My daughter learns the violin and I had recorder lessons as a kid (maybe two years). I know how to read music and play simple pieces on the soprano recorder. I would like to play together with my daughter

My first question is are there more pieces for violin and soprano recorder or for violin and alto recorder? I personally like more the sound of the alto recorder.

The second question: are there any resources for learning alto recorder for those who already know how to play the soprano recorder? That means resources with a steeper learning curve. Either in print or online is fine. I would prefer with a CD but that's not a requirement.

2 Answers 2


I don't know the answer to your questions, but I'm answering the question you didn't ask: I want to play duets with my daughter; how do I do that?

There's a couple of interesting wrinkles.

First, you don't say where your daughter is in her violin study -- that is, how much of a beginner she is (or isn't). If she's a beginner herself, the music you're looking for won't just have to fit the range of your instrument, it's going to need to fit the smaller range of notes she knows how to play on hers (probably a much smaller set than the full range of a violin!)

Secondly, a lot of duets from the Renaissance have very different difficulty levels between the two parts [PDF]. This can be either a bug or a feature, depending on whether the two people who want to play together are similar or different in musical ability.

So what you're really looking for a specific subset of duets that can be played on recorder + violin. That is, you're looking for "that subset of duets that can be played on recorder (when I'm the recorder player) and violin (when my daughter is the violinist)." General questions about recorder and violin duets won't move you towards answers to this radically more specific question.

We can't really help with that sort of hyper-specific question here. Even if it weren't off topic, it's hard to make music recommendations in the absence of a sense of the player's skill levels. There's two parties that likely can help make specific recommendations though. The first is your daughter's violin instructor. That's the person who probably best knows your daughter's ability on the violin and can recommend music in her ability range. The second is a good sheet music store. I recommend The Early Music Workshop of New England, where most of the people who answer the phone are recorder players.

Google may also help. If your daughter is a beginner, you may find it most expedient to search on "beginner duets for recorders". She's probably got a range similar to a beginning recorder player, and beginner recorder duets may work well for you two.

As to whether there's more duets for alto or soprano, that's almost an almost irrelevant question in your project. For one thing, plenty of duets, especially from the Renaissance, don't specify instrument at all; there's plenty of 16th century music with very narrow ranges that can be played on many instruments (including both soprano and alto recorders). I think what you really want to know is whether you should trouble to learn alto.

Your options will be improved, I think, by learning alto, because:

1) Alto recorder is closer in range to the violin, which will increase the likelihood on any given piece that you'll be able to trade off who plays the lower part with your daughter/violinist. Otherwise, you may get stuck always with you playing the higher part and her playing the lower part, and that limiting your options, e.g. to only pieces that have the more complex part in the range of whichever of you is the stronger player. This particularly may be an issue if your daughter is more advanced on violin than you are on recorder, in that Renaissance duets tend to put the really boring part ("tenor") in the lower voice.

2) It's not like you'll stop knowing soprano. Wait, okay, so you will, briefly. There's a part of the process of learning alto in which one gets badly confused, and one's competence when one switches back to soprano drops. But if you persevere, then you'll have both fingerings, and be able to swap back and forth. Having an additional fingering means that you have additional options musically -- you won't have to pass by a piece in the alto range because all you know is soprano, and vice versa.

However, there's a third option to learning alto or sticking with soprano. If you like the sound of the alto better, and you already know C fingering, and you want to play duets with a violin... have you considered taking up tenor recorder? Closest in range to the violin, identically fingered to the soprano, and has an even mellower sound than an alto.

  • I agree, a tenor recorder might be your best bet. They are not that expensive; the Yamaha YRB-304B is a good instrument that costs $75 or less. Easy duet music abounds and even if you pick up something a bit too hard once in awhile you can keep it around and you'll be playing it sooner than you think.
    – ohmi
    May 19, 2014 at 19:27
  • Thanks both of you. My daughter just finishes her first yamaha book, but she does this very well. A neighbour left an alto recorder when she was moving, I think it's a playable instrument. No I didn't consider the tenor. Don't you need a lot of breathing technique?
    – user10791
    May 19, 2014 at 22:24
  • @user10791 No, not at all. The tenor is a very undemanding, very accessible instrument. I think the only reasons that it's not the favored recorder for starting little kids on is that small fingers might not have the requisite spread for the larger instrument, and because it costs more. May 19, 2014 at 22:29

For European Classical music, most recorder parts are for the alto (AKA the treble). However, it will be a while until you get up to that level. For beginner parts, there would be more for the soprano (AKA the descant).

I would suggest learning the basics for the soprano first. Although there are plenty learning resources for the alto, a soprano is generally cheaper than an alto of the same quality. You will also more likely find easier recorder/violin duets for a soprano recorder. Once you get the knack of it, get yourself an alto recorder and a book on it. A ton of practice will transfer from the soprano to the alto. They share the same technique and fingering (at least on an intermediate/beginner level).

As to which sounds better, a cheap soprano will sound as bad as a cheap alto. For beginning, you don't need to worry to much about which sounds better, though. Unless you know someone with plenty of experience with recorders, don't buy yourself an expensive one until you have a bit more knowledge on the subject.

Resources for transferring soprano skills to the alto? Plenty by the boatload. When I started on the alto (after getting the basics on the soprano), I just grabbed another book from the same series on the alto. I flew through the first half it fairly quickly because of the same fingerings and techniques. Most of it for me was just getting used to more spaced out fingerholes.

I personally used The Best Recorder Method Yet, which had books for C-recorders (tenor/soprano) and books for F-recorders (alto/sopranino). However, if you do a bit of looking, I'm sure you can find something else good too.

You might be wondering why I haven't mentioned tenors yet. Don't. Just don't. Read my lips: do not. Starting on the tenor is a good way to make you lose all interest in the recorder. First off, the tenor is large. Even for an adult, the stretch between fingers can become very cumbersome. Secondly, a playable tenor is expensive. Even a $50 tenor is pretty much trash. A $50 soprano is going to be a top grade plastic recorder. Wait until you have some experience and cash before you try the tenor.

As a side thought, if both of you are beginning and want to play together, get a metronome. This will greatly simplify playing together. They're not expensive and they'll do your playing a world of good.

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