What is The Best Tenor Recorder Instrument to Play For Small Hands?

One of the disadvantages of being smaller is having small hands. It can cause all sorts of issues as things are usually too big. This means that recorder instruments especially when you get to the larger sizes like the tenor recorder are harder to play. If you have small hands or hands that don’t stretch so well it can hinder or even stop you from playing your recorder.

The best tenor recorder instrument for beginners with small hands is the Aulos 211A tenor recorder. This is a great value recorder at a good price. For those looking for a higher-end tenor recorder, the Denner knick comfort is a good choice.

I wanted to change to a tenor recorder or at least add it to my collection of instruments I play. But was put off by the size of the instrument and the prices of many. I’ve looked into getting a tenor recorder and found that there are a few options for those of us with smaller hands or hands that just don’t stretch as far (not always the same thing). There are also recorders for the beginner right through to the experienced player that caters that are suitable for us.

Best Tenor Recorder for Small Hands

The Best Tenor Recorder For Small Hands Is – Drum Roll Please!

The Aulos 211A.

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Are there better recorders out there on the market? Yes absolutely. You can spend hundreds or even thousands on a recorder instrument and of course, they are the better instrument. And I will share an example later on for those of you with smaller hands and a higher budget. Sadly, I have small hands and a small budget so it’s a case of getting the best I can at the lower end of the scale. Never mind, the Aulos 211A is a great recorder at a great price for most people. And as much as I love wood it does bring with it problems, not in the least, the issues with wood regard a damp house! A plastic recorder has many advantages over a wood one when it comes to maintenance.

When deciding on whether I wanted to play the tenor there are s few things I wanted to know. The first being obvious, could I play it with smaller hands?

The answer quickly became obvious as well. It was a clear – No! Not unless you can stretch. Which I can’t. So I went for the Alto instead. Then after more research, I found that there were recorders specially designed for people with smaller hands. Some of these are straight while some have bent heads or knicked.

While researching I came across this review on the thomann.de site ‘The distance between the top of the first hole and the bottom of the second double hole is about 23.5 cm (9.25 inches. (Source).

That’s actually might be a bit too far a stretch for my hands. With the gap in between my two hands, my 17/18 inch (43/45.75cm) stretch can just do it. But how comfortable would it be?

If I hadn’t injured one hand I’d have that extra inch (2.5cm) which would make all the difference.

My Alto full hand stretch is 19.5cm the missing inch would bring my stretch up to about 22cm and one cm stretch isn’t that much to achieve.

Fortunately, Sarah Jeffery Has the answer!

At least for some of you. Sadly it doesn’t look like my hands will stretch that far.

Sarah has a great channel about recorders well worth a visit.

Stretch Isn’t the Only Challenge With Bigger Recorders Like the Tenor

Things to think about that can make it harder to pay for smaller people. It’s not just about the hand stretch and reaching with the tenor though there are other things that make it more cumbersome to play.

The tenor is much longer than the descant or alto the holes are wider so there is more stretch for small hands than the other two.

The tenor is longer. This makes it more difficult to hold it when playing. This is why a thumb rest is a good idea. Although having the weight of the recorder on your thumb can cause thumb strain. This is why larger recorders are often knicked a bent head makes for easier playing and brings the recorder up closer to your body..

The length of the tenor recorder can get in the way of your playing. You might have to hold it to the side. A bent-headed recorder would be a better option if this is an issue for you. I normally play standing up as I have everything set up for my flute and don’t want to keep changing it so this wouldn’t be an issue for me.  

It is harder to hold the tenor at the correct angle to play it.

Larger instruments are heavier than the smaller ones so can be more tiring to use for any period of time

Why This Recorder?

  • Often tenor recorders have keys to help you make the notes. The reason I chose this recorder is not only is it created by a quality recorder maker it does not have keys. It is slightly shorter than other tenors (62.2cm/24.5inches) as opposed to the usual 64cm.
  • What I like about this recorder is it’s a good price compared to other tenors at about 25% to 50% less and many I have seen. Which Makes it an affordable option for students and those on a smaller budget..
  • This is a beginner instrument although it does have a curved windway.
  • It’s plastic which makes it lighter to hold.
  • It has a removable thumb rest which is important to help support the recorders (also on gears for music

You can get it on Amazon or gears for music

Difficulty With the Finger Stretch

I have seen people who are smaller be able to stretch to a full-sized tenor while others who are larger with larger hands have difficulty. It is possible to exercise and warm up your hands to improve your reach. But for some, the full-sized tenor may just be too much.

I would buy this if I wanted to try a tenor without breaking the bank. Most plastic tenors are twice the price and even then the keys aren’t that great.

If you decide that a tenor instrument is for you then I’d progress onto the comfort range of wooden instruments as their design is much better than the cheaper instruments. As you are taking hundreds or even in the thousand price range unless you have a high budget I’d only get those when you are sure you want to progress further.

The Aulos 211A Sounds Quite Lovely

It has a lovely mellow sound that I love. And you can still play tunes rather than just background notes which is often the reason most people want to learn to play which is great.

The Disadvantages of the Tenor Recorder

If you have difficulty with tenors you can get tenors with bent heads that help with playing by making the instrument higher up. This changes the angles of your hands and makes playing them easier. The small-handed tenor I am discussing here is specially designed for small hands but does not have a bent head.

If you look at the spacing of the holes it is different from the smaller recorders

larger recorders need more stretch. Some people are more supple than others. While its not recommended to get a tenor for younger children I have seen experienced teens play it successfully as they may have smaller hands but they also are more supple.

If you’re having difficulties and want to go lower the alto is fantastic to play. And it’s not as hard as you might think to adapt to the changes in fingering if you know the soprano. 

Another Great Option For Tenor Seekers

My other choice would be the Yamaha YRT304B baroque tenor.

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This tenor is great if you prefer keys and it does have a thumb rest.

This is a great recorder and plays with a double key and does a c# which not all tenors do.

For improvers or intermediates, the Yamaha YRT304B tenor recorder has a curved windway.

It is a tad more expensive at usually above $110 which is still very good for a musical instrument

If you are still uncertain as to whether you can cope with the stretch I recommend that you go to the store and try out a few options to see which is best for you.

What Makes A Good Tenor Recorder?

Apart from the sound and materials which are of course vital its the comfort and ease of playing

Things to look for when getting a tenor recorder especially if you are looking for something above entry-level is the design. A well-designed tenor recorder will be designed with ease of playing in mind.

You want something that is comfortable to play with that will not hurt your hands or make your fingers stretch too much.

If you are looking for a tenor recorder for smaller hands lookout for the recorders that have any or all of the following:

  • A bent head to reduce the length of the recorder. (called a knick)
  • Extra F &/or G keys. Be aware that more tenors will have some keys so check which ones.
  • Shorter gaps between the holes.
  • A shorter recorder.
  • A thumb rest

For this, there are the comfort tenors. Comfort tenors are designed with small hands in mind. You can get them in all price ranges. They will usually say comfort on the description if you are looking in the specialist stores.

What you want is something that doesn’t make you stretch your hands too much. The recorder recommended here is a small entry-level recorder but if you are looking for something above that level then you are likely looking at keys. How these are designed is vital to hand comfort, especially if you are a smaller player like me.

Mollenhauer make quality recorders. Their comfort recorders have two extra keys to help the player.

Their Denner knick for example has keys G, F, and C/CC#,

  • The G stops the strain on your left middle finger.
  • The C/CC# is designed to make it easier to operate the key mechanism. This in turn stops the strain on the little finger when you are playing the lower notes.
  • The F key helps your hand relax because it reduces the stretch on your right index finger.


In addition, this particular recorder has a bent neck to reduce the length of the recorder for easier playing. Not all comfort recorders have the bend (knick)

Accessories To Help

You can also get a thumb rest to make holding your tenor easier if it doesn’t come with your recorder.

The Best Recorder Instrument Type For Small Hands

The best recorder for smaller hands is the descant/soprano recorder. This is used by children worldwide so is perfect for smaller hands. It is lighter with smaller hole spans and shorter which makes it easier to play.

The Lowest Sounding Recorder Is Not the Tenor

The lowest sounding recorder is lower than the tenor and is the bass recorder. In the bass recorders, you get the great bass, contra bass, and the sub great and sub contrabass recorders. For most of us, the bass is as low as we will go the others become increasingly specialist as the contrabass is about six feet high and a tad harder to play than your usual recorder! Although you can get them second-hand in the 1 k range.

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