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Tenor Recorder, how to have a clear sound ?

Hello fellow recorder players,

I recently fell in love with the sound of the tenor and bought one few weeks ago. (Aulos 511w)

This is my first wind instrument.

Eventhough i'm practicing everyday scrupulously following the instructions of my self-teaching book (can't find a teacher where I live) I'm still having a problem with the sound of my own play.

Clearly,....it's unclear ! It is spluttering or crackling or whatever you would call it, my sound is not clear and if not pure (I'm just a newby) at least not on the way to be.

I wonder where would that come from, I tried to modify the position of my lips, the strengh of my blow, but still....

If any of you could bring any advice, I would be very thanksfull.



Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
That *should* be a very decent recorder. Let's assume the instrument isn't flawed with a crack or some such.

When I try to learn a new instrument I start with long tones. Seriously. Play the first note softly, slowly crescendo to no louder than you can play beautifully and then decresceno. Play the next note the same way. After you have done this for two weeks, come back and share your observations. Along the way you will figure out how to tweak your embouchure for that instrument and other voice tricks.


Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
Per the spluttering and crackling ... I don't know whether or not you're past the stage where your mouth reacts in a very natural way to objects shoved therein - by cranking the saliva glands and producing a lot of moisture. That moisture will eventually form bubbles that find their way into the instrument's wind way, causing these crackling noises when they pop.

I had this when I started on clarinet, and to a certain degree have it when I play a new/unknown/foreign instrument as well. It simply takes some getting used to, and a suitable diet (no sweetened sodas etc) can help as well. Refrain from thinking of food while playing, or from biting into a lemon.

Then do what Gandalfe has suggested - long tones, crescendo and diminuendo, while shaping your oral cavity in hitherto unknown ways in order to literally form "your" sound.

Now stop thinking of that lemon...


Broadway Doubler List Owner
Distinguished Member
Note that the recorder has a VERY limited dynamic range, as any significant crescendo will drive the pitch sharp, and decrescendo will drive it flat. This limitation led to its virtual obsolescence at the hands of the transverse flute by around 1800, until the 20th century brought about a recorder revival.

If the problems you are having are related to moisture in the windway, clear it by putting a hand over the window and blowing aggressively into the mouthpiece.

If you're coming from another wind instrument, you will likely find that the recorder requires much less air than you are used to using. Also make sure that you are "voicing" the instrument properly--a large, open oral cavity (like you're saying "O," or blowing very warm air) is necessary for reliable pitch and response. Clarinetists and, to a lesser extent, saxophonists, are likely to voice the instrument too high. Skilled flutists, double reed players, or brass players are more likely to bring the right approach.

Or it's possible that you're leaking air around your fingers. The larger recorders have large and widely-space holes, so there's a lot of room for error. Keep your hands curved and relaxed, and practice!

Good luck!
The Aulos tenor sounds good, but the inside of the windway (the slot that you blow into) is shiny plastic. Water vapor from your breath quickly condenses in small droplets on the plastic, which distorts and clogs the airstream, creating the hoarseness and sizzle you describe.

The only sure cure is to warm the top of the head joint up to body temperature, under your arm or stuck in your belt. This happens slowly on the Aulos, which has air spaces inside the head joint -- maybe 10 minutes. If you're playing alone, you might use a hair dryer on the LOW setting.

To clear the condensation temporarily, hold the head joint in your right fist and lay your left index finger across the top of the joint at the bottom of the windway. Blow gently and roll your index finger up until the whistling stops. Then blow hard. (Eventually you'll learn the correct amount of roll-up for your finger.)

If the windway gets too wet for this to work, take off the head joint, hold it in your left fist, block the bottom of the joint on your right palm, AIM THE TOP OF THE WINDWAY AWAY FROM EVERYONE, wrap your lips around the opening at the bottom of the windway and blow hard several times.

The next step is to let the windway dry out for 24 hours. Then gently mix a small squeeze of Dawn liquid dishwashing detergent in a big glass of water. For a plastic head joint, Dip the dry head joint in to the bottom of the windway, balance the joint bottom down on a paper towel and let it dry overnight. For a wood head joint, take a feather or cut a strip of newsprint the width of the windway, dip the tip into the liquid and slide it down to dampen the top and bottom surfaces of the dry windway to make it moist. Again, dry overnight

Even better is an anti-clogging preparation called Duponol. The von Huene Workshop has it as part of their $15 recorder maintenance kit http://www.vonhuene.com/Default.aspx?tabid=121&txtsearch=maintenance%20kit . Use it the same way as the detergent mix. NEVER SUCK IN THROUGH THE WINDWAY after you use Duponol. It tastes TERRIBLE.

However, I find the Aulos tenor to be heavy and clumsy. I recommend that you sell it and get the Yamaha plastic YRT-304B for $58 at http://www.lazarsearlymusic.com/recorders_sorted_by_size.htm#Tenor_Recorders . The Yamaha is lighter and easier to handle than the Aulos, it clogs less, and it's a noticeably better recorder.

In fact, when professional recorder players coach workshops, they almost universally use Yamaha plastic recorders -- the YRS-302B ($14.95), the YRA-302B alto ($24.95) and the YRT-304B tenor. (The pros' hand-made recorders are pitched a A-415, a half step lower.) Once, when my wonderful von Huene grenadilla alto was being repaired, I played the Telemann F Major Recorder Concerto with a professional-level reading orchestra, using a Zen-On plastic alto (which is only a little bit less good than the Yamaha), and no one noticed.

Ken Shaw
Ah, the moisture issue is the plague of plastic.

I haven't totally eliminated it, What I have done is fold an electric heating pad in half and set it on its lowest setting. I store them with the heads in the fold of the heating pad. I can keep the wind ways of 4 or 5 recorders warm. This allows me to practice more with less waiting. I should mention that all of my recorders are plastic.

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