Posted on May 25, 2012 by Andy John

The recorder is the perfect instrument in my opinion.  It is not flashy, there are no moving parts, it is versatile, and it is both easy and challenging to play.  If you are new to music, I recommend the recorder.  If you are a professional musician looking to branch out to other voices, I recommend the recorder.  The instrument is elegantly simple and unlike the saxophone, clarinet, or even flute, you can really get “inside” the instrument because there are no keys.  The embouchure is simple so you get a good tone immediately.  There are nuances you cannot get on any other instrument.  It’s time for the rebirth to take place for the recorder the same way the ukulele has taken off!

It is traditionally the entry-level musical instrument for anyone interested in woodwinds. I taught over 50 kids how to play at Lake Lure Classical Academy. I took the advice of my niece who enjoyed the Recorder Karate program offered to her in third grade and discovered it to be an amazing way to motivate kids to play and practice. I was beyond delighted to hear tales of them getting in trouble for playing their instruments at the dinner table, on the bus, at night when they are supposed to be asleep, and during class time at school! I quickly discovered the kids who didn’t bring their instruments to class were the very ones who were getting the most out of it. Every lesson was an adventure as I heard them discovering melodies on their own, like the Ukrainian Bell Carol (In April!), Spongebob Squarepants, In the Jungle, and parts of probably a dozen more. Within four months many of the kids had earned their black belt piece which was “Ode to Joy”. I was then confronted with what to do with them and decided to go on and have them earn their “tie-die” belt, their “American flag” belt and move them to more difficult material. There is something simple and elegant about the recorder that taps directly into the creative side of the brain. I soon found myself practicing all the time and learning along with my students. I’ve been learning fiddle tunes to play along with my friend who plays guitar.

There are many advantages to playing the recorder over other instruments:
It’s cheap. Start with a Peripole Angel for about six bucks. It’s an amazing instrument
It’s portable. As great as piano is, you most go to the piano. A recorder fits in your back pocket.
It’s chromatic. This means you can play in any key like the piano, guitar, clarinet, etc. and any style of music.

The repertoire for advancing musicians is extensive.  Take a look at Bach, Telemann, and Mozart for some jaw-dropping virtuoso recorder playing.  I’ve been working through “Selected Duets” for flute to get my chops up.  I worked through all twelve major scales while at carpool to keep me from getting bored.  The mothers of the students liked to hear it and their little ones insisted mom roll the window down!  All on a $6 instrument!  I also started playing the tenor recorder which sounds an octave lower.  It’s more in the flute range.  It has a neck strap which makes it easier to play the lower notes.  The range is more useful but the spacing between the fingers takes some getting used to.


The recorder is just like any instrument and scales and arpeggios are just as important.  Note reading is easy so I rely on various method books to get you where you need to be.  The Trapp method book from the 50s is really good and introduces the student to the wide repertoire and technical possibilities of the instrument.  The Basix Recorder Method is pretty good and much easier but a little dull.  There are lots of other methods available that might be easier to find but I haven’t investigated them very far.

Playing the Baroque recorder