Baroque tenor recorder

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Title: Recorder Music with Original Instruments II—Batali, by Jan Jacob van Eyck; Hans Bruggen, tenor recorder. Label: Telefunken. Format: LP. Catalogue#: SAWT 9545. Track: A-2.

Contextual Associations

The tenor recorder is an end-blown duct-flute aerophone originating in Europe. Pictured and described here is a modern tenor recorder the design of which was based on Baroque era instruments. Throughout the course of the Baroque era recorders in general evolved from being consort instruments (their primary setting in Renaissance times) to becoming more of a solo instrument specified by composers in their compositions. A large body of solo, concerto, and chamber music works was written during the Baroque era for recorder. When written for by Baroque opera composers, the recorder was often associated with “supernatural, pastoral, love, or funeral scenes.” (Carroll, p.122) Many instructional tutors were published during this time, which suggests there was also a considerable market of amateur recorder players. Recorders are played today by amateur enthusiasts, college students in early music ensembles, and a small number of professional concert and recording artists.


This replica of a Baroque period tenor recorder is made of wood (palisander) in three sections connected by tenon-and-socket joints, one located just above the topmost finger hole and the other above the bell section. These joints are highlighted with a ring of bone. Its external profile is more ornate than its Renaissance period predecessor, often with bulges at the section joints. Internally, the tapering bore of Baroque recorder is slightly more pronounced than that of its Renaissance counterpart. It has ten holes drilled in it, one being a thumb hole on the reverse side, the other nine being fingerholes (the bottom two fingers each operate two, slightly smaller, closely positioned holes, the ring finger directly and the baby finger with the aid of two brass keys). The blowing end of the mouthpiece section is nearly entirely stopped with a wood plug (fipple) save for a narrow channel/duct that is left open between it and the inside wall of the body. Once this is completed the craftsman can carve the characteristic ‘beak’ shape of the mouthpiece and chisel a deep cut into its upper side to create the sharp edge against which the airstream is directed.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

The player blows into the tip of the beak and the airstream is channeled through a duct and directed against a sharp edge chiseled into the side of the instrument. The tenor is the fourth highest pitched member of the recorder family, tuned in C with a range of C4 to D6. It is fully chromatic over this range, but intonation becomes an issue the further away a key is from C. Notation is written in the treble clef at pitch. Notes in the second octave are attained through a combination of increased airflow and the opening of the thumbhole. The playing technique involves coordination of finger work (including cross fingerings) and tongued articulations, which can be executed with great speed by accomplished players. The instrument has a narrow dynamic range.


The immediate precursor of the Baroque tenor recorder is the Renaissance tenor recorder. Changes to the design of the latter appear to have taken place in the second half of the 17th century, possibly in France and probably in response to the recorder being used increasingly as a solo instrument. Throughout the course of the 18th century other woodwind instruments underwent design changes that made them more suitable for inclusion in the fast evolving orchestral ensemble, while recorders didn’t and by the end of that century they had become obsolete. Around 1925 an interest arose in period instrument performance, recorders being one of the first families of instruments to be revived. By the middle of the 20th century the early music movement was in full swing and a number of workshops were producing replica instruments such as the one pictured here.

Bibliographic Citations

Campbell, Murray, Clive Greated, and Arnold Meyers. 2004. Musical Instruments: History, Technology, and Performance of Instruments of Western Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Carroll, Paul. 1999. Baroque Woodwind Instruments: A guide to their history, repertoire and basic technique. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Hunt, Edgar. 1984. "Recorder [common flute, English flute]." NGDMI v. 3: 205-215.


Instrument Information


Continent: Europe

Formation: European

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

421.221.12 aerophone--single open flute with internal duct: the duct is inside the tube; with fingerholes

Design and Playing Features

Category: aerophone

Air cavity design: tubular - tapering with open distal end

Source and direction of airstream: player exhalation through mouth into air cavity; unidirectional

Energy transducer that activates sound: beveled edge in wall of instrument, indirectly blown against with aid of duct

Means of modifying shape and dimensions of standing wave in air cavity: opening fingerholes to reduce space or shorten length of standing wave in air cavity

Overblowing utilization: overblowing at consecutive partials

Pitch production: multiple pitches - changing length of standing wave within cavity with fingerholes and by selecting partials through overblowing


23.8 in. length

Primary Materials






Entry Author

Roger Vetter