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Question about Treble and Descant Recorder fingerings

Hi, I'm new here. I've just started learning the Recorder but already play other woodwind instruments. I have both a treble and descant recorder which I inherited. I also found quite an old recorder instruction book which deals mostly with the descant but has a small section on the treble at the end. In the book it says that when learning the treble, one of the main challenges is associating familiar fingerings with another set of note names. So the first hole and thumb would be E on the treble instead of B, and so on.

My question is how up to date is this method? The book seems to have been written in 1969. Wouldn't it be simpler to just learn all the fingerings as the same notes but just have the music written in a different key, like it is done for a tenor and alto saxophone? For saxophones, one is in Bb and the other is in Eb, but the notes are exactly the same. You just transpose the music into a different key to match with concert pitch but only learn one set of fingering.

If this method isn't used, then what is the reason for associating new note names to familiar fingering for the Recorder? That seems more complicated and more to remember. Could someone please explain? Thanks.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
Thanks for joining. I assume that a "Reverse Flash" is either the world's slowest superhero and/or someone that's getting dressed.

My opinion on the fingerings: you can't make the thing with the same fingerings because of a) acoustics and b) you don't have machined keywork, like you do on a flute or sax. If you did have machined keywork, you could probably make all recorders have the same fingering, but I guarantee that the tone holes wouldn't be in a line. You'd have them offset quite a bit.

Recorders have been around for a bazillion years. I've not done any research at all, but I suppose it's possible that baroque and other really old recorders have different fingerings from modern ones. These really old ones almost definitely have different intonation standards than modern instruments, which, simplified, means that they don't play in tune with modern instruments.

For fingering charts, I let Google do the heavy lifting and found that there's an American Recorder Society. They have fingering charts and links to charts. I'd say they're your definitive answer.

==========

Edit:
A page on keyed recorders and other recorder design.
The manufacturer website for one of those keyed recorders, more or less for you to reference the complexity of the idea. And the high cost (1900 Euro).
 
Thanks for the reply. If I did try to learn the recorder as a transposing instrument, would the main problem I would run into be not being able to play music written specifically for the treble recorder because I've learnt all of it as descant fingering? Would it be too much like going according to a different calendar to the rest of the world?

To make it simpler for me to just transpose in my head, what is the difference in interval between the descant (soprano) and treble (alto) recorder?

Oh, and Reverse Flash is actually one of the arch enemies of the Flash and is even faster than him.
 
I've no idea why they do that with recorders. It would certainly be easier to treat the alto as a transposing instrument. Unfortunately that isn't how it's done with recorders. It's not too hard for me, as a clarinet player, because the alto fingering is like playing the clarinet in the lower register and and soprano/tenor like playing in the upper register. (The clarinet overblows at a 12th rather than the octave).

The difference between soprano and alto recorder is a 5th.

Incidentally the bassoon is like the alto recorder too i.e XXX 000 = C.
 
Hi All,

Recorders are split into 2 basic fingering types -
1) The Baroque (or English)
2) The German

The Baroque has a sub-class - renaissance fingering.

The German fingering was developed in the 1920/30s to simplify the fingering of the basic scale (C for Soprano(Descant) and Tenor recorders, F for Sopranino, Alto(Treble) and Bass recorders. However, it is of limited utility since nearly all instructions for playing the recorder in other than their basic keys are written for the Baroque instrument. Overwhelmingly, music written for the recorder was intended to be played on a Baroque fingered instrument. The design of the bore of the instrument and the relative finger hole sizes and positions are different for the two types!

The fingerings of the different sizes of recorder are identical, but relate to different notes, depending on the basic pitch of the recorder. So, the Sopranino is one octave above the Alto, the Alto one octave above the Bass, and all are in F. The Soprano is one octave above the Tenor, and are in C.

The (optional) Keys effectively move the finger holes closer together (essential on the Tenor and Bass!)

Recorders have been (and still are) built in other keys, to fit various requirements but, if they are of the Baroque type, the fingerings are just transposed.

I hope this clears up some of the confusions.
 
Wouldn't it be simpler to just learn all the fingerings as the same notes but just have the music written in a different key, like it is done for a tenor and alto saxophone? For saxophones, one is in Bb and the other is in Eb, but the notes are exactly the same. You just transpose the music into a different key to match with concert pitch but only learn one set of fingering.

If this method isn't used, then what is the reason for associating new note names to familiar fingering for the Recorder? That seems more complicated and more to remember. Could someone please explain? Thanks.
Indeed, transposition is not a method used on the recorder. The main instruments that transpose today are the clarinet, saxophone, valved trumpet, and french horn - none of which really existed in their current forms until the late 18th century. I believe when these came in that the recorder had been mostly supplanted by the transverse flute.
So most pre-20th-century recorder music dates from the Middle Ages or the Baroque period, and hence -before- modern transposition was well known and considered necessary on instruments in woodwind families. I think there was some transposition involved in recorder consorts but a quick search is unclear on this point so I assume it at least did not resemble today's transposition.
 
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