Starting recorder lessons!

About two years ago I picked up one of my kid’s old recorders, a lime green plastic thing that made a sound so shrill, it was like some kind of auditory drill bit designed to bore a hole right through the side of your head. Preferably near your ears, so the pain of listening to the sound would eventually stop.

I held this thing, and like trying to quiet a squirming wild animal, I attempted to tame this plastic tube of torture, to make it create a sound that didn’t hurt my brain. After a few minutes, it happened. With breath modulation and patience, I was able to get a sound out of it that didn’t make me want to stab someone, or myself, or the wall. It felt like a very small but significant life triumph.

High on my accomplishment, I naturally decided I should learn to play the recorder. I bought a book to learn, but it was all duets, so I bought an alto recorder and then learned the soprano and the alto together. I worked on this for a few days, long enough to acquire around six notes. But those were all the notes I needed to sit in my bathroom with my two recorders and my ukulele, and put together a very bad duet with myself, with ukulele accompaniment, using the Garage Band app on my iPad:

On my Soundcloud account, someone has apparently downloaded this musical monstrosity twice. Two entire times. I imagine it’s out there somewhere being used as an example of what happens when adult music learning goes wrong. But that’s not all: the joke version I did with a drum line got downloaded three times.

As I continue doing the Konmari method of tidying-up, I came across my alto recorder (I can’t find the green one). I thought about getting letting it go, but I after tooting a few notes, I really did want to play again. I dug out that same old book, learned those same six notes, and have just been messing about with it. Eventually, I realized I ought to take a lesson, which I finally did today. My teacher both plays recorders and makes them, and as well as learn a new scale and get a bunch of tips on breathwork and playing, I got hear him play some beautiful music, and see his workshop. There is so much more to recorder than people realize! It’s a beautiful instrument, not a Renaissance torture device!

Listen to this:

Plus, it’s a cheap instrument to get into, and the plastic Yamaha I bought off Amazon is actually a great beginner instrument. And there are a lot of YouTube videos for the beginning recorder player. My favorite channel by far is hosted by Sarah Jeffrey, who has 12k subscribers (to a recorder channel), and is so much fun to watch and learn from! She’s a professional recorder player (yes, those exist), a Brit who lives in the Netherlands, and she makes about one video a week on various topics relating to playing the recorder.

Sarah says, in an interview:

There is so much information about the recorder, but a lot of it is only available if you go and study at a consevatorium or something, and I really strongly believe this information should be available for everybody. No matter where you live in the world, no matter your financial situation, you should be able to access this information. If we keep it just locked up inside the walls of a conservatory, then classical music is always going to stay elitist, and the recorder is always going to stay in some weird niche market, unless we bring it out!

Anyone want to join me? I got this book of duets just sitting here….


  1. Elaine Bradtke says:

    I love the joke track. It sounds like the start of one of our rehearsals (that drummer is definitely on another planet)! If you want to play duets, I would love to play with you. I took recorder lessons way back when I was in grade school, it’s what I learned to read music on. Great instrument.

  2. Heidi says:

    I’ve thought of taking up the recorder or some other wind instrument because it would be less stressful on my hands than playing the piano or guitar, but then I thought, “I already have a great wind instrument–my voice!” Very untrained and eh, too late to be Ann Wilson, but maybe it’ll be fun. Good to read about what you’re doing and I may take up the recorder, too. 🙂

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