Descant Recorder

The descant recorder, also called a soprano recorder, is a woodwind instrument of the recorder family. This aerophone is played using finger holes and is often pitched and tuned to C. The descant recorder is the most common form of recorder and is accessible worldwide for its cheap production cost and small size.
History of the Descant Recorder
The descant recorder is a simple woodwind instrument that may have its origins in multiple parts of the world. Some early ancestors of the vertical flute include the shakuhachi, a 7th century Japanese bamboo instrument and the Quena, an instrument resembling the recorder that was played during the ancient Incan empire in Southern America. The modern recorder was perhaps first developed and used in the 15th century in Europe when the renaissance era of classical music required a lively woodwind instrument and the middle classes were able to afford musical instruments to be played in the streets and in folk music. Instruments makers such as London-born Richard Haka created some of these descant recorders for the players of central Europe. In the early 20th century, French-born instrument maker Eugène Arnold Dolmetsch was perhaps responsible for establishing the baroque tuning of the modern descant recorder as we know it today. This made the descant recorder an octave higher than the soprano human voice. In classical music, the descant recorder is still best known for the baroque period of classical compositions. The descant recorder naturally lends itself to beginners as it is cheap and easy to play, which has made it a common beginner instrument in schools in the Western world today.
Inventor: Unknown

Where to Buy

£5 - £20

Hear the Descant Recorder

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How to Play

A small recorder with a high pitch, played by blowing into a narrow mouthpiece and covering the finger holes.

In Popular Music

The descant recorder is occasionally used in popular music and may have been the recorder played by Brian Jones on The Rolling Stones' 'Ruby Tuesday'. Paul McCartney also played descant recorder on 'Fool On The Hill' by The Beatles.

Famous Players

James Galway, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Emmanuel Pahud

Close Relations

Treble Recorder, Soprano Recorder
Video Credit: Sharon Bill
Understanding the Descant Recorder




16th century






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