How to Play the Flute Recorder

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The recorder is widely regarded as a child's first musical instrument, but it is by no means a child's toy. It takes some skill to produce music with this instrument. The recorder can produce eight music notes when different combinations of its holes are closed off. Beginners can learn simple tunes quickly and, with practice, can graduate to playing some of William Byrd's consort music for recorders.

Get Started

  • Choose a recorder. Beginners may be more comfortable with a plastic recorder, which is more affordable than one made from wood, although wood recorders produce better tones. Plastic flutes do not require the amount of special care that a wooden flute needs. Users can adjust the removable mouthpiece and end piece as needed.

  • Make sure your recorder is at room temperature. Moisture from a cold flute will affect the sound of the instrument.

  • Check your posture. Sit or stand with your back straight so that air can flow through your diaphragm easily as you play. Incorrect posture will affect your ability to blow air into the flute.

  • Hold your recorder in your left hand. Place the thumb of your left hand over the back hole of the recorder and the index finger over the first hole after the mouthpiece. Cover the next two holes with your second and ring fingers respectively.

  • Place the index finger of your right hand on the fourth hole. Place the next three fingers over the last three holes. Make sure that the pads of your fingers completely cover the holes, otherwise the flute will emit a squeaky sound when you blow air into it.

  • Place the mouthpiece between your lips but in front of your teeth. Your teeth should be lightly parted for air to flow through. Blow into the mouthpiece and maintain a steady pressure to produce a steady tone.

Learn the Left-Hand Notes

  • Place the thumb of your left hand on the hole behind the flute and the index finger on the first hole beneath the mouthpiece and blow. This is B.

  • Keep the thumb and index finger in position. Place the second finger on the second hole and blow. This is A.

  • Maintain the positions of the thumb, index and second fingers. Place the ring finger on the third hole and blow. This is G.

  • Keep the thumb and second fingers in position. Lift the index and ring fingers and blow. This is C'.

  • Keep the second finger in position. Lift the thumb, index and ring fingers and blow. This is D'.

Learn the Right-Hand Notes

  • Place all the fingers of the left hand on the appropriate holes. Place the index and second fingers of the right hand on the fourth and fifth holes and blow. This is E.

  • Maintain the position of the fingers for the E note. Place the ring finger of your right hand on the sixth hole and blow. This is D.

  • Maintain the position of the fingers for the D note. Lift the index finger of your right hand and blow. This is F#.

Tips & Warnings

  • If your tone sounds muffled, it might be due to accumulated moisture in the mouthpiece. Remove the mouthpiece from the flute and blow hard into it to remove the moisture. Wipe the pieces of your flute after use. This is a requirement for wooden recorders. Teach yourself to play the recorder flute with "Recorder Fun! Teach Yourself the Easy Way!" by Hal Leonard Corp (see Resources below).
  • Pulling the recorder apart with force will weaken the joints. Twist the joints off gently to keep them strong.

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