How to Play the Recorder

By Contributor ; Updated September 15, 2017
Play the Recorder

How to Play the Recorder. The recorder is one of the easier musical instruments to play. It just takes a little patience and practice. Being a quiet flute-like instrument, the recorder is unlikely to bug the neighbors. The recorder is also ideal for kids, perhaps as a first instrument before they try a more challenging one. Read on to learn how to play the recorder.

Get the Recorder Ready

Purchase a recorder. You can start with an inexpensive plastic one which is often used in schools then upgrade to a wooden one if you stay interested in playing.

Assemble the recorder. They tend to come in two or three pieces: the top part which has the mouthpiece, the middle part with finger holes and the bottom part which has a bell shape. Sometimes the middle and bottom part are permanently attached. Gently twist them together.

Check to be sure the parts of the recorder all face the right way. The round, longer end of the top part, the six finger holes of the middle part and the one finger hole of the bottom part should all be on the same side. This is the front of the recorder. The side with one hole is the back.

Practice Blowing

Pick up the recorder and hold it properly. The back side with one hole should face you. The front side should face away from you.

Put the mouthpiece between your lips. The mouthpiece is the thin semi-circular shaped area with a slot in the top. Place it between your lips but don't bite down.

Blow gently into the mouthpiece. Don't worry about the finger holes right now, just try making a musical sound.

Practice something called tonging. This involves saying the word "to" before you start a note. This allows you to start each note crisply and stop the previous one. Basically you should blow while saying "to to to to to" until you run out of air. If you're doing it right you should get many short, clean notes from the recorder.

Hold the Recorder Correctly

Hold the recorder with both hands. Your left hand should be higher up on the recorder. Your right hand should be lower.

Put your left thumb on the hole in the back of the recorder.

Put the first three fingers of your left hand on the top three holes in the front of the recorder. The little finger isn't used.

Use your right thumb to support the back of the recorder. It doesn't cover a hole.

Put the bottom four fingers of your right hand on the bottom four holes in the front of the recorder.

Play the First Song

Lift all of your fingers off the holes except for the left thumb and left index finger. The back hole and top hole will stay covered. Blow into the recorder. This is a B.

Keep your left thumb and index finger down. Cover the second hole from the top with your second finger. Blow into the recorder. This is an A.

Cover the third hole from the top with your third finger, keeping your thumb and index finger down. Blow into the recorder. This is a G.

Practice moving between these three notes until you can do it smoothly.

Play Mary Had a Little Lamb using this sequence: "BAGABBBAAABBB, BAGABBBBAABAG."

Tip

If you're trying to play the recorder and no sound is coming out, you're probably blowing too hard or perhaps blocking the air with your tongue. It doesn't take a lot of air to get a note. This will probably feel a little awkward. All musical instruments do when you start. It will feel natural with practice. It's easy to get songs to play on the recorder on the Internet. Often you don't need to know how to read music. There are charts available on the Internet to tell you exactly how to finger all the notes that are available. A simple instrument such as the recorder is ideal for just noodling around. Experiment with fingerings to get different notes. Try to play songs you like by ear. Improvise your own songs. Play along with recordings.

Warning

Be gentle when putting the recorder together. The wooden ones are fragile. Twist the parts together and don't force anything.