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Good place to start with recorder?


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#1 Misterioso

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Posted 22 July 2020 - 13:50

My friend has just loaned me a descant and a treble, because I expressed a vague interest. As a violinist / flautist, recorder is something I've never played before, although had the occasional fleeting thought of trying. But my friend and I like playing flute duets together, and we thought it might also be nice to play recorder duets together.

 

So - a good place to start? Descant or treble? Is the fingering the same? What book/s would you recommend for a novice? Does the fingering bear any resemblance to flute?

 

Grateful for any nuggets of wisdom!


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#2 andante_in_c

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Posted 22 July 2020 - 14:43

The descant is in C, so the fingerings are similar to the flute, but generally a little more complicated because of the absence of keys. The treble is in F, so you have to learn a different set of dots-to-fingers, but most people manage this fairly quickly. For example, G on the descant is fingered exactly the same as G on the flute. However, if you put your fingers in the same position on the treble, the note you will produce is a C.

 

Slightly confusingly, the music for the descant is written an octave lower than it sounds, whereas treble music is written at sounding pitch. This means treble music looks higher than descant.

 

In general, the treble is the more useful instrument for solos and duets, as it's the main instrument baroque composers wrote for. However, there is a lot of descant music too!

 

Hope this shines a bit of light and doesn't confuse too much. :unsure:


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#3 andante_in_c

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Posted 22 July 2020 - 14:48

I meant to say, if you go to dolmetsch.com/method.htm, you'll find some lessons to give you the basics. 


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#4 elemimele

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Posted 22 July 2020 - 15:41

If you're used to flute duets I'd go for treble duets because it's going to sound more squeaky on a descant.

 

Here's a confusing one, though, but worth knowing since you're already a violin/flute player: once you're happy reading treble dots-to-fingers using a treble clef, if you can get the hang of reading it off a bass clef, you have the option (twists brain) of pretending that music written on a treble clef is actually written on a bass clef (at the octave; this also requires that you add three flats), while using your treble recorder fingerings. This sounds like complete weirdness, but it transposes a minor third, which means that music originally written on a compass that descends to D now descends only to F. Effectively, this moves music that exploits the compass of the baroque flute so that it exactly matches the compass of the treble recorder. It also moves a lot of baroque violin music into a more manageable place. And because both are more often in sharps than flats, adding three flats isn't a hardship either. This is what recorder players do for Telemann's fantasies. It was probably popular in the 18th C, where by doing it on a voice-flute (recorder with lowest note D, somewhere between tenor and treble) you end up back at the correct pitch.

 

I haven't a clue about modern flute, but baroque flute has a lot of similarities to descant recorder (3-fingers = g as andante_in_c mentioned), but the flute of the time was sawn-off at D with a key doing the job of half-holing to get D#.

 

I think there are a lot of Boismortier duets that work pretty well on recorders??

 

Yes, the Dolmetsch online course is a really good way to get up to speed on the fingerings.


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#5 Zixi

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Posted 22 July 2020 - 16:27

Could one do treble and the other descant? They sound absolutely wonderful together... :) 


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#6 Misterioso

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Posted 22 July 2020 - 17:36

The descant is in C, so the fingerings are similar to the flute, but generally a little more complicated because of the absence of keys. The treble is in F, so you have to learn a different set of dots-to-fingers, but most people manage this fairly quickly. For example, G on the descant is fingered exactly the same as G on the flute. However, if you put your fingers in the same position on the treble, the note you will produce is a C.

 

Thank, andante_in_c. I didn't even have a clue about the keys the recorders were in. So does this mean I need to buy different music for the treble? My friend has loaned me a simple book, but not sure if I could use it for either - it says inside the front cover that it's written for descant. Thanks for the dolmetsch suggestion.

 

If you're used to flute duets I'd go for treble duets because it's going to sound more squeaky on a descant.

 

Here's a confusing one, though, but worth knowing since you're already a violin/flute player: once you're happy reading treble dots-to-fingers using a treble clef, if you can get the hang of reading it off a bass clef, you have the option (twists brain) of pretending that music written on a treble clef is actually written on a bass clef (at the octave; this also requires that you add three flats), while using your treble recorder fingerings. This sounds like complete weirdness, but it transposes a minor third, which means that music originally written on a compass that descends to D now descends only to F. Effectively, this moves music that exploits the compass of the baroque flute so that it exactly matches the compass of the treble recorder. It also moves a lot of baroque violin music into a more manageable place. And because both are more often in sharps than flats, adding three flats isn't a hardship either. This is what recorder players do for Telemann's fantasies. It was probably popular in the 18th C, where by doing it on a voice-flute (recorder with lowest note D, somewhere between tenor and treble) you end up back at the correct pitch.

 

 

Yes, I would prefer to go for treble, although it might be worth familiarising myself with both. Useful to know the trick of transposing that way - although I think my brain might crash.

 

Could one do treble and the other descant? They sound absolutely wonderful together... :)

That's a great suggestion. I just need to learn how to play the thing first, though.... :unsure:


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#7 andante_in_c

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Posted 22 July 2020 - 18:08

Thank, andante_in_c. I didn't even have a clue about the keys the recorders were in. So does this mean I need to buy different music for the treble? My friend has loaned me a simple book, but not sure if I could use it for either - it says inside the front cover that it's written for descant. Thanks for the dolmetsch suggestion.

 

The lowest note of the treble is the F above middle C, so that restricts the music you can use, as anything with low Es, Ds or Cs won't fit.


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#8 elemimele

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Posted 23 July 2020 - 09:12

You can, of course, play any instrument just pretending it's another, so if you prefer the sound of the treble but you want to play Van Eyck (which is written for descant), you can do it, it'll just be sounding a lot lower than it would have when Van Eyck entertained the Dutch citizens of an evening.

 

Gudrun Heyens has written some nice tutor books for recorder which include both descant and treble bits, and some duets playing the two together. They may not be great value for money because I don't know off-hand what mix you'll get or how many duets. I think the Germans tend to learn descant first, then treble next, and her books are influenced by that didactic route. On the positive side, it means she expects to have groups of students covering both instruments; on the negative side, it means that all German treble recorder tutors sound like they're for advanced students, because they all say they expect 4 years of previous study, but what they mean is expect-person-to-have-been-playing-descant-before. The Heyens books are attractive, with rewarding and surprisingly taxing tunes in a wide range of styles. They're very much designed for use with a teacher, but since you are a teacher...

 

Otherwise there's a tremendous amount of period recorder music available on IMSLP at no cost...  


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#9 Misterioso

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Posted 23 July 2020 - 10:44

You can, of course, play any instrument just pretending it's another, so if you prefer the sound of the treble but you want to play Van Eyck (which is written for descant), you can do it, it'll just be sounding a lot lower than it would have when Van Eyck entertained the Dutch citizens of an evening.

 

So - just to clarify - are you saying that one can just play descant music on a treble, but (obviously) it would be in a different key?


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#10 elemimele

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Posted 23 July 2020 - 15:48

Yes, the pattern of fingering is identical for all common sizes of recorder. Although recorder players don't treat recorders as transposing instruments, effectively they are.


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#11 Misterioso

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Posted 24 July 2020 - 08:16

Yes, the pattern of fingering is identical for all common sizes of recorder. Although recorder players don't treat recorders as transposing instruments, effectively they are.

Thank you, elemimele - it's really useful to have these tips. I have ordered a couple of books and am waiting for them to arrive. :)


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#12 Wai Kit Leung

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Posted 27 July 2020 - 15:19

The vast majority of the original baroque recorder music was written for the treble recorder, so I always recommend adult beginners to start on the treble.
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#13 Misterioso

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Posted 29 July 2020 - 09:41

Thank you, Wai Kit Leung, I didn't know that. :)

My (treble) recorder books have arrived, so first quick blow yesterday. The finger spacing seems to be larger than flute and is causing a small problem, although I hope to get used to it in time. The fingering also bears no resemblance to flute, so I will probably catch myself trying to do flute fingering on treble at first (just as I used to find myself doing violin fingering on flute; the brain catches up eventually!) I haven't written off the idea of descant - but it appeals less as it has always seemed a bit "squawky". Oddly, though, I have a secret yen for a sopranino, and I gather the fingering is the same as the treble.


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#14 Maizie

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Posted 29 July 2020 - 10:23

Yes, sopranino is same fingering as for treble.

The "conventional" recorder sizes:

* Garklein, descant, tenor, great bass, sub-great bass -> all fingers down gives you a C

* Sopranino, treble, bass, contra bass, sub-contra bass -> all fingers down gives you an F

 

Picture nicked from Wikipedia of sounding ranges:

Ranges.PNG?raw=1

 

Usually:

* Garklein, descant, tenor - written as the tenor sounding range

* Great bass, sub-great bass - written as the sub-great bass sounding range

* Sopranino, treble - written as the treble sounding range

* Bass, contra bass, sub-contra bass - written as the contra bass soudning range

 

 

It can get ever more confusing when you get in to fourth flutes and sixth flutes and other strange things - the basic fingerings will be the same, it's just that all fingers down will give you a D or a B or a something else entirely.  I don't have anything to do with any of these becauseI know my brain would melt :P


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#15 elemimele

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Posted 29 July 2020 - 10:39

anacrusis is the expert on strange ones that go down to D, if she's around. Those really deep ones come with a flashy light on top so helicopters keep clear. Yes, it's weird about fingering and how the brain catches up. When I first started treble, I only knew the descant fingerings from school, and found that Dolmetsch online course a godsend because it introduces the notes in an orderly fashion one at once, so there was catch-up time. Even so, after a while (having been a keyboard player before) I kept expecting that several fingers ought to make a chord...

The other time when fingering confused me completely was when I started using MuseScore, and my brain flipped at the idea of typing music on a computer keyboard rather than a piano-style keyboard.

It's also completely weird that moving something to a different stave makes it so hard to read, for recorder (and probably flute/violin??), whereas it doesn't on a piano keyboard. I was totally shocked to find that I couldn't play bass-clef at first, and I couldn't play the wrong octave (I still can't). I mean, I'd been playing bass clef for ages on keyboard.

I'd love to get a recorder in D for the add-three-flats thingy as it would then fit sooo much baroque music without needing to learn anything new at all, but they are phenoooooomenally expensive.


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