As a well-known Orff pioneer and creator of recorder curriculum, Lynn Kleiner certainly knows a thing or two about the difference a quality recorder can make to a school curriculum.
"As a recorder teacher since 1978, I am aware of the increasing number of choices teachers have to select a brand of recorder. I have also noticed that the quality of different brands of recorders varies widely. I have heard inferior recorders that are out of tune, with horrible tone quality that remind me of the old days when the tonettes were the elementary melody instrument of choice, instead of recorders. That poor sound quality classified those as toys, not instruments. I think we need to evaluate this objectively by having two groups of players, one with a known quality recorder and the other with a suspected inferior brand, and then shout “LISTEN, EVERYONE! There’s clearly a significant difference in sound quality that we observed!” Well, I think it would obvious; no one really needs to shout.
My early recorder training led me to be very particular about the choice of recorder not only because the price difference is minimal but the quality difference is dramatic and greatly affects the performance experience. I was taught in my Orff-level training that the type of recorder for students should be the best quality plastic recorder possible so the child can hear an instrument that is in tune with itself, with the other players, and has the best tone quality. Young students don’t need to be burdened with the issues inherent with a wood recorder, such as cracking, humidity, and swabbing.
It is also important for the teacher to demonstrate good tone and intonation to the students by playing an instrument that is of high quality and in tune. For the last 31 years, I have had an after school recorder ensemble (We were fortunate to have the opportunity to perform at two AOSA conferences and one MENC conference!). We played the same quality brand of all sizes of recorders for the best possible ensemble blend.
For those of you reading on, here’s another issue that I struggle with in teacher training environments. My beginning recorder lesson is one of my favorite lesson plans of the year and includes a number of exotic birds in my story (yes, I teach recorder using a number of stories). In order to play my “Weird Birds” piece, you must have the head joint alone, playing the mouth piece without the body of the recorder. I work with tonguing, breathing, and improvisation in a way that can foster success for the first time player. Then I hear teachers say “I can’t take the top off my recorder, it’s all one piece!” Students should have at least a two piece recorder; however, if you are going to get to the low C in your recorder classes, I suggest the 3 piece recorder so the students can adjust the foot piece.
I hope teachers have the opportunity to make side-by-side comparisons to select the highest quality within a target price range. Yes, you usually get what you pay for, but in this case, sometimes paying a little more will get you a whole lot more!
What do I like? I have enjoyed both the 3-piece Aulos and Yamaha recorders in my schools."
Lynn Kleiner’s recorder workshops and lessons are available online at www.lynnkleinersmusicbox.com.