The recorder is a woodwind instrument with ancient origins and made with a whistle mouthpiece rather than a reed. It was a forerunner of the flute, and, in fact, until the baroque period, the term ‘flute’ was used interchangeably for the recorder and flauto (flute). The recorder’s beak-shaped mouthpiece is know as a ‘fipple’, hence, the recorder is classed as a ‘fipple flute’. The recorder has seven finger holes in the front and a thumb hole in the back. On the modern recorder, the last two finger holes are often doubled to allow for chromatic playing.
The exact age of the recorder isn’t known and is difficult to determine since the shape and playing positions of the recorder are so like other similar instruments that ancient illustrations provide little insight. While it is known to have existed at least since the 12th century, the word ‘recorder’ first appeared in 1388. A recorder method was published in Venice in 1535.
By the 15th century there were several sizes of recorder and recorder ensembles, known as ‘consorts’, were a common feature of music life in the renaissance. The popularity of the recorder somewhat diminished after the renaissance but with a revived interest in early music in the 20th century, the recorder has regained popularity, with modern composers like Benjamin Britten, Arnold Cooke, and Edmund Rubbra composing for it. The recorder is also a popular teaching instrument for young children as it is cheap and relatively easy to learn.
The recorder now comes in many sizes including; great bass, quint bass, bass, tenor, alto, soprano, and sopranino.