How Do You Choose A Recorder Instrument That You Will Love

Choosing a recorder can be difficult as you don’t know what size, style, or materials to pick. I know I didn’t when deciding to buy one and I’d already learned to play.

To choose a recorder instrument you will love, choose a quality recorder that is the right size and sound for you. Also, choose one that is the best you can afford. If you are a beginner pick plastic over wood.

Choosing the right recorder for you can be a challenge. The questions often asked is what size to get, should I get wood or plastic, or even what do they sound like what style, etc? There are lots of things to decide when buying any musical instrument, the recorder is no different. If you take each part separately you can narrow down what recorder instrument will be best for you as a beginner. Below I look into each part to make that decision easier.

How To Choose A Recorder That Is Right For You

To choose a recorder instrument you need to know the following:

  1. What types of recorders are and which one is best for you.
  2. Which materials are the best quality and which material is best for you. Not necessarily the same thing.
  3. What your budget is.
  4. What brands are best or have a good reputation?
  5. What models are best.
  6. Is the recorder for an adult or a child?

The 5 Types Of Recorder Instruments You Can Choose From

  1. The sopranino with a lowest note of F5
  2. The soprano also called the descant with the lowest note of C5
  3. An alto also called the treble and that has the lowest note of F4
  4. Next is a tenor with the lowest note of C4
  5. Finally, there’s the bass with the lowest note of F3

It’s a bit more complicated than that but when starting out you wouldn’t be expected to start with the others. These are the most well-known and popular recorder types that people start with and play. Although, most people would start with the soprano, alto, or tenor.

The Best Recorder To Choose For A Child Beginner

The best recorder instrument for a child that is beginning the recorder is a quality soprano (also called descant) plastic recorder.

The soprano (descant) recorder is perfect for youngsters as it is a good size for them to hold and learn on. It is often taught in schools. A plastic one is fairly sturdy and will take shoving into bags and knocking about. It doesn’t need as much care and looking after as a wooden one. Also, plastic recorders are much cheaper for similar quality instruments.

These recorders are also very good value for money and even a good quality one isn’t overly expensive to buy which means you can get a better quality one. Which believe me you will be grateful for while they’re learning.

If you get a good quality one it won’t be as screechy.

It’s better for the child to get a quality one as if they sound better it will help with other confidence and silliness to learn.

Affiliate link below in image & text

I would recommend the Yamaha YRS 32B Soprano Recorder although if you can run to it go for the Yamaha YRS302BIII Soprano Recorder. Yamaha is an excellent make with a good reputation.

As you know if you’ve read any of my articles I am also a big fan of the Ecodear from Yamaha.

How to Choose A Recorder Instrument For Adults

If you are an adult it’s a little more complicated but in a good way. You are not limited to the soprano. Sighs of relief by most people, lol. Although played well the soprano can sound beautiful we remember the sound from school.

So how do you decide on which one to play? I used several measures on which one to learn when I started. Your needs may be different which I will explain how to go through below.

  • Like many people the idea of playing the soprano made me cringe. Besides I could already play it. So, that was a complete no, no.
  • The sopranino is even more shrill and tiny so that was a definite no.
  • The bass was just too big and way above what I wanted to spend.
  • That left the tenor and the alto. I wanted to learn the tenor but decided on the alto with the intent of moving up to a tenor later.

So we have size sound and budget. There’s also material. But we also have feelings. How I felt about each instrument made a difference. That’s something only you can decide as it’s different for everyone. You don’t have to stay with the one instrument, most experienced players play some if not all the sizes. below is an overview of each instrument.

The Size, Sound and Materials of the Recorder Instrument Is Vital To Your Choice

The Sopranino Recorder

  • Very small and high-pitched.
  • length is 20-30 cm. (Varies slightly from brand to brand)
  • Pitch F5

The Soprano Recorder

  • Standard recorder

Advantages A Soprano Recorder

  • Most people know the soprano and have played it at school. You may not think you will remember the notes but you may be surprised.
  • The soprano is easy to hold for most people unless you have very large hands.
  • Perfect for smaller-handed people and children.
  • Not too expensive to buy a good instrument.

Disadvantages of a Soprano Recorder

  • Still quite high-pitched.
  • Thought of as a child’s instrument by many.
  • May have bad memories from school.
  • Small for those with larger hands.

The Alto Recorder

The alto recorder (also known as the treble) is perfect for most adults that want to play. It has a lovely sound and is not too expensive outlay for a decent beginner instrument if you just want to try it.

  • In the Key of F

Advantages of the Alto Recorder

  • The alto has a much deeper sound than the soprano which means it’s more mellow and less a strain on the ears which is lovely.
  • The alto is longer (both advantage and disadvantage) for many adults this is more comfortable to hold and a better hand stretch. It’s, therefore, a much better size instrument to play for adults.
  • A quality beginners alto is still in a budget-friendly range.

Disadvantages of the Alto Recorder

  • The alto recorder is longer which means a slightly longer hand stretch. This should be manageable for most people. I’m only 5’6″ and have a flat hand span of 17cm/18cm and can manage it easily.
  • It costs more to buy than the soprano. Depending on which brand and model you choose the amount varies. For mine, which was the Alto Ecodear by Yamaha it was about £10-11/$ (US)13-14 in price difference (prices vary depending on the seller but there’s not much in it). Which isn’t excessive.
  • The big one for me was that the Alto is in the key of F and not C like the soprano. This means all the notes are different. This isn’t a problem if you haven’t played before. But if you have you have to learn new notes. Now it was a lot of years between my playing the two instruments and I still remembered the notes. As anyone wanting to progress through the recorder levels officially knows you are expected to know both anyway at least here in the UK. Actually, it wasn’t too much of a problem as I just treated it as a different instrument.

The Tenor Recorder

I love the tenor recorder. The sound is so much better than the higher-pitched recorders. Yet it is still perfect for playing tunes.

The Tenor Recorder Advantages

  • The tenor recorder has a lovely low-mellow sound.
  • The length is perfect for those with larger hands.
  • You can still play tunes.
  • It’s in the key of C, Yes! For those that have learned the soprano, there are no new keys to learn which is a major advantage if you want to save time on progress.
  • Tenors have keys to help those with smaller hands reach the bottom.

The Tenor Recorder Disadvantages

  • The length of the tenor is a disadvantage for players with smaller hands. You can learn to stretch your hands if you are a smaller player. If my hand stretch was 18/18cm I would be able to do it. Or you can get a tenor recorder that is suitable for those with smaller hands or unable to stretch to compensate. If in doubt I’d go local to test it out.
  • The Tenor recorder costs quite a bit more than the other smaller sizes. There is one recorder that’s quite good at around £40 ($55) the rest are nearly double that price. So it is more of an investment.
  • Most tenors have keys because of their length.
  • Due to its length if you play sitting down you may have to hold the instrument to the side or sit forward with legs splayed.
  • Starting to use more breath which may or may not be a disadvantage for you.

The Bass Recorder

The bass recorder isn’t something I’d recommend beginners to start with. It is much bigger with a larger hand stretch than the others. Much lower in sound than the other instruments, it is often pushed to the background rather than tunes in groups. Although you can play tunes yourself.

  • In the Key of F

Advantages Of a Bass Recorder

  • A lovely deep sound.
  • Fewer people play bass.

Disadvantages of the Bass Recorder

  • As you get to the bigger instruments you need more and more breath to create the sound. It’s better to start off with the smaller instruments and work up to the bass and make sure you are playing well before progressing to the bass.
  • The size of the base is much larger than other instruments making it much harder to play if you are not experienced.
  • The cost of a bass recorder is substantially greater than the other instruments. Prices start at about $/£85 and rise sharply into the 100s from there
  • Although the key is the same as the Alto the fingering is slightly different.

What Materials Can You Get For Recorders?

Most beginner instruments come in two materials plastic and wood. Although wooden instruments tend to be more popular with more experienced players. Plastic recorders are perfect for beginners.

I have shared a couple of videos I found from Sarah Jeffery on YouTube below that will also help. She is a professional recorder player.

Plastic Recorders Advantages

  • Plastic is cheaper at half the price than wood.
  • It’s way more durable than wood and can take more of a beating.
  • It’s consistent. Once a manufacturer has a design they can repeat it consistently with little effect on the sound quality.
  • Modern plastic recorders actually sound quite good and the better quality ones have removed most of that plastic sound giving them a sound similar to wood.

The Disadvantages of a Plastic Recorder

  • The sound while vastly improved in recent years isn’t as lovely as a wooden instrument. Although I admit with new technology it’s getting very close.
  • Condensation in the center of your recorder is a pain and an issue with plastic more so than wood. It’s one of the bugbears mentioned against the one I bought, the Ecodear because that model has a smaller center hole in the alto.

Wooden Recorder Advantages

  • A quality well made wooden instrument sounds a lot better than plastic.
  • There’s a feel to wood that makes it feel special and personal
  • Wood doesn’t tend to have as many condensation issues.

Wooden Recorder Disadvantages

  • Cost is a big disadvantage of wood. While not an issue for everyone. To get the same quality instrument as a plastic one you need to pay at least double the price. If you are choosing a bigger recorder size this can stack up to quite a lot.
  • Wood takes more maintenance because it is natural. It is changed by temperature and humidity. This means it needs more maintenance like oiling, etc, and time to warm up before play.
  • It has a time limit of playing and will wear out.
  • Wooden instruments aren’t consistent. Because wood is natural and there are many different kinds of wood each instrument is different. While this is an advantage and sought after it’s also a disadvantage because you cannot guarantee the quality of your instrument.

What Style of Fingering To Get Baroque or German?

I recommend getting baroque fingering for your recorder.

There are two types of fingering on the recorder baroque and German. German fingering is the easiest for beginners however it becomes harder and more limiting as you progress. Most instruments except a soprano are in baroque anyway so it makes sense to get baroque. (Source)

Best Soprano Recorder Brand And Model For Beginners

The brand of the recorder is important and so is the model within that brand. This is because even the most popular brands like Yamaha and Aulos do different models and quality of instruments.

Recorder Brand & ModelLow Medium High
SopranoYamaha – Yamaha YRS 32BLow end
SopranoYamaha YRS302BHigher
SopranoYamaha – YRS-401 (Ecodear) Higher end
SopranoAulos 103NLow end
SopranoAulos 205A Mid
SopranoAulos 503BHigh

Best Alto Recorder Brand And Model For Beginners

RecorderBrand & ModelLow Medium High
AltoYamaha YRA302BIIIHigh
Treble (Alto)Aulos 209Mid
Treble (Alto)Aulos 709W”Haka”Very High
AltoYamaha YRA28BUKIIIMid
Alto/Treble Aulos 703W “Haka”High

You can find all these instruments on Amazon or on music sites (affiliate link)

How Do You Feel About The Instrument?

It’s not just about the size and sound but brand and model and ability.

All the elements I’ve shared should give you a good idea of which type of recorder is right for you and which one to choose. Ultimately though you have to feel good about your instrument choice and want to play it.

I upped my budget to get the Ecodear it was about £10/$13 more than I originally intended. I’m glad I did. It sounds fantastic very mellow. Yes, the condensation can be an issue sometimes but it was a price worth paying for me. You can only get the Ecodear in soprano and alto sizes so not something you can buy if you want a tenor ( at the time of writing).

Irs also one reason I didn’t get the tenor. the tenor is easier to play if you know how to play the soprano but I thought the stretch would be just too much for me. Although I’m still tempted.

I’d recommend that you go for the best instrument you can afford at your recorder size. Go for a minimum of a mid-range instrument.

Quick Guide To Choosing Your Recorder Instrument If You Are Still Unsure

Set Your Budget

Ask yourself the following what is my budget and do I want to spend on something I’m going to upgrade later.

Assuming plastic the cost will be roughly the following (double for wood of the same quality):

Recorder SizePrice Range in £ Mid to HighPrice range the US $ Mid to High
Bass85 up115

Decide on Your Fingering, Baroque or German Style

Get a baroque rather than a German recorder.

Choose Your Materials: Plastic or Wood

For beginners spend out on a quality plastic recorder. You can always upgrade later when you are more experienced.

Choose Your Recorder Size

For a child go for a soprano recorder. As they get older and more experienced they can upgrade to the alto.

For an adult go for the alto recorder if you don’t have an issue with the fingering differences. The alto is the perfect size for most adult players and not too expensive to buy.

Which Recorder Instrument Should I Start With?

If you are buying for a child they should start with the soprano. For an adult, the alto is the better choice although you can choose any of the other sizes depending on your personal preferences.

This is because for a child the soprano is what they are often taught in schools. For an adult, the alto is a much more suitable size for their hands although the fingering is different than the soprano.

If you have an issue with the fingering differences and your budget allows and if you think you can stretch your hands or have bigger hands go for a tenor.

Recent Posts