Recorder Process and Planning

I do not subscribe to any one resource for teaching recorder and I often end up creating my own visuals for my classroom. What I will share here is folk music that is public domain and any songs I composed is free for you to use in your classroom. If I reference a book or other copy-written source, I will give a page number and how to purchase the item so as to remain in compliance with copyright law.

Where to Begin

If you do not have a general knowledge of how to play the recorder, a good place to start is with the basics. You need to always stay one step ahead of your students, provide a decent playing model or find a resource that can provide that model for your students.

Analisa’s Advice: Do’s and Don’ts When Teaching Recorder

  • Do – Make learning fun. Incorporate as many games as you can and as many brain breaks as you can because the children will fatigue quickly.
    • Don’t – Play recorder longer than 15-20 minutes. Trust me, this is about their stamina at the beginning and any longer they will become frustrated and may give up. Keep it moving!
  • Do – Model. Model proper technique, posture, and air control
    • Don’t – Play along with your students. I know, I know, you think you’re helping, you’re actually not. You have provided the model, now get out of their way. Listen, provide feedback, and cheer them on!
  • Do – Disguised repetition. Just like singing games are disguised repetition, so too is having different clusters of students play and certain times. For example, all students wearing red shirts play measure 1-4, blue shirts 5-8, etc and then mix it up!
    • Don’t – Play for the sake of playing. The kids will get bored, you’ll get bored, it isn’t band rehearsal. Sorry, band directors, but it is true. Make the 10th time they play something important, meaningful, and purposeful. Never say, one more time, unless you mean it and always give them something to improve on before playing the music again.

First Days of Recorder

The first lesson for recorder will look something like this:

Give students clear cut boundaries for playing recorder. It can become chaotic if you do not set up expectations. Teach a ready/rest position for when you’re speaking or providing feedback and for what to do when they rest during the music.

Discuss the parts of the soprano recorder and their purpose.

Mouthpiece – where the air enters the recorder

Window – where the sound resonates

Neck – where the pieces of the recorder connect

Body – where the finger holes are located

Bell – where the timbre of the recorder is created, not where the sound resonates

Teach how to hold the recorder. Explain the left hand is on top because of the mechanics of the instrument, not because you are right handed or left handed. I use the analogy of driving a car. You drive the car by pressing the pedals with your right foot, even if you’re left handed because of how the car is built. Most kids come around, you’ll have a few that forget.

Spend some time explaining breathing techniques and embouchure, enforcing the fact that they don’t bite down on the mouthpiece.

After you’ve done these basic steps, have them make sound on the open tube. Explain that the recorder is a warm, gentle, sound that requires delicate air and not hurricane air. Practice proper embouchure placement and breathing through the mouth in the early days, but make sure they make a sound on Day 1!

Find more information in my blog: In the Music Room with Mrs. Byrd