Reply To: Next step after Yamaha YRA-28B Alto (towards a Bernolin Resin)?

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Katia J

I never liked the fatness either. It is rather unique in that respect, especially the very large foot. Unlike the Bernolin, which also is fat and has a large foot, the fat barrel and foot of the old 709 doesn’t seem to make the right-hand finger holes easier to reach.

With the Bernolin, just how the holes are positioned and how the foot is sized actually makes it about the easiest right-hand finger hole positions I have ever used. I think it’s because the area where the right-hand pinky holes are located bulges slightly and brings those two holes up toward your pinky better. Very subtle but it is immediately noticeable when you play. But generally I prefer a more normal size.

So, when they redesigned the Haka and came up with the 709B, it is generally regular sized. Oddly enough, at about the same time they redesigned the 509 (“Symphony”) and made the rather slim barrel and small foot of the old 509 into a fatter barrel and large foot, so the 509B is now kind of similar in size to the Bernolin.

I was rather unpleasantly surprised by the 509B when it came out, and actually went out and bought 4 new 509s (old model), because I used to wear out the thumb hole of a plastic recorder about every 5 years, so I figured I had a good supply going forward. Well, wouldn’t you know, I have since changed my thumb technique to just use the fleshy part and not the nail, so that no longer happens, plus I’ve grown to like the new 509B better, so now it is my favorite plastic, and, as I’ve said, easiest to go back and forth with the Bernolin.

Having only played/handled these two instruments, now I’m a bit curious to see the dimensional difference between others. I guess I never thought about it much before, but it makes sense.

Yes, i think that is correct. If you look at the description of the Mollenhauer Denner Edition recorders:

I think that gives a good idea of what has to be done to a mass-produced wooden recorder to bring it up to the level of a recorder like the Bernolin resin. They charge about $1200 for the alto Denner Editions, I think. I also think that the Bernolin resin is probably very similar to his own wooden recorders, which sell for about $1600. So, yes, that is what you get with a Bernolin resin – a very good deal, IMHO.

As far as why there are no lower-priced handmade resin recorders, I think you are correct that there is not much point to it. You aren’t moving “up” to a $300-$500 wooden recorder from a plastic fantastic. You are going sideways, really. So a cheaply made resin from blocks of resin wouldn’t have much point.

Related to this, Jacqueline Sorel, a recorder maker in Europe, had a posting on Facebook in which she described a white resin alto recorder she made for a customer who is allergic to wood. She said that it was as difficult to make as a wooden one and required a lot of fine-tuning, etc. The implication was that it would cost as much as a high-priced wooden one, even though the material is certainly cheaper. Plus, Coolsma makes a “polyester” recorder much like the Bernolin – but they charge the same as they do for their wooden versions (!), about $1600:

Coolsma Alto Recorder after Bressan in Polyester (a=415)

So, the point here is that the Bernolin is actually what you wished existed – an intermediate-priced rein model. The marvel is that he is able to hand fine-tune it and sell it for the price he does. No one else is doing that. As I understand it, he has the block carving, drilling, etc highly automated and down to a science (avoiding the trouble Sorel was having, I guess, because she was making just one), so most of the price is devoted to the fine-tuning.

Since I have never had an expensive wooden recorder like Prescott or Von Heune makes in USA, it is hard for me to compare the sound of the Bernolin against anything other than several old mid-priced wooden ones I have – Moeck Rottenburgs in maple and palisander; a Dolmetsch in rosewood; a Roessler in ebony. But just from the wood used in those, you can see that they were relatively high-end mass-produced wood models, much like a Moeck Rottenbug in palisander or olive would be today. They do not sound even close to as rich and full as the Bernolin, and looking closely, none has the shaved inner holes that you can see on the Bernolin (except the Roessler has a little on a few holes). So, yeah, it makes a difference.

You know, you bring up a good point in mentioning the Mollenhauer– my thinking was that people saying the Bernolin resin compared to instruments costing $X had to do with the sound/playing quality, but they could be talking about the level of craftsmanship instead.

I think part of the reason it seems there’s a big jump between “plastic recorder that’s injection-molded” and “plastic recorder that’s handmade” is because so many people *are* saying, “Really, I’m going to pay that much for an instrument and it’s made of plastic??” (Whereas I’m more inclined to say, “Really, I’m getting an instrument that’s that handmade, *and* it’s more durable, and that’s all it costs??” LOL.