Better Recorder Playing

In the autumn of 2016, we ran a Start the Recorder course, for people who wanted to start or resurrect recorder playing. By spring 2019, members of the original group were ready to learn more and others were keen to join in and improve their skills.

As a result, we've started a Better Recorder Playing course. This aims, over a year, to help people improve their playing, guiding them through technical and musical barriers, and encouraging them to practise.

Each month there's a new bundle of materials covering individual technique and ensemble playing. There are two opportunities to meet for a couple of hours in the month – people come to one or both as they are able. Players are encouraged to get together informally in small groups between taught sessions. 

The cost is just 50p a month. Sessions are normally on the second Wednesday afternoon and the fourth Monday afternoon of the month. Check the website calendar.

Currently there are 10 people on the course, playing recorders of different sizes. There's still time to join in. If you'd like to do so, email Alison at

Better Recorder Playing by June 2020

About the Course

This is a course for people who enjoy playing the recorder, can play many of the notes and straightforward rhythms, and would like to improve their skills, especially in an ensemble, whether purely for pleasure or to share with others through performance. The course is suitable for any size of recorder, and participants will be encouraged to have a go at other sizes.

By the end of the course, participants should be able to: 

  • play fluently throughout the range of the instrument in the most commonly used 10 keys

  • have a range of tonguing patterns and be able to apply them appropriately

  • play accurately and expressively music at an intermediate level

  • be a confident and competent member of a recorder ensemble with one instrument to a part, both in terms of playing, and rehearsing together effectively without a conductor

  • be able to read at sight at a level appropriate to their performance skills

  • tackle music from the 15th to the 17th century with understanding of the styles, structures, textures and rhythm

By June 2020, participants completing the course will be approximately at the level required for ABRSM Grade IV, although the course is not focussed on taking an exam, or, indeed, giving performances.

There are two sessions a month, one on a Monday and one on a Wednesday afternoon in the hopes that all who would like to attend can fit at least one in. Both sessions in the month cover the same content. People are welcome to come to both. The first half hour or so focusses on technique – mainly fingering and tonguing, and the remaining time is spent on ensemble skills.

There's a pack of music provided for each month containing everything needed, but people are encouraged to supplement this with other music they have or find. It's useful to have a music stand both for the sessions and for practice at home.

In order to make progress, participants need to be able to do some practice in between sessions. Ideally, at least some members will be able to get together from time to time to work as ensembles.

We meet at members' houses, so there is no cost for room hire. Felton Music provides the music packs – 50p a month from each participant covers the printing costs of those.

Better Recorder Playing: Year Plan

DateFingeringTonguingSolo playingEnsemble playing
2019 JuneG major scale* practising oscillating between adjacent notes“Basic” tonguing – single soft tongue stroke to start the note. Full length notesTunes that use the G major scale. Decorated figures in tunes that ask for fluency, using sections of the scale 0Listening to the whole - unanimity of timing and tone.
2019 JulyF major scale short motif repeated on each note of the scaleCo-ordinating fingers and tongue. Staccato tonguing – starting and finishing the note with the tongueTunes that use the F major scale. Tunes that call for staccato tonguingFundamental skills for playing from a score without a conductor: start and end, keep a steady beat, identify and deal with issues, keep going after individual tangles
2019 AugC major scale G, F and C major scales in thirdsSlurred notes Slur two, tongue twoPhrasing in order to shape the music, identifying good breathing placesPreparing one's part from score – phrasing and identifying what is going on in others' parts. Contrapuntal music.
2019 SepG major arpeggio, “straight” and overlapping. D7 arpeggioCombinations of all three types of tonguingAnalysing the structure of a piece and varying the articulation on repeats16th century dance music. Forms, speed, rhythms, including cross rhythms
2019 OctF and C major arpeggios in a range of patterns C7 and G7 arpeggiosPieces with divisionsWorking on a piece independently and shaping it for perfomance16th / 17th century imitative music. Responding to what other players do in imitative music. Bringing out imitative motifs
2019 NovConsolidation of scales and arpeggiosPlaying all scales and arpeggios so far with a variety of articulation patternsChecking out the tuning of own instrument using tuner and ear. Adjusting tuning of individual notesTuning held chords in 16th / 17th century music. Preparing a piece to lead next time.
2019 DecAeolian, Dorian and Mixolydian modes on C, D, F, G and A(remaining content will be planned later)Lyrical modal pieces from different timesTaking the lead at a rehearsal as a playing member of the ensemble.
2020 JanE minor scale, harmonic and melodic, E minor arpeggio and B7 arpeggio(remaining content will be planned later)Working as a group to rehearse, using a score: hearing issues and having an agreed way of stopping, analysing, picking up, strategies for sorting out tricky places
2020 FebD min scale, harmonic and melodic, D min and A7 arpeggioMaking the music work effectively as a group – identify and articulate suggestions. Explore different ways of playing bits
2020 MarA min scale, harmonic and melodic, A min and E7 arpeggioPlaying from individual parts instead of the score.
2020 AprD maj and B min scales and argeggiosPlaying parts without bar lines – 16th, 17th century music
2020 MayBb maj and G min scales and arpeggiosCoping with syncopation in 20th century music

* All scales and arpeggios are for the full range of the instrument

Download the course information in PDF format for printing at home


Upcoming Dates