Day 8 | Recorder31
In the eighteenth century it was usual for woodwind players to play multiple instruments, just as it is today. To learn more about what it was like to be a musician in the 18th century you can watch our PitchPoint episode where Mary-Jannet Leith explores this topic!
The most common instruments for doubling with the recorder were the baroque flute and the baroque oboe. The connection between the three instruments is shown in Hotteterre's Principles de la Flute Traversiere, de la Flute a Bec et du Haut-bois (Principles of the Flute, Recorder and Oboe).
The "Method for Learning to Play the Oboe" section of Hotteterre's treatises is only three pages long. This is because the fingering and hand position, as well as stylistic playing, has already been covered by the flute and recorder sections as the "difference is of such slight importance that the student will be perfectly informed" without further explanation!
The baroque flute or baroque oboe is a natural progression for a recorder player wanting to learn another instrument. The biggest difference between the instruments is the embouchure, but once that is mastered, the new instrument will feel extremely natural due to its similarities to the recorder. The repertoire is familiar to recorder players and the style is known. Often, playing baroque music stylistically is daunting to modern players, as the musical language of early music is very different to later periods. Because of this it is even true that some people find it easier to transition to these instruments from the recorder than their modern counterparts!
There are lots of different opportunities to try playing a baroque woodwind instrument. At the Early Music Shop you can try the instruments in-store or on approval, and in November there are lots of opportunities at LIFEM (the London International Festival of Music) in Blackheath. There you will have the opportunity to try woodwind (and all!) early music instruments by makers from around the world, as well as talk to the makers themselves.
The trickiest thing about the baroque flute can be the embouchure and it is recommended to start with an instrument which has a more forgiving mouthpiece. It is much easier to start on an instrument with a larger, more elliptical hole rather than a smaller, round hole. Therefore something like a Palanca model is a good choice – the most popular choice being Martin Wenner's Baroque Flute after Palanca in grenadilla.
The baroque oboe is a double reed instrument, and the reed can bring about as many challenges as the instrument itself! Therefore we highly recommend Tony Millyard's Baroque Oboe after Denner in Boxwood. Millyard collaborated with professional oboist Belinda Paul during his making process, and she has designed and made the reeds to fit this instrument with ease of playing in mind. Additionally, these oboes are excellent value due to the use modern machinery.