I just received my tenor recorder (courtesy of Music.SE :D) and I was playing around in the upper range. I noticed that once I get up to the high C and beyond (no pun intended), the notes come out an octave low. I can get the high C out by really blowing hard, but I can't get the high D out for the life of me.

I've noticed this same thing in my alto, but it is not nearly so hard to play the upper range. It only needs a little extra effort. However, the tenor is just impossible.

Is this a glitch in the recorder, or do I need to do something differently? I've tried blowing harder and pinching the thumb differently, but I can't get it out.

  • Sorry if this sounds like "is it plugged in?" tech support, but just to check: you are fully covering the hole on the back for the lower octave and are uncovering it for the upper octave, right? Feb 6, 2013 at 19:57
  • You mean the thumb hole? I'm pinching it when I play the upper octave. I've tried pinching it in various amounts, but to no avail. I've never seen it marked as "uncovered" above F# (usually D).
    – Luke_0
    Feb 6, 2013 at 22:44
  • Yes, that's the hole I was talking about. I'm not a recorder player myself (I play with some), so I thought they were leaving that hole uncovered for the high notes, but maybe they're pinching it. For debugging you might see what happens if you completely uncover it and then start adjusting the pinching from there. Good luck! Feb 7, 2013 at 17:19
  • I play some tenor recorder myself and am interested in your question but am confused by which C your are talking about. Feb 15, 2013 at 1:22
  • I am talking about the C two ledger lines above the top of the G clef. Does that clarify?
    – Luke_0
    Feb 15, 2013 at 3:22

2 Answers 2


The high D is actually pretty easy on my tenor (Rottenburgh). You have to pinch the thumb hole (covering somewhere around half of it) and then four of the first six top holes, leaving both middle fingers off (also both pinkies, though you never use the left pinky anyway—I just wanted to be clear).

Imagine that an X indicates a closed hole and an O indicates an open one, where the recorder is oriented head-joint to the left, it would look like this:

X 0 X X 0 X 0

(again, with the thumb hole half covered starting at the lower edge).

Also remember you have to blow hard, and keep your throat open!

For me the high C is the iffy note on many recorders. The D, when fingered as I showed you, is clear as a bell and easy as pie.


Take care with the thumb hole that you are covering it evenly—that is, not on a slant. It's easy to slide your thumb down so that it is attacking the hole from an angle. What you want is a half-covering that is exactly perpendicular to the column of air.

  • I am using that fingering and can get it on my higher recorders. I'll try pinching the thumb-hole differently a little more. Could you expound on keeping your throat open? I've never heard that term used about playing the recorder.
    – Luke_0
    Feb 8, 2013 at 15:20
  • A lot of players will tighten up their throats as they go for the higher notes. It's kind of instinctive. The problem is, that chokes off the volume of air flow just when you need it the most. As a side note, an open throat acts as an additional resonance chamber: subtle but present nonetheless. It's more important for playing the concert flute, but it works for recorder as well.
    – Robusto
    Feb 8, 2013 at 15:51
  • I thought the difference might be due to the fact that my Rottenburgh tenor is just a great instrument, but I just tried what I told you on a cheap plastic Aulos model and it works just as well. It's all about airflow and correct thumb placement. I do notice hints of the lower octave if I don't keep up the flow. Remember, the tenor requires much more air than the treble recorder does.
    – Robusto
    Feb 8, 2013 at 15:55
  • 1
    Let me add to this good answer that "open throat" is another way of saying to keep your jaw and neck muscles relaxed. It can help to imagine that your head is a balloon lifting off your shoulders. Usually, a very small opening is all that is needed for the thumb, very small. You'll get it eventually.
    – ohmi
    Feb 8, 2013 at 20:36
  • I tried this again with your advice, and I was able to hit the high D (haven't tried higher). I think my problem was partly that my throat was a little tight. However breath control was the larger problem. My recorder seems to get finicky in the upper range. If I over or underblow at all up there, it goes way off. How I got around that was by holding a B and slurring to C without changing how I was blowing at all. It took a few tries, but I eventually got it and was able to get C, C#, and D spot on. I'm now working on hitting them consistently starting an octave lower. Thanks for your help.
    – Luke_0
    Feb 9, 2013 at 1:21

You might find this app helpful for further queries. http://www.dolmetsch.com/cfingerchart.htm

I used his when I was just starting to play

  • My question was more about the technique than the fingering. BTW, though, that link is already in my bookmarks. :P
    – Luke_0
    Mar 8, 2013 at 15:15

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