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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2017 12:45 pm 
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Hello!

I'm learning to play the recorder on my own, for a little while now. I'm pretty enthusiastic about it, but sometimes I wish I had a teacher to recommend me some musical pieces to play or tell me if I'm making any mistakes. An issue I've been having lately, as I moved to a little bit more challenging pieces is that I don't know when a piece is too difficult for me. Sometimes I start trying to play something and I give up thinking it may be too difficult yet. So, do you have any advice on how to know when something has to wait a bit?


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2017 1:54 pm 
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Anastasia wrote:
So, do you have any advice on how to know when something has to wait a bit?

When you're still getting nowhere after weeks or months of approaching it methodically, breaking down the difficulties and building the bits slowly bar by bar, then starting to string them back together while still resisting temptation to start speeding up or linking too much too soon just to hear what it might sound like if you're lucky. Or if listening to/looking at it before you've even tried tells you what's going to take you weeks or months as above to find out the hard way. Otherwise it's probably fair game if it's stretching you a bit (which is good for you when done right), but don't fall into the trap of thinking you can play anything if you just keep battering away at it. Because you can't, otherwise we'd all be global stars!

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2017 3:15 pm 
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Are you learning from a beginner book that starts you on one note, and builds from there with accompanying sheet music that progresses as you learn each note? When I learned a long time ago, my first year was spent on one beginner book that progressed one new note at a time, with songs that progressed steadily in difficulty, and one of the things I'm noticing from this book is that none of the songs went very fast. Whether it was a 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, 3/8 or 6/8 timing, the notes were never shorter in duration than an eighth note. I did spend one week with each section, sometimes two if the sections were more difficult. By the end of the year, I could play "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring". Played slowly, it can be a good practice piece, not just for finger exercises, but for breathing. I've linked to a version that is slightly easier than the one I played (mostly because the version I had played up the the high C, and I can't find it now). If you can get through this song, a bit at a time, and slowed down at first, I think you will be playing at an advanced beginner/intermediate level.

https://toplayalong.com/sheet-music/bac ... -recorder/

This website is pretty nice, because it gives you levels. A good beginner song is Bach's Minuet in G:
https://toplayalong.com/sheet-music/bac ... -recorder/

Here's a link to the entire recorder section: https://toplayalong.com/instrument/recorder/
I can sight read the songs at hardest levels, though I have to slow them down slightly because they are unknown songs, but I can play harder songs than those at this point. But I've been playing recorder for decades.

If you also have decent fingering charts, please do learn the alternate fingerings for notes, as they are used for ease and speed at times when the normal fingering is awkward for a certain run of notes. Oh, and learn to take breaths through the nose. I do a combination of both, depending on the situation, but learning to breath through the nose is a necessary skill, and will be useful when you start learning circular breathing (I can't do that yet).


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2017 3:31 pm 
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Mae wrote:
but learning to breath through the nose is a necessary skill

No, it's not. It just restricts your air intake.

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and will be useful when you start learning circular breathing (I can't do that yet).

Neither can I. But most recorder players never do, nor have the slightest need to. It's really not natural for such a low-pressure instrument (yes, I've seen videos of Hatao doing it on whistle!) and of such debatable musical value that I can't see why you'd even want to try.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2017 3:47 pm 
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Peter Duggan wrote:
[Circular breathing is] of such debatable musical value that I can't see why you'd even want to try.

Bragging rights.

I had a book on how to learn the technique by jazz flutist Robert Dick. It was a good tutorial and I gave it a try, but as a trad player, at the end of the day I found I had no use for circular breathing because pauses were too rhythmically important to me. Plus, the photos of his face while circular breathing were frankly too alarming for someone as vain as I am; fluters already have a hard enough time looking presentable as it is.

YMMV.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2017 4:45 pm 
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No, it's not. It just restricts your air intake.

Actually, it doesn't. You are not blowing out through your nose, which makes no sense since you are using the intake air to blow out of your mouth to create sound. I probably should have specified, you do have to learn how to breathe through the nose for the intake of breath. I've been breathing in through my nose for not just recorder, but for vocal work as well, and I have been trained vocally. When people take a huge breath through the mouth while holding the instrument, there can be a slight whistling sound from the air movement, especially if you have to take a big, fast gulp of air. I would say that, for my intake breath, most of it is through my nose, and a small amount is through my mouth because it's hard to completely close it off. When I sing, I can take almost all my intake breath through my nose, though I sometimes will take part of the breath through my mouth if I have to take a super fast breath or a "hiccup" breath.

Also another thing to consider is to make sure to use your diaphragm to work your breathing. It helps with breath control and increases your lung capacity. Given that I have asthma now, I am very glad to know how to do this.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2017 5:31 pm 
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Mae wrote:
Actually, it doesn't. You are not blowing out through your nose, which makes no sense since you are using the intake air to blow out of your mouth to create sound.

If you're taking in air through your nose with your mouth shut, you're either going to get less air in the same time, risk making even more noise (like sniffing?) or both.

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I probably should have specified, you do have to learn how to breathe through the nose for the intake of breath.

Since most of us naturally breathe in through our noses most of every day, I'm not convinced why anyone should 'have to learn how to' do so.

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I've been breathing in through my nose for not just recorder, but for vocal work as well, and I have been trained vocally.

Well, I'm a trained wind player too (including post-graduate recorder study in Holland thirty years ago) and I just don't...

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When people take a huge breath through the mouth while holding the instrument, there can be a slight whistling sound from the air movement, especially if you have to take a big, fast gulp of air.

And if they try taking in the same amount of air through their noses?

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Also another thing to consider is to make sure to use your diaphragm to work your breathing. It helps with breath control and increases your lung capacity.

I hope this isn't directed at me?

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2017 5:59 pm 
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@Peter Duggan: No, the diaphragm info was for Anastasia, the original poster, since it is not something that she may not have thought of.

But my vocal teacher had mentioned that it is not necessarily natural for people to know how to do this. Seeing how people take breaths (watch for the lifting shoulders) and hearing the gasping sound is what happens a lot.

In my original response, I did mention to Anastasia that I used a combination of both, and I get the feeling that you may have thought I meant to only breathe through the nose. I apologize if that was not clear. I just wanted to point out the nose breathing because it is useful and not a skill everyone has learned.

I know you teach music for a living...is this technique ever taught? It has never occurred to me not to breath in combination because it is what I've been always taught.

Edit: I've talked to a friend who plays sax, and he breathes mostly through his nose. Otherwise, it messes with his embouchure. Maybe it's the difference in the instrument that is being played, I guess.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2017 6:51 pm 
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Mae wrote:
@Peter Duggan: No, the diaphragm info was for Anastasia, the original poster, since it is not something that she may not have thought of.

Understood, thanks.

Quote:
In my original response, I did mention to Anastasia that I used a combination of both, and I get the feeling that you may have thought I meant to only breathe through the nose.

I did. I took 'combination of both' to refer to nose breathing and alternate fingerings, which you'd also just mentioned, so saw nothing to suggest you were suggesting the nose to supplement rather than replace the mouth.

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I know you teach music for a living...is this technique ever taught?

I don't know. Most of my regular work as a class teacher is not with wind players, though I do sometimes have singers preparing for performances. But, having just been experimenting as I type this, I'd think it's possible that at least some mouth breathers are getting some additional air that way without being obviously aware of it.

Quote:
Edit: I've talked to a friend who plays sax, and he breathes mostly through his nose. Otherwise, it messes with his embouchure. Maybe it's the difference in the instrument that is being played, I guess.

That's interesting because, with any instrument I've played where embouchure's a factor (flute and trombone, with some oboe and much more limited clarinet experience), I've always found it more natural to open my mouth and reform the embouchure.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2017 11:04 pm 
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Thanks for understanding...I was waiting for an email and focusing on a layout while I was typing the first response. I see now that I was really not being clear. I don't normally write that badly. No more multi-tasking for me.

I finally got a hold of my older daughter, who is away at college (she doesn't always answer texts right away). She is a music major who plays clarinet and bass clarinet. She breathes through her nose to avoid messing up her embouchure, but she says that if she needs to a particularly fast passage, she will do a "catchpress breath", as she calls it.

I don't know. I will say that I don't sing or play any woodwinds if my nose is stuffed up. :wink:


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 10, 2017 4:03 am 
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Mae wrote:
Quote:
You are not blowing out through your nose, which makes no sense since you are using the intake air to blow out of your mouth to create sound.

First of all - I'm not a recorder player so maybe I should keep quiet... but I play tin whistle, Bulgarian kaval and other folk flutes, and I feel this is very much about wind instruments with low air requirement in general.
For myself, I find it very important to blow OUT through my nose when needed - I don't breathe in through my nose, though.
Particularly when playing whistles I sometimes find myself with my lungs still half full of used air, and my body signaling me that it urgently needs fresh air, so I want to breathe in but cannot empty my lungs quickly enough to make room for new air by just playing my instrument - so when this happens, I do breathe out though my nose while playing.
I guess this is faulty breathing technique, I probably shouldn't have breathed in as much as I did... but this way, it does work out for me.
BTW, my kaval teacher told me that kaval players do exactly the same thing.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 11, 2017 10:20 am 
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Wow, so many replies.
Thank you for the advice, everybody.

Peter Duggan wrote:
then starting to string them back together while still resisting temptation to start speeding up or linking too much too soon just to hear what it might sound like

Guilty :)

Peter Duggan wrote:
don't fall into the trap of thinking you can play anything if you just keep battering away at it. Because you can't, otherwise we'd all be global stars!

No, no, I don't have this mindset.
I just wish there was a way to know if something is just too much, before spending days trying to play it.

Mae wrote:
Are you learning from a beginner book that starts you on one note, and builds from there with accompanying sheet music that progresses as you learn each note?

Well, firstly I learned the fingerings from the chart that came with my recorder (although sometimes I still forget how to play some sharps and flats). Then I found music sheets from the internet and tried them out. Also I play by ear sometimes.

Mae wrote:
By the end of the year, I could play "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring". Played slowly, it can be a good practice piece, not just for finger exercises, but for breathing. I've linked to a version that is slightly easier than the one I played (mostly because the version I had played up the the high C, and I can't find it now). If you can get through this song, a bit at a time, and slowed down at first, I think you will be playing at an advanced beginner/intermediate level.

https://toplayalong.com/sheet-music/bac ... -recorder/

This website is pretty nice, because it gives you levels. A good beginner song is Bach's Minuet in G:
https://toplayalong.com/sheet-music/bac ... -recorder/

Here's a link to the entire recorder section: https://toplayalong.com/instrument/recorder/
I can sight read the songs at hardest levels, though I have to slow them down slightly because they are unknown songs, but I can play harder songs than those at this point. But I've been playing recorder for decades.


I bought a book some days ago, with many songs, but it doesn't give levels. I started from a song I liked, but it seemed too difficult and I don't know if it's normal or I should give it up. It has some 1/16 and funny ornamentations. The song you recommended was just fine, I think. I sight-read it pretty ok, not as quickly as it's meant to be played, but not too slow either. It's definitely easier than the song I was trying to play, now I see the difference. I think I need to stick to easier songs to learn the technique properly, because often I forget to breath.

Mae wrote:
If you also have decent fingering charts, please do learn the alternate fingerings for notes, as they are used for ease and speed at times when the normal fingering is awkward for a certain run of notes. Oh, and learn to take breaths through the nose. I do a combination of both, depending on the situation, but learning to breath through the nose is a necessary skill, and will be useful when you start learning circular breathing (I can't do that yet).


I will definitely look into alternative fingerings! I almost can't control my breath at all. I was trying to learn vibrato too, but it was hopeless. :lol:


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2017 12:03 am 
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Hi Anastasia...definitely don't try vibrato yet! I didn't get that down until I was an adult, and only because I learned it for singing. But once you get better playing, you can start focusing on things like vibrato.

However, for breathing, do figure out approximately how many measures you can get through, and you can start marking your sheet music with breath marks, which are commas on top of the staff at strategic places. Also, take advantage of the rests and take your long breaths then, and take advantage of passages that sound like the end of phrases, even if there are no rests in between. Take quick hiccup breaths if you have to and are running out of air; these have to be done through the mouth using your diaphragm muscles because you have to do them quickly without moving the rest of your body. It will take a bit of practice.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2017 3:58 am 
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Mae wrote:
Hi Anastasia...definitely don't try vibrato yet! I didn't get that down until I was an adult, and only because I learned it for singing. But once you get better playing, you can start focusing on things like vibrato.

However, for breathing, do figure out approximately how many measures you can get through, and you can start marking your sheet music with breath marks, which are commas on top of the staff at strategic places. Also, take advantage of the rests and take your long breaths then, and take advantage of passages that sound like the end of phrases, even if there are no rests in between. Take quick hiccup breaths if you have to and are running out of air; these have to be done through the mouth using your diaphragm muscles because you have to do them quickly without moving the rest of your body. It will take a bit of practice.


Thank you Mae! :)


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2017 2:48 am 
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Anastasia wrote:
Hello!

I'm learning to play the recorder on my own, for a little while now. I'm pretty enthusiastic about it, but sometimes I wish I had a teacher to recommend me some musical pieces to play or tell me if I'm making any mistakes. An issue I've been having lately, as I moved to a little bit more challenging pieces is that I don't know when a piece is too difficult for me. Sometimes I start trying to play something and I give up thinking it may be too difficult yet. So, do you have any advice on how to know when something has to wait a bit?


The "trick" I've used on several instruments is to work from not one but several tutor books. This gives the opportunity to play a wider range of music at a similar level of difficulty so's I don't get bored playing the same one or two pieces I can manage at any particular level, without feeling I have to "rush on to the next page"!

Given the ready availability of economically-priced second-hand music on eBay or similar, this may be an alternative for you.

Hope this helps.

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