Uncle Sam playing recorder

Courtly Music Unlimited

Everything for the recorder enthusiast, or those who would like to be!

Richie & Elaine Henzler, Proprietors
800-2-Richie (800-274-2443)

89 River Street, 3rd Floor Unit 3 (River Street Plaza),
Warrensburg, NY 12885-1665



Do you have special advice for single reed players?
Remember not to put the recorder under your front teeth as you are normally used to doing. The recorder mouthpiece should be in front of your teeth. Your lips should be in a relaxed position around the mouth piece, allowing for no air leakage.
How do I practice a difficult passage?
First figure out where the problem is; narrow the problem passage down to three or four measures at the most. Then play the passage using various rhythmic and slurring patterns:

Practice Pattern

Play each change about 10 times. Repeat these steps using a metronome. After going through the entire process at a slow tempo set the metronome marking faster and do the process again as many times as you like. Take a break, play something else. Then come back to this piece and play the passage in context (i.e. the entire movement). Your dexterity with the passage should be much improved.
How do I produce a nice sound?
In the beginning many players breath and tongue together. However, breathing and tonguing are two very separate functions.
Breathing should be done using the diaphragm (like all other woodwinds). The throat should be open and relaxed, not involved in either pushing the air or producing the tone. To know if you are breathing from the diaphragm hold you palm in front of your mouth. Shaping your mouth as if saying "ha" breath out, the air you feel on your palm should be warm & moist. Now pucker your lips as if to whistle, breath out. This time the air on your palm will feel cool and dry. This cool air is from the upper part of the lungs. The air you use when playing should be the warm air pushed out with the diaphragm. This will produce a warm, open sound; low notes will sound easily with a nice rich tone. You can push this air continuously through a musical phrase, whether tonguing or slurring, to produce a beautiful singing sound.
Basic tonguing is done with the tip of the tongue hitting the upper palate just above the upper front teeth. Say the "t" sound like in the word "light". By using various types of attacks (soft, hard, short, long or none at all) tonguing is one of the most important tools in shaping a musical phrase. Some players find it helpful to use different syllables to learn the different variations in tonguing.
The problems that arise when the throat is used in breathing and tonguing are:
  1. A tight, pinched sound
  2. If pushing occurs with the vocal chords one hears humming or grunting sounds instead of a nice pure tone.
  3. Sometimes players use the back of the tongue in articulating. This is a very inefficient tonguing and definitely interferes with breathing. It is almost impossible to play with a continuos breath if tonguing this way. (One does use the back of the tongue when double-tonguing but that is another topic.) If you think you may be doing this, look in a mirror and you will see movement along the entire length of the throat when tonguing. There will be no movement in the throat if you are using a light quick movement with the tip of the tongue.
  4. Low notes will be difficult to sound.
How do I oil my wood recorder?
Put oil (we suggest bore oil or Moeck oil) on a piece of cotton cloth and attach it to a plastic rod (used to clean recorders). Feed a corner of the cloth through the "eye" of the rod.
Take the recorder apart and swab the middle joint as though you were swabbing out moisture, rub the cloth against the sides of the bore. Do the same with the head joint being careful not to knock up against the block too much. Use the "window" of the head joint as your guide as to where the swab is. If the rod with the cloth does not fit through the foot joint just pull the cloth through without the rod.
Next, lightly wipe the outer surface of the recorder with the oiled cloth and stand the joints up on a table (where they won't be knock over) for a few hours or overnight. Then wipe any excess oil off and you're done!
For a new recorder do this once a week for the first month or two. Then do it every couple of months on a day when you don't intend to play.
Why does my recorder sound "stuffy" when I play?
One reason is because too much moisture is in the windway. It is very important to draw moisture out of the windway frequently, almost as often as breathing. So you do not want to wait until you have finished playing a piece to do this. When there is a rest or break in the music draw in like you would on a straw. You want to catch the moisture before it travels too far down the windway. The far end of the windway is much narrower than the top of the head where you put your lips. If however, drawing out isn’t working take the head joint off the middle joint. Cover the bottom of the head joint with your palm, turn the head joint upside down, put your mouth against the window and blow hard out through the windway. This should clear the moisture out of the windway and not damage the instrument. What can damage the head joint is if you put your finger onto the labium (or ramp) to block the south end of the windway and blow hard from the north end (where you normally put your lips). By doing this you are forcing the moisture down into the narrowest point and your finger is putting pressure on the labium which may permanently warp it.
Another way to help with moisture problems is to use an anticondensation solution such as Duponol. Hold the head joint upside down while holding your thumb over the lip of the recorder and put several drops of the solution into the windway from the window. Shake the head joint around so the solution coats the surface, remove your finger letting any left over solution run out and let the head joint dry. This will allow moisture to flow through the windway better and not bead up.