tenor recorder being played click image for tenor recorder sound 
(120kb wav) 
or here for same in mp3 format

"Govern these ventages 
with your fingers and thumb, 
give it breath with your mouth, 
and it will discourse most eloquent music. 
Look you, these are the stops."
-Shakespeare, Hamlet 

Merry Month of May in mp3 format 
(two soprano and an alto recorder) 
Frog Galliard - dance tune 
(soprano, alto, tenor recorders and Gamba) 
Mille regretz in mp3 format 
(two recorders and gamba) 
Torch Branle - dance tune by Arbeau 
(sopranino recorder plays melody line) 
Allemande - dance tune by Susato 
(soprano, alto, tenor recorders with Gamba) 
Lo Spagnoletto - dance tune by Negri 
(second verse by sopranino recorder)

The principle of the recorder or whistle mouthpiece seems as old as mankind. The instrument's essential features are the lip (cut near the top of the body), the fipple (a block of wood inserted in the end to be blown), and the windway (a narrow channel along the fipple through which air is blown against the edge of the lip to produce sound).

It is difficult to document the recorder's early history due to the inability to positively identify what is and what is not a recorder in medieval art. Perhaps the earliest portrayal is an eleventh-century carving on a stone pillar in the church at Boubon-l'Achambault, St George, France. For more information on the early recorders, see Nicholas Lander's medieval recorder page. 

Garklein recorderMusica Antiqua has a set of medieval recorders built by John Hanchet according to iconographical sources and drawing upon the construction characteristics of central European folk recorders. They are made of plumwood with a removable windcap and foot of boxwood. The tone quality is full and richly textured, making them suitable for solo monophonic pieces as well as mixed ensemble typical of medieval polyphony.

click image for short wav of the garklein recorder 
or here for same in mp3

War Branle - dance tune 
(includes garklein recorder)

Philov by Praetorius 
(performed first by lute and crumhorn, then small recorders and gamba)

In the Renaissance the recorder had its own instruction manual: Ganassi's Opera Intitulata Fontegara (Venice, 1535). The author bases much of the recorder technique and tone quality on attempts to imitate the human voice. Fingering charts extending to two and one-half octaves, and complex exercises demonstrating the technique of improvisation allow one to conclude that recorder playing had achieved a high level of accomplishment. Praetorius gives eight different sizes of recorders from the sopranino in f2 to the great bass in c. He prefers the soft, sweet and pleasant harmony of the lower instruments, finding the sound of the smaller ones much too loud and piercing. 

bass recorderRenaissance recorders differ from Baroque recorders in that they have a larger bore which gives a stronger low register, making them better suited for blend and ensemble playing. Recorders from this period generally have smaller range than the Baroque recorders.

Musica Antiqua's Renaissance recorders include replicas by Willi Hopf of Germany including a garklein in c3, two sopraninos in f2, a soprano in c2, an alto in f1, a tenor in c1, a tenor in c1 with a fontanelle, a bass in f with a fontanelle, and a great bass in c with fontanelle.. These sycamore maple recorders by Hopf were reconstructed according to instruments preserved in various museums from the period of Praetorius, and according to the instruments depicted by Praetorius. Also in the collection are a maple alto in f1 by Von Huene and a bubinga wood contrabass in c with fontanelle by Kueng of Switzerland. Hermann Moeck models include a sopranino in f2, a soprano in c2, an alto in f1, a tenor in c1 with fontanelle, and a bass in f with fontanelle.

Two large recorders being played


Click image for contra & great bass duet in wav format or here for same in mp3 or an mp3 of Jolly Shepherd (bass and great bass recorders with voice)

Additional Resources:

  • S. Virdung: Musica getutscht (Basle, 1511 /r1931)
  • M. Agricola: Musica instrumentalis deudsch (Wittenberg, 1529 /r1969)
  • S. Ganassi: Opera intitulata fontegara (Venice, 1535 /r1970)
  • T. Morley: The First Booke of Consort Lessons (London, 1599)
  • M. Praetorius: Syntagma musicum (Wolfenbuttel, 1618, /r1958)
  • M Merseene: Harmonie universelle (Paris, 1636 /r1963)
  • T. Greeting: The Pleasant Companion, or New Lessons and Instructions for the Flageolet (London, 1661)
  • J. Banister: The Most Pleasant Companion (London, 1681)
  • H. Salter: The Genteel Companion: being Exact Directions for the Recorder (London, 1683)
  • F. W. Galpin: Old English Instruments of Music (London, 1910)
  • H. A. Martens: 'Die Blockflote in heutiger Zeit', ZfM, (1931)
  • C. F. Dolmetsch: 'The Recorder or English Flute', ML (1941)
  • E. Halfpenny: 'The Bass Recorders of Bressan', GSJ, (1955)
  • D. S. Higbee: 'A Plea for the Tenor Recorder by Thomas Stanesby', GSJ (1962)
  • F. Morgan: 'Making Recorders Based on Historical Models', Early Music, (1982)

soprano recorder depicted in an old painting tenor recorder depicted in an old painting










Musica Antiqua's new recorders