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Background Information

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Various recorders

The recorder is a woodwind musical instrument of the family known as fipple flutes or internal duct flutes — whistlelike instruments which include the tin whistle and ocarina. The recorder is end-blown and the mouth of the instrument is constricted by a wooden plug, known as a block or fipple. It is distinguished from other members of the family by having holes for seven fingers (the lower one or two often doubled to facilitate the production of semitones) and one for the thumb of the uppermost hand. The bore of the recorder is occasionally cylindrical but is usually tapered slightly, being widest at the mouthpiece end.

The recorder was popular from medieval times but declined in the eighteenth century in favour of orchestral woodwind instruments, such as the flute, oboe, and clarinet. During its heyday, the recorder was traditionally associated with birds, shepherds, miraculous events, funerals, marriages and amorous scenes. Images of recorders can be found in literature and artwork associated with all these. Purcell, Bach, Telemann and Vivaldi used the recorder to suggest shepherds and birds, and the pattern continued into the 20th century.

The recorder was revived in the twentieth century, partly in the pursuit of historically informed performance of early music, but also because of its suitability as a simple instrument for teaching music and its appeal to amateur players. Today, it is often thought of as a child's instrument, but there are many excellent virtuosic players who can demonstrate the instrument's full potential as a solo instrument. The sound of the recorder is remarkably clear and sweet, partly because of the lack of upper harmonics and predominance of odd harmonics in the sound.

Musical instruments
String instruments

The name of the instrument

The instrument has been known, in English, as a recorder, at least since the 14th century. Grove's Dictionary reports that the earliest use of the word 'recorder' was in the household of the Earl of Derby in 1388: fistula nomine Recordour mdomino The name originates from the use of the word record, one of whose meanings is "to practise a piece of music".

Up to the 18th century, the instrument was called Flauto (flute) in Italian, the language used in writing music, whereas the instrument we today call the flute was called 'Flauto traverso'. This has led to some pieces of music occasionally being mistakenly performed on transverse flute rather than on recorder.

Today, the recorder is known as flauto dolce in Italian (sweet flute),

How the instrument is played

Cross-section of the head of a recorder

The recorder is held outwards from the player's lips (rather than to the side, like the "transverse" flute). The player's breath is compressed into a linear airstream by a channel cut into the wooden "block" or fipple (A), in the mouthpiece of the instrument, so as to travel along this channeled duct (B) called the "windway". Exiting from the windway, the breath is directed against a hard edge (C), called the "labium" or "ramp", which causes the column of air within the resonator tube to oscillate at the desired frequency, determined by the bore length or open tone hole used. The length of the air column (and the pitch of the note produced) is modified by finger holes in the front and thumb hole at the back of the instrument.

Recorder topside annotated.JPG Recorder underside annotated.JPG
A picture of the top of an alto (treble) recorder with the main parts of the recorder illustrated. The bottom of the same recorder with annotations.

Types of recorder

Instruments in C Range Instruments in F Range
garklein Range GarkleinRecorder.png sopranino Range SopraninoRecorder.png
soprano (descant)
Listen to it
Range SopranoRecorder.png alto (treble) Range AltoRecorder.png
tenor Range TenorRecorder.png bass
(bass in F)
Range BassRecorder.png
great bass
(bass in C)
Range GreatBassRecorder.png contra bass Range ContraBassRecorder.png
subcontra bass Range SubContraBassRecorder.png sub-subcontrabass
Range SubSubContraBassRecorder.png

Recorders are made in a variety of sizes. They are most often tuned in C or F, meaning that their lowest note possible is a C or an F. However, instruments in D, B flat, G, and E flat were not uncommon historically and are still found today, especially the tenor recorder in D, which is called a "voice-flute." Refer to the table to see the entire recorder family in C and F.

The recorder most often used for solo music is the treble recorder (known as alto in the USA), and when the recorder is specified without further qualification, it is this size that is meant. The descant (known as the soprano in the USA) also has an important repertoire of solo music (not just school music) and there is a little for tenor and bass recorders. Classroom instructors most commonly use the descant (soprano in USA). The largest recorders, larger than the bass recorder, are less often used, since they are expensive and their sizes (the contrabass in F is about 2 meters tall) make them hard to handle. An experimental 'piccolino' has also been produced which plays a fourth above the garklein. Although it might be considered that the garklein is already too small for adult-sized fingers to play easily and that the even smaller piccolino was simply not practical, the fact that the holes for each finger are side by side and not in a linear sequence make it quite possible to play.

For recorder ensemble playing, the descant/soprano, treble/alto, tenor and bass are most common - many players can play all four sizes. Great basses and contrabasses are always welcome but are more expensive. The sopranino does not blend as well and is used primarily in recorder orchestras and for concerto playing. Although inexperienced players regard the garklein and subcontrabass sizes as too difficult, bulky, or expensive to constitute anything more than a rare curiosity, they are widely used by professional players.

The larger recorders have great enough distances between the finger holes that most people's hands can not reach them all. So, instruments larger than the alto (and sometimes alto recorders, as well) have keys to enable the player to cover the holes or to provide better tonal response. In addition, the largest recorders are so long that the player cannot simultaneously reach the finger holes with the hands and reach the mouthpiece with the lips. So, instruments larger than the bass (and some bass recorders too) may use a bocal or crook, a thin metal tube, to conduct the player's breath to the windway, or they may be constructed in sections that fold the recorder into a shape that brings the windway back into place.

Today, high-quality recorders are made from a range of hardwoods: maple, pear wood, rosewood, grenadilla, or boxwood with a block of red cedar wood. Plastic recorders are produced in large quantities. Plastics are cheaper and require less maintenance and plastic recorders are equal to or better than lower-end wooden instruments. Beginners' instruments, the sort usually found in children's ensembles, are plastic and can be purchased quite cheaply.

Most modern recorders are based on instruments from the Baroque period, although some specialist makers produce replicas of the earlier Renaissance style of instrument. These latter instruments have a wider, less tapered bore and typically possess a less reedy, more blending tone more suited to consort playing.

In the early part of the twentieth century, Peter Harlan developed a recorder which allowed for apparently simpler fingering. This is German fingering. A recorder designed for German fingering has a hole five smaller than hole four, baroque and neo-baroque recorders have hole four smaller than hole five. The immediate difference in fingering is for ‘F’ and ‘B♭’, on a neo-baroque instrument these must be fingered 0 123 4-67. With German fingering this becomes 0 123 4---. Unfortunately this causes many other chromatic notes to be too badly out of tune to be usable; and consequently they can play only a single diatonic scale German fingering became popular in Europe, especially Germany, in the 1930s, but rapidly became obsolete in the 1950s as the recorder began to be treated more seriously and the limitations of German fingering became more widely appreciated.. Many recorder makers continue to produce German fingered instruments today.

Some newer designs of recorder are now being produced. Larger recorders built like organ pipes with square cross sections are cheaper than the normal designs if, perhaps, not so elegant. Another area is the development of instruments with a greater dynamic range and more powerful bottom notes. These modern designs make it easier to be heard when playing concerti. Finally, recorders with a downward extension of a semitone are becoming available; such instruments can play a full three octaves in tune. The tenor is especially popular, since its range becomes that of the modern flute; Frans Brüggen has publicly performed such flute works as Density 21.5 by Edgar Varèse on an extended tenor recorder.

Sheet music notation

Sheet music for recorder is nearly always notated in 'concert key,' meaning that a written "C" in the score actually sounds as a "C." This implies that the player must learn two different sets of similar fingerings, one for the C recorders and another for the F recorders. However, many sizes of recorder do transpose at the octave. The garklein sounds two octaves above the written pitch; the sopranino and soprano sound one octave above written pitch. Alto and tenor sizes do not transpose at all, while the bass and great bass sound one octave above written (bass clef) pitch. Contrabass and subcontrabass are non-transposing while the octocontrabass sounds one octave below written pitch.

Sizes from garklein down through tenor are notated in the treble clef while the bass size and lower usually read the bass clef. Professionals can usually read C-clefs and often perform from original notation.

Alternative notations which are only occasionally used:

  1. Bass recorder in F may be written in treble clef at real pitch, so that the low F is written a fifth below middle C with three ledger lines.
  2. Bass recorder in F may be written in treble clef an octave above real pitch (i.e. sound an octave below written pitch), so that its fingerings are completely octave-identical to the alto in F.
  3. Great bass recorder in C may be written in treble clef. If so, it would probably be written up an octave to match the fingering régime of the tenor in C.
  4. Tenor recorder in C may be written in bass clef one octave below real pitch in order to read choral parts for tenor voice.
  5. Alto recorder in F may be written down an octave to read alto vocal parts.
  6. All recorders may be transposed by both octave and key so that the lowest note is always written as middle C below the treble clef. In this system, only the tenor is non-transposing while all other parts would transpose up or down in fourths, fifths and octaves as appropriate.
  7. Urtext editions of baroque music may preserve the baroque practice of writing treble(alto) recorder parts in the Violin clef (G clef on the bottom line of the stave). From the player's point of view, this is equivalent to using bass(et) recorder fingerings on the treble(alto) recorder.

As a rule of thumb, recorders sound one octave above the human voice after which they are named (soprano recorder is an octave above soprano voice, alto an octave above alto voice, etc.) The recorder's mellow tone and limited harmonics allows for the seemingly deeper sound.

Recorder fingering

Note First Octave Second Octave Third Octave
in F
in C
F C X X X X X X X X X O X O O O O O / X O O X X O O
F♯ C♯ X X X X X X X / O X X O O O O O / X O X X O X X1,2
G D X X X X X X X O O O X O O O O O / X O X X O X
A♭ E♭ X X X X X X / O O O X X X X X O
A E X X X X X X O O / X X X X X O O
B♭ F X X X X X O X X / X X X X O X O
B F♯ X X X X O X X O / X X X O X O O
C G X X X X O O O O / X X X O O O O
C♯ G♯ X X X O X X / O / X X O X O O O
D A X X X O O O O O / X X O O O O O
E♭ B♭ X X O X X O O O / X X O X X X O
E B X X O O O O O O / X X O X X O O

Note 1: The bell must be stopped to play this note.

Note 2: Individual recorders may need this hole to be closed (X), half closed(/), or open (O) to play the note in tune.

Note 3: See the section Types of recorder below concerning recorders tuned in C or in F.

The Fingers The Holes
Numbered finger holes.jpg

The range of a modern recorder is usually taken to be about two octaves except in virtuoso pieces. See the table above for fingerings of notes in the nominal recorder range of 2 octaves and 1 whole tone. Notes above this range are more difficult to play, and the exact fingerings vary from instrument to instrument, so it is impractical to put them into the table here. The numbers at the top correspond to the fingers and the holes on the recorder, according to the pictures. In the table, "X" signifies a closed hole, "O" signifies an open hole, and "/" signifies a half-closed hole.

The note two octaves and one semitone above the lowest note (C# for soprano, tenor and great bass instruments; F# for sopranino, alto and bass instruments) is difficult to play on most recorders. These notes are best played by covering the end of the instrument (the "bell"); players typically use their upper leg to accomplish this. Some recorder makers added a special bell key for this note — newer recorder designs with longer bores also solve this problem and extend the range even further. The note is only occasionally found in pre-20th-century music, but it has become standard in modern music.

The lowest chromatic scale degrees — a semitone and a minor third above the lowest note — are played by covering only a part of a hole, a technique known as "half-holing." Most modern instruments are constructed with double holes or keys to facilitate the playing of these notes; such double holes are occasionally found on baroque instruments, where even the hole for the third finger of the left hand can be doubled. Other chromatic scale degrees are played by so-called "fork" fingerings, uncovering one hole and covering one or more of the ones below it. Fork fingerings have a different tonal character from the diatonic notes, giving the recorder a somewhat uneven sound. Budget tenor/bass recorders might have a single key for low C/F but not low C#/F#, making this note virtually impossible to play. Double low keys allowing both C/F and C#/F# are more or less standard today.

Most of the notes in the second octave and above are produced by partially closing the thumbhole on the back of the recorder, a technique known as "pinching". The placement of the thumb is crucial to the intonation and stability of these notes, and varies as the notes increase in pitch, making the boring of a double hole for the thumb unviable. To play the notes in the second octave, the player must tongue somewhat harder in order to excite the second and third harmonics of the instrument.

A skilled player can, with a good recorder, play chromatically over two octaves and a fifth. Use of notes in the 3rd octave is becoming more common in modern compositions; several of these notes require closure of the bell or shading of the window area (ie holding the palm of the hand above the window, partially restricting the air emerging from it). In the hands of a competent player, these upper notes are not especially loud or shrill.

The renaissance recorder had a range of two octaves and a sixth , though writers on woodwind instruments in general from that period, e.g. Praetorius, often give shorter ranges. This might reflect a distinction between skilled and unskilled players in the renaissance or the differences in instruments made in one region versus another or over time. Modern reproductions of renaissance instruments, especially those from middle of the last century, often have a range as little as one and a half octaves but more recent makers now produce reproduction renaissance instruments with the full range and Ganassi's fingerings. Consequently many publishers of recorder music refer to 'music for Ganassi recorder', or a similar phrase, when they mean recorder music with a range greater than two octaves and a tone.

Changes in dynamics are not easy to achieve on the recorder if the player is accustomed to other wind instruments. If the player blows harder to play louder, or more softly to play softer, the pitch changes and the note goes out of tune, and unlike the transverse flute, the player cannot change the position of the mouth in relation to the labium in order to compensate. Consequently pitch is controlled largely by the breath, and dynamics are controlled largely by the fingers; for example by resting the fingers lightly on the holes breath leaks around them, lifting the pitch; and the resulting instinctive change in breath pressure to bring the pitch back also drops the volume. Advanced players use alternative fingerings to enable changes in dynamics.. The recorder is notable for its sensitivity to articulation; in addition to its obvious use for artistic effect skilled players can also use this sensitivity to suggest changes in volume.


Early recorders

Internal duct-flutes have a long history: an example of an Iron Age specimen, made from a sheep bone, exists in Leeds City Museum.

The true recorders are distinguished from other internal duct flutes by having eight finger holes (in use - see below); seven on the front of the instrument and one, for the upper hand thumb, on the back, and having a slightly tapered bore, with its widest end at the mouthpiece. It is thought that these instruments evolved in the 14th century, but an earlier origin is a matter of some debate, based on the depiction of various whistles in medieval paintings. To this day whistles -as used in Irish folk music- have six holes. The original design of the transverse flute (and its fingering) was based on the same six holes, but it was later much altered by Theobald Böhm.

One of the earliest surviving instruments was discovered in a castle moat in Dordrecht, the Netherlands in 1940, and has been dated to the 14th century. It is largely intact, though not playable. A second more or less intact 14th century recorder was found in a latrine in northern Germany (in Göttingen): other 14th-century examples survive from Esslingen (Germany) and Tartu (Estonia). There is a fragment of a possible 14th-15th-century bone recorder in Rhodes (Greece); and there is an intact 15th-century example from Elblag (Poland).

The earliest recorders were designed to be played either right-handed (with the right hand lowermost) or left-handed (with the left hand lowermost). The holes were all in a line except for the lowest hole, for the lower hand little finger. This last hole was offset from the centre line, and drilled twice, once on each side. The player would fill in the hole they didn't want to use with wax. It is this doubled hole (not to be confused with the later double holes for semitones) which accounts for the early French name flute à neuf trous In later years, the right-hand style of playing was settled on as standard and the second hole disappeared.

Renaissance recorders

The Renaissance

The recorder achieved great popularity in the 16th and 17th centuries. This development was linked to the fact that art music (as opposed to folk music) was no longer the exclusive domain of nobility and clergy. The advent of the printing press made it available to the more affluent commoners as well. The popularity of the instrument also reached the courts however. For example, at Henry VIII's death in 1547, an inventory of his possessions included 76 recorders. There are also numerous references to the instrument in contemporary literature (eg Shakespeare and Milton).

During the Renaissance musical instruments were principally used in dance music and as accompaniment for voices. There are many vocal works with non-texted lines, which possibly were written for instruments. In addition, some vocal music was easily playable with instruments, chansons, for example. Nevertheless, composers also produced more and more works exclusively for instruments, often based on dance music. (e.g. the Lachrimae Pavans by John Dowland). Often they did not specify the instruments to use although some, such as Anthony Holborne indicated that their music was suitable for the recorder. However, even when the composer specified, for instance, viols, the music could successfully be played on recorders. A taste for ensembles of like instruments developed in this era, and so arose "consorts" (groups of musicians playing the same type of instrument) and the families of instruments of various sizes. The diversity of sizes in an instrument family allowed the consort to play music with a very large pitch range. Some of the well known Renaissance composers who wrote instrumental music, or whose vocal music plays well on recorders, were:

  • Guillaume Dufay
  • Johannes Ockeghem
  • Josquin des Prez
  • Heinrich Isaac
  • Ludwig Senfl
  • Orlando di Lasso
  • William Byrd
  • John Dowland
  • Anthony Holborne

Polyphony was the dominant music style of the Renaissance, but composers also began to write chordal pieces. The Medieval custom of juxtaposing 2 or 3 different melodies coexisted with "imitative polyphony". Imitative polyphony uses only one melodic line, but breaks it in pieces and divides it among the different parts. One part plays the melody, then the other parts play it in their turns. The music of this epoch was characterized by complex improvised ornamentation.

Many instruments survive from this period, including an incomplete set of recorders in Nuremberg which date from the 16th century and are still partially playable. Similar to the Medieval recorders, and unlike the Baroque style recorders typically used today, Renaissance recorders have a wide, more or less cylindrical bore. They have powerful low notes (much more so than the Baroque recorders). The wide bore means that a greater quantity of air is required to play the instrument, but this makes them more responsive. Many reproduction instruments, especially from the middle of the last century, can only be played reliably over a range of an octave and a sixth; but more and more makers are producing recorders capable of the full range that Ganassi reports, and with his fingerings in tune throughout. When modern music is written for 'Ganassi recorders' it is this type of recorder which is intended.

Baroque recorders

Several changes in the construction of recorders took place in the seventeenth century, resulting in the type of instrument generally referred to as Baroque recorders, as opposed to the earlier Renaissance recorders. These innovations allowed baroque recorders to possess a tone which was regarded as "sweeter" than that of the earlier instruments, at the expense of a reduction in volume, particularly in the lowest notes, and a slightly reduced range.

In the 18th century, rather confusingly, the instrument was normally referred to simply as Flute (Flauto) — the transverse form was separately referred to as Traverso. In the 4th Brandenburg Concerto in G major, J.S. Bach calls for two flauti d'echo. The musicologist Thurston Dart mistakenly suggested that it was intended for flageolets at a higher pitch, and in a recording under Neville Marriner using Dart's editions it was played an octave higher than usual on sopranino recorders. An argument can be made that the instruments Bach identified as flauti d'echo were echo flutes, an example of which survives in Leipzig to this day. It consisted of two recorders in f' connected together by leather flanges: one instrument was voiced to play softly, the other loudly. Vivaldi wrote three concertos for the flautino and required the same instrument in his opera orchestra. In modern performance, the flautino was initially thought to be the piccolo. It is now generally accepted, however, that the instrument intended was some variant of the sopranino recorder.

The decline of the recorder

The instrument went into decline after the 18th century, being used for about the last time as an otherworldly sound by Gluck in his opera Orfeo ed Euridice. Many reasons have been put forward for this decline. For example the main instrumental innovators of the time (such as the Hotteterre family) chose to concentrate their technological improvements on the flute, rather than the recorder. Also, the fixed relationship of the windway to the labium limits the range of dynamics and expression of the recorder, when compared with the transverse flute. Other possible reasons include an apparent lack of sufficient professional players; a lack of appreciation of the true nature of the recorder by composers; the high pitch of the instrument; the problems (for makers and players) of utilising the full chromatic range; and a perceived "bad reputation" of the instrument based on all these factors.

By the Romantic era, the recorder had been almost entirely superseded by the flute and clarinet. One variant of the recorder survived into the 19th Century concert halls, however: the keyed recorder known as the csakan or flute douce.

The art of recorder making never completely died, though. Berchtesgaden Fleitl continue to be made to this day by Bernhard Oeggle, whose great-grandfather Georg learnt his craft from Paul Walch (ca 1862-1873), the last of three generations of the Walch family of recorder makers. Similarly, the careers of the Schlosser family of woodwind makers from the towns of Oberzwota and Zwota can be traced over five generations. Their founder was Johan Gabriel Sr who was active in the early 19th century; Rüdinger, who seems to have been the last maker, died in 2005. Henirich Oskar (1875-1947) made instruments sold by the firm of Moeck in Celle and helped to design their Tuju series of recorders.

Modern revival

The recorder was revived around the turn of the 20th century by early music enthusiasts, but used almost exclusively for this purpose. It was considered a mainly historical instrument. Even in the early 20th century it was uncommon enough that Stravinsky thought it to be a kind of clarinet, which is not surprising since the early clarinet was, in a sense, derived from the recorder, at least in its outward appearance.

The eventual success of the recorder in the modern era is often attributed to Arnold Dolmetsch in the UK and various German scholar/performers. Whilst he was responsible for broadening interest beyond that of the early music specialist in the UK, Dolmetsch was far from being solely responsible for the recorder's revival. On the Continent his efforts were preceded by those of musicians at the Brussels Conservatoire (where Dolmetsch received his training), and by the performances of the Bogenhauser Künstlerkapelle (Bogenhausen Artists' Band) based in Germany. Over the period from 1890-1939 the Bogenhausers played music of all ages, including arrangements of classical and romantic music. Also in Germany, the work of Willibald Gurlitt, Werner Danckerts and Gustav Scheck proceeded quite independently of the Dolmetsches.. Thus the revival, far from being the work of one man, was the result of several strands coming and working together.

Among the influential virtuosos who figure in the revival of the recorder as a serious concert instrument in the latter part of the twentieth century are Frans Brüggen, Roger Cotte, Hans-Martin Linde, Bernard Kranis, and David Munrow. Brüggen recorded most of the landmarks of the historical repertoire and commissioned a substantial number of new works for the recorder. Munrow's 1975 double album The Art of the Recorder remains as an important anthology of recorder music through the ages.

Carl Dolmetsch, the son of Arnold Dolmetsch, became one of the first virtuoso recorder players in the 1920s; but more importantly he began to commission recorder works from leading composers of his day, especially for performance at the Haslemere festival which his father ran. Initially as a result of this, and later as a result of the development of a Dutch school of recorder playing led by Kees Otten, the recorder was introduced to serious musicians as a virtuoso solo instrument both in Britain and in northern Europe, and consequently modern composers of great stature have written for the recorder, including Paul Hindemith, Luciano Berio, John Tavener, Michael Tippett, Benjamin Britten, Leonard Bernstein, Gordon Jacob, and Edmund Rubbra.

It is also occasionally used in popular music, including that of groups such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix.

Some modern music calls for the recorder to produce unusual noises, rhythms and effects, by such techniques as fluttertonguing and overblowing to produce multiphonics. David Murphy's 2002 composition Bavardage is an example, as is Hans Martin Linde's Music for a Bird.

Among late 20th-century recorder ensembles, the trio Sour Cream (led by Frans Brüggen), the Flanders Recorder Quartet and the Amsterdam Loeki Stardust Quartet have programmed remarkable mixtures of historical and contemporary repertoire. There are many more these days, amongst them ......

Use in schools

A plastic recorder

In the mid 20th century, manufacturers were able to make recorders out of bakelite and (more successfully) plastics which made them cheap and quick to produce. Because of this, recorders became very popular in schools, as they are one of the cheapest instruments to buy in bulk. They are also relatively easy to play at a basic level as they are pre-tuned. It is, however, incorrect to assume that mastery is similarly easy — like other instruments, the recorder requires significant study to play at an advanced level.

The success of the recorder in schools is partly responsible for its poor reputation as a "child's instrument". Although the recorder is ready-tuned, it is very easy to warp the pitch by over or under blowing, which often results in an unpleasant sound from beginners.

Although it is usually associated with younger school children, some middle and high schools use them during music courses such as music theory.


The evolution of the Renaissance recorder into the Baroque instrument is generally attributed to the Hotteterre family, in France. They developed the ideas of a more tapered bore, bringing the finger-holes of the lowermost hand closer together, allowing greater range, and enabling the construction of instruments in several jointed sections. The last innovation allowed more accurate shaping of each section and also offered the player minor tuning adjustments, by slightly pulling out one of the sections to lengthen the instrument.

The French innovations were taken to London by Pierre Bressan, a set of whose instruments survive in the Grosvenor Museum, Chester, as do other examples in various American, European and Japanese museums and private collections. Bressan's contemporary, Thomas Stanesby, was born in Derbyshire but became an instrument maker in London. He and his son (Thomas Stanesby junior) were the other important British-based recorder-makers of the early eighteenth century.

In continental Europe, the Denner family of Nuremberg were the most celebrated makers of this period.

Many modern recorders are based on the dimensions and construction of surviving instruments produced by Bressan, the Stanesbys or the Denner family. Well-known larger contemporary makers of recorders include Angel (South Korea), Aulos (Japan), Moeck (Germany), Dolmetsch (England), Mollenhauer (Germany), Fehr, Huber, Küng (Switzerland) and Yamaha (Japan). Smaller workshops include names such as Takeyama, Von Huene, Rohmer, Adrian Brown, Prescott, Marvin, Cranmore, Amman, Beaudin, Blezinger, Boudreau, Netsch, Coomber, Grinter, Ehlert, .

Recorder ensembles

(From top to bottom) Bass, tenor, alto, soprano and sopranino recorders

The recorder is a very social instrument. Many amateurs enjoy playing in large groups or in one-to-a-part chamber groups, and there is a wide variety of music for such groupings including many modern works. Groups of different sized instruments help to compensate for the limited note range of the individual instruments. Four part arrangements with a soprano, alto, tenor and bass part played on the corresponding recorders are common, although more complex arrangements with multiple parts for each instrument and parts for lower and higher instruments may also be regularly encountered.

One of the more interesting developments in recorder playing over the last 30 years has been the development of recorder orchestras. They can have 60 or more players and use up to nine sizes of instrument. In addition to arrangements, many new pieces of music, including symphonies, have been written for these ensembles. There are recorder orchestras in Germany, Holland, Japan, the United States, Canada, the UK and several other countries.

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