The Reluctant Recorder


These are the session notes from the recent ASME Summer School designed for participants of the workshop but may be useful to other classroom Music Teachers.


The Reluctant Recorder Player


  • To explore the possibilities of recorder with other tuned instruments
  • To support participants to try new ways of presenting the recorder
  • To present the recorder as a part of ensemble playing
  • To make a simple instrument straw oboe (strawbo)

There will be many ideas presented, when you go back to your school weave maybe one of the ideas at a time into a lesson, the ideas are intended to be presented over time not in one lesson.
Many of the kids in our recorder classes hate being there, why? They don’t like the sound… requires dexterity they feel they can’t do it… what ever the reason…How can we make the experience better for them?


Try introducing something surprising or unexpected
Make the Straw Oboe (with kids you may make them we don’t have a lot of time today so I have made a great pile, explore sizes of straws…)
Here is how they are made… (Mark Cain’s design)

1. Flatten the straw.

2. Cut one side.

3. Cut the other side.
Make sure you have flattened the straw well below the cut as this is where the sound comes from.

Be playful
Warm up

As a group
Conversations with presenter.
Long sounds
Short sounds
Contrasting the two long sounds against short sounds. (In pairs)

Be musical but realise the process of learning an instrument.
In pairs
Explore one note G on recorder with a Straw Oboe class in two groups have a conversation between the groups, everyone needs to be able to swap from straw oboe to recorder.
This process could be broken down so you put class in groups of two, four, and so on they could then make up their own pieces exploring timbre and beat on a wind instrument. Later the results can be meow sophisticated at this stage you are providing an experience that encourages rehearsal with out them knowing.

( make the point that it is important for students to be given the opportunity to practise and the sound may not be pleasing to the ear but learning an instrument does not happen after the first experience it takes time and the recorder is no exception.

You will find that some of you most challenging students can naturally flutter tongue….. use them, give them a job. If you ask them to perform on cue …sometimes is a challenge… but keeps them busy and engaged.

Allow students time to practise.

Learn the words, bottom and little to be a three sounds as in in 6/8 time. The advantage of using this sort of way of introducing a rhyme instead of music is that children internalise the rhythm because of the connection of the words. At this stage the music is secondary you are concentrating on the rhythm and making the notes on the recorder. Makes the process uncomplicated and with beginners that is important it is a good way to constructively engage them.

Think of different perspectives to introduce concepts

As I was sitting on a chair,
I saw the bottom wasn’t there
Nor side nor back but I just sat,
Ignoring little things like that.
Give notes G E A add notes to the words.

In this part of the lesson student add parts
G drone on recorder one side of room other play the rhythm of the words decided. Swap
Melodic Instruments CEG
Explore three types of Drones or Bordun Simple, Arpeggiated and Level.
Simple composed melody

Allow the piece to develop it into something pleasing, put class in groups
Add movement

Give children opportunities to create, allow them to practise and perform.
Think of ways to add movement to a melody

Oh the funniest thing I’ve ever seen was a tom cat playing on a sewing machine
Oh the sewing machine got to running too slow and it put seven stitches in the tom cats toe.

Recorder Routes
Carol King

Organisation of the class can sometimes inspire students to engage.

Coloured Recorders
Karate Recorder
Rock Recorder
Using backing tracks to play with the recorder

Suggested Resources

Joy TunesRecorder Games on computer with the recorder

Good old favourite- Rock Recorder

Duets for One Recorder with CD play- along
Chester Music

The Tropical Recorder
Jim and Mary Solomon

Mr O’Leary’s Descant Recorder Book

Razzamajazz Recorder Bk 1&2

Darling Duets
Paul Brown (Zana Clark has these books in Armadale Orpheus Music)

Check out Susie Davies new Recorder book

Please note in my experience there is not one tutor book that caters for the classroom beginning recorder player you will need to draw from a variety of sources, there needs to be lots of repetition as mostly our darling pupils do not practise, you need to be resourceful teaching recorder in the classroom. I have always found Up beat Recorder Bk 1 a good start. Set up the skills you want to learn and look for repertoire and ideas, do not be guided by one book as they all move too fast for classroom students and you will get frustrated and so will they.

Good luck, if you need any support at all please don’t hesitate to contact me on my website or my email

Thanks for attending, best wishes, Jackie

“Music should go right through you,
leave some of itself inside you,
and take some of you with it when it leaves.” Henry Threadgill.

Have fun teaching the recorder

Always love to hear from you, please feel free to contact me if you require any further information.

Thanks for visiting.

Best wishes and enjoy your teaching.