Recorder Instrument- woodwind family ( part 1).


Do you go to a concert or listen to music and think I would like to know more about that instrument?  Perhaps you were fascinated by the skill and artistry of the musician/s playing.  If your answer is yes, then you have come to the right place. 

If your answer is no, then may I suggest that you read on, because, although it may not be your initial query, this weekly series may be able to help you appreciate more about the instruments of the orchestra and other well known or less known instruments.


Perhaps, as you saw this subheading, you as a parent, inwardly groaned and cringed at the thought of the year ahead (southern hemisphere where school starts late January or later in the year for the northern hemisphere) with your child learning it or perhaps it brings back unpleasant memories of when you learned at school.  Perhaps you have the school book list and see the need to buy/hire a recorder or pay a levy for its use and think this is going to be a ‘‘white elephant’’.

Perhaps you said, hold on. I thought you were going to write about the instruments of the orchestra.

Even though the recorder instrument is not a regular member of the orchestra.  it is often the first introduction to playing an instrument that children have at school.



1.    Learning how to breathe.

Playing a recorder regardless of its size means that because it belongs in the woodwind family that sound is produced by blowing.
Many children just blow as hard as they can, but what need to occur is that the child learns to control his/her breathing. The first lesson for the child is become aware of breathing-diaphragmatic breathing.  This is how we breathe naturally. Here is a video to how to learn/relearn diaphragmatic breathing

 We all learned how to do this type of breathing from day 1 of our lives.  However, as we get older and the stresses of life engulf us, we often forget how to breathe properly.  As a parent, you can relearn this skill yourself first, as it can be wonderful for stress relief after a long day and/or before you actually get out of bed.

Once you understand it yourself and can start to feel the benefit of breathing more deeply and being less stressed, then you can rejoice that your child is going to learn something that is beneficial for them for life as they start to learn the recorder.

 For example- they can learn to calm any anxiety or nerves when they have to give a presentation at school/work or go for an interview. They can also use it when they are stressed or upset.

 You can help them by creating the environment to learn this skill by doing it with your child and even all family members regardless of age. Make it fun and yet make it relaxing and enjoyable too.

 Exercise 2: Face exercise: relieve stress and learn breath control by taking a deep breath, and blow out your face as much as you can. Hold for a few moments and then release the breath first as a rush of air and then the second time, release it at a slower rate.

 The benefit is that by blowing up the face and holding the breath, it will release any tension that may be in face and jaw muscles.  We all hold some tension there- some people more than others. I know I do, as I tend to grind my teeth during the night so I wake up with stiff jaw and facial muscles.

Children are usually less stressed in the facial muscles. However, this is a good exercise for them for life when they are feeling frustrated or sad or lacking some energy. It can be a great exercise to do as a family as many funny faces can be pulled and there can be lots of laughs.

 Learning to play the recorder then will help them create an awareness of their breathing, when they are stressed, their breathing will be shallow and when they are relaxed, they can learn/relearn to breathe deeper.  This is all before they have blown into the instrument.!!

The other advantage of investing a few minutes each day on the exercise suggested above is that when your child starts to play, he/she will be aware of his/her breathing and then, will less likely blow as hard- the result for you as the listener is that there will be less squeaks/squawks in sound and probably less cringing too.

 2.    Learning co-ordination of the body.

Children when they start to learn the recorder have difficulty coordinating their fingers. It takes patience and practice. They not only have to blow but now they are placing their fingers over the holes of the instrument and moving them when required.

 Exercise: Hand/Wrist Waving

A simple exercise to encourage is to “wave vertically” giving the wrist an opportunity to become flexible. First wave slowly and then a little quicker. Do not at this stage wave too quickly as speed will not make the wrist more flexible.

 (b) Side on Wave: do the same exercise of waving but side on as if the child is about to play the instrument.

 © Once these 2 above exercises are mastered, then it is time to get the fingers waving separately using the side on method in (b).

 The important point to remember here is to keep the other fingers still as each finger waves separately. Remember it is easier for thumb, index and third fingers of the hand to wave without movement from other fingers.

 The benefit of hand/finger coordination and dexterity cannot be underestimated.  We are definitely in a technological age.  Using our fingers for texts and computer work is the norm even for children.  By doing these simple exercises, you are helping them learn a healthy strategy for their fingers for life and improve their ability to learn the recorder.

Exercise for Thumb (suitable for parents and children).

 Seeing that the thumb gets a workout on computer using the space bar and some people use for texting, it is important to consider that it is getting a vertical downward movement constantly.  To avoid stress and tension there, then use the thumb in a wave side on method. This way, you are relieving it from the constant use of the downward movement.

Always relieve the muscles in a different way than their constant use. It develops other strengths whilst providing relief as well.

 3.     Learning eye coordination to read music.

 Just as a child needs to learn eye coordination when they learn to read training the eyes to look across the page as they read and ahead of what they are going to read aloud, the same type of coordination is required in reading music except that the child has an instrument in their hand as well.

 The music stand is equivalent of a book. We do not hold a book too near or too far from us, but at a comfortable distance so we can see easily.  The same applies to the music stand and its position for the child. 

 The height of the child and the height of the stand should be taken into consideration. At all costs, you do not want the stand to be either too low as this will create tension in the facial muscles looking up, nor too high (where the child cannot be seen or their instrument)

Making sure that the music stand is at the right height for the child where they can see the music comfortably with the stand in front of them (not to the side of them)  and their instrument (recorder) not touching the stand.

 It is important to realise that children whose personality tends to lean towards being introvert will want to put the stand-up higher than is required. They want to hide because they lack confidence. Parents need to encourage a good music and healthy position whilst being inwardly aware of their child’s natural personality. If you notice your child constantly putting the stand higher than required and you are aware of your child’s personality traits which indicate a certain lack of confidence, then gradually lower the stand until your child feels an inner confidence.

Yes, it is best to encourage good music position from day 1. but what is more important- your child gaining confidence and learning and most importantly enjoying making music or good music practice and your child wanting to give up before they have even had a chance to experience making music.

 After all, even the most seasoned musician still gets performance jitters beforehand. Again, this is where the breathing exercises and hand co-ordination exercises will provide assistance.

 Just digressing here for a moment- when I was young, I had played the piano and violin and organ. Each instrument was part of me from a psychological perspective and an extension musically of myself.  I was very comfortable with each as the instrument was my friend.

 When I learned to sing and went for my first singing exam, it was a whole different experience.  All of a sudden, there was no piano, violin or organ as my friends.  Singing was about being there communicating musically with the voice but I actually felt exposed and vulnerable. Singing from memory required no music stand either.  It was just myself and my voice and the audience (examiner). It takes an adjustment to feel comfortable.

 Regardless of your child’s outward or inward personality traits, it is good to remember that at some level feel vulnerable as they take that first step with the music stand. Talking about that vulnerability where appropriate can be helpful at the right time in the right way. It can be an opportunity to open up discussions on feelings generally.

  Remember this advice though: A happy experience learning the recorder will pay dividends for them for life. You as a parent being involved in these ways can make the learning experience enjoyable and life learning.

 So, if your initial thoughts when you saw the start of the post was the sound of the squeak/squawk think again. Yes, your child will make some of these sounds. They are learning and blowing too hard too quickly. However, if you as the parent have a positive disposition to your child learning recorder and understand some of its benefits, then it will make the learning more valuable for both you and your child.

Check out my 3 pins on this topic in Pinterest here.

Position of the child and stand

How to avoid the tears and enjoy learning the recorder.

The Recorder

 Stay tuned for next week’s post on recorder part 2.



  Are you interested to find out more?  Check out my 5-week course called Love Music Theory 1 and 2 in Music Theory for beginners or for those who play/sing but have yet to learn Music Theory. 

Some people in the past have had a negative learning experience when it comes to Music.  Perhaps they loved to sing. but told to mime in the choir and never sang again, or perhaps they did not see music as important so tuned out in Music classes. 

I am passionate about teaching Music and in particular Music Theory.  So why not enrol today and be prepared to enjoy and to learn.  After all, is a place love life and learn Music.  So, love life today by learning Music.

I use to host my courses so when you click you will be taken to my courses on their platform.  I will look forward to meeting you there in teleconference calls, helping you with your questions through email support, online discussions and where necessary, through Skype.  I always want to give my students the best opportunity to learn.

If you have a child who is going to learn Recorder this year, why not learn Music Theory yourself so that you can assist them in learning the language of Music and gain greater benefits for yourself at the same time.