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I just got a Yamaha YRA-28BIII recorder. I also got a Yamaha YRS24B Soprano Recorder. I have very limited experience using a recorder.

on the Soprano recorder I blow fairly strongly without it sounding screaky. With the Alto recorder I have to blow extreme gentle for it not to sound off. And when I blow very gently the volume is very low.

Am I doing something wrong? Is this how an alto recorder works? Might it be broken somehow?

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I can't say for definite that your recorder is fine, but I suspect so. In the past I have played recorders and found that it is definitely hard to play loudly on alto and tenor recorders, especially in the bottom half of the ranges of these instruments. I found the problem is worse with the tenor than with the alto, and it might well be because of these problems that the recorder started to fall out of favour with composers, who started to include "newer" and louder instruments like oboe, cor anglais and clarinet.

With careful practice, you should be able to judge more accurately exactly how hard you can blow before the note "breaks" and then you can get a reasonable degree of variation in volume, but it will always be limited compared to the other woodwind instruments, I'm afraid.

One solution is to make music with other recorder players - they have the same problems, and there is a lot of good music for recorder consorts of various types.

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Old John is correct -- the larger the recorder the softer it sounds, particularly the bottom 4 notes or so. Air speed is a big factor, if you slam a lot of air into any recorder it will squeak and complain, however, if you can put more air into the recorder steadily ('support' your breathing) you can make much more fuller and somewhat louder sound in the low range. It's an art that you can and must practice to get the best out of your instrument.

Stick with the alto -- it takes less technique to get a good musical sound out of it than the soprano. Some intro lessons from a music teacher (who plays recorder well) can lift you a good starting point quickly.

Also, make sure your windways stay unclogged and clean. You can wash your plastic instruments with dish soap and rinse them out with clean water, then air dry.

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