Distance Between Holes – Plastic Altos

Home Forum Recorder Makes, Models and Maintenance Distance Between Holes – Plastic Altos

This topic contains 6 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Dee Brougton March 25, 2019 at 9:55 pm.

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    Dee Brougton

    I bought a vintage Zen-On, I think it’s probably a 1500, from ebay, because it was a good price for a decent instrument and it sounds good, but it hurts my right wrist to finger. I’m an adult beginner, but I think that the holes are just uncomfortably spaced for my hand. Can anyone compare plastic altos for hole spacing or point me to a site that does? I’m interested in a Ecodear if that might be more comfortable.


    Richard Hureau

    I have a Zen-on 1500, and also a Yamaha Ecodear, an Aulos 509B, Aulos Haka (709B), and the new Zen-0n G-1A (replaces the 1500).

    Unfortunately, the 1500 has probably the closest holes of any of these, although they are all VERY similar, except the Aulos Haka, which has very oddly placed holes for the right hand (worse). As far as the Ecodear, the first 2 holes of the right-hand are farther apart than on the 1500; the rest are essentially identical. So it will definitely not fix your problem.

    If your right hand is hurting using an alto, I would suggest taking a look at Sarah Jeffery’s YouTube video on how to hold the recorder:

    It sounds like you might be flexing your wrist and/or pressing down on the holes too strongly. It’s hard to tell without seeing it, of course. But her video night help.

    The only recorder I know of that has easier right-hand hole positions is the Bernolin resin alto:


    The only trouble is that they cost 400-475 Euros, which is probably outside your price range since you are just beginning.


    Dee Brougton

    Thank you so much! This is especially helpful and, yes, I love Sarah’s videos. I’ve been looking at her hands all morning! Your response will save me buying the Yamaha thinking it might be better. Based on a teacher comment on one of Sarah’s videos, I’m trying holding the recorder slightly angled to the right and that is better. It also seems to put the thumb rest that someone glued on in a better position. I’ve got my eye on that Bernolin in future, but I’m also interested in the Mollenhauer Dreams, Renaissance-based. I have their plastic soprano and like it very much. I was looking for the new G-1A when I found the (probably) 1500. Do you like it better? I saw mixed reviews.

    I do play guitar, where beginners constantly think the problem is the guitar when their fingers hurt, so I’m prepared to believe this is just a beginner problem – just didn’t want to hurt my wrist if there are more comfortable recorders out there. Thank you, again, for the very helpful reply.

    • This reply was modified 7 months, 1 week ago by  Dee Brougton.

    Richard Hureau

    Glad that my reply was helpful!

    Interesting that you mentioned the thumbrest and I’m glad you reminded me about it. This can be a big issue as far as the right hand. I have small hands myself, and have always struggled with hole positions – especially the left hand ring finger (watch out for straining that!), and the thumbrest position vs the first finger of the right hand. If your thumbrest is too far down on the recorder, it makes you bend your wrist some to cover the first hole. If it is too far up on the recorder, it makes you reach to cover the bottom holes.

    I recommend you get a clip-on thumbrest like this:


    They seem to be hard to find as an add-on item (you get one with a new Yamaha or Aulos instrument). This will allow you to experiment for the best position.

    Some folks play without a thumb rest (especially Europeans, it seems). I have never been able to do it. Regardless, you have to put your thumb somewhere and not move it, so whether you have a rest there or not, it doesn’t really matter.

    As far as the new Zen-on G-1A, well, I can see why it has gotten mixed reviews. I think it is dreadful. I was VERY disappointed in it, after all the hype about the holes being refined with tapering, etc. To me, it sounds very poor, clogs easily, etc. In fact, I went out and bought a NEW 1500 after seeing how bad the G-1A is. The 1500 is pretty nice, I think, so you have yourself a good alto to start with (and continue with too; most modern plastic recorders are good enough for any level, really).

    The Ecodear is VERY unique sounding (and pretty too!), with a very narrow windway. I think the regular Yamaha 300-series altos, and the Aulos 509B (“Symphony”) are better for beginners.

    Anyway, good luck with the recorder. Be careful, though – don’t hurt your hand; take a break if it starts to hurt!! 🙂


    Carolyn Hanlon

    Thank you for the link to West Music – I am going to get “real” thumb rests for both of my alto recorders. I have been using rubber bands (they work,) but I didn’t want to drill into my instruments to put on permanent thumb rests, and the clip-ons are an ideal compromise. I have very small hands with short fingers, and I sympathize with the difficulties reaching some of the notes easily. And when I switch from soprano to alto, I really have to watch my breath velocity – it’s easy to over-blow and squeak!


    Richard Hureau

    Glad my link was a help, Carolyn. Just one thing – the clip-on thumbrests are for use with plastic recorders, not wood. I myself scratched a maple Moeck by putting one on it. But I also was successful putting one on a rosewood Dolmetsch (which is why I thought it would be OK on the maple), so the hardness of the wood matters. They do NOT scratch Bernolin resin recorders, by the way, although I did sand down the edges of the thumbrest some before putting it on.


    Dee Brougton

    Just an update. I ended up getting the Ecodear, as well, and it’s sometimes my favorite. In any case, I like it a lot. I’ve figured out how to hold the recorder so it’s not straining my wrist and I’m enjoying it very much, slight angle to the right and anchoring my elbow a bit. Carolyn, that’s a good idea with the rubber bands. I might try that. Btw, I find it’s actually much easier to play if I lie down, so there’s a lot of lying about playing to the ceiling.:)

    There isn’t a fully plastic alto Renaissance, is there? Like the Dream soprano? I haven’t seen one, and I do want to keep to plastic for now.

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