Low notes

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This topic contains 11 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Tom Van Zoeren April 14, 2020 at 7:12 pm.

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  • #983

    Tom Van Zoeren
    Participant

    I have just picked up an old wooden tenor recorder and am trying to teach myself to play it. I have found a fingering chart and can play most of the lower notes, but i notice that the very lowest note or two are rather difficult to hit. I have to blow just the right way. Is this normal? Will it somehow become easier to play those notes so they sound good?

    #984

    Tom Van Zoeren
    Participant

    Added question: Might my difficulty with the low notes be because of the old recorder I’m using? Or are the low notes always harder to hit cleanly?

    #985

    Dick Mattson
    Participant

    Hi Tom–

    Sometimes, problems with low notes (or any notes for that matter) can be caused by one or more of the following (in no particular order):

    1) Blowing too hard. Try blowing more gently on the lowest notes.
    2) Not closing one or more of the finger holes all the way. If the recorder has a separate bottom foot joint, try rotating it slightly to find the best position for your 4, 5, 6, & 7 fingers.
    3) The way that the recorder was made if some of the low notes make a bubbling or burbly sound similar to a wolf on a bowed stringed instrument. Sometimes an alternate, non standard, fingering might help unless the problem is on the very lowest notes. At other times, there isn’t much you can do other than blowing very gently.
    4) The windway and block surfaces might have some crud (the nicest word i could think of) or raised wood grain that disturbs the air flow. Try shining a light into the window and look through the windway from the beak end. If the windway looks rough, find an online tutorial that explains how to pop the block out and smooth the upper surface of the windway and the top surface of the block.
    5) The head of the recorder might be cold and condensation could be forming which disturbs the airflow. Try warming the head for at least ten minutes so that it gets to about your body temperature before playing. Some people stick it in a pocket. When possible, I stick the entire recorder down the front of my shirt with the top of the beak against my chest.
    6) One or more of the finger holes might be partially clogged with crud. Or, if wax has been used to fine tune the size and/or position of a hole, it could have changed shape or collected some crud. Try cleaning the suspicious looking hole or holes very carefully.
    7) The recorder might be made to use German fingering instead of Baroque/English fingering. The wrong fingering will make some of the lower notes sound not as good as they should. Try to figure out which fingering system your recorder uses. The easiest way is to look at the relative sizes of finger holes 4 and 5. On German fingering recorders, hole 4 is larger than hole 5. On Baroque/English fingering recorders, hole 4 is smaller than hole 5. BTW, Baroque/English fingering is preferred by most all serious recorder players.
    8) It is just possible that the reason that you were able to pick up the old recorder is that it was simply deemed to be less than satisfactory by its previous owner. In that case, one old standard joke popular among woodwind instrument players is that it might make a nice lamp body.

    All the best.

    –Dick–

    #986

    Tom Van Zoeren
    Participant

    Thanks Dick! That gives me a lot to think about and work on.

    I guess that what it boils down to is that unless I find someone skilled to try my old recorder, I may never know whether I’m struggling with an instrument that is just difficult or impossible to play well. (I live in a rural area and don’t know anyone who plays recorder.) My recorder was inherited from a relative who I did not know; so I don’t know how old it is or how good it ever was. Is it likely that an old wooden recorder either needs work or is just inherently difficult to play?

    Thanks again.

    #987

    Aulos303
    Participant

    Lower notes are harder to play on many wind instruments, especially the larger ones. The lower notes require slow, warm air. Also I found when I was starting on tenor that my ring finger would slightly uncover its hole without me realising it, making the lower notes not sound properly. Because tenors are longer than soprano and alto, the fingers are spread apart more, and when our pinky finger moves, the ring and middle fingers tend to move too, so we have to be extra careful their relevant holes are covered.

    • This reply was modified 5 months, 1 week ago by  Aulos303.

    You don't stop playing when you get old. You get old when you stop playing.

    #989

    Tom Van Zoeren
    Participant

    Thanks for the perspective, Aulos.

    #990

    Richard Hureau
    Participant

    I agree with what Aulos303 said, especially, as he said, on the larger recorders. It’s true even if your recorder has keys to make the reach easier with the right hand. I have a Yamaha plastic tenor recorder and if I haven’t played it in a while I find it very difficult to get the lowest notes to play at all, and that’s considered a very good recorder. That would be one way you could determine if your wooden recorder is any good. Buy a Yamaha plastic one and compare them. As I said, the Yamaha is considered VERY good (and it’s relatively inexpensive) – $65 on Amazon, for example: https://www.amazon.com/Yamaha-YRT304BII-Piece-Tenor-Recorder/dp/B0002MS7O2

    #992

    Tom Van Zoeren
    Participant

    Thanks Richard.

    #993

    Dick Mattson
    Participant

    I forgot to ask a couple of questions about the recorder you inherited.

    1) Are there any markings or stamps on it that might indicate who made the recorder or what brand it is?
    2) Does the lowest finger hole have one hole, two small holes, one pad operated with a key (i.e. lever), or two pads operated with two keys?
    3) Are any of the other finger holes fitted with a pad operated by a key?

    If we know the maker/brand, we might be better able to offer guidance as to whether the recorder is worth struggling with. Also, if the recorder has a pad on one or more of the holes, those notes and any notes below them would be hard to play if the pad or pads had dried out and no longer sealed the hole properly.

    –Dick–

    #994

    Tom Van Zoeren
    Participant

    My recorder is a “Kung”. “Made in Switzerland”.

    It also says “HARGAIL NYC” (or something like that, very faint)

    Also, “6K1”

    The bottom hole is single, with a single pad & key.

    The pad doesn’t look bad, and seems to work ok.

    #995

    Dick Mattson
    Participant

    Kung is a respected manufacturer of recorders. The single bottom hole with a single key and pad indicates that the instrument is rather old in the grand scheme of things. If I understand Kung’s system of date stamping, 6K1 means that the instrument was made in November (A B C … K L) of 1961. If it’s that old, and particularly if it hasn’t been played in a while, it could stand to have the bore oiled.

    #996

    Tom Van Zoeren
    Participant

    Ok, thanks for the tip!

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