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Besides physical structure, what is the difference between a curved and a straight windway in a recorder? I understand that a curved windway increases air resistance, but how does the sound quality compare in the two?

3 Answers 3

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Curved windways are usually considered to give a more interesting, complex tone quality, but I couldn't give an acoustic reason for this. They're definitely more difficult to produce I've also heard it suggested that a curved windway is superior because it allows condensation to drain to the edges of the windway more easily, where it will interfere less.

For the commenter asking what the windway is: enter image description here

Credit: Daniel Bingamon, Jubilee Instruments & Crafts.

When you look at the mouthpiece end of a recorder, the windway is the narrow slot that you blow into. Transverse flutes don't have a windway, or more precisely, the windway is formed by your mouth and lips directing the stream of air over the embouchure hole.

This picture shows a curved windway:

Photo of curved windway

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  • What force would cause water to move to the edges of a curved windway? This picture suggests that gravity would do that, but most recorder players hold their instruments nearly vertically, which would make gravity insignificant in that regard.
    – phoog
    Aug 22, 2021 at 16:53
  • @phoog Well, the answer from Knaphill Recorders asserts that a curved windway doesn't make any difference, so maybe that is indeed a "myth". I can't cite any analysis of the physics involved.
    – Dalbergia
    Aug 24, 2021 at 20:48
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I would like to dispel the myth about curved windways. If a recorder is well made and voiced by a good and experienced maker, a straight windway will sound just as good as a curved one. The quality of sound is affected by the following factors:

  1. the longitudonal contour of the windway
  2. the height of the windway exit
  3. the distance from the floor of the windway to the lower edge of the labium
  4. the chamfer cut into the windway exit (top and bottom)
  5. the smoothness of the windway and bore
  6. the alignment of the windway floor and the labium (they must follow each other exactly)
  7. the distance of the windway exit to the labium
  8. the slope of the ramp
  9. the way the underside of the labium is cut
  10. the diameter and taper of the bore
  11. the placing and size of the tone holes
  12. the length of the windway

.. and this list is not complete...

As for the idea that moisture drains to the sides of a curved windway, that is nonsense. Given the air pressure and how tiny the curvature is on most curved windways, also taking into account surface tension (bear in mind that spit is sticky!). This will never happen.

Recorders with curved windways can clog just as easily as ones with straight windways and this can be make worse or better by a number of factors and being curved is not one of them.

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  • The moisture that collects is condensation, not 'spit'.
    – PiedPiper
    Aug 22, 2021 at 10:02
  • There are now two answers to this question, one saying curved windways are better and yours saying they are not. You answer would be much more useful if you could provide references (preferably to a double-blind test)
    – PiedPiper
    Aug 22, 2021 at 10:08
  • @PiedPiper I agree that it's mostly condensation, but surely the use of the tongue for articulation creates droplets of saliva, some of which will also attach themselves to the walls of the windway. Has anyone measured the composition of the moisture in a recorder windway? I reckon there's at least a little protein.
    – phoog
    Aug 22, 2021 at 16:50
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    If I were going to add to the speculation, I might say that curved windways, being more difficult to produce, are more often a feature of high-end recorders, so maybe the improved tone quality and better drainage are simply features of overall construction quality, not actually related to the shape of the windway.
    – Dalbergia
    Aug 24, 2021 at 20:51
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I'm relatively new to recorder, but I now have similar quality altos, both yamaha, one with each. The only differences I have noticed so far are that the curved windway has more resistance and is more likely to have issues with moisture buildup. The flat windway MIGHT be the SLIGHTEST bit easier to hit the highest couple of notes (e, f, f#, g on alto). Other than that, I can't tell a single difference whether it be loudness, playability, or tone.

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