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What is a Recorder?

Updated on October 1, 2018


This is the recorder my daughter use since she was in grade 4, i think I bought it for 8 dollars.
This is the recorder my daughter use since she was in grade 4, i think I bought it for 8 dollars.

Most people have played a recorder or one of its relatives such as the tin-or penny-whistle. It is a reasonably easy instrument to play and most recorder tutor books introduce easy tunes, consisting of only three or four notes.

As with all families of instruments, the smaller the size, the higher the pitch.


There are five instruments in the recorder family. The bigger ones have lower pitch and the smaller ones have higher pitch. The different recorders are sopranino, descant, treble, tenor and bass.

The descant is the most familiar, because of its size, about twelve inches long; it is easily played by small hands and it is the one which children learn on in school. Descant recorders the most popular type are made of plastic or wood and usually have two or three sections which fit together. They are about 1 ft long.

The bass recorder is the largest recorder with the lowest pitch. it is so big, it has an extra metal tube to blow into so that the player can reach the finger holes.

The range of each recorder in the family spans over two octaves. Some are made of plastic which tends to give their sound a hard edge. Those made of wood generally produce a sound which is much more mellow.

The recorder was one of the most popular instruments in Europe from the 14th to 18th centuries and the model we know today evolved from when Henry VIII was on the throne. It was his favourite instrument and when he died, he left a collection of 76 recorders.

By 1750 compositions for the recorder became scarce until the beginning of the 20th century.

Today, high quality recorders are made from a range of wood such as maple, pear or rosewood. Plastics recorders are produced in large quantities, and these are the types that are usually used in children's ensembles, plastic are cheaper and easy to maintain.

The simplicity of the recorder makes it a good instrument for beginners.
The simplicity of the recorder makes it a good instrument for beginners.

How the Recorder Works

The recorder is a member of the woodwind family of instruments- so called because at one time they were all made of wood and were blown to produce their sounds. Today the woodwind sections includes instruments such as the flute, which are metal.

  • When the instrument is blown, the sound is created by the air striking the recorder lip as it emerges from the small air channel.
  • The remaining column of air vibrates as it passes down the tube. All woodwind instruments have holes down one side of the tube and usually one on the opposite sides for the thumb.
  • The instrument produces specific notes if one or more of the holes are blocked, when it is blown. The more holes that are covered, the deeper the note.

You can learn to play the recorder with a teacher. There are also books to help you learn to play the recorder on your own. The book will tell the musician which notes and how to play the notes.

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Fact File

  • The earliest recorder ever found was made around 25,000BC.
  • It was made from a hollow animal bone with holes cut into the sides.

Parts of a Recorder

The recorder has three parts. The head has a mouthpiece you blow into. The middle has six finger-holes and a thumb hole. The foot has a hole for the little finger.
The recorder has three parts. The head has a mouthpiece you blow into. The middle has six finger-holes and a thumb hole. The foot has a hole for the little finger.


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      it is very helpful pieces

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      this is good to know about the recorder

    • profile image

      DD Barron 

      8 years ago

      i started to play the recorder when i was in grade 4 when my teacher taught me how then now i think i'm actually good at it.(not boasting)

    • MaestroECMcCloud profile image


      8 years ago from Lexington, South Carolina

      For those of you interested, check out my article on the history of the recorder on here. I also have some stuff on there I posted of me playing.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      this is awesome im in school and i have t learn about this wish me luck!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      i started with a native americ flute then decided to play the low D ,then decided to play penny whistles, then decided to play a trebble recorder then 6 other keys,then decided to play a concert flute, then the biggie now i play the clarinet, all that in 2 year and i play them all to a very good standard so im told ( and self tought) hehe my piont is this there is only you that stops yourself for doing and being.

    • stars439 profile image


      10 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      very informative information. god bless you

    • MM Del Rosario profile imageAUTHOR

      MM Del Rosario 

      11 years ago from NSW, Australia

      Hi Woody,

      My daughter also started with the recorder and ended up with the flute. thanks for dropping by....

    • Woody Marx profile image

      Woody Marx 

      11 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Very interesting piece. I tried to learn the recorder but found the holes difficult to find with my fingers...they don't have any 'indicators' to tell you where they are by just I learned the flute instead which I enjoy very much. :)


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