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   Post reply ( Re: Tone Quality vs. Versatility )
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Topic Summary
Posted by: berto Posted on: Apr 15th, 2003, 12:57am
We recorder players are at a disadvantage vis-a-vis other instrumentalists in (at least) this one sense: We are expected to play so many instruments of the recorder family, and often more than one instrument within each family.
I routinely practice and play soprano, alto, tenor, and bass recorder (which itself is so different from the rest of the family in its ergonomics that it's like playing an entirely different instrument). Not only that, I play not just one but three or more different alto recorders routinely.
I've noticed that unless I have practiced a particular instrument intensively for days or weeks beforehand (and am warmed up), my tone quality is not very good. Sometimes I envy performers of other instruments who have (usually) just a single instrument to focus their efforts on.
(We recorder players are also routinely expected to play pieces in the treble clef; in the bass clef, for the bass recorder; "playing up," transposing on the fly, for the alto recorder; and sometimes also other combinations. We also have to master the different C and F fingerings.)
Assertion 1: We recorder players pay insufficient attention to tone.
I subscribe to a trombone list, where some of the best players from around the world hang out and discuss the trombone. Let me tell you: Trombone players, beginner to advanced, all obsess on tone quality!
Amateur recorder players, on the other hand, tend to take tone quality for granted, IMHO. Hey, just put your lips to the beak and blow (but not too hard so as to squeak the low notes). Easy, yes?
Well, yes, easy to play badly. But hard to play well. In particular, hard to produce a consistently good tone, all the time, across all the notes, on a wide variety of instruments.
Assertion 2: Because we recorder players play so many instruments, our tone quality suffers.
It stands to reason: With so many different instruments to play, often a half dozen or more, and with limited time to devote to practice, we (amateurs) spend less time practicing each individual instrument.
Each member of the recorder family calls for different breath pressure and technique. And one alto (or soprano or tenor or...) plays differently from the next.
How in the world are we supposed to sound consistently good on each of our many instruments?! (Not to mention master the different fingerings and all the other elements of fine play.)
I can see where it is more "fun" to be able to play all members of the recorder family (and, yes, certain pieces call for odd combinations other than the usual SATB), but this versatility comes at a price: We can't possibly play individual instruments very well, or as well as we might.
Is versatility oversold? Are we recorder players doing ourselves, and our audiences, a disservice by striving to be jacks of all trades, masters of none? Would a company of specialists make a better large recorder ensemble than a company of generalists? Would our tone quality and overall play improve if we each narrowed our focus to just one or two recorders, or to just one or two members of the family? (I assume that some people would prefer the low instruments, others the high, so all parts would get covered on balance.)
My answer to each question: YES!
Posted by: JJ_Johnson Posted on: Apr 15th, 2003, 9:41am
Surely an enterprising trombonist would have alto, tenor, tenor/bass, and bass t'bones in his kit. And if he was interested in early music he might have a sackbut and a serpent or two as well. He might also play baritone and euponium for variety. Such a player would be far more challenged than a mere recorder tweeter, believe it!  And his bank-manager wouldn't be too happy, either!
You might have a point if in addition to the SATB instruments you already play you were to take up Ganassi or van Eyck style recorders, recorders at pitches other than A415, or those with original rather than neo-baroque fingering systems. And you don't mention Helder "Modern" recorders, Paetzold/Tarasov/Mollenhauer "Modern" recorders and the like, either.
Posted by: berto Posted on: Apr 15th, 2003, 10:12am
JJ_Johnson, huh? Ha ha! LOL!
Agreed, a trombonist playing that many different brass instruments would face a much more daunting challenge. I think that many players, acknowledging the tone problem, tend to focus on just one trombone, however.
At least t'bone players acknowledge the difficulty. Amateur recorder players often ignore it. How many recorder players ever practice blowing "long tones" (which many trombonists do regularly)?

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