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Recorder family.
Fr. flûte à bec ; It. flauto dolce ; Ger. Blockflöte ; Sp. flauta dulce

The recorder is a common type of fipple flute and a member of the woodwind family. It has been popular in its present state since as far back as the middle ages when it was used exhaustively as a consort instrument. The instrument has historically been thought to evoke association with birds, shepherds, miraculous events, funerals, marriages, and romance. It is played using seven tone holes, six along the front, and a thumb hole along the back. Often the bottom two holes are double holes, which allow for playing the lowest four notes chromatically. The very largest recorders often do not allow for this.

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Types and ranges

<music> \meterOff \cadenzaOn c1 \glissando d g4 f,,1 \glissando g \octaveOn c4 \octaveOff </music>

Recorders are split into two types: C recorders, and F recorders. Although the F recorders are indeed "in F", the composer does not transpose their parts; instead, the recorder players learn the fingerings for each. The illustration at right shows first the written range of all C recorders, followed by that of the F recorders. Whole notes represent the basic range, while the quarter notes show the plausible extended range.

Recorders in C


Recorders in F

The sopranino recorder plays one octave above written pitch.

The alto recorder or treble recorder is the instrument that reads at concert pitch in the "F" family.

The bass recorder plays one octave below written pitch.

The contrabass recorder plays two octaves below written pitch.

Timbre and capabilities

The sound of the recorder is remarkably clear and sweet, partly because of a strong emphasis on the lower and odd harmonics in the natural series. The instrument has a very balanced and simple sound throughout its entire range that only thins out and becomes shrill in the very highest playable notes.

Decline and revival of the recorder

During the 18th century, the rise in popularity of instruments such as the transverse flute, oboe, and clarinet forced the recorder out of the forefront. By the end of the baroque era the instrument was all but completely forgotten. In the 20th century, greater interest in the authentically accurate performance of early music saw the revival of the recorder as a proper instrument. The recorder was also found to be a suitable simple instrument for teaching music in schools and it appealed to amateur players as a hobby. Today, it is often thought of as a plastic made child's instrument, but there are many excellent virtuosic players who can demonstrate the instrument's full potential as a solo instrument.

Recorder ensembles

The recorder is a very social instrument. Many amateurs enjoy playing in large groups or in one-to-a-part chamber groups, and there is a wide variety of music for such groupings including many modern works. Groups of different sized instruments help to compensate for the limited note range of the individual instruments. Four part arrangements with a soprano, alto, tenor and bass part played on the corresponding recorders are common, although more complex arrangements with multiple parts for each instrument and parts for lower and higher instruments may also be regularly encountered.

One of the more interesting developments in recorder playing over the last 30 years has been the development of recorder orchestras. They can have 60 or more players and use up to nine sizes of instrument. In addition to arrangements, many new pieces of music, including symphonies, have been written for these ensembles. There are recorder orchestras in Germany, Holland, Japan, the United States, Canada, the UK and several other countries

Instruments and Voices
Woodwinds Flute (Piccolo/Alto/Bass)RecorderOboe (Cor Anglais/Oboe D'amore/Heckelphone)Clarinet (E♭/Bass/Contrabass)

Bassoon (Contrabassoon)SaxophoneBagpipes

Brass HornCornetTrumpetTromboneEuphoniumTubaSaxhorns
Keyboards PianoOrganHarmoniumHarpsichordClavichordCelestaAccordion
Percussion Tuned: TimpaniGlockenspielChimesVibraphoneXylophoneMarimbaCrotalesMusical sawHammered Dulcimer

Untuned: Snare drumBass drumTriangleCymbalsGongsTom-tomsShakersDrumset

Electronic ThereminOndes MartenotSynthesizerElectronic Wind Instrument
Stringed Bowed: ViolinViolaVioloncelloContrabass

Plucked: HarpGuitarMandolinBanjo

Voices Female: SopranoMezzo-soprano (often mistaken with Alto)Contralto (often mistaken with Alto)

Male: TrebleCountertenorTenorBaritoneBass-baritoneBass