I taught myself to play the recorder (soprano) - just the basics - but I have trouble with the F. It just doesn't sound right. Sometimes it sounds too close to the E, sometimes it even sounds like it is lower than the E.

F fingering

I have seen this fingering listed in a number of online resources, so I don't think that's the issue. Even with that fingering, could I be playing it incorrectly? Is it something that people who have taken lessons get tripped up on?

2 Answers 2


Short answer: the fingering can be the problem, but there are other possibilities, one of which is finger placement.

Congratulation for your study of the soprano recorder. Hope you are having fun.

-> The fingering you show in your question is a typical fingering for a baroque soprano recorder.

I presume you have a baroque/english-model recorder, because a school/"modern" recorder has often only one hole instead of two smaller ones for each of the ring and auricular fingers (last two bottom holes of the picture), and you would have noticed that. But first check this before going on.

The "modern" or "german" model fingering would use only the index for the right hand (left hand is the same) for a F on a soprano. You can spot a "german" model by its quite small fifth hole (corresponding to the semitone between F and E).

There are a few things to check if the fingering problem is out of the way:

The instrument

  • Is the pavillon part of your recorder (the ending part of the instrument) correctly (but gently) pushed against the middle part? This can change the tuning (but mostly on higher notes).

  • Do you see any cracks, gaps between the parts of the flute?

Finger placement

  • Most likely cause — If you have small hands, have you checked that you can reach easily the last two groups of holes with your ring finger and especially the auricular (=pinky)? Even a slight misalignment can cause some air to go out and change the tone and give variable results. Try to find a good angle for the "pavillon" part, if it moves, so that you are the most comfortable possible. The fleshy part of the fingers should cover the holes with a large margin. In certain cases, nails can be a problem, or trying to cover holes with a too vertical angle of the end of the finger. Also beginners and autodidacts tend to look at their fingers on the instrument and raise the instrument horizontally to be able to see them: this is not optimal to cover holes, especially the lower ones. Try to play in front of a mirror.

  • Second most likely cause — Is your right middle finger sufficiently far from the open hole?

  • No flute is perfectly in tune. Most have flatter or sharper individual notes that professional players learn to compensate or accentuate, essentially by breathing control, and sometimes by alternate fingerings. You can try for instance uncovering one of the smaller holes of the bottom position (auricular finger). There are at least three variants one can use for F and which can solve a systematic problem.

  • Do you succeed to stop the last two groups of holes at the same time? Have you a tendency to move your flute upwards or downwards when you play this note? Have you a tendency to move your left thumb when you do?

  • One of the drawbacks of the baroque fingering is that alternating F and E is difficult (three fingers to move and a tendency to swing the instrument). This is something to practice specifically and sometimes the E is not as good as it would be if you played it from another note or directly. Have you other instruments or other people which could help you about this?

Breathing control

Low E and F are not the most difficult notes to play but there can be an influence of your breathing technique. If none of what precedes helped, here are a few more hints.

  • Do you succeed to play low C (all holes covered) every time you want? Can you play this C note piano and forte at will? If not, you should probably try breathing and tonguing articulation exercises to enhance your control.

  • Does this phenomena happen more often when you play softly or loudly?

Hope it helps. A lot of people dismiss the recorder as an "easy" instrument for kids. But there is no "easy" instrument.

  • In my experience using the index on a modern recorder for F is sharp - I learned the split 1 3 fingering. +1 for 'But there is no "easy" instrument.'
    – Michael
    Apr 27, 2011 at 14:52
  • @Michael: you are right, the low F of some modern recorders is usually a little too sharp with the fingering I give and the 1-3- fingering can sound better. On my dolmetsch "german" soprano the 1--- fingering sounds better.
    – ogerard
    Apr 27, 2011 at 16:22
  • 1
    Despite the name, Dolmetsch is an English company. It has to be said that Dolmetsch recorders have a more pronounced conical aspect to the bore than a lot of other makes, so fingering on a small Dolmetsch is closer to the larger members of the family. May 1, 2011 at 23:58
  • It varies by the recorders. On some of mine, I use 1-3-, on others I use 1-34. I don't yet have any that use 1---.
    – Luke_0
    Feb 29, 2012 at 23:35

The long answer from ogerard has more details. But I wanted to summarize and share the fingering chart for my recorder which is "German style". With this recorder, to go up C5, D5, E5, F5, G5, A5, B5 you just cover all the holes and pick up a finger from the bottom for each note as you go up. C6 is a little strange as you keep just your left middle finger, and left thumb pressed. See this chart for more details:

Yamaha recorder fingering chart for German and Baroque systems

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