Types of Recorders (blockflutes)
Recorders are made in various sizes, models and pitch and of different materials-most commonly hard woods.
The instruments used for contemporary music are:
sopranino / soprano (descant) / alto (treble) / tenor / bass(et) / contrabass / subcontrabass
All of them are in modern pitch (440 Hz or slightly higher).
- The soprano / tenor / greatbass / subcontrabass blockflutes are in C (lowest note)
- The sopranino / alto / bass / contrabass / are in F (lowest note)
There is a Renaissance alto blockflute in G also used, called "g-alto" (A=440 Hz)
Besides the traditional blockflute design, some new models that were created during the 1990's are now in use. The most relevant are:
- The "Paetzold" design -available on basset, great bass, contrabass and subcontrabass- is a square model based on the principle of an organ pipe that is brilliant for the production of articulation and over-blowing effects (especially when amplified). The use of this model should be specified on the score.
- The "Harmonic Recorder" (tenor & alto) with its cylindrical bore and key system comparable with modern woodwind instruments. These features give the player more flexibility with dynamic range and more accuracy in the high register.
General Remarks when composing for the instrument
- Multiphonics: beautiful multiphonics can be produced although it is very difficult to have total control of the notes produced in the chord. This is because of the instrument conical bore and the absence of a flexible embrouchure.
It is advisable to write the notes you would like to have at the top or bottom of the multiphonic, and allow the player and his instrument to add the rest.
- Flageolets: only a very few fingerings on the blockflute can produce real "flageolets" (alto and tenor work the best).
- Dynamics: the blockflute has a very restricted dynamic range. Most of the time players have to "suggest" it through articulation, colour an timing, mapping out their own dynamic spectrum. Generally speaking, it is almost impossible to produce very soft notes in the high register, or "fff" in the lowest register. Please don't forget this!!
- Microtonality, glissandi, articulation variety and pure sound are some of the blockflute's highlights (!)