Learning the harp - how to take the first steps
The recorder - it is one of the most famous instruments. Many play it at least once in elementary school, and some decide to stick with the beautiful wind instrument. Do you love to listen to your children's practice successes or perhaps even enjoy picking up the recorder yourself? Then this is the right article for you. Even though the recorder is usually considered a beginner's instrument, its variations and possibilities are extremely diverse. There are numerous types of recorders that can be used to play a wide variety of musical styles. Whether size, type, or sound, the instrument has a lot to offer.
When it comes to the first steps into the world of instruments, the recorder is usually not far away. Both in school and for leisure, various recorders are popular. The tradition behind them at this point goes back many centuries. Already in the 14th century, the recorder was one of the most important woodwind instruments, and perhaps still is to this day.
Traditionally speaking, the recorder has always been assembled as a whole from several pieces. In modern recorders, the instrument is usually based on a headjoint, the middle piece and the footjoint. These components are interlocked in the recorder and make possible the sounds we are familiar with. Both in groups and as a solo instrument, the recorder enjoys enormous popularity as a way to take your first steps in music. If you want to buy a recorder for yourself, however, you might be surprised at how large the selection of recorder types is.
Already since the Renaissance, the recorder has developed as an instrument for the masses and has continued to grow with the eras. While the recorder was first played in the early Baroque and during the Renaissance, Baroque recorders and later harmonic recorders developed over time. Construction and expressiveness have noticeably evolved, adapting the recorder to its era:
Earlier versions of the recorder were originally recognizable by their cylindrical inner bore and their wide and compact shape. Above all, a deep and powerful output rounded out the sound of the Renaissance and early Baroque recorder and made solo playing possible.
With rather complex and conical inner bores, the baroque recorders are appealing, with smaller tone holes. The tonality has also improved significantly compared to its predecessor. Thus, the baroque recorders already encompass two full octaves.
The harmonic recorders are much more effective and in some cases somewhat longer. These offer a sound up to the third octave and worthily ushered in the era of modern recorders. Thus, the harmonic recorder is the basis of today's new models.
While recorders have already evolved steadily through the ages, the differences today lie more in the material. As a woodwind instrument, the recorder is now made from a wide variety of woods, which also makes the sound different. If you are looking for a solo recorder, you are on the safe side with elegant woods. In this case, it's best to choose hearty components that fit well with your playing style.
For a beautiful sound in an ensemble, on the other hand, other details are important. Here, the many individual sounds must blend together as well as possible to create a fitting and exciting soundscape. If you are looking for a recorder that is particularly easy to hold, olive wood or Castello wood are a good choice for the first start.
Other differences surrounding the purchase of your new recorder are based on fingering. For classical school recorders, there is still the difference between baroque and German fingering, with a minor deviation for the F note. The note F is somewhat easier to reach with the German fingering than with the baroque variant, which is especially noteworthy for beginners. With increasing experience, however, this has disadvantages.
As soon as there are deviations from the original scale in a more professional way of playing, more complicated fingerings become necessary again for notes like the F#. If you want to learn the recorder seriously and not just play it in school, the baroque fingering is a good choice from the beginning. However, if you want to make the beginning easier, go for the German method.
With no other instrument is the hand position and playing technique as important as with the recorder. Some players ask themselves whether there are also recorder types for left-handed players. However, the differences between the hands are not as big as you might think. Only the left thumb takes on a special position here. As a rule, it is simply a matter of getting used to which type of recorder is suitable for this position. If you suffer from finger position restrictions, special left-handed recorders are certainly available.
Currently there is an inexpensive recorder with baroque fingering, which can be played very well. On that note, here's our purchase recommendation:
If you are enthusiastic about the recorder and want to learn more about how to play this family of instruments, it is important to have the right procedures for practicing. Fingering charts have proven to be especially practical tools for the first steps to learn the basics over time. In our article on learning the recorder, we have already explained many practical tips. We also have a few tips for you here:
To be able to use and understand your recorder better in the long run, you should not disregard the cleaning. This is relevant for every type of recorder, so that no changes occur in the sound over time. Only a well-maintained recorder can be played with the same sound over and over again, which is very important for new pieces. Therefore, disassemble the recorder into its individual parts at regular intervals, wipe it down, and oil the components thoroughly.
Even though the recorder is generally considered a beginner-friendly instrument, you should not go without the right learning technique. In order to be able to play new songs yourself as quickly as possible later on, reading notes is extremely relevant. This way, you will directly connect the more difficult production of tones with the right way to operate your recorder. When it comes to the selection of your first pieces, however, make sure to choose the appropriate pitches. This way, the instrument will fit the pieces you decide to play right from the start.
In order to progress from the initial steps to advanced playing over time, you should also pay attention to regular practice. This is the only way to ensure that the steps you take to produce a sound remain in your long-term memory and can be recalled for each new piece. Practicing directly in a music school is the best way to practice both with solo pieces and in combination with many other recorders.
The recorder and the different types of recorders are a great choice for many musicians to take their first musical steps. With some simple hand movements, the first melodies can be played quickly. But there are many other exciting instruments besides the recorder. Take a look at our blog in the musical instruments category. In our article on playing instruments without practicing, you can also find out how much practicing is actually necessary. Or you can take a direct look at how you can best learn your chosen instrument, for example in this article. You can also find personals for musicians here at mukken if you want to connect with others directly.
Originally published on March 15, 2023, updated on March 15, 2023
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