Kathy: Hello, everyone. I am very excited to have my friend Gena Mayo of I Choose Joy and Music in Our Homeschool on the show today. She is a homeschool mom of eight who loves teaching music in her spare time as much as I do. Welcome Gena.
Gena: Thank you so much, Kathy.
Kathy: Yes. I’m so glad to have you on today. Gena recently released a new online course for learning to play the recorder on Music in Our Homeschool so I’m excited to talk with her today about five benefits of playing the recorder. Now, the recorder has been around since the 1100s, and it’s interesting to know that in the early 1600s, 26 early settlers already owned and played recorded here in America.
Gena: That’s so fun.
Kathy: I know! Fun facts! Bach and Handel are two famous composers who created a lot of recorder music and several music education gurus, Orff and Kodaly, they were really big on recorders in the classrooms too because of some of the benefits we’re going to talk about today.
Gena: Right. Right.
Kathy: In fact, because of the importance of recorders in music education, over three and a half million recorders are actually sold every year here in America. Yeah, it’s crazy!
So having taught several recorder classes myself because I love playing instruments, I definitely agree that there are lots of benefits to playing the recorder, so let’s get started. Gena, give us a major benefit for learning to play recorder.
The Recorder is Easily Accessible for Most Students
Gena: Okay, well, these are in no particular order, but one benefit is the fact that it’s an instrument that’s easily accessible for children. So it’s small. It’s portable. It’s relatively inexpensive. You can get a really good sounding recorder for less than $10. It’s light. It’s easy for kids to hold. It’s hard for them to destroy. So that is one really great benefit. And it is a real instrument.
Kathy: Yes. And when we are talking about a recorder….well, there’s several different sizes. And the one that we’re talking about is the soprano recorder.
Gena: Right. That’s specifically what my course is about.
Kathy: Right. And it is also the one with Baroque fingering I assume because that’s the most common. But there are two fingerings for the soprano recorder–the Baroque fingering and the German. And you want the Baroque because it actually easier to be in tune.
Kathy: So one reason is because it is very accessible, less than $10 for a great instrument. What’s another great reason?
The Recorder is One of the Easiest Instruments for Children to Play
Gena: It’s relatively easy for children to learn, to play. Because it has a small range, not like if you compare it to a piano where there are so many notes, even a violin, there are so many notes, but the recorder has a smaller range. And so you can still play lots of songs with it, but there’s less notes to actually learn. And the vocal range is similar. The range of the notes of the recorder are similar to what a child sings so they can actually be singing with the recorder at the same time.
Kathy: Right. And, and for the unchanged voices, for kids especially in the elementary years recorders, is a great instrument because the fingering spacing’s not too far. My favorite age group for teaching recorder is like third, fourth, or fifth grade. They usually catch on really well. But anybody that can read music and their fingers can reach those tone holes can play.
Playing Recorder Helps Children Learn Musical Skills
Gena: Yeah, this leads us into number three, which is that it can prepare them for the next instruments that they might want to play, which might be a clarinet or an oboe or a saxophone. Because they’ve already learned how to use their fingers on the holes or the pegs or whatever, it will be the same for the other instrument.
But there’s so many musical things that they can learn when learning the recorder. They can learn music theory by learning to read notes on the staff and rhythms….articulation, like staccato or legato, and other terms like dynamics and tempo markings. It also helps kids learn to use their ears/listening skills– so that they’re listening to see if they actually are in tune.
For example, my daughter keeps blowing too hard and it’s changing the pitch. So she’s learning to use her ears to make sure she’s in tune. And they also can learn audiation which is to hear the music in their mind before they play. And then that way they are know if they’re playing correctly. There are so many musical skills they can learn just by starting with the recorder.
Kathy: Right. So you’ve got, you’ve got both physical skills there, and you’ve got musical skills. I play flute so I know that most of the fingerings that I’ve learned on recorder, they transfer right over to flute. This is a C on recorder. This is a C on flute. It’s the same thing. And that also applies to clarinets and saxophones and to oboes. It really helps them, especially whenever they’re learning to read the treble clef, which is the same clef they sing in. So, we kind of talked about this a little bit, but they’re using both hands.
And so they’re crossing the midline and both sides of the brain are working at the same time.
Playing Recorder Helps Develop Multiple Physical Skills
Gena: Yes, and that was my fourth one. And that’s some of the other physical development skills that they can learn. Like you just mentioned with hand-eye coordination and finger dexterity using both hands.
But also, they’re learning memory skills. We were watching a little boy playing the Flight of the Bumblebee on the recorder. And, my son said, “How did he memorize all that? Just memorizing. That would be so hard.” And yes. So even the recorder can lead to those kinds of things.
Let’s see if there’s oh, and breathing. Because they’re learning to have proper breath control, which will lead into maybe singing later on or those other wind or brass instruments. I also like to include that it also helps with relaxation skills. So if you learn that breathing even…I learned it from singing, and it’s helped me with a relaxing, as I’ve grown older.
Kathy: That’s a very good point and the breath skills for a recorder are a lot less for a recorder versus like another wind instrument. So that’s another reason it’s a great start for elementary kids because they just need a little bit of breath. It’s more about control than how much air they have.
Gena: Yes, even for a young third grader to start with that.
Kathy: Absolutely. You’ve mentioned The Flight of the Bumblebee, you have watched that on YouTube. A couple of others I love watching on YouTube to get people excited about the recorder are the Royal Wind Ensemble. They’re amazing because you can see all the different sizes of the recorders
And then there’s Orlan Charles. He’s really fun to look up and listen to him play. He plays several different recorders sizes, and he’s fun because it’s more like a Tik Tok kind of video. So those are two funds to check out anyway.
All right. Give us one more benefit of playing recorder.
Learning Recorder Builds Character
Gena: Number five is that playing the recorder can be character building. I know we all want our children to grow in character. So it is in playing an instrument and any time you’re learning an instrument, you have to work at it. You have to practice. It takes some determination and some perseverance. They have to get beyond their roadblocks of things maybe they can’t get–those two notes in a row or that quick rhythm or that one song is just really hard for them. They’ve got to really be determined to work at it. But then, when they accomplish it, they have that self-confidence, and maybe they’ll even have an opportunity to perform in front of others and that can help build poise. And then, if they get to play with others, they’re even working on some teamwork.
Kathy: Those are all great. It takes practice. A few episodes ago, we were talking about goal setting on The Homeschool 5 in 10. And we were just talking about how important it is to set goals in which the reward isn’t immediate, but something over time. And recorders is a great example because it takes several weeks in order for you to feel that accomplishment. But it’s so worth it because you get to play a song!