I was thinking of starting to learn an instrument. Many people on the internet say recorder is not a very difficult instrument and I can learn alone without a teacher. But I was wondering how loud a recorder is, because I don't want to disturb my neighbors above and below me (I live in an apartment) and my wife.

I have a blues harmonica and I find it not very loud. Is the alto recorder louder than a harmonica? Or can you compare its loudness to something else (acoustic guitar, the voice of a canary bird, etc.)?


It is less loud than a transverse flute. When played in the upper register, it will probably match your harmonica; it may be a touch more piercing, depending on the harmonica. In the lower register, which is what you will learn first, it is fairly soft. In general, the lower pitched a recorder is, the softer it gets: the alto is less piercing than a C soprano; an F bass is softer than the alto; a C tenor is somewhere between the alto and bass. (The only problem is that the price goes up as the pitch goes down, only faster. <wry grin>)

  • This might also be of interest
    – dwn
    Jan 31 '15 at 20:13
  • Yeah, but the lower recorders, and the lower notes on a given recorder, really are softer - lower decibel level. The lower registers take a large volume of air at a low pressure to produce a stable sound; the larger the recorder, the larger the volume of air, but still at a low pressure. I used to play the F bass. I had a helluva time making myself heard over a piano playing mf.
    – user16935
    Jan 31 '15 at 21:12
  • My mother has played her alto recorder outdoors in her hot tub practically every night (only a slight exaggeration) for more than 15 years, and so far I don't think the neighbors have complained, so you may be right (an owl even sat with her some nights, and she hasn't even learned the correct fingering yet! :) never miss a chance to pick on mom)
    – dwn
    Feb 1 '15 at 1:26

Patrx2's answer is spot on.

Playing a recorder in tune and on pitch requires a certain amount of breath pressure. If you don't put enough air into a recorder it will be flat and soft; too much air and you'll be louder and sharp. The fingering for each note also contributes -- the more fingers down the softer the note will be and the less pressure you need. The highest notes are the loudest by far.

Finally the voicing of the recorder, i.e, the combination of the design of the windway, hole placement and size, and bore characteristics determine how loud or soft it can be played and still be in tune.

Good plastics nowadays like Yamaha and Zen-on are fairly quiet, imho. Altos can easily keep up with acoustic guitars and harmonicas. Violins are a different story -- they have to be played with a little delicacy to not overpower a recorder. Because an alto is usually playing around C5-C6 (one/two octaves above middle C) they tend to be easily heard with/among singers.

It is true that the larger the recorder the quieter the sound. Tenors are much more mellow and the standard Yamaha plastic isn't that expensive, so may be a good choice for you.

There is also an easy trick to mute a recorder without interfering with the pitch: fold a tiny rectangle of paper into a V and carefully put it into the windway to cover a small part of the labium (the edge). Sort of like this: }- <- where } is your mouth, the first - is the mouthpiece, < is the piece of paper and - is the labium. I've used this trick to play in hotel rooms and have never had a complaint lodged against me.

Good luck with your journey. Recorders are wonderful instruments that are indeed easy to learn to play and are as rewarding as any other serious instrument.


Your question is full of mistakes. The big mistake is that you think there is an easy instrument. Any instrument you choose will be a lifelong challenge in pursuit of excellence.

Your choice of instrument could depend on the music you want to perform. Although I can do “Jesus Joy of Man’s Desiring” on harmonica, I do it much better on recorder. I think you should learn both instruments.

You seem to want more volume from your blues harmonica. Be advised that you have the wrong instrument. For blues you should have a Hohner Golden Melody, a Huang Star Performer, or a Lee Oscar. These have plastic combs that will not irritate your mouth.

For more power from the harmonica, drop your jaw and thrust it forward a bit. Better yet, get some help from a professional harmonica teacher; some of them have excellent instructional web sites such as harmonicalessons.com. Try to socialize with other musicians.

If you want LOUD, consider transverse flute, piccolo, or fife at the high end of its range. Fifes were once used for military signaling because they could be heard through gun and cannon sounds.

  • 3
    "You seem to want more volume" It seems to me OP is looking for a quiet instrument!
    – Richard
    Jan 3 '19 at 17:00

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