the ocarina.  But my kids have been roughing it with their new instruments, and I needed SOMETHING fast to get them on the right track, because, let's face it, the lack of an accessible fingering chart is enough to fill the home with some unpleasant sounds!  The fingering chart that came with the instrument was confusing, so I made my own with the color-coding that they are familiar with.  However, I will promise to add a comprehensive fingering chart with all of the accidentals soon.  But for beginners, just the diatonic scale is more than enough.

Baroque vs German soprano recorders

The Baroque fingering system is the oldest fingering system and is fairly standard, especially in professional circles.  The German fingering system is a more modern invention aimed to be more intuitive, especially for the "F" note.  The fingering chart in the recorders we purchased off Amazon included fingering for both systems.  As a stand-alone instrument, perhaps the German system would be preferable.

However, many people start their children out with the recorder with the hope that they will later move on to other woodwind instruments, and the fingering on the Baroque recorder is far more similar to what you would learn on the clarinet, the flute, and other woodwind instruments.  I don't like the mentality that the recorder is a beginning instrument one moves on from, because there is hundreds of years of professional repitoire written for the instrument, and only the best musicians can perform it well.  Don't underestimate the recorder!  But with that said, the recorder IS a far easier instrument to start with for the beginner, simply because one doesn't need to master embouchure technique to produce a beautiful tone.  One only has to blow into the mouthpiece, giving the budding musician the freedom to focus on other things like fingering, timing, and musicianship.  It is a versatile instrument with many educational benefits for young students, hence the popularity.  And as an instrument one may ultimately move on from, the baroque fingering is preferable.

Start with G major

While there will be temptation to start with C major, most songs for beginning students is written in G-major for the recorder.  This is because the lowest notes are harder to play than notes that center around notes that are comfortable to play in G major.  The anthem for all recorder players, the song every person who learns the recorder is bound to play sooner than later, is Hot Cross Buns.  The notes "B", "A", and "G" are the easiest to play, so it is no wonder.  As such, here is the color-coded tablature charts for both the song and the notes for a G-Major scale (albeit, it goes from "So" to "So" with "Do in the middle).

C major scale

Naturally they will eventually move on to other keys, and C-major is next.  After all, that low "C" isn't that hard to play!  If you blow too hard, it will come out sharp, but with practice, one will get it.  

A word of caution:  If it isn't coming after sincerely trying, it's very possible that it is the instrument to blame instead of the performer, especially if a cheap knock-off instrument was purchased.  Do NOT ever get a recorder for your child from the dollar store!  They are so, so bad.  So bad that once, years ago, I was going to do a comparison video for this website, and never was able to do it because the recorder broke when I opened the package.  They are a horrible toy that at best, will make a lot of annoying sounds that will make both the parent and child learn to hate the instrument before they even get started.  At worst, it could engrain into a child that they are no good at playing the recorder, so why try.  Children often don't have the maturity to know the difference between a faulty instrument and their own budding abilities.  Playing a song that sounds good on these cheap recorders will be nearly impossible, and the inexperienced child may think it is because of their lack of talent instead of a worthless instrument.  A nice, high quality instrument like a Yamaha soprano recorder is less than $10 on Amazon, it looks cool, and it will give your child a much better first experience.  Undoing the damage from a crappy instrument isn't worth it.  I often tell parents that if a violin or other instrument is too expensive for their family, start with an ocarina or a recorder because you can get a quality instrument that's virtually indestructable for less than $10.  And in the case of the recorder, you'll be FAR more likely to be able to play in C major with a little practice!  There are many, many simple songs on this website that are color coded for C major, which is where I will be drawing from for my own children once they are comfortable with the G major notes and Hot Cross Buns.

Cradle Nest

It's still autumn, so I'm keeping this song in the "lessons" to encourage review.  Children learn through repetition!

Something Old

For Musicianship, this time I'll share the collection of songs I picked out for my kids to consider on the recorder.

This collection is NOT a recorder course, and these are not songs I would have chosen if I had specifically been putting together a course for the recorder.  Instead, these are songs that already existed on the site that are in G and C major that are appropriate overall for recorder use.  Some of the songs use notes that are not entirely on one of the fingering charts I shared above, but if a child learns all the notes on both of the fingering charts, they will be fine.

Also note that I have kids with varying abilities, and I expect you might too.  I tried to run the gamut with these songs, finding a couple easier ones for my younger kids, and not shying away from a couple of more complex ones I think my older kids will like, especially my 12-year-old daughter who already plays the ocarina fairly well.

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