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Recorder Thread!


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#3796 old_and_grumpy

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Posted 27 December 2019 - 11:50

I have tried the 2nd hand route for "trying out" purposes on the basis that if I don't decide it's an instrument I want to keep I can sell it again and not lose too much money.  However, it's been of rather limited success.  I did sell one but the combined commission and charges was almost 40% of the proceeds (still a much smaller loss than on a new instrument); another has some issues I think I am going to have to get sorted out, probably quite expensively.  It's also not necessarily easy to find what you actually want.

 

> What I like about plastic is I don't have to feel guilty about a tree that sacrificed *its* life

 

Oddly, I feel the opposite: my wooden recorders will simply rot away in the end, whereas the plastic ones will be around a lot longer than I will be!  I've got a couple of plastic ones I don't use, I will either sell them or give them to a charity shop in the new year, so at least someone might use them.


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#3797 old_and_grumpy

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Posted 27 December 2019 - 13:45

Just booked on to Jacqueline Sorel's recorder repair day at Cambridge Woodwind Makers on Feb 29th :)

 

Take notes!


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#3798 Flossie

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Posted 31 December 2019 - 21:48

I remember a long time ago (late 70s?) a music teacher played the recorder, and her nice wooden sop cost £15 which was a reassuring price, but not a huge amount (a plastic oboe was about £300 at the time and a vinyl record £4). But it may have been a little earlier than that.

I mentioned it the other day and was told, to my doubt, that a good recorder can cost £1,000 now. I remember that teacher showing me how you use your thumbnail on the thumb hole and it cuts into it, and the recorder needs replacing every now and then. I suppose a £1,000 recorder (if that's a genuine price) has a bone lining to the thumb hole?

No idea. What's the sensible price to pay nowadays and what do you get for your money?

 

 

A fifteen quid wooden recorder is not worth it these days.  Get a good plastic (Aulos, Yamaha) over cheap wood (if you want wood, go for a Moeck or a Mollenhauer or a Kung or another solid brand - don't by Anonymous).

Yes, you can pay £1000 and plenty more - you can have factory made, factory made and hand finished or hand made, and each level sees the price go up.  Price is also dependent on the type of wood used, size of instrument, decoration, keywork, etc.  Bushed thumbholes are relatively uncommon (but can be added afterwards, if you wear down your thumbholes).

The (unbushed) thumbholes on my recorders aren't particularly worn - I'm guessing it's going to be a factor of what your nails are like (soft/hard), how long/short you have the nail, what wood your instrument is made of, and how many high notes you play!

 

I know I'm backtracking in the thread rather here, which we aren't really supposed to do, but I did the long trek down to the EMS in Saltaire yesterday...

 

My pearwood mollenhauer denner hasn't been entirely meeting my needs for a while.  There are a couple of dodgy notes which are the recorder and not me (no problems with the notes on other recorders).  Those notes could probably be solved with revoicing and probably a bit of further adjustment, but would not solve the bigger problem of the instrument simply not having the projection I need when playing with other instruments in band (typically keys, guitar, bass, vocals and flute/violin, sometimes also electric guitar or accordion).  I've been pondering what direction to go in with solving the problem for a while - another baroque style recorder in harder wood, or get the denner sorted and add either a dream recorder which has larger bore and therefore supposedly better projection or a modern alto which might be more suited to the demands I make of the instrument but is rather pricier - and decided that the best thing was to go and try things out despite the distance involved.  With descants I went down the multiple instruments route a while ago; plastic practice instrument, boxwood mollenhauer denner for baroque, grenadilla moeck rottenburgh for 20th century repertoire and a plastic headed mollenhauer dream (which combines the tone of pearwood with the additional projection that a plastic head can offer) for band.  I'd kind of been thinking that I would probably need to go down a similar route with altos (but hopefully just spreading the workload across two recorders, not three).  

 

I spent about two and a half hours trying out different recorders, and it was a really interesting process.  The results were not what I expected.  I don't think the Dream alto would be worthwhile unless I was doing a lot of Renaissance music.  Some people (none of whom have actually tried the Dream alto themselves) had suggested to me that the Dream would be perfect for me due to its projection.  Actually, it did not have the projection I expected (several of the baroque recorders I tried had better projection), the holes for the bottom F weren't in quite the right place for me (could have adjusted hand position with practice if I'd really liked the recorder) and I felt the second octave was a bit lacking in response.  The modern alto had great tone and projection but, surprisingly given the similarity to a flute footjoint, I disliked the keys.  Again, I could have adapted if I really wanted to.  

 

I can't remember what all the baroque recorders I tried were as there were around 18 of them.  The Kingwood Yamaha was really nice apart from the top (ledger line) F which was very difficult to get and that one note let the whole instrument down for me because I use the top F quite a bit (more than the lowest F).  There was an olivewood Kung which had a really nice tone, but I just did not like the feel of the instrument or its beak.  It seems that I don't like Bresson models (which the Kung was) as I don't like my plastic Zen-On (much prefer my Yamaha) and all the recorders which were Bresson-based models ended up on the reject side quite quickly.  There were a couple of duplicates in the instruments I tried - 2x boxwood Blessinger and 2x grenadilla Moeck Rottenburgh.  I didn't spend a huge amount of time on the duplicate Blessingers, as they weren't giving me what I wanted (lovely recorders, and will be brilliant recorders for whoever ends up owning them, just not right for me as didn't like the beak or feel), but the two Rottenburghs in the same wood played differently.  One was more responsive and more flexible that the other.  I am unsure whether that just meant it had been played a few more times, but it does show that you cannot assume all examples of the same make/model/wood of factory made recorder will play the same.

 

What really, really surprised me was the difference between the factory made wooden instruments and the handfinished or handmade ones.  I hadn't really expected to be able to tell much difference between them and thought that, if I went down the route of a new baroque recorder, I would go for a Mollenhauer denner/Moeck Rottenburgh/Kung Superio/Marsyas in a harder wood such as palisander (I adore my denner sopranino in palisander) and probably also get a Mollenhauer Dream for when a baroque instrument wasn't right.  It may be that I'm a better player than I'd realised, but I was quite shocked at how much 'more' the recorders in the next band up gave me.  The dynamic response exceeded what I had thought I could ever get from a recorder, the articulation response was much cleaner, and they were so flexible and reliable in terms of being able to hit any note you wanted from any other without loss of tone.  The tone was reliable across the full chromatic compass of the instruments right up to the 3rd A.  I had to exclude the absolutely beautiful Von Huene on price grounds.  One of the Rottenburghs made it into the final three as the best of the mass produced factory ones whilst I worked out whether the difference in price to the other two justified was justified by how much better they played.  The two better recorders (both modelled on Denners - all the Bresson style ones had been eliminated by this point) utterly transformed the last movement of the Berkeley Sonatina and knocked through Telemann Fantasia's and Handel with an ease I haven't known before.  I've recently started looking at the slow movement of the solo CPE Bach sonata, and managed some phrases in that which I had not managed before. Both could cope with anything I might ever want to play, and it really came down to a choice between the light feeling of the cherrywood (which still had reasonably good projection) or the slightly better projection of grenadilla (with a heavier instrument).  

 

I now have an absolutely beautiful new recorder to play in.  It is on 10 minutes a day for this week, which really goes so fast.  Today I discovered how much easier the English Dance movement from the Jacob Suite is - the high runs just come out rather than my having to fight to hit each note.  I need to get used to the extra weight, though, as grenadilla is a lot heavier.  I hold recorders up more than some people, which will hopefully help as my hold is fairly balanced.  I will need to experiment a bit with top octave fingerings as a couple of the 'alternative' fingerings which worked well on the Mollenhauer Denner are not working now.  I need to have a proper look at the recommended fingerings chart which came with the recorder as a couple of them differ.

 

Looking forwards to being able to play it for longer with each passing week. I had forgotten what playing a new recorder in feels like...


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#3799 elemimele

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Posted 31 December 2019 - 22:43

This is lovely to hear, Flossie. Although you're playing and testing in higher spheres about which I know nothing, I don't find it too hard to be convinced that the jump between hand-made and factory-made-good-quality-wood will be larger than the jump between factory-made-wood to factory-made-plastic, because ultimately the last two are both the shape a machine made them, with little or no further input, and why would the makers of good plastic instruments choose a bad design? The acoustician in me tells me that shape is ultimately the most important feature of a recorder - but the tiniest, tiniest alterations can have massive effects on the sound, especially tiny changes around the mouth. I spent many happy hours as a kid making miniature organ pipes and found that two can look all but identical, and sound very different indeed because of these tiny differences. I'm guessing that anyone selling hand-made recorders will have spent hours on each that they sell, using their decades of experience making other recorders, to get every tiny detail the way they want. So that's what you're getting... One day, when I'm richer and a better player, I will also be making that pilgrimage.

 

I also have an instrument purchase confession. A couple of months ago, egged on by a few life changes and an anniversary, I took the plunge and bought myself an aulos baroque flute. It's a weird one, because I do deeply love the recorder and have no intention of stopping playing it. But I realised that I'm only half-understanding 18thC recorder music, because so much of what I play was really intended for flute. And during that century, so many people must have been wondering which to choose (although, of course, they're so so, so very different). Plastic or wood was a difficult choice (in the 21st C anyway. The price difference in flutes being much less than that in recorders), but since I didn't really know what I was buying, I was nervous about wood: I couldn't afford the reliable makers of baroque flutes, and it's very hard to tell amongst anonymous 2nd hand flutes, or lesser-known makers, whether they're really making a baroque flute or an Irish flute (which is beautiful but quite different). Also, I've realised that while top quality wood is great for performance and enjoyment once you're good, when you just need something you can play A Lot, to get the experience and do the learning, then robust plastic has a lot to offer.

It's been a huge learning experience, just these last couple of months, and this is only the first step of a journey. I'm worried, because very few people really shine on both instruments, so maybe one detracts from the other? They certainly compete for practice time. But it's completely fascinating to compare them.

The 18th C was an amazing time, from so many points of view. It's just great to relive it, as a recorder player suddenly wondering what all this new-fangled flutery is about, and getting hold of a copy of Quantz to find out how to play it... And looking on the bright side, although there are many things about a baroque flute that a true flutist would find natural, but which are scary to a recorder player, the opposite is also true: flutists seem to get in a great panic about holes, finger spacing, and forked fingerings, all of which are quite normal for us.

Ah well, recorder players always end up with loads of instruments; my flute looks almost like a recorder...


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#3800 old_and_grumpy

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Posted 02 January 2020 - 13:02

I took the plunge and bought myself an aulos baroque flute.

 

I have often thought of getting one myself just to try it out, but have always balked at the price, which is about 5 times the price of the Symphony Tenor even though they are about the same size.  Supply and demand? 

I don't think I would ever play the flute very much, it's too un-ergonomic.  I got a Yamaha fife a while ago just to try out some sort of traverso, but I find it too small and the holes are too awkwardly placed for my fingers.  I'm currently awaiting a plastic Irish flute - as you say, something quite different, but less than a tenth of the cost of the Aulos.


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#3801 elemimele

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Posted 02 January 2020 - 21:34

yes, supply and demand I suppose. The only thing I can say in defence of the aulos flute is that it does seem pretty decent quality: the key is a proper metal one pinned and sprung correctly, not a plastic thing that would be impossible to replace when broken. I didn't feel able to take any risks on an unknown instrument because I'm not a flutist and know so little about flutes. It is a learning experience; one can't help noticing that the recorder was a highly polished, much evolved instrument, at its peak. OK, a few modern makers have made it louder, extended its range with a few keys, but really no one has improved significantly on the early 18th C recorder, while the baroque flute was near the start of a timeline, a very imperfect instrument that was going to be modified extensively over many decades to come. It's obvious why! Some days, I can't understand why anyone would have swapped the responsive, well-tuned, easy recorder for this difficult instrument, inclined to be fuzzy, with all its dodgy tuning issues - and then I listen to its strong, clear bottom octave, and realise that its extreme sensitivity to how its played may be a great inconvenience to the beginner but is an equally great opportunity to the expert. Problem is how to transition from the one to the other!

Irish flutes are wonderful things. OaG, please do give feedback! I'd love to know the extent to which the Irish flute is really difficult to play in keys that don't have one or two sharps. I've heard it said that they've been optimised for more volume by making the holes bigger, but that this weakens cross-fingering so they can't play all keys - but I've also heard that the Irish flute players mopped up all the old flutes as classical flutists moved to the Boehm system, which implies that at that stage, they were using flutes not so far removed from the baroque style?? I don't know which viewpoint is true! I'm definitely super interested in what your Irish flute can do! There were two plastic Irish flutes going in the local Cash Converters a few weeks ago, one very flimsy practice flute, and another much more solid, better quality resin flute suitable for use in public. I'm afraid I didn't dare try either out... I am not brave.

I have been having a lot of fun with my keyless aulos plastic tenor recently; my treble was upstairs and I was downstairs and feeling lazy, so I gave it a go. I haven't played it for ages as it's less comfy on the hands, and I sometimes struggle with intonation of the higher notes (my fault, not the instrument's), but something's changed - it was much kinder to me, and rather fun.


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#3802 old_and_grumpy

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Posted 03 January 2020 - 11:19

I've heard the same about traditional flutes.  Looking at Martin Doyle Flutes website, it says "The simple system flutes such as those made by Martin Doyle are commonly known as 'Irish flutes'. The term simple system flute refers to the conical-bore flutes that were in use before Theobald Boehm introduced his cylindrical bore flute designs in the mid-nineteenth century. With the change to the Boehm system, the outmoded simple system flutes were adopted into Irish, Scottish and Cuban traditional folk music ... They have six tone-holes and anywhere from zero to thirteen keys. Many experienced Irish flute players prefer six or eight key flutes, although much of the traditional Irish repertoire may be played on keyless flutes."  He also gives fingering charts which he says are based on Quantz and the basic 6-hole (zero keys) flute can play a D major scale plus C and F natural, B flat and G sharp.  I suppose that gives all the "simple" keys, and a  quick flick through a book of Irish tunes doesn't turn up anything that goes beyond them.  Indeed, I read somewhere that composers right up to Handel or thereabouts seldom strayed beyond those keys either.  Having said all that, the flute I've bought cost about €40 whereas MD's keyless 6-hole flute costs €873, so his might be a little better.

 

I will report back but I'm not expecting miracles, either from the flute or from myself.  To be honest, a large part of my motivation was that, following on from taking Tim Cranmore's recorder making course, I want to carry on and try to make some instruments.  I have a guide and it suggests starting with flutes as they are much simpler to make.  The author says that when he made his first simple system flute it took him about 3 weeks to get a note out of it because playing it was so different to playing a modern flute, and that when he subsequently taught a flute-making class, nobody who took it could play the finished product either so he had to do all the tuning himself.  I thought I might as well learn a bit of basic playing before getting stuck in, hence looking for a plastic baroque flute, and hence also my decision that €500 for the Aulos might not be a bad price, but too much for my purposes - I think the €40 will be good enough.


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#3803 elemimele

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Posted 03 January 2020 - 23:09

sounds like you've thought this through, and come up with a good strategy. I'm encouraged  by what you said about the difficulties of playing! Before I got my flute, I made a hole in a short bit of plastic pipe, blocked up one end, and piddled around for a bit seeing if I could get a note out of it, just to check I wasn't buying something I'd never managed to do anything with at all. Fairly quickly Googling around I realised it needs thicker walls (hence the chimney of the modern metal flute), added extra thickness, eventually got half a windy sort-of- note, and decided that was sufficient evidence. Strangely, after some work with the real flute, I found my plastic tube again, tried it, and find that I can now get a much better note out of it - It's still rubbish, but it's interesting...

I found some nice videos by an Australian teacher called Jane Kavanagh, which were a useful starting point on flutes in general (she's teaching modern flute). Yes, so far as I can see all Irish music is in one or two sharps, so even the one key of my flute wouldn't really be necessary. Something very odd about flute that I haven't noticed with recorder is that there are some notes where opening the key (for the non-flute person, this is the furthest hole, gives D# when open instead of D), there isn't really a change in the pitch, but there's a very, very strong change in the timbre of the note. Weird!

Good luck with making flutes! It is an excellent skill to have, and you'll be making some lovely things for the world...


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#3804 old_and_grumpy

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Posted 04 January 2020 - 13:08

My instrument tutor talks about making a flute out of plastic tube, and his advice is not to make the walls thicker but to make the hole smaller: he says people experimenting with plastic tubes generally make a hole closer in size to that of a modern flute, but it needs to be about 9mm, clean edged, and slightly undercut.  Probably still quite hard to play when starting off!

 

> Good luck with making flutes! ... you'll be making some lovely things for the world

 

Thank you!  But, it will take me a while - so far, all I have made is attractive kindling.  I haven't made any serious attempts at genuine instruments though, just a bit of experimentation.

 

The hardest parts of making a recorder are (imho) reaming the bore, cutting the labium, carving the block, and tuning it.  Flutes cut out the middle two, so are a good starting point.  It gives me even more respect for instrument makers of the past, as these things are difficult enough with modern tools and materials.


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#3805 Flossie

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Posted 04 January 2020 - 13:32

My instrument tutor talks about making a flute out of plastic tube, and his advice is not to make the walls thicker but to make the hole smaller: he says people experimenting with plastic tubes generally make a hole closer in size to that of a modern flute, but it needs to be about 9mm, clean edged, and slightly undercut.  Probably still quite hard to play when starting off!

 

> Good luck with making flutes! ... you'll be making some lovely things for the world

 

Thank you!  But, it will take me a while - so far, all I have made is attractive kindling.  I haven't made any serious attempts at genuine instruments though, just a bit of experimentation.

 

The hardest parts of making a recorder are (imho) reaming the bore, cutting the labium, carving the block, and tuning it.  Flutes cut out the middle two, so are a good starting point.  It gives me even more respect for instrument makers of the past, as these things are difficult enough with modern tools and materials.

 

Flutes have a crown at the end of the headjoint which affects tone and tuning.  I think this is kind of the flute equivalent of a recorder block.  The weight and positioning of the crown can have a major impact on how a flute plays - if the crown is wrong it can make the instrument almost unusable.  One of my friend's had a flute which was absolutely impossible to tune and get a good sound from and, unbeknown to her, the cork in the headjoint had rotted which had allowed the crown to move.  Once it was fixed, the flute played nicely (apart from being manufactured at German pitch which meant it was slightly sharp).  


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#3806 Flossie

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Posted 04 January 2020 - 13:49

New recorder had its first band practice last night, although I could only play it for the first ten minutes.  It worked so much better against the other instruments.  My pearwood mollenhauer denner sounded awful in comparison when I switched to it, even though that is actually a nice recorder (would be brilliant for ensemble playing with other recorders, but is not suitable for the demands which I now place on my instrument).  Members who know nothing about recorders noticed a difference, which means that there definitely was one.

 

I love my new recorder  :wub: but it is so difficult only being able to play it for such a short period.  


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#3807 Aquarelle

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Posted 06 January 2020 - 14:47

I've just invested 63 euros in 5 Thomann plastic treble recorders. Now I know they are hardly of the greatest quality (I've already got one) but it's an effort to get some of my top juniors interested. On Friday afternoons I take several groups of juniors for music and English. The children in what I call Group 3 come from 2 different classes. Five of them are in the older of the two classes and are all quite nice little descant players. So i'm going to lend out 5 trebles and see if we can get some simple 2 part work going. It might work, it might be a right old cacophony. Remains to be seen!


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#3808 elemimele

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Posted 06 January 2020 - 16:09

Good luck, Aquarelle! Flossie, delicious news of your new recorder, I'm so glad it's worked out so well. OaG, yes, I couldn't agree more, about respect for instrument makers from the past. I don't know a lot about historical woodworking - it's one of those subjects where, when I've looked in the past, I haven't found a lot online, and it doesn't quite fall into any category of history about which people write popular books! But creating a wooden tube isn't trivial.


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#3809 elemimele

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Posted 19 January 2020 - 19:10

Well, I bumped into my keyless tenor (aulos) and had a play. I think I rather love it. It's much nicer than I remember when last we met. It's soooo responsive, and has quite a fun sound to it for the right pieces. I remember the 2nd octave G and A being hard to play in tune, but with a smaller thumb hole they're not. The Bb above is way sharp but spot on with fingering 12-4567 instead of 12-456-, so no problem. Delightful instrument, but a bit of a stretch on the hands.


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#3810 AdLibitum

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Posted 29 January 2020 - 20:08

Hello all, I'm new here. I've been enjoying reading the recorder thread very much. So much knowledge and enthusiasm and fun. It also reminded me that I used to play descant and treble recorders as a teenager, with enthusiasm nearly compensating for lack of skill. So, several decades later I've decided to get myself a recorder again.

 

I'm thinking of the Moeck Renaissance treble in G, because I do like the sound of the early recorders and, who knows, perhaps one day I'll succeed in my dream of playing in a small early music group with other instruments. I'm still dithering about the model, though, for two reasons: one is the range - it's only an octave and a sixth. Will that rule out most of Bach, Vivaldi, and the like? What about van Eyck? And also, if it's a G recorder, am I creating even more problems for myself repertoire-wise? The reason I'm leaning towards G, not F, is that I would really prefer something between a C descant and an F treble, and the G is in that direction.

 

One more thing, I'll need to practise with a mute a lot of the time, because my next door neighbour already grumbles about my harp, so I don't dare to inflict a woodwind instrument on him as well. (I keep telling him that I could have taken up French horn, but it doesn't seem to help!) You can nearly-mute a recorder, so that you can hear it but it's not very loud, is that right?

 

I'm not planning on buying more recorders (please don't laugh, or at least not out loud) in the near future, so I do want to think this through first. Any thoughts, sage words, comments, dire warnings, advice, and the like, please?


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