How to Play the Descant Recorder

Updated November 21, 2016

The descant recorder---also known as the soprano recorder---is the most commonly played kind of recorder in the United States, and is the first kind of recorder many people encounter, as it is frequently used in school music programs. The descant recorder has a large repertoire of works written for it, ranging from folk melodies and chamber music to concertos. Other kinds of recorder include the alto, tenor, and bass. In this article, you'll learn the basics of playing the descant recorder.

Assemble the recorder. The mouthpiece should line up with the holes in the body of the recorder.

Hold your recorder so that your left hand is on top and your right hand is below it. The top three fingers on your left hand will cover the top three holes on the recorder. Your right fingers will cover the bottom four holes. For now, do not cover any holes with your fingers.

Place your lips on the mouthpiece, so that you can reach the top of the mouthpiece with your tongue. Tighten the corners of your mouth to create a seal around the mouthpiece.

Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth into the mouthpiece steadily. Practice blowing into the recorder and creating a long, stable sound.

Touch your tongue to the tip of the mouthpiece as your blow into it, as if you were saying "ta" or "to." This is called tonguing, and is the way to articulate or separate individual notes when you play. Practice tonguing slowly and quickly.

Consult the fingering chart to learn where to place your fingers to create different pitches as you blow into the recorder. Practice moving from one note to its neighbours above and below, and practice jumping from low notes to high notes and high notes to low notes.

Practice daily, working through a method book or a book of tunes written for beginning recorder players. The more frequently and longer you practice, the faster you'll be able to play more in tune with a good, even sound, and play more complex music.

Clean out your recorder after each practice session. If your recorder didn't come with a cleaning swab, you can clean it by threading a handkerchief or other soft cloth down the length of the body.


Practice consistently to improve. Always clean your recorder after practicing.

Things You'll Need

  • Descant or soprano recorder
  • Method book
  • Fingering chart
  • Cleaning swap or lint-free cotton cloth for cleaning
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author