recorder method online : treble/altoc natural
Dr. Brian Blood

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First Octave :: Second Octave: F :: F#/Gb :: G :: G#/Ab :: A :: Bb/A# :: B :: C :: C#/Db :: D :: D#/Eb :: E :: Third Octave

This section gives advice on the following topics:

How To Finger The Note C
How To Tongue The Note C
How To Play High Notes on Your Recorder

How To Finger The Note C

The twentieth note we learn, C in the second octave on the treble (alto) recorder, lies on the second leger line above the treble clef. Click on the play button in the Sibelius score to hear it. Below that we give the standard fingering for this note, the fingering you would use under normal circumstances.

Legend: = hole covered = hole uncovered = pinched thumbhole

Recorder Thumb 1 2 3 4 5 6b
  -----left hand------ -----right hand-----


Using the standard nomenclature, the fingering for second octave C natural is written X 1 2 3, where X indicates a pinched thumb or vented thumbhole.

How To Tongue The Note C in the Second Octave

The group of notes from C in the second octave to F in the third octave, sometimes called top F, can give recorder players problems. Many recorder players seem uncertain about how hard they need to tongue to get the notes to speak and how much air the notes require to sustain them. There is a trick to learning to play high notes.

How To Play High Notes on the Recorder

It is always easiest to find the amount of air you need to sustain a note before working out how to tongue it. If you play middle B natural and then, lifting your right hand finger, slur up to and sustain middle C, you will be able to feel the amount of air middle C requires to keep the tone full and round. If you increase the air flow you can drive the pitch up (that is, play sharper) but if you reduce the air flow the note will sound thinner, flatten in pitch and finally break back to produce low C. This exploration of the influence of air flow on tone and pitch is a useful introduction to what you will need to be even more aware of with notes higher up the scale. Once you feel confident that you can always slur from B natural to C, you should then try the same sequence but tongue each note in turn. If the C does not speak clearly, check that you have a suitably small thumbhole opening (but that you have not closed it), that you are using a firm 'ti' sound, as in 'tip', as your tonguing stroke and that you have not restricted the flow of air through tightening your throat muscles. You must keep your throat relaxed. Make sure that you allow enough time between B natural and C to complete the movement of the right hand finger before tonguing. You should now try playing a sequence, B C B C B C B C slowly and steadily making sure that both notes sound clear and speak quickly. We will use this trick to learn how to tongue each of the remaining high notes on the treble recorder and in each case you should find that you can master this item of technique quickly and securely. Before we leave this matter, I should make a very important point, that I have made earlier - the relationship between tonguing stroke and air pressure is unique to every recorder. Not only are no two instruments from different makers likely to be identical in this respect, you will find that even two instruments from the same maker may be just as variable. When approaching a new instrument do not think it odd that you have to learn again how to play the high notes. This is part of the process of getting to know your instrument - when a fine musician makes wonderful music on a musical instrument it is because the performer has understood and is in sympathy with the requirements of the instrument. A good analogy is that of rider and horse; each must have some respect for the other if the partnership is going to work.

There is finally a trick professionals use when they want high notes that speak easily but with only the lightest articulation. The trick is to trim your thumbnail short enough so that the thumb can be rotated enough to open the thumbhole both above and below the nail/hole contact line. It is important to make sure that the nail is short enough. A little experiment will be necessary to get the most effective 'open above' and 'open below' ratio.

You may wish now to try piece no 20 where we use both middle B natural and middle C.