I have been playing alto and soprano recorders on and off for years - mainly for personal enjoyment. However, I find I am unreliable on notes above top G on the soprano and equivalent on alto. Sometimes I am ok but am never sure I am going to get a clear sound. I get SO cross with myself and this is worrying when playing with friends. I also find the instruments get waterlogged very quickly, with water coming from the thumb hole and running up my wrist - beautiful! Would be grateful for help as I love this instrument.

3 Answers 3


By nature, recorders (especially wooden ones) are sensitive beasts, and producing reliable high notes can be difficult. So a few random thoughts:

  • The instrument must be scrupulously clean. A wooden recorder may need the block removed so that the windway can be cleaned and the block smoothed. A simple but scary job.
  • Damage around the labium area will cause serious problems.
  • Joint leakage may affect the top register.
  • Wear around the thumb hole may stop high notes sounding reliably and/or affect their tuning. Wooden instruments can be repaired by having a bush inserted. This is a job for a professional. But I have had some success filling the thumb hole with a lightly-greased drill shank of the correct diameter, then filling around it with super-hard epoxy resin glue. Once the glue has hardened, remove the drill and carefully shape the epoxy with a file. Please practice on a cheap instrument!
  • The thumb hole aperture must be carefully adjusted when playing. Sometimes this means compromising between reliability and tuning, and some notes may need a larger aperture to start the note, followed by an adjustment to correct intonation (or the reverse...). This becomes automatic as you get aquainted with the instrument.
  • Not many (F) recorders will play a slurred chromatic scale up to top G. On one or two notes you will find that although the fingers shift, the note does not. These intervals need to be tounged.
  • Some recorders will always be problematical. Time to buy a better instrument.
  • It sounds like that you have a very wet playing style. The torrent of water flowing through the thumb hole will affect the diameter and may be part of the problem. I don't have a cure for this, but I have noticed that my "wettness" is reducing as I get older.

Ouch, don't hate me ;)

I only own a very basic Aulos plastic alto recorder... And I'm sure I dont care for it like I should (shame on me!).

At times I notice my high F is so unreliable, no matter what... I check my fingers, I check for moisture, whatever... one instant little fix was TAPING around 1/3 of the second hole (I mean the hole for your left hand middle finger). Just making the hole a little bit more closed. Usually I place one little bit of tape, then I check and maybe place another one to close a tiny bit more.

It doesnt seem to affect the overall tuning, and I really feel the high notes are much more reliable with that...

Maybe this "taping" can be a cheaper, removable way of checking if some hole needs a more serious treatment. And maybe it can help your confidence if you want to play with friends. Also they can tell you if the tuning is somewhat off because of the fix. ;)


There's also a cheat that's occasionally useful for making the top couple of notes easier on a recalcitrant overblower: reduce the diameter of the bore in about the middle of the head joint by a bit. It's easiest to do with a strip of rubber or plastic about 1/16" thick and around an inch wide, cut to length so that it fits snugly, pressing itself against the inner wall. It requires a bit of fiddling, but carefully done, doesn't damage anything and can be readily removed.

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