Reply To: Yamaha recorders- do they sound flat?

Ken In Dallas

Uh Oh, I guess I’m going to be the Curmudgeon here. There’s playing flat and there’s your recorder being (tuned) flat compared to a recording or another player. Don’t hurt me, but here goes…

Playing flat can be low breath, posture, and such. A single note be flat (or sharp) despite your doing what the fingerchart says. That’s often the case with inexpensive instruments and older plastic ones from the 60s and 70s. The correction is usually an alternate fingering or ‘Shading’ a hole – hovering a finger close over the hole – to ‘bend’ the pitch slightly.

When we play with a recording or another player, it isn’t uncommon for there to be a difference between instruments that requires pulling the headjoint, extending a Recorder’s overall length so as to lower its overall tuning and make the pitches match.

As a higher level of Musicianship, there’s “Blending.” When two notes are very, very, very close together, their soundwaves can ‘clash’ in a way that sounds bad or we even hear ‘beating’ as the two instruments fight with each other. Advanced musicians listen as they play and adjust till things sound ‘sweet.’ Well blended live performance, both by pitch and volume, can be heart-stoppingly beautiful.

I just did a little ‘flute-ing’ around and counter-intuitively found that my curved and tight-windwayed Recorders had a wider in-tune dynamic (volume) range than my older streight-and-large windwayed ones. I’m thinking this permits easier blending assuming you know your instrument’s pitch idiosyncrasies. By the way, I use Richard Schwartz’s “The Tuning CD” with my students. I have them put down their instruments and sing to match pitch with it so they feel the blend in their chest. I find that Recorder players in particular learn to blend better and faster experiencing this material. The CDs are on YouTube at:

It’s an excellent experience in tuning and blending. End of Curmudgeon’s rant.

— k —