I have had VERY LITTLE formal music training, so l may be unable to properly express my dilemma. I hope you understand my frustra

I want to play the recorder in church, where most songs start at middle C or higher and range about one to one-and-a-half octaves (soprano part.) This is the amazing Baptist one part harmony. The alto notes in the hymnal start at the A or G below middle C, but the recorder fingering charts indicate an alto recorder's lowest note is the F above middle C. What gives? Why don't the notes agree? I was playing the tenor, which was the perfect range, but l'm getting arthritis in my right hand and it hurts too much to stretch my hands that far.


2 Answers 2


Despite the names treble, alto, tenor and bass, all four recorders sound an octave higher than their vocal equivalents. Your tenor recorder, for example, is pitched too high to play the written tenor voice part. I guess you used to play the tune on it - the treble part. That would have been in the same range as the treble voice and would have sounded perfect.

Recorders were given names that indicate their relationship to each other in the recorder family: not to suggest they were in the same range as the human voice.

If you've learnt to play a tune on a tenor you will easily be able to play it on a soprano as the fingerings are identical. But if you switch to an alto the fingerings are different and you'll have to learn the tunes again.

This illustration shows the different instruments and their ranges.

By the way, there are expensive tenor recorders made specifically for arthritis-sufferers. Called 'comfort' instruments they have keys fitted to reduce the reach needed. Some beautiful-looking instruments here, here and here.


If you want to use an alto recorder, play the tune, but an octave higher.

The tenor recorder actually approximates the range of a soprano singer (though it goes higher that she probably would want to attempt!)

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