Choosing Your Recorder - Music and the Developing Child

An important pedagogical insight into the developing child, is that the younger the child the more completely they live in the world of the senses.

As the child hears and creates music, they are bathed in this sense-world. Music can be nurturing or sharp, warm or cold, open or closed. Music can connect a child with the outside environment and surround them by community, or it can help them separate out and feel their own inner space. Understanding how this fits with, and can support the development of the child is an important aspect of music and the young child.

Pentatonic Music

Before 9 years old, the child is still very open to the outside environment. Music is experienced as a surrounding, permeating force. The child feels that the 'music sings me' rather than 'I sing the music'.  Pentatonic melodies that use open intervals of the fifth, moving around the central tone of A, brings a wonderful, soothing, floating and unfinished quality. This supports the unfolding, developing soul of the young child.

As the child reaches 7 years old, the 'mood of the fifth' is gradually replaced by more purely pentatonic melodies. By the end of this year, songs can be introduced that have a definite tonic ending e.g. pentatonic major on G and minor on E.

Being surrounded with music from the pentatonic lyres and recorders support the musical and inner soul of the child through Kindergarten and Class 1 and 2. When the child is ready to take hold of their own bodily instrument in Class 1, the ideal introductory musical instrument is a Pentatonic Recorder.

Diatonic Music

As the child approaches the 9 year old stage, they begin to 'land' and experience themselves more strongly. Songs in a major diatonic key can be introduced, along with the playing of a diatonic C recorder. The keynote C becomes a landing point, or base, for the child at this stage of their development.

Music as a Social Process

When Class 1 first comes together as a class, a new community is forming. A wonderful time, which at first goes through a transition as the new etheric is building. During this transitional time, it can feel daunting and challenging or even sharp and overwhelming.

Making music together, in small groups, or as a whole class, can offer the students and teachers a wonderful safe way of experiencing and getting to know their new community. Consciously choosing the music and instrument for this purpose, can help bring more support to this social process.

As discussed above, the mood of the fifth is nurturing and warming, while a wooden recorder offers soft, tender and open tones as opposed to the brighter, sharper tones of the modern recorder.

Baroque or German Style Fingering

German Style fingering is considered a simpler fingering technique to master. The Soprano F (Alto B♭) tone fingering is in sequence with the rest of the scale. Whereas in Baroque fingering the  Soprano F (Alto B♭) tone fingering is out of sequence with the rest of the scale.

Most Alto recorders use the Baroque fingering, and where a Soprano recorder with German fingering has been learnt first, there is a transition to changing to the Baroque fingering.

When comparing a German or Baroque recorder, the size of the 4th and 5th hole varies - in the German, the 5th is small and the 4th is large, while in the Baroque it is the opposite.

When considering fingering, some recorders also have the 6th and 7th holes as double holes. A recorder for beginners is more likely to have single holes, whereas double holes allow a broader range of notes including c/c sharp and d/d sharp. Both German and Baroque instruments can be found with single or double holes.

Soprano or Alto

The Soprano recorder is a fifth higher than an Alto recorder, and is based on C. The alto is based on F. Generally, the soprano is perfect for beginners, while the alto is for older, more advanced students and teachers.

The alto is a great choice for solo playing and baroque pieces. A soprano recorder carries the melody and is good for a variety of music, including folk music, and when playing in groups.  

Plastic or Wooden

Aside from price, the major difference between plastic and wooden recorders is the sound. Wooden recorders have a warm, soft, rich tone, whereas plastic recorders can be sharp and cold. You will get more expression and colour in your tone with a wooden recorder and they offer more resistance when played. This resistance makes them easier to play, especially with the lower notes.

The different types of wood will produce different qualities to the tone of your recorder - a softer wood will produce softer tones, a harder wood, a hard sound.

Moisture can lead to a muffled sound when played, and even block the noise entirely. This tends to happen more with plastic recorders as they can't absorb the moisture. Whereas a wooden recorder can absorb more moisture.

With a plastic recorder, this 'blocking up' can happen every 10 mins of playing, and needs to be constantly cleaned out. With a wood recorder, this may happen at the beginning, but with regular playing, this will happen less and less with a wooden recorder.


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