Distance Between Holes – Plastic Altos

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

This topic contains 13 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  Diana Kuklinski November 23, 2021 at 4:15 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 2 years, 9 months 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.


    TL Zick

    For what it is worth, even though this thread is two years old… I too, suffer from the distance of the 6th and 7th fingering on the Yamaha. Upon comparison with my Moeck 539 Alto “Rottenburgh”, I have found that these holes are about 3/16ths of an inch *further* apart. I don’t know if it my hand position or what, but that F note is almost impossible for me. I have been stretching my hands throughout the day, and that seems to help a little bit. However, upon watching Sarah Jeffery’s video about hand position (holding an orange, etc); I find this nearly impossible with my right hand! I find it extremely difficult to relax and consciously stretch this hand to maximum capacity while playing this Yamaha. Interestingly, I have somewhat transitioned back to an old, inexpensive wood recorder and the Moeck to practice, as they have the same fingering distances. I am completely disappointed and dissatisfied with this Yamaha recorder. Thoughts?


    Richard Hureau

    I would say that the Aulos alto 509B recorder has hole 6 and 7 somewhat closer together than the Yamaha.

    The thing about the 509B is that the foot joint (with the double 7 holes) is somewhat fatter than the foot of the Yamaha. So that has the effect of bringing the 7 holes up toward your pinky more conveniently. I would recommend you try one. The main distributor is Rhythmband, although you might find it elsewhere (Amazon, etc):


    Also, I find the 509B to be an excellent recorder. It’s my main plastic recorder. It sounds very different than an Ecodear.


    Diana Kuklinski

    I realize this is an older thread….just started playing alto recorder (last week) and also wondered about the finger spacing. I have a Yamaha 304B and a Mollenhauer Prima, and really enjoying playing them. I am getting increasingly arthritic in the hands, plus my right pinkie is crooked (points towards the index finger) from birth. It takes a bit of a stretch to get those lower F/F# holes, sometimes successfully. I have been following Sarah’s video recommendations, which seem to help a bit.

    I have been wondering if I should look into a Mollenhauer 2246 Canta or a Moeck 2320 Rondo with double keys. I was steering away from wooden recorders because of the maintenance issues. Also considered a Breseden resin, which is a bit more $ than these keyed models, but I can afford one. Anybody got thoughts on these instruments and the idea of using keys to reach those low notes?


    Richard Hureau

    As I mention above, I think that the Aulos 509B’s 6 and 7th holes are somewhat easier to reach than the The Yamaha Ecodear, and also somewhat easier than the 304B. But since you say you are only just starting to learn the alto, it would be a shame to run out and buy another one just for a slightly better right-hand stretch, I think.

    I think that the keys on the alto Mollenhauer would make it easier for you. Only slight wrinkle might be that keys are somewhat harder to press down than just covering a hole (of course). So you are gaining an easier reach at the expense of a harder press.

    When you say “Breseden resin,” do you mean the Bernolin resin? If so, the 6 and 7 holes are easier to reach (with the 442 model) than with the other recorders discussed here. You also would almost certainly get a better recorder than the Mollenhauer Canta (kind of a low-end model). I’m not sure about the Moeck, but if is in the same price-range as the Mollenhaeur, then it is almost certainly not as good an instrument as the Bernolin.

    So if I were you, I’d try to get by with the plastic Yamaha; maybe get the Aulos 509B. If nothing is any good, you could spring for a Bernolin. It really is noticeably easier to reach the 6 and 7 holes.


    Diana Kuklinski

    Thank you for your thoughts on this! I wouldn’t be buying this just for a bit shorter reach, though, I’d like to work into a better quality instrument. I had not thought about the finger pressure required to work the keys. I did wonder about the quality of the Canta and the Rondo, and I’m sure the Bernolin resin (oops, I did mean that, not Breseden!), would be superior – without the maintenance of a wooden model.

    The one thing I’m wondering about is the weight….my Ecodear and Primas are both just a touch over 7 oz. I read that the Bernolin altos are about 9 oz. Is that an issue?


    Richard Hureau

    Yes, the Bernolin is a little more than 9oz. In actual usage, I don’t find the added weight very noticeable. I think that this is because the fingering is easier. I mean that it fits my hands (quite small) so well that the added weight isn’t as noticeable as it would be if you had to stretch too.

    Here is a link to a picture of the Ecodear vs the Bernolin (a white one, no longer offered):


    You can see, I think, that the right-hand first 3 holes (4,5,6) are somewhat closer together. The 7th holes appears to be farther from the 6th, but in actual usage they don’t feel that way. I believe that this is because the Bernolin is fatter (through-out, except the mouthpiece), especially in the foot, as shown here:


    The fatter area where the 7th holes reside has the effect of bringing the holes up closer to your pinky finger, making them easier to reach. At least that’s the way it feels when you play it. It really does feel more comfortable, although hard to describe in words and pictures.

    Hope this helps.


    Diana Kuklinski

    Thank you, very helpful!
    Regarding the Aulos 509B (which I will check out)….do you have any thoughts on the 709W Haka regarding ease of fingering F?

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