I'm new to recorders and I do not know much about it. I have a soprano recorder by Yamaha.

I really enjoyed a composition by handel, specifically the recorder sonata.

I would like to know whether the musical scores written for recorders are suitable for all types of recorders (like soprano, alto, etc.)?

In particular, is it possible to play handel's recorder sonata with a soprano recorder?

Any response is appreciated.

Thank you

  • Well, have you looked at a page or two of the sheet music? I'm assuming you don't care whether you play in the original or transposed key or register. Dec 8, 2017 at 14:03

3 Answers 3


No, Handel wrote his recorder sonantas for alto (treble) recorder which has a range from F (first space in the treble clef) to the G 2 octaves and a tone above. Your soprano won't play that high, so you are out of luck playing the music as written.

You could transpose the notes down a fourth (i.e. A sonata in F becomes a sonata in C) which will bring it into range on the soprano, but because the soprano sounds an octave higher than written, the music will sound a fifth above what the composer intended. You will also need to transpose the continuo part if you plan to play with piano or harpsichord. The sonata won't sound as good as when played on the alto - a little high and screechy.

My recommendation is to move to the alto recorder as soon as practicable. The bulk of the Baroque repertoire is written for alto, and a lot of transverse flute music is also playable on the alto. You could try listening to Telemann and Marcello. They both wrote good stuff for the alto.

  • Yep. I'd just point out that playing alto music on a soprano means transposing up a fifth, not down a fourth, no matter how you write it. Dec 9, 2017 at 20:23
  • 3
    Also, the soprano is higher than the alto, its range is C5-D7, the alto is F4-G6. "Transposing" simply means using alto fingerings on the smaller instrument, pretending it is an alto. Since Eric doesn't know alto fingerings this is not an option for him however.
    – ohmi
    Dec 10, 2017 at 2:57

If you can't use the instrument/fingerings Handel thought you'd use, you won't have an easy time of it. I suggest buying an Yamaha alto recorder and start learning that instrument's fingerings. IMHO it's a better choice for adult beginners. There are many easier bits in those sonatas to help you practice.


It really depends, you might be. If there are no notes below the range of the soprano recorder, then go on and play it, it will sound approximately the same. I play alto sax and am able to play multiple tenor sax pieces on it since most of the notes overlap. If some of the notes are too low, you will have to transpose, though.

  • The other difficulty for new soprano recorder players is that the notation for soprano recorder lines are often just notated as treble clef, when really it's treble-8up. Alto, however ,is always straight treble, so its has many notes well above the staff with 2 and 3 ledger lines; unfamiliar territory for soprano players. So it's the highest notes on the page they can't finger as written although they could if re-written into the correct octave.
    – ohmi
    Dec 10, 2017 at 3:09
  • @Ira I.I. There are lots of notes in Handel sonatas that are outside the soprano range. Recorders have a limited range of just two octaves and a tone. Handel and his contemporaries recognized this and wrote to fit the alto recorder range. It is not practical to transpose some notes down an octave. It would sound very weird. And it is not possible to transpose all notes down an octave, as this would exceed the low register. I suggest you reconsider your answer.
    – kiwiron
    Dec 11, 2017 at 7:46
  • @kiwiron thank you! I didn't know all this, as I have zero experience whatsoever with recorders, I just answered using common sense. Also, why would the transposed version sound weird? The intervals stay the same, don't they?
    – user35655
    Dec 12, 2017 at 1:51
  • 2
    @Ira I.I. The weirdness I am referring to is the need to make octave jumps when the music goes above a written D6. For instance, a written interval of D6 to E6 (major 2nd) will become D6 to E5 (a seventh - with the soprano sounding all these notes up an octave). The composer certainly did not intend those sorts of jumps. A fully transposed version will not suffer from this - it will just sound a little high.
    – kiwiron
    Dec 12, 2017 at 9:54

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