Learning to play the recorder at school puts children off music for life

Georgina Murphy Clifford The Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London

‘Learning to play the recorder at school puts children off music for life.’[1]

In the past four years there has been a renaissance in the recorder world, with the recorder coming to the forefront of the media: headlines such as ‘Can the recorder ever be sexy?’[2] Printed in The Daily Telegraph and young recorder players Charlotte Barbour- Condini and Sophie Westbrook reaching the final of BBC Young Musician of The Year have contributed to a new interest in the recorder on a national level. [3] Despite media hype, the recorder still struggles to shake of its negative image. The Daily Telegraph’s opening statement reads that learning the recorder is torturous and it commands the same respect as a football being tossed into a sports cupboard. [4]

My research reviews the role of the recorder in educational history and aims to provide an accurate picture of the current educational climate and how the recorder is currently being taught. The research aims to establish the perceptions that recorder teachers have of recorder teaching, with a particular focus on beginner learning in terms of technique, repertoire, pedagogical philosophies and ideas: teaching the recorder for life, beyond the descant recorder. I have consulted with a focus group of professional recorder player-teachers to produce ideas on what constitutes an agreed ‘good practice’ of recorder technique in beginner lessons with specific focus on the development of skills needed to be a proficient player and musician across all of the instruments of the recorder family.

The paper will:

Discuss the current status of the recorder in society and the presence of the recorder on social media:

● The evaluation of recorder stereotyping in social media.
● Using YouTube as an aid to enculturation in recorder learning promoting positive attitudes to learning in the classroom.


[1] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/2087865.stm accessed on Sunday 19th January at 17.38

[2] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/classicalmusic/10795534/Can-the-recorder-ever-be-sexy.html accessed on 16th May at 15.58

[3] http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2013/bbc-young-musician-category-finalists.html accessed on 16th May at 16.00

[4] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/classicalmusic/10795534/Can-the-recorder-ever-be-sexy.html accessed on 16th May at 16.08

[5] Williams, Alexandra Mary, The dodo was really a phoenix: the renaissance and revival of the recorder in England 1879-1941, (University of Melbourne, 2005)