The Recorder Instrument
How to Survive the Recorder Instrument- A Parent’s Guide
They don’t mention the rite of passage that is recorders in parenting books. I mean, what is your first instinct when you find out your child needs the recorder instrument for school or is sent home with one?
If your first instinct is dread, you’re not alone.
Many parents share that feeling, including myself, even though we ourselves remember bringing the recorder home as kids.
I remember when my son came home with the recorder instrument from school in 3rd grade.
“Mom! Listen to this! *SQEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAKKKKKK*. Isn’t that awesome?!”
Yep. That is most parents’ reintroduction to the recorder. For some reason, the one thing kids seem to remember about their recorder lesson is how to make the recorder squeak or shriek…
…which is also the one thing the teacher tells them not to do in class but neglects to tell them not to do it at home, either.
It’s a tough season to go through, but I promise, you can survive the recorder. Before I tell you how to do that, let me tell you some history about the recorder. (Not into history? No worries. Skip on ahead.)
Is the Recorder a Real Instrument?
Believe it or not, the recorder, which is actually a part of the flute family, can be used as a professional instrument. I know that’s hard to believe, especially when our kiddos come home only knowing squeaky renditions of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or Hot Cross Buns.
But it is and was indeed a professional instrument. In fact, the recorder, originally called a flute, dates back 700 years or more, and it was considered the precursor to the flute we know today (which is actually called a transverse flute since it is held sideways).
Many musicians and composers included the recorder in their compositions, usually along with an orchestra of other instruments as well. (source)
I mean, check out this guy, playing the recorder professionally:
Eventually, the recorder lost it’s status when the flute came around. It didn’t become ‘popular’ again until the mid-20th century, when the likes of Paul McCartney and others used it in their pop and rock music. By then, manufacturers were able to make recorders out of plastic instead of wood, which made them affordable. (source)
Since they were cheap and relatively easy to use (you just blow air in it and move your fingers), it became a very popular teaching tool in elementary music classrooms all across the U.S. as a sort of introduction to musical instruments.
When Your Child Brings Home a Recorder
So your child needs to buy a recorder or brought one home from school. Now what?
Follow these tips, and you may actually enjoy having it around.
1. Lay down some ground rules.
We have a piano in our house, as I play and hope someday one of the kids will too. It is an antique and was given to me by my family when my elderly cousin, who was also my piano teacher, passed away.
But my kids aren’t just allowed to bang on it or pull the ivory keys off (some were already falling off…sniff). I want them to respect it as an instrument and not just as a toy.
Laying some ground rules for the recorder will help your child have a respect for it as an instrument and not just a toy they can wave around like a sword or make it squeak on purpose.
Chances are, you’re going to hear the squeak. It’s inevitable; I’m sorry. But there’s no need to hear it all the time. You can remind your child that a few squeaks here and there are normal, but they should not be forced.
You can also set a rule about proper handling and storage. Remind your child to hold the instrument as they were shown in class, and to put it away when they are finished practicing.
Tip: Does your child need to bring it back to school every day? Store it in his/her backpack!
2. Give your child a place to practice.
When my younger brother would bring his trumpet home to practice, my mom asked him to practice in the finished basement so he wouldn’t disturb the rest of us trying to do homework. Sure, we could still hear him, but it wasn’t too distracting or annoying to us.
Designate a part of your home as a practice area. It doesn’t have to be in the basement, but choose an area that is a little closed off from where others might be trying to do homework or trying to carry on normal volume conversations.
3. Set a timer for practice.
If your child is really excited about playing the recorder and wants to practice all.the.time, it might be wise to agree on an amount of time that he or she can practice. You can even plan around homework time or dinner time so the regular family schedule isn’t interrupted.
If your child isn’t as excited, you may need to
beg encourage them to practice for at least 15 minutes a day. You can set a timer and offer an incentive for practicing for 15 minutes.
4. Try not to laugh.
It can be hard not to laugh when you hear some of the sounds coming from the recorder, but try not to laugh or make fun of your child’s attempts to play. It can make them not want to practice or even play the recorder, which can affect their music grade in school.
5. Watch some helpful videos.
Does your child need help learning the fingering but you’re not sure what to do? Did he or she forget which note is which? Google “How to Play the Recorder” and you’ll find a bunch of helpful tutorials that you can watch together.
6. Try some new songs.
If your child has learned the required songs for school and they aren’t all that bad, why not try learning some new songs?
Try a Google search of “songs for the recorder” or “sheet music for the recorder”. You might be able to find some free sheet music or even a video that you can follow.
There are actually quite a lot of popular songs available to play on the recorder!
There. Is the recorder instrument all that bad now? Do you think you can tolerate it if you follow these six tips?
(Still no? You might want to invest in some quality ear plugs or noise cancelling headphones for a while…)
When Your Child is Done with the Recorder
Okay, so if you didn’t learn to love or even like the recorder instrument, there’s a few things you can do when your child is done with it if you have no interest in keeping it around:
1. Play it.
One surefire way to get older kids to leave the recorder alone is to play it yourself. It’s the ‘make the cool thing uncool technique’.
Do you remember any songs? Play away! I can still play Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton and Bippity Boppity Boo from Cinderella like it’s no one’s business. You better believe I had my kids begging me to stop after the fourth or fifth time playing.
2. Hide it.
If you need to keep the recorder for a younger sibling to use one day, you can simply hide it away until it’s time to start this whole process over again.
3. Sell it.
While most of the recorders today are actually pretty inexpensive, you might be able to sell it to a parent who needs one, perhaps on eBay or on Facebook Marketplace or at a yardsale.
4. Donate it.
If you don’t want to sell it but still want to get it out of your home, you could try to donate it to a local school’s music program or a preschool. Just make sure it’s well cleaned before donating.
The Recorder Instrument: Will You Survive?
Will you survive this rite of passage with your kids? Do you have any tips for when kids bring home the recorder? Leave a comment below!
After doing this research, I have a newfound appreciation for the recorder instrument. I may even find my son’s that I hid and learn some new tunes!