Recorder: instrument of music or instrument of torture?

Is the recorder a children's instrument like everyone thinks?

Recorder: instrument of music or instrument of torture?

Many people think that the recorder is not a musical instrument. I can kind of see where they're coming from, as not many people are exposed to recorder being played well. That said however, I am a recorder player who plays at diploma standard, and am naturally biased towards the instrument, so I will be debunking some the things people have against it.

"There's nothing to learn from it"

A lot of people think the recorder is just a tool for squeaking and there's no reason for it to exist. The recorder actually comes in multiple different sizes, some even lower than a cello. As for nothing to learn from it, I know for a fact that you can go very far on the instrument, even to postgrad standard, which brings us onto

"It's a childish instrument"

There's a quote from the professional recorder player Sarah Jeffery, and honestly, I couldn't have put it better myself:

"[...] and this thing of being a children's instrument, well, I want you to think back to all the things that you learnt when you were 6 years old. Reading, writing, maths... just because you start learning something when you're a child, doesn't mean it's childish." [source: "10 REASONS THE RECORDER IS AMAZING!"]

There are also a lot of professionals on the recorder: 

  • Jan Van Eyck
  • Piers Adams
  • Joachim Quanz
  • Lucie Horsch
  • Sarah Jeffery (who I mentioned above)
  • Hester Groenleer 
  • María Martínez

and so many more.

"It doesn't have any repertoire"

A lot of concertos have been written for the recorder, including the famous Vivaldi Concerto in C and the famous Brandenburg Concerto Grosso in G, along with various sonatas and contemporary music

"You can't play romantic music"

As romantic is my favourite era of music, this has frankly been an everlasting problem for me, as no romantic composers ever wrote for recorder and the use of flute range in romantic music has made it difficult to adapt. However, there are multiple different arrangements of great romantic pieces, Extraordinary Encores a very good source. I am also planning to arrange some romantic music for recorder once I have the time.

But the question still remains, why is the recorder used as a primary school instrument?

Well the person to blame for all this is Carl Orff, the composer of Oh, Fortuna. He decided that it should be used as a school instrument because it matches the range of a child's voice, as well as having an easy finger pattern (for the first octave at least). [source: "Why do we learn to play the recorder at school?"]

So in conclusion, I hope this has educated some of you. A lot of people don't know that the recorder is in fact a musical instrument that can be played at a high standard. But it can. And many people live from it.

Header Image Credit: Recorder Family

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  • Carol Leach

    On 19 July 2019, 07:53 Carol Leach commented:

    excellent article Amelia, I think you address a lot of issues here, and redress most of them

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