It’s time I introduced the family. No, not that one, this one!
First we will start with the smallest member. I have had my Aulos sopranino recorder for over 30 years, since I played it at lower school. It isn’t the smallest member of the recorder family, that honour goes to the garkleine which is only 6 inches (16 cm) long. At 10 inches (25 cm), it is quite small and high enough pitched for me though. It isn’t without it’s injuries, I managed to break the foot joint within a week of getting it and it has been glued in the set position ever since.
Next up is the descant recorder, also known as the soprano. It is about 13 inches (32 cm) long. I still have my original Dolmetsch descant, which wasn’t new when I got it about 35 years ago. However, compared to the tone of modern plastic recorders, it leaves a lot to be desired. When I started going to beginner recorders, I borrowed Jo’s Aulos descant and got on fairly well with it. One day I borrowed her plastic Mollenhauer Adri’s Dream, this is the plastic equivalent of her pearwood recorder. I really enjoyed playing it, the holes are slightly different to a usual plastic recorder and I found it easy to play, so a couple of months ago I treated myself, after all it wasn’t expensive. The descant is the recorder most people (at least in the UK) start to learn on and is the one I’ve played the most.
The next size up is the treble, also known as the alto. It is 19 inches (48 cm) long. Again, my Dolmetsch treble is no spring chicken, being over 30 years old, probably more. Also again, it doesn’t compare to modern instruments. When Jo started to learn the treble, she asked me to get her a cleaning rod for a treble, as mine didn’t have one. As I started looking around, I found that I could get a secondhand treble (with the requested cleaning rod) off Ebay for very little cost. I managed to pick an Aulos 309-E up for about £10 I think and the tone is so much better. I haven’t played more than a couple of notes on the treble for about 30 years, although at the time it was my favourite recorder.
About 7 weeks ago at music school, we were working out a harmony to Jingle Bells for the concert and it was suggested that harmony 2 would sound better on a tenor. Next thing I knew I had volunteered to give it a go. The tenor was bigger than anything I had played before, 25 inches (65 cm) long and the one I borrowed wasn’t a keyed version, which was a real stretch on the right hand, especially as the piece had low c and c sharps. Oh well, in at the deep end. During the following week, I looked around and ended up getting myself a Aulos keyed tenor. It has made the low notes easier to reach, but my hand still aches a bit after playing. It’s getting better. Playing the descant seems very small at the moment.
At about the same time as I started on the tenor, Jo mentioned that the music school had a bass recorder. Hmm, that sounds like fun. We tried to find it a couple of weekends ago, but couldn’t put our hands on it. I thought about it and looked about and thought some more, before splashing out on a Woodnote bass recorder. It is matt black which I think looks great. It is slightly offset and has sling to help support it. As it has keys to make playing easier, it is actually easier to play than the tenor, less of a stretch. Overall the bass is about 3 feet long, mine has a bent or ‘knick’ neck which makes it easier to reach.
Well that’s the end of my recorder family, but not the family itself. That continues on down with the Great Bass (about 4 feet tall), Contra Bass (6 feet tall), Sub Contra Bass (8-9 feet tall) and Sub Sub Contra Bass (the pipe if straight would be about 12 feet long).
It is a bit sad that the recorder is seen as a child’s instrument to be given up when they are old enough to play a ‘proper’ instrument. I am thoroughly enjoying playing it and am surprised how much has just clicked back into place after so long a break. On Saturday, we had the Music School Christmas concert, which was held this year in the Priory Church. This was a great experience for the kids (and adults). The 2 recorder groups both played, with the junior recorders accompanying the beginners for Jingle Bells before we played De Virgin Mary on our own.