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Sunday, 16 July 2017

Recorder (musical instrument)


Small recorder-like flutes, apparently of Asian origin, were known in 11th-century Europe.

The earliest existing recorder was found in a castle moat near the town of Dordrecht in the Netherlands. The castle was inhabited from 1335 to 1418.

The term "recorder" appeared in England in about 1400. The instrument name "recorder" derives from the Latin recordārī (to call to mind, remember, recollect). The name is likely derived from the role of the medieval jongleur in learning poems by heart and later reciting them, sometimes with musical accompaniment.

By 1500 the recorder had acquired its present form with seven finger holes and a thumb hole, and the instrument was played in chamber music in groups (families) from sopranino to great bass.

The medieval recorders were played in choirs, but had such a limited range that several were needed for each song.

King Henry VIII collected recorders: Before he died in 1547, the English monarch had acquired 76 of them, which would have been played by the royal professional recorder consort and other recorder masters when the King himself wasn’t playing them.

William Shakespeare talked about recorders in his play Hamlet (Act III scene ii, Hamlet: ("Ah, ha! Come, some music! Come, the recorders!")

John Milton referenced recorders in his poem Paradise Lost. (Book I: "Anon they move. In perfect phalanx to the Dorian mood. Flutes and soft recorders."

During the baroque period, the recorder was traditionally associated with pastoral scenes. Henry Purcell, Antonio Vivaldi, Georg Philipp Telemann, Johann Sebastian Bach and Georg Frideric Handel all incorporated the instrument into their compositions often to suggest shepherds and imitate birds in their music.

By the end of the 18th century the instrument had been superseded by the transverse flute, The recorder, with its lack of range and volume, didn’t stand a chance against the bold sound of a flute piercing through a concert hall. As the 19th century progressed, the recorder was phased out of the modern orchestra altogether.

The recorder was revived in the 20th century as a school instrument and for playing early music, and several modern composers have written for it.

Recorders have historically been constructed from hardwoods and ivory, sometimes with metal keys. Around the middle of the 20th century they underwent a cheap, lightweight transformation when plastic recorders were developed. Such recorders are easy instruments to play simple music and many elementary schools use plastic recorders to teach music to children.

By Sarah Stierch 


Paul McCartney is a notable fan, incorporating the recorder into the Beatles song "The Fool On The Hill" and some of his solo pieces.

A recorder was used on the intro to Led Zeppelin's legendary track "Stairway to Heaven."

Recorders are made in different sizes. The soprano recorder is the size of recorder which is usually played in schools, also known as a Descant. The largest is the sub-contrabass recorder, which stands 8 feet tall.

Various recorders. By Mussklprozz - copied from German Wikipedia

The sopranino is the highest pitch, and the contra bass the lowest.

The lowest note of most recorders is either C or F. This is the note that is heard when the player covers all the finger holes and the thumb hole.

Here's a list of pop songs featuring a recorder.

Sources Europress Family Encyclopedia 1999,  Comptons Encyclopedia, Mental Floss 

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