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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000130.txt from 2001/02

From: "Wolman, Kenneth" <>
Subj: [kl] Re: question about recorders
Date: Mon, 5 Feb 2001 09:35:13 -0500

> YOu can have a lot of fun AND music with a recorder/flute a
> bec/blockflote. I did.
I started playing again only recently just because my earlier memories of recorders have two parts. One is that there is an amazing literature for the instrument in all ranges from sopranino to greatbass, and that contemporary composers--particularly Japanese and Scandinavians--have written for the virtuoso players who abound. Two is that the instrument can be a real bear to play well enough so you don't scare the dog or cat half to death. True, it doesn't call into play issues of embouchure, it doesn't have keys (unless you've got a keyed tenor, alto or--gulp--bass) but finger placement is critically important to tone production, and the dreaded phrase "breath pressure" becomes a real issue in terms of whether you can get the instrument to play in tune. I remember as a kid back in the early 1950s learning the rudiments of music on a Tonette, forerunner(?) of the still-around Flutophone, and a Kueng alto--I recently purchased one of the lower-end pearwood instruments along!
with a Yamaha 300-series plastic alto--can sound like a duck call if you try to play it the same way. Recorders, even the decent plastic ones, are not especially forgiving of lousy technique, any more than a clarinet is forgiving of a fifth-grader making appalling blatting sounds because he or she doesn't know how to blow into the thing. The regimen is the same: the answer to the old question of how you get to Carnegie Hall....

My personal observation: it doesn't pay to spend TOO little if you feel seriously about the instrument, but you can also break the bank with a top-of-the-line recorder. A professional alto or tenor can cost as much if not more than a professional clarinet.

> I carried a Yamaha plastic soprano recorder with me for a couple of
> years. Played it on one of my breaks each day (when i worked full time
> in a public library).
I would do this with my Yamaha, and in fact did one day when I had to take my car from the Jersey Shore up to Newark because I had to meet a train in the evening. I anticipated traffic jams during which I could play the instrument, and of course keeping it in my briefcase was a magic charm: no traffic whatsoever. If I sit in my cube on the IT floor in the Merrill Lynch cube farm and play the recorder during lunch, I'll probably be committed or written up by HR.

> One of the big advantages to the recorder is:
> there is *no* reason to have tense fingers or mouth and even the
> airstream is gentle.
> The instrument is light, no keys to push,etc.
Manuals for adult beginners like the Hugh Orr books give very specific directions on how to hold the thing, i.e., you don't choke hell out of it, you hold the fingers so the pads cover the holes, you keep the thumb straight. Like any other musical learning, it's mechanical work until it becomes muscle memory.

> I also worked with just a fingering chart (that came with the instrument)
> and only played by ear.
> I could practice in the far magazine storage or loading dock.
You're lucky you can do that. I'll avoid descriptions of the loading dock here....

Oh...and there are a couple of recorder lists. Do yourselves a favor and avoid them. You won't learn anything you can't learn from self-teaching with a good book. The lists are horrible and have made me appreciate the expertise and level of knowledge on Klarinet. A lot of the people on the two recorder lists I know of backbite, attack dealers by name as thieves (I have dealt with one of them and he is anything but), skirt the edges of libel, and very often demonstrate a lack of knowledge about anything except what Freud called the psychopathology of everyday life. There are a few professionals on those lists but they rarely say much because there's no room for knowledge in an environment that fosters screaming and yelling.

It's also been suggested to me that the American Recorder Society is NOT the ICA unless you like your backbiting raised to new heights. I'm into the recorder for the music, not the organization anyway.


Kenneth Wolman
Merrill Lynch/DCSS
570 Washington Street, NYC

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