My dad climbed down the loft ladder, holding onto a mustard-yellow drawstring bag. Inside was an instrument that would kick off my love of music – a recorder. My school teacher had decided to start a recorder club during lunchtimes. I was only 6 years old but I knew I wanted to try. We started with the basics, getting to grips with reading music a note at a time and then learning how to play simple recorder songs that only needed a few notes like London’s Burning and Three Blind Mice. This building-block style of teaching is the approach we’ve taken with How to Play the Recorder. Each spread introduces a new note, with recorder music at the end that use the notes learnt so far. Your child will be playing tunes in no time.
When we were making the book we wanted it to be fun and colourful. A lot of books I remember learning from were black and white and frankly quite dull.
The musical note characters in How to Play the Recorder encourage you with tips and quips and help make the learning exciting. But music isn’t just about what you can play on your own. One of the best things about playing a musical instrument is playing in a group or orchestra. Many a happy festive period was spent with my recorder ensemble playing carols in Brent Cross shopping centre fountain (after it was drained, of course)! We’ve added in duets at the back of the book to make the musical journey complete and to help your child become a better musician.
But let’s address the elephant in the room. Ask someone if they played the recorder at school and they normally say “yessssss”, roll their eyes, and mimic an out of tune cacophony. They then go on to say they picked up a proper instrument a few years later. However, if they hadn’t have started with the recorder they might not have gone on to play anything else. Learning new things is always easier when you’re younger, as my older self realises!
So what are the best things about playing the recorder as your first instrument?
It’s easy to begin making a sound with it. Some wind instruments require a lot of puff and when you’re 7 or 8 your body just can’t provide the breath support you need.
It’s cheap. Music is for everyone but musical instruments can be expensive. You can buy recorders for pocket money and in all different colours. Pink glitter, anyone?
It’s light. A 6-year-old would struggle to support a clarinet but a plastic or wooden recorder is easy to hold.
There is more than 400 years worth of recorder music to play, though you’d need a big library to fit it all in. The recorder music in How to Play the Recorder is a good starting point.
Fancy playing the tenor saxophone? Start with the descant recorder. You make the notes in the same way so you’ll be one step ahead on your first lesson!
Pick it up and you’re ready to go - no need to rosin up the bow, tune the strings, or moisten the reed.
I hope I’ve convinced you what a fantastic musical instrument the recorder is. The sounds you can make as you progress are beautiful and lyrical and the music written for it, from Telemann to Bach to Arnold, is technically challenging and exciting to play. Taking up the recorder led me to play the saxophone, perform at the Royal Albert Hall, study A Level music, and sing on stage in musicals. But I never stopped playing it. I’m still asked to play in concerts and nothing gives me greater pleasure than to see someone’s perception of the instrument change when they hear it played.
How to Play the Recorder is an essential step-by-step guide to this brilliant instrument. Buy the book and let your child begin their own musical journey.
Oh, and I still have that first recorder that my dad found in our loft.
Written by Laura Gilbert
About the author
Laura Gilbert has been an editor and sometime writer at DK for 12 years. She has played the recorder for 32 years, though not non-stop.