Next recorder(s): woods, size, etc.

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    Diana K.

    I posted a couple of questions previously regarding selecting a recorder that I can play with some rt. hand limitations (crooked pinky finger, a bit of arthritis). I have been dabbling with alto primarily (Yamaha Ecodear and Mollenhauer Prima). Though I’d prefer to stick with alto, I really have alot of strain in my lower thumb and fingers, though I have watched Sarah Jeffrey’s video on hand position.

    I bought a soprano Ecodear and find it really fits my hands much better. I think I’m going to be playing soprano mostly, with limited alto playing. I did try some wooden altos on approval from Lazar’s Early Music. I tried a Mollenhauer Modern, but the stretch to the F key was too much for my pinky, plus, it’s heavier than “normal” altos. I tried a pearwood and a tulip wood Mollenhauer Denner. I love the look of the tulip wood, but my ears really can’t tell much difference between this and the cheaper pearwood. The pearwood is used (excellent condition) and I’m going to buy it. I do hear a nice difference between it and the plastic recorders.

    I’d like to get opinions about sopranos to try on approval – brands, woods. I’ll probably buy a couple of different ones. I like a lighter breath, so am thinking about Mollenhauer Denner, Moeck Rottenburgh. I also thought about the Marsyas by Kung, but that’s a special order, so I’d need to be sure about this one! Also, I have slight concern about Dalbergia spp. sensitivities (rosewood, tulip wood), and olive wood sensitivities. I know these are rare, and I don’t think I’m sensitive, but I don’t know!

    Appreciate any thoughts you may have on the above ramblings!



    Like yourself I have some problems due to age, arthritis, shoulder etc. and primarily play Soprano these last 6 months.
    I began playing Recorder ( Alto ) when lockdown started since I could no longer play guitar or bass very well.
    The Alto Recorder comes out once in a while.Not much though.
    2 months ago I purchased a Mollenhauer Denner Pearwood Soprano and have just gotten to the playing for one hour a day limit on it. It is excellent and I really like the instrument.
    Previously I had been using a Mollemhauer Dream Pearwood Soprano. Different from the Denner as demonstrated by Youtube videos and the description of Renaissance versus Baroque at ARS web site.
    I also just purchased the Autos Haka 709 plastic Soprano for practice and it is very good.
    My Yamaha Ecodear Soprano is stored in the closet now.No contest compared to the Haka.
    My dos centavos

    Diana K.

    Hi Kevin,
    It sounds like recorder is the perfect instrument to learn/play in older age – and during lockdown! I was playing Native American style flutes before I had a serious shoulder injury that also affected my hands, so gave up on the larger flutes, as I could not comfortably reach the bottom three holes. Similar situation with the alto recorders, I’m afraid.

    I’m glad to hear you like the Denner pearwood….I’ll think about getting one in a soprano version. I thought about trying a Dream, but I see the lowest hole is a bit further in distance than other recorder models, and I’d prefer having an adjustable foot. My pinky is crooked and tilts in the wrong direction!

    I’m not quite ready to closet the ecodears, but I can see the time will come!

    Richard Hureau

    I’d recommend a Bernolin resin soprano (442). Unless you are going to spend say $1000 on a high-level wooden model, the Bernolin resins are the best you can get, IMHO. Link is here:

    Diana K.

    Thanks, Kevin. I did consider a Bernolin at one point, but my sticking points are worries about servicing if needed (sending to France) and the proprietary LM-77. It seems these recorders are pretty prone to clogging. Do you have one?

    Richard Hureau

    Richard (not Kevin). Yes, I do have a soprano Bernolin resin. I don’t play it very much because I don’t like the shrillness of a soprano, but that’s the nature of the beast. So I mostly stick with the alto, although I agree that the soprano is a good alternative if you are unable to play an alto.

    Bernolin resin recorders are similar in clogging to regular plastic recorders, I’d say. So yes, they are worse than wooden recorders in this respect. It’s too bad because I think the expectation is that the wooden block would help prevent clogging, but it doesn’t really, IMHO. But if you resign yourself to the thought that it’s going to clog similar to the way a regular plastic one will, it’s not so bad.

    Of course, the reason full wooden recorders don’t clog as much is because they are absorbing all that moisture, which causes swelling and contracting and then they require revoicing, repair, etc. So life is full of tradeoffs.

    As far as the LM-77 fluid, it works VERY well. I don’t think that being “proprietary” is necessarily a bad thing. I mean, Bernolin has invented by far the best anti-clogging fluid I have ever used. Where regular fluid might last say 2 or 3 playing sessions, the Bernolin fluid will actually last WEEKS, and work better too. Of course, this probably depends on how much you practice.

    Assuming you warm your recorder properly beforehand (I hold it under my arm for about 15 minutes), you won’t experience any clogging, pretty much. I do actually get about 3 or 4 weeks of anti-clogging from one treatment. So one bottle has lasted me well over a year and is still about half full. So it’s worth it, period. It can be used on ANY recorder, based on what it says on his website (i.e. plastic, wooden, and of course his resin recorders with the cedar block).

    Diana K.

    My apologies, Richard (not Kevin!)!

    I really don’t mind the shrillness of sopranos (well, except maybe high F, which I haven’t been able to hit on my humble Ecodear). The size and lightness really suits my hand and finger issues much better, and I see a day when I don’t pick up the alto anymore. I really am having a blast with soprano! I just received a Moeck Rottenburgh olive wood soprano and am loving it!

    Yes, totally agree about the need for warmup to reduce clogging. I notice that mine don’t clog nearly as much when I give them a good warm up time.

    I do appreciate your comments about the Bernolin soprano. I think my main hang ups have been – what if it’s no longer possible to get service from Mr. Bernolin – and what if LM-77 someday is no longer available? Maybe I’m worrying about nothing. I’m probably going to order a Bernolin and a couple of bottles of LM-77 tonight…!

    Richard Hureau

    It’s great that you are liking the soprano. I have small hands myself (although not any other problems with them), so the alto is not ideal.

    I know what you mean about the Bernolin. As far as maintenance on the instrument itself – revoicing, fixing the thumbhole (i.e. adding a bushing), this type of work could be done by any competent recorder repair shop, I think. For one thing, it would seldom (if ever?) need revoicing, because it pretty much stays the same.

    The cedar block can get a little funky over time. On my alto it tends to protrude a little from the mouthpiece, but if I knock it out (as shown in Sarah Jeffery’s cleaning video – not at all scary once you’ve done it even once) and then put it back in, I can get it flush with the mouthpiece. It doesn’t affect the sound or playing.

    The joint thread just stays like new, except it gets slightly fuzzy over the surface from repeatedly being taken apart (after each use). The thumbhole could need a refurbishing, I suppose, after years of use, but that would just mean that the repairer would drill a somewhat larger hole and place a plastic ring into it, the same as would be done with a wooden instrument.

    So, in other words, it pretty much doinesn’t change.

    As far as the fluid, I agree that if you buy a resin instrument it would be good to get 2 bottles (which will last several years). But consider – the Bernolin instruments don’t clog any worse than regular plastic recorders.

    When you play plastic, do you worry about the clogging? I mean is it a deal breaker? I don’t think so. I have a bunch of Moeck, Dolmetsch, and Roessler wooden recorders, but eventually stopped playing them and switched totally to plastic (till I got the Bernolins) because I got tired of having the wooden instruments revoiced (or was too cheap or too lazy).

    I don’t like the clogging of plastic instruments but I have learned to deal with it without using any fluids. It was only because I got the Bernolin alto and a bottle of fluid that I got SPOILED by the unclogging created by using the fluid (just on the Bernolins; I don’t bother on regular plastic recorders, which I don’t play much now anyway). If I had to go back to the Bernolin clogging like a normal plastic recorder, well that would be sad but OK.

    Hope this helps. It sounds like you already have a pretty nice soprano (the Moeck olive) so this is kind of moot anyway, I suppose – till you have to get it revoiced!! 😉

    Diana K.

    Richard, thanks for your thoughts on this.

    Regarding the Bernolin soprano (which I did order!), I did ask Mr. Bernolin about the need for sending back for revoicing or other reason, and he said that about 10% of his recorders need to be sent back. I hope I get one of the 90% that doesn’t!

    I don’t have any “competent repair shops” near me. Do you have any suggestions for where to send a Bernolin (in the US) for any needed repairs?

    I’ll keep an eye on that block. I don’t have an aversion to knocking it out and cleaning it!

    Plastic recorders clogging don’t really bother me all that much, especially if I take the time to really warm them up before playing. But I don’t play much more than about 30-45′ at a time, either. I don’t use the anti-condense anymore.

    Hmmmm, I didn’t realize that revoicing was such a common need for wooden recorders. I’ll see how the olive soprano works for me. When can you tell a recorder needs revoicing?

    Richard Hureau

    Good luck with your soprano Bernolin! I think you will like it very much. But you will get spoiled by its lack of clogging (new instruments have been treated with the fluid). Enjoy it while it lasts! At least from my experience the treatment lasts and lasts but when it quits helping it quits pretty quickly, like within a few days – you’ll notice it clogging and then within a few days, it’s doing it a lot. Such is life.

    As far as getting repairs, I suppose the most obvious place is Von Huene Workshop:

    But I actually have never had a recorder repaired or revoiced – hence my eventual switching to just using plastic instruments.

    The problem with revoicing is the need for it happens gradually over time, so you don’t even realize it is happening. Gradually it will become more and more muted, less responsive, etc. I brought a maple Moeck Rottenburg alto to my first lesson with a good teacher in NYC years ago (Ken Wollitz, author of “The Recorder Book”, Knopf, 1981). One of the first things he said to me was “your recorder needs revoicing.” I didn’t have a clue. He’s the one who had me switch to plastic, saying that unless you are willing to spend big bucks, plastic is as good or better, and no maintenance. I’m sure he would love the Bernolins.

    Anyway, the thing is, you’ll probably never have to get any fix done to your Bernolin, except perhaps the thumbhole, depending on your pinching technique. But even there, since it is hard resin it probably wears quite well. I have noticed that it does not scratch if you put a clip-on thumbrest on it.

    Hope it doesn’t take too long to receive your Bernolin. Shipping during the pandemic and combined with holidays might mean it will take awhile. Again, good luck!! It’s been several years since I got my alto and later soprano, so it wouldn’t be very indicative.

    Diana K.

    Thanks, I really appreciate your thoughts on this. I’m going to refrain from buying any more wooden recorders! Yikes, I did not think about the revoicing issue. I’m not a professional, so playing the resin and plastic recorders is just fine for me (though I do love the look of olive wood!).

    I’m guessing the Bernolin will take about 6 weeks. That’s ok; I have my Ecodear and the Rottenburgh sopranos to keep me busy till then!

    Richard Hureau

    WHile you wait for your recorder you could look at Vincent Bernolin’s YouTube video on treating the recorder with the fluid:

    He makes it look easier than it really is – it comes out very fast, sometimes not from the tip (you have to shake it first and sometimes some is then leaking out of the sides of the top area – grrr!). It’s no doubt harder to control with a small soprano. But the good news is that if you saturate it, it will just do its unclogging longer. One thing about that – when you play a treated instrument, condensation sometimes runs down the FRONT of the recorder (probably more on an alto), coming out of the labium area. This is actually a sign that it is working (that condensation has to go somewhere!). Kind of strange but it’s better than have it clog. 🙂

    Diana K.

    Thanks for sending that video link, and all the great tips, Richard! I’ll be prepared when the Bernolin arrives!

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