Despite many jokes about children playing the recorder, music teachers know that the recorder is an accessible first step towards playing other instruments. It can be difficult for a small child to play a melodic instrument. String instruments require left hand coordination with right hand bow coordination. The strings need to be tuned, and these instruments require a lot of care. Most wind instruments require a very particular embouchure and a level of technique and coordination that doesn’t suit young beginners. But a recorder is easier to play because the instrument will make a reasonable sound just by breathing normally through it—no need to start a reed vibrating, no back pressure, and the student doesn’t need to push air through five feet of tubing. It’s easy to get a good sound out of a soprano recorder quickly, it fits nicely in small hands, and it’s easy to store in the classroom or carry back and forth to school.
I know there are several options for recorder programs out there, but whatever you use, it’s informative to check in on the students’ learning as you go along. A quick exit ticket is a great way to do this. These one-note exit tickets take just a second and can be collated to keep track of the notes they know.
(Side note: You can also print out the whole set and have the students fill in each note as they learn them. Then the students can use them for reference throughout the unit. These work really great for home learning packets!)
Recorders are great now, too, because they are relatively accessible. Some teachers have sent them home with students, and many families already have one at home or can get one easily. You can record tutorial videos for your students, or use a set like this one that’s already set up for you! (Or even this fancier one from professional recorder player Sarah Jeffery) The embouchure is easy enough to troubleshoot remotely, as well as the fingerings.
As the students develop their skills, you can wrap knowledge, composing, and performing all at once with this recorder composition project.
Are you teaching recorders this year? If you are teaching remotely, are you running into any unexpected challenges?