How to Teach Yourself to Play the Recorder

Updated March 23, 2017

The recorder is one of the most basic, easiest instruments to learn. Playing the recorder requires only minimal knowledge of music, so even a complete beginner can teach himself to play using very few resources. In fact, many schools use the recorder to introduce students to the world of music. If you've ever wanted to learn a musical instrument but thought it would be difficult, taking up the recorder may be the best way for you to explore your musical possibilities.

Familiarise yourself with the notes on the music staff as they relate to the recorder. The recorder has a limited range, so you only need to know the notes in the bass position on the music staff. A music staff consists of five horizontal lines and four spaces, each representing a music note. The lines are E-G-B-D-F and the spaces are F-A-C-E. Use a saying to help you remember the lines, such as Every Good Boy Does Fine. The notes on the spaces spell the word "face." The first line below the music staff, called a ledger line, is the lowest note on your recorder. It is a C.

Hold the recorder properly. Place your left hand on the recorder first, above your right hand. Place your right thumb near the thumb hole and allow all four fingers of your left hand to hover over the first four holes and the first two fingers of your right hand to hover over the last two holes. The third finger of your right hand will hover over the seventh hole.

Learn how to play the notes written on the staff with your recorder. To play the lowest note, you will cover all seven holes of your recorder plus the thumb hole on the back of your recorder, then place the mouthpiece of the recorder between your lips and gently blow. To make the next note, a D, cover all holes with your fingers except the thumb hole. Play the next note, E, by covering the thumb hole and the first five holes on the recorder. To learn the position of all the notes, you should keep a recorder fingering chart on hand and use it until you memorise the note positions. You can purchase a recorder fingering chart or find one online at no charge (see Resources).

Play simple recorder sheet music you're familiar with. Playing your recorder is the best way to improve. You can find free recorder sheet music online (see Resources). To play the songs, look at the notes on the music staff first, refer to a fingering chart to locate them (until you have memorised the notes). Be sure all of your fingers are covering (or not covering) the proper holes to make the notes indicated. Use the soft pad at the tips of your fingers to cover holes fully. The more you practice, the better you're going to sound.

Things You'll Need

  • Recorder
  • Recorder fingering chart
  • Recorder music
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About the Author

Carl Hose is the author of the anthology "Dead Horizon" and the the zombie novella "Dead Rising." His work has appeared in "Cold Storage," "Butcher Knives and Body Counts," "Writer's Journal," and "Lighthouse Digest.". He is editor of the "Dark Light" anthology to benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities.