Remove the block during cleaning?

Recorder Forum Home Page Forum Recorder Makes, Models and Maintenance Remove the block during cleaning?

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    Diana K.

    I recently bought my first wood Mollenhauer, and am not sure whether removing the block during cleaning is a good idea. I saw the Team Recorder video where Sarah is demonstrating block removal and cleaning, but this is not something that Mollenhauer includes in its care instructions.

    Is it a good idea for a beginner to attempt this? Does this void the Mollenhauer warranty?

    Ken In Dallas

    No. It’s not a good idea for a beginner to remove the block.

    While it is something players sometimes learn to do, I believe most would say it’s an ‘advanced’ cleaning component by players and done only when required. Also, the damage the block might sustain would likely be visible and just might void your warranty.

    Wise to ask…. Welcome aboard ! — k —

    Diana K.

    Thank you much, Ken. I thought I’d seek the superior wisdom of this group before fiddling with the block! Good point about the warranty….wouldn’t want to void it….

    Ken In Dallas

    Quick question: Which voice (alto, tenor, etc.) and which wood did you choose? While I’m asking: how long do you have it and are you pleased with it. I ask cause I purchased a Pearwood Mollenhauer Alto about 18 month’s ago. I wasn’t pleased at first. I had it revoiced and now I love it. Great high register. Delightful sound. – k –

    Diana K.

    I purchased a Mollenhauer Denner rosewood soprano – but haven’t received it yet (it’s coming from the UK). I asked about the block because I want to be prepared! Also waiting on three altos I ordered on assignment from Lazar’s to try: Mollenhauer Denner pearwood, a tulipwood, and also a modern Mollenhauer alto (for kicks). I’ll see how that Denner pearwood sounds, given your experience with it….

    Diana K.

    I purchased a Mollenhauer Denner rosewood soprano – but haven’t received it yet (it’s coming from the UK). I asked about the block because I want to be prepared! Also waiting on three altos I ordered on assignment from Lazar’s to try: Mollenhauer Denner pearwood, a tulipwood, and also a modern Mollenhauer alto (for kicks). I’ll see how that Denner pearwood sounds, especially given your experience with it….!

    Ken In Dallas

    A Rosewood Soprano! How nice. My wooden Tenor is Rosewood, and I love it. I find Rosewood a balance of warmth and brilliance. Enjoy it in the best of health!

    Pearwood vs Tulipwood vs Modern — wow. You must post your impressions.

    Regarding ‘evaluations,’ Let me apologize in advance for the unrequested thoughts that follow, but my recent experience evaluating and purchasing a ‘blackwood’ Alto may be of some value. I had three sent to choose from: One handmade new, one handmade used, and a (1980s?) mid-priced factory instrument. Each day seemed to result in a new ‘first choice.’ In the end I discovered three or four important factors I came to focus on.

    First was if an instrument’s voice was more flute like (pure) or reedy (complex.)

    Two, how different sounding was the low G/G# from the nearby notes. Every Recorder seems to have issues with that hole to some degree. It may not be possible for it to be identical to the nearby notes, but I feel the less it ‘sticks out’ can be of help in blending and phrasing.

    Third is the low F with its own two issues: A, how much quieter is it than the notes near it. (All lowest Fs are quiet;) and B, how easy is it to get a good clean F note, especially on a faster passage. I spent hours rotating the foot for a low F on one of the ‘try-out’ Altos. I could not get that instrument to consistently play a clean F. I chose to reject the instrument despite it having the most beautiful overall voice of the three. It hurt to send it back.

    Regarding low F loudness: from what I understand, as you choose to make the foot ‘tube’ longer, the low F gets louder till it matches the nearby notes. The problem is that the right-hand pinky reach increases as well. This seems to be why the first key that’s added to some Altos and many Tenors is always on that last hole. But on a good instrument, F seems to be ‘acceptably’ close in volume.

    No two Recorders the same; no two players the same. I hope it was okay to share these post-evaluation thoughts. That week seemed very, very short.

    Diana K.

    Ken, no apologies necessary! I’m grateful to hear from people that have experience in selecting and playing recorders. I realize that everybody’s experience with specific recorders is different, but it sure is helpful for me to get broad guidance in sorting through the plethora of options.

    I like your evaluation criteria, and am adding it to my list of things to especially notice while playing different instruments. I’m also adding one of my own because of my right hand issues – ergonomics and weight of the instrument, which for me, go hand in hand.

    I’m not sure my thoughts on the alto Denner pearwood vs. tulip wood vs. the Modern pear wood with F foot will be all that helpful, as I’m having problems with all of them in consistently hitting low F/F#. I was surprised this was the case for me with the Modern – the F was easier to hit than the F#. I do find my hand position especially cramped with the Modern; to a lesser degree with the Denners. I did find the Modern projected better than the Denners, especially the lowest notes (when I could hit them). I really can’t hear a big difference between the pear wood and the tulip wood – maybe because I’m a beginner.

    I really wanted to find an Alto that is playable for me with my rt. hand/finger limitations. I suppose I could contact Mollenhauer for a custom design, but I don’t think that would be worth the $$$$. I have been enjoying my soprano Ecodear – just playing with it to see if I can play it easily – which I can. I’m looking forward to playing that rosewood soprano Denner, and as I mentioned in another post, I ordered an olivewood Moeck Rottenburg.

    I may try out a soprano Modern on approval at some point. I really was impressed with the sound projection. And, those keys kind of take me back to my clarinet playing days!!!

    Ken In Dallas

    You’ve described multiple recent and potential purchases all going on at the same time while in search of both tone (via the wood choice) and playability (right pinky issues.) I’m afraid I have a basket of unsolicited opinions. I kind of think there is no perfect Recorder. Its imperfections are part of its charm and ancient sound. The quest to perfect our instrument initiates the development of most all the other woodwinds including the modern Flute and your old Clarinet with all its plumbing of valves and linkages. I’ve found that it’s my job to play each of my recorders with an understanding of their beautiful imperfections, kind of like not expecting to change a person you’re marrying. That’s not to discourage you in your quest, but each individual instrument I own and play teaches me things that shape the way I try to find and play at their best.

    I don’t know what wood was used to make the first Tenor I bought when I was 14, but I know that I couldn’t hear then what I heard six-month’s ago, when I bought my first Ebony Soprano (on eBay.) The Ebony’s sound exploded in my head, but my wife didn’t think there was much to it… till I played it here for a few months. Now she hears it and then in turn supported the search and purchase of my ‘Blackwood’ Alto.

    That said (perhaps pedantically) on a more concrete issue, I’ll offer that your F# difficulties on an instrument you can play F on is something you have to resolve through practice and familiarity with that particular instrument. If you can get an F you’re pleased with, the F# is likely yours to resolve rather than the instrument’s maker. Moving the pinky forward and back going across from F to F# is often better done at the wrist rather than by the bend of the pinky.

    On the F itself – I have to ask if your pinky is approaching the flute at exactly 90̊ to the body of the flute. While some people disparage using Thumb Rests, getting that angle correct is the Thumb Rest’s job. It keeps the right hand low on the instrument. The right wrist ‘cocks’ at an angle as a result. I don’t know anybody that’s had any wrist problems playing this way.

    Ranting on… (opinion) I don’t think a Thumb Rest should bear the weight of the instrument as some people think. I wear a neck strap playing my Bass, and there are a number of pictures and descriptions on line of Alto Wrist Straps that tether down to a little strap around the top of the Bell just below the thicker area the F hole is on. I’ve been thinking to make one for my Rosewood Tenor as it’s so much heavier than my old keyed wooden one and the maybe four plastic Tenors I have. I haven’t seen anyone selling a good Wrist Strap. Everybody seems to make, or braid, or crochets their own.

    If you are near and around 5-foot tall, the reach between the pinky and ring finger can be an issue. Many invest in installing a key for an Alto’s pinky hole, but my take on this is that you can’t just say ‘install it’ and hope it fixes things. This – despite many on-line shops saying they do such work, is something I think that has to be ‘fitted’ or custom made. I say this after looking into pinky reach while thinking to buy my unkeyed Rosewood Tenor. I discovered the pinky reach was just about the same on all the keyed AND unkeyed Tenors. That’s cause the hole distances are decided by (the unbendable) Laws of Physics. Though my old first Tenor had a key, I now play plastic and wooden unkeyed Tenors. Sarah Jeffery has mentioned developing her pinky reach over time by playing as well.

    The same Laws of Physics apply in understanding other issues with Recorders such as the quieter low F. As makers lengthened the instrument to raise low note volume, they then had to move the hole for low notes even further down the instrument’s body – thus requiring a key (or two.) Going further, the Modern Recorder is an attempt (if I understand correctly) to go back to the drawing board and keep the Recorder sound while not going the route of the Transverse Flute with all the plumbing and linkage. I guess I’m leading up to saying that the ‘Modern’ may be a whole different beasty and may be too much to add into your equation at this time. I have not heard or played one… but I’m thinking it must approach the sound of a quality wooden Transverse Flute – beautiful – but isn’t there something to a simple Recorder with no keys.

    Beneath all these words I guess I’m saying, “Slow down” a bit and maybe buy one at a time. You’re on a very exciting quest. I think you’re raising the right issues and going forward in very a smart way. I’m concerned that the ‘Modern’ may mix up things. Please also, I hope my over-long thoughts and suggestions are taken as helpful and supportive.
    – k –

    Diana K.

    Thank you, Ken, you have wise words! I do tend to jump in with both feet, and I’ll slow down a bit. I’m really excited about recorder. I do understand that they are individuals (like my handcrafted Native American flutes), and each has its own personality and quirks to figure out and enjoy!

    I will work on the pinky finger hole coverage tips as you discussed. I’d really like to play alto as well as soprano…..

    Regarding thumb rests….I’d like to look into how to use them to position the thumb, but not let it bear the weight of the thumb. I have been using an idea from Team Recorder video “Thumb rests, slings, crooks, keys?” – I looped a couple of elastic hair bands together, and attach one end around the bell end, and the other end around my rt. thumb when I want more support for my alto Ecodear. Works ok…. This doesn’t work for my Mollenhauer Prima, so I’m using a thin rubber o-ring from Ace Hardware between the rt. 1st and 2nd fingers to give a tiny bit of support, and for a placement cue. This ring is moveable as I like, and also helps keep this (slippery!) recorder from slipping.

    I did think about using a neck sling for the altos…probably would work better for me than the above – if I can find the correct placement and the right thumb rest. I’m not sure I want to drill holes into an instrument, though!!! I see some metal adjustable and fixed thumb rests with eyelets at Can you recommend any in particular? I don’t think an adjustable plastic one will work – I don’t see any that have eyelets for slings.

    Agree about the Modern…I realize that keys are not going to be the answer. Plus, it’s an additional complication I’d like to avoid (oiling, replacing pads, etc.).

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 4 months ago by Diana K..
    Ken In Dallas

    As I mentioned, I see Thumb Rest placement in terms of the right pinky. Weight bearing is another matter. Accidentally dropping a fine instrument is a heart-stopping event never forgotten. Mine was an exceptional and fine violin long ago.

    I jumped at your suggestion to use O Rings till I remembered an expensive mic hitting the ground in a recording session when its o-ring support snapped, and that was a fairly static situation. I look up and say ‘Thank You’ every time it’s a plastic recorder that falls to the floor. I’m far more careful with my wooden recorders, which stay in my hand or on their peg on a floor stand, of which I have a few.

    I want to thank you for mentioning RecorderForge. I wasn’t familiar with them. I see they have a little $10 Brass thumb rest with a ring for a strap that I’m going to install on the Blackwood. Till now I’ve only found the ‘plated’ ones that age ugly.

    As for a suggestion from me, I’m thinking you haven’t really landed on your placement yet. I would use one of the plastic snap-on rests – even on the wood instruments – till you’re consistent and happy. Once I know where I like them, I use a little ‘White School Glue’ to hold the plastic rest on plastic instruments. I don’t find they move on wooden instruments, but they will scratch the instrument after a while.

    You know the tradition of old was to use a piece of wine cork with two-sided tape. Better wines have finer cork. ‘Longer’ rather than ‘wider’ gives a larger gluing surface. If I want to remove the rest, I take a piece of string to ‘saw’ the tape free. I’ve wanted to experiment with polymer clay and wood but haven’t to date.

    I assumed you were in Europe when you ordered instruments from Britain. If there’s a Whole Foods anywhere near, I found the one here in Dallas has a ‘Cork Collection Box’ near the door. Expensive wines have excellent corks with few defects.

    I’m curious if you’re learning Soprano and Alto at the same time and what method book – if any – you’re using. I’m very fond of the adult Sweet Pipes books both for tweaking my own technique when needed and for teaching. The authors did a great job writing them. Lots of excellent and varied melodies as well as fingering studies that are tuneful. Have you seen IMSLP’s excellent player-graded list of Recorder music at

    Your questions are excellent and thought provoking. If I can be of any more help, it’s my pleasure.

    — k —

    Diana K.

    You bring up good points regarding dropping a recorder! My poor hands have less grip ability due to arthritis, and I often drop things. I’m having flashbacks to when I dropped a very expensive double Native American style flute and had to send it back for repair.

    A tether to the recorder is a good idea. I do find the o-rings help with the slipperiness, but I had not thought about them breaking. Maybe inspecting and replacing them at frequent intervals would help (they are really cheap).

    I’m glad you found RecorderForge to be helpful. I see you ordered the fixed thumb rest. What are your thoughts about the adjustable one – for newbies like me that are trying to nail their thumb placement?

    I like the idea of trying different types of temporary thumb rests to try to figure out finger placement. The o-rings are giving me ideas, so I can try the plastic clip on and maybe the cork ideas next.

    I ordered a soprano recorder from Early Music Shop in London because Sarah Jeffreys refers to them alot, and they had what I wanted in stock. I didn’t know at that time that there are businesses in the US that sell and offer recorders on approval, so I will be working with them in future.

    I worked through the first Sweet Pipes for alto within a couple weeks, and have since gotten through all three. Partway through I ordered Aldo Bova’s ebook “The Alto Recorder: A Comprehensive New Method” from Lulu and really like it. I keep coming back to it. It’s in the style of Sweet Pipes, but I think more comprehensive, with more practice pieces and a great variety of classic song pieces as well as songs he wrote. Some of the pieces have turned me on to pursuing composers that I didn’t know much about, like Van Eyck (which I REALLY like!). His ebook: 50 Famous Pieces is also a good adjunct to the method books.

    I learned alto initially, as I had hoped to play this size instrument. But the issues with my right hand are making me grab the soprano more and more. I’m playing alto fingerings on soprano. At some point, I may learn the soprano fingerings (or transpose pieces), after I let the alto fingerings gel a bit more. I don’t feel a big need to do this yet; I don’t play with other instruments!

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