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plastic recorders - okay for grade 4 and 5?

(17 Posts)
JimBobplusasprog Tue 01-Apr-14 20:58:35

Sprog did his grade 3 on a battered yamaha descant last week. Sprog's fingers are still not stretchy enough for treble but he's almost there. If I buy him a nice aulos number will it do for the next couple of grades (provided the blighter doesn't leave it on the music stand as usual and knock it on the floor as usual)?

I'm reluctant to splash out on wood as I'm a miserly bugger I'm not sure sprog is mature enough to look after it properly. But I will buy him what he needs for the next couple of grades.

Any advice from other recorder players or parents of recorder players welcome.

Wafflenose Tue 01-Apr-14 21:57:38


I am a recorder player/ teacher, and mum of two. My eldest is 8 and taking Grade 5 next term.

To get a really good wooden descant, you are probably looking at £100-£200. I really don't like cheap wooden recorders, and am a bit disappointed with my £110 treble, especially the tuning. I ended up using a decent wooden descant and a plastic treble in my Grade 8, and got a distinction.

DD currently has the £20 Aulos one, and a £14.99 lower spec Aulos treble. We will upgrade for Grade 6, but she is unlikely to be taking it for a couple of years, which will give us time to save up, and her time to mature.

JimBobplusasprog Tue 01-Apr-14 22:13:23

Thanks - that's very helpful.

I'm interested in the fact you say your dd will takw a couple of years to go from g5 to g6. Is it a big leap? How does it compare to leaps in previous grades?

JulieMichelleRobinson Wed 02-Apr-14 00:25:09

I'm playing a £24 Yamaha treble and £18ish descant at the moment, plus the sopranino equivalent, and I see no reason why one would have to upgrade before grade 5 and possibly not even later - a good plastic instrument will be better than a poor wooden one, if only because the intonation will be better. I find the Yamahas better than the Aulos in the same price range, but that may just be personal preference (I'm first study strings and they're a little bit brighter in tone).

There is traditionally quite a big jump from grade 5 to grade 6 in terms of musicality etc.

If child's hands are still small, you may want to look at various exam boards as some allow you to take higher grades (6, possibly 7) on descant.

HercShipwright Wed 02-Apr-14 09:12:37

DD1 didn't get a decent wooden recorder till after grade 5. She did both grade 4 and grade 5 on decent plastic recorders. She got decent (but not top range) wooden recorders for grade 6 (moeck rottenburgh, mid range (not the cheapest wood)). She then got a very good conservatoire level treble before her grade 8, but used a plastic descant for the exam because her Moeck thumbhole needed bushing. She got an amazingly high distinction. DD2 is doing grade 5 next term using plastic descant and treble. She is far too young and irresponsible to have a decent recorder yet. It's also easier for a younger player to get better results from a plastic instrument.

One thing to remember is even if you do get a mid range wooden descant or treble, the breaking in period takes ages and your DS will still need to play mainly on plastic. DD1 tends to use her plastic recorders for most NYRO and other ensemble work even now. Plastic recorders are often better for ensemble work than decent wooden recorders which are often designed to be solo instruments. The exceptions to these are basses, obviously, although even then a plastic bass is normally a very sound instrument (but Kung basses do sound better in an ensemble context, no denying). In my orchestra I only use my very good hardwood descant and soppo when I'm the featured player in a piece - otherwise I use my mid range softer wood moecks to better blend in.

I think that if your DS's hands are too small for a treble though he is definitely too young to get even a mid range wooden recorder (e.g. a moeck) because he just won't be able to look after it properly.

JimBobplusasprog Wed 02-Apr-14 15:30:01

I have just bought an aulos 507 sopranino for ds. It'll give him a useful mental exercise to learn the fingering. He is 8 and certainly not responsible enough for anything expensive. He does have a nice violin which is more expensive than any recorder I would currently consider for him but it's harder to balance that on a music stand and knock it off!

Theas18 Wed 02-Apr-14 19:21:43

The plastic yamahas are pretty good and the eldest did grade 5 on one at about age 10. Certainly if he's not going to treat the instrument well stick with good plastic.

Wooden recorders have more personality but can be more difficult to "tame". You also need to treat them nicely - not over play them and get them too soggy, not spit sweets down them etc. Certainly a cheap "basic" wooden recorder, despite the cost is unlikely to be as good as a better plastic one unless you are are really lucky.

We have a houseful of recorders - the wooden ones are really lovely, but they were, all bar one descant, second hand. We recently got a really great descant at the early music shop second hand after a day out to try them, take advice from your teacher though.

Also when you get into wooden instruments you also realise that different recorders suit different music, then things get crazy ( or you have a great teacher who is willing to lend amazing instruments to advanced pupils - we are so lucky)

HercShipwright Wed 02-Apr-14 19:38:33

I recently played in a concert with James Risdon and he used a different treble for each of the pieces he played. And none of them were at a different pitch either!

Yamaha is our plastic standby of choice too.

Wafflenose Thu 03-Apr-14 09:25:39

Most of my pupils take 2 years to Grade 6, or slightly less - I teach clarinet and saxophone too. It's a HUGE jump (think GCSEs and A Levels) and due to several changes of teacher, a wrist injury and braces, I took 4 years to bridge the gap from 5 to 6 on clarinet... whoops.

The reason DD is going to take so long is because her treble note reading is slower, and so she is playing at Grade 5 level on descant, but won't attempt anything beyond Grade 2 treble. I imagine she will take a year or so to get it up to the same level as descant, then several more months building the difficulty, and several months learning the pieces... but she will probably be only 10 by then!

JimBobplusasprog Thu 03-Apr-14 19:16:02

wafflenose would you recommend I teach ds to read treble notes to play the sopranino or notes written an octave above? I was thinking I would just let him work it out as we have a number of descant pieces that don't go below f but if ds then has to learn to read another octave down when he finally grows into a treble then learning sopranino may be counterproductive.

So: should I get him to read the bottom note on the sopranino as the f above or below middle c?

HercShipwright Thu 03-Apr-14 19:45:53

Soppo music is written an octave below it sounds. So you read the bottom note on the soppo as the f above middle c. The same with Garklein - except it's descant fingering again. And, working in the other direction, it's the same with tenor, bass, great, contra, sub etc. Obviously if you're playing music not written for recorder then you have to do the octave thing in your head, but all music specifically written for recorder (or arranged for recorder) follows the basic rules. Otherwise you'd have a mess of ledger lines which flautists for example wouldn't have a problem with but some others might.

Having said all that, there's a piece on the grade 5 syllabus which can be offered on either treble or descant but which goes lower than the F above middle C (once) but that's probably an example of the people who set it just missing it. You're not supposed to play it up an octave (because it would go too high, then).

Unless you're planning to accompany your DS, just get him to play whatever as written and if it goes too low, adapt just for those notes (my teeny tiny fingers can't reach the bottom note on my bass or indeed on my tenor (and to be honest my F on my treble isn't completely reliable either. I have smaller hands than most 12 year olds) so I always play that up an octave (or just leave it out). Even when performing. Small hands are of course an advantage if you specialize in soppo or Gark.

Learning the fingering for F instruments on a soppo is a great idea though. Leaving the treble too late can be a real issue for some people, so the sooner you get the mental barrier overcome the better. IMO (and that of our teachers) it's a good idea to get kids onto treble after grade 3. I certainly started playing it very very early, although there weren't exams in those days; both my DDs did one treble piece for their grade 4 and 5 exams (Dd2 taking grade 5 next term). It's just too big a leap to not offer a treble piece till you HAVE to, on the higher grades.

circular Thu 03-Apr-14 21:34:18

There's a really good plastic that's a wooden copy, about £40. Think its an Aulos. DD1 got one as a spare while breaking in a new wooden descant.

We made the mistake of getting her a cheap wooden when she was 11, she never really looked after it.

Herc Agree re starting treble sooner. Another mistake here in getting to grade 5 with no treble at all. Then changed to music school and more or less started again with techniques and learning treble, so 2yr 4 months from G5 to G6. Hence a pass at G5, and a distinction at G6.

Only just bought first wooden treble, but lucky enough to be have loaned one. Still has plastic tenor and sopranino, but doesn't play those very often.

Wafflenose Thu 03-Apr-14 21:34:36

Yep, treble and sop music is identical, as is the fingering. So start now! I bought DD both when she was coming up for 7, in case she was too small for treble, but actually she was fine with both.

Wafflenose Thu 03-Apr-14 21:36:58

Incidentally, I got the pass at Grade 5, and distinction at Grade 6 too, although this was on my first instrument (clarinet). I should think so too, after four years!!

JimBobplusasprog Fri 04-Apr-14 20:20:54

The sopranino has arrived. It's astonishing just how much higher pitched it sounds shock. Still, it'll keep him out of mischief for a bit over the Easter holidays smile

notanotherinstrument Sat 05-Apr-14 08:03:01

DD just got gr8 distinction playing plastic descant and treble. Would highly recommend Yamaha, can't remember the model numbers but they have a brown 'wood effect' - intonation seems much better than Aulos. Will not pay a fortune for nice wooden ones until she stops biting the mouthpiece which would obviously ruin wood very quickly. Huge advantage of plastic for smaller children is that as well as being fairly indestructible they are not affected by conditions ie humidity which can be difficult for younger ones to deal with. DD learned treble fingering on sopranino until her fingers grew, then swapped over no problem.

MiddleAgeMiddleEngland Sun 06-Apr-14 21:07:07

I agree with circular, the wood effect Aulos ones are nice and have a good tone. There can be a bit of snobbery about wooden recorders, and the good ones usually do have a good sound, but a good plastic one is better than a bad wooden one.

notanother, I know someone who played a plastic treble at Grade 8 too, they also got a distinction. They had a nice wooden one but it developed a problem the week before the exam so they used the plastic one instead.

I heard a sad story about a child who had been given a lovely wooden treble, about £400. Unfortunately nobody thought to tell the dog it wasn't just a stick...

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