Back in the days when I taught elementary general music, I introduced recorder in fourth grade.
In my former district, students can join band and orchestra starting in fifth grade. Although we used classroom instruments starting in kindergarten, in fourth grade I asked parents to purchase a soprano recorder for their child, and to watch what happened. If they noticed that he pulled out the recorder every day and practiced more than the required 10 minutes; if they heard her play familiar tunes “by ear” or make up her own pieces; if, over time, they discovered the child sounding better and better, then their young musician was an excellent candidate for band or orchestra.
Not that learning how to play the recorder isn’t worthwhile for its own sake:
- Even a plastic instrument sounds good (and they’re inexpensive). I recommend the Yamaha YRS-23Y soprano.
- They’re light and portable.
- You can totally rock out on recorder.
- And you can kill it at the Renaissance Festival.
The first mention of a recorder in the written word dates back to 1388. Essentially a seven-hole end-blown flute, they were ubiquitous in the music scene from the middle ages through the baroque era. As transverse flutes evolved and were refined, the humble recorder receded into the status of a mere folk instrument until the twentieth century, when there was a surge of interest in early music played on authentic instruments.
Recorders come in a variety of sizes. The larger they are, the deeper their range.
Consorts made of solely of different voiced recorders make incredibly awesome music.
If you’ve always wanted to play an instrument but were afraid, you have nothing to lose with a recorder. They’re inexpensive (see bullet point #1). And they are relatively easy to play.
Some excellent resources for teaching children to play recorder:
- Recorder Karate. I used this with my fifth graders. The students learned nine songs. I rewarded students with a different colored “belt” for each song they mastered. The belts hung from their recorders, and they worked very hard to collect all nine.
- Big Mouth Blues. I used this with my sixth graders. The songs are cool, but the best thing about this little collection is the echo patterns on the CD. Kids learn how to take little patterns from the songs and recombine them into improvisations. Before long, they come up with their own riffs.
My favorite book for adults learning to play the recorder:
- The Sweet Pipes Recorder Book. Available for soprano or alto. Instruction, exercises, and authentic recorder compositions from history.
Did you learn how to play recorder in elementary school? (I didn’t; I went to a parochial school, and we didn’t really have music in my day.) What was the experience like for you? Do you play recorder today? Would you like to learn? Share in the comments below.