June 2021
Help a Friend Learn Recorder!
by Barbara Prescott
A few months ago, my cousin Bill asked me to help him learn to play the recorder. He lives across the country from me, so in-person lessons weren’t possible. He played clarinet in middle school, but hasn’t done much musically since. I found a wealth of American Recorder Society resources that made it easy to help him start playing recorder. Rather than overwhelm him with too much information, I set out a four-week long study program:
Week #1
I started him out reading the Frequently Asked Questions on the ARS website. The first four items helped him choose between an alto or soprano/tenor recorder and decide on the best plastic instrument to buy. Bill chose a Zen-On G1A Bressan alto at a=440. 
Next, at my suggestion, Bill signed up for a Free Online Beginner Recorder Class offered by the ARS. These classes are offered frequently throughout the year and are either for alto or soprano/tenor. After checking the course requirements, Bill bought the “Sweet Pipes Recorder Book: A method for adults and older beginners.”
He then watched the always lively Sarah Jeffery discuss Starting the recorder: what you need to know. Sarah’s Team Recorder series of YouTube videos on the recorder is both entertaining and enlightening.
Week #2
Bill received both his alto recorder and his method book in the mail. Before his free classes started, I suggested he watch several of the 15 available ARS technique tip videos. Here are the four I recommended Bill start with:
Joining the American Recorder Society Facebook Group introduced Bill to a whole world of recorder expertise. He could ask the group anything and receive some great advice. A recent post asked: 

I have a question, a very basic, super beginner question. I’m having trouble with low C and D. I can’t seem to get a consistent smooth sound. I’ve tried slow breathing and most of the time the note begins high or breaks or whatever you call it before I get a halfway decent tone. Any suggestions? 

This post received 27 responses, along with some clever ideas for learning to cover all the holes. 
Signing up for the ARS NOVA monthly e-magazine (which you are currently reading) gave Bill helpful tips and techniques in a short, one-topic format.  Looking for tips to improve your Zoom lessons? There is an article on that. Problems with tuning? Read The Devil's in the Details: Tuning Tips from a Pro.
Week #3
Bill started his ARS beginner class! By the end of his first two group lessons, he decided he would continue on his recorder journey and started looking for a teacher to study with after his beginner classes ended. Using the ARS directory of online teachers, Bill chose a teacher he could work with over Zoom. While he was looking for a teacher, he also joined his local recorder chapter using the ARS General Directory Search.
Week #4
Taking advantage of the half-price membership rate for new members, Bill joined the ARS. By becoming a member, Bill gained access to all the current and back issues of American Recorder magazine. It contains a treasure trove of articles that are helpful to beginner recorder players, including three pages of resources for beginners: Beginners Tech Tips AR Magazine Summer 2019

One of Bill’s concerns was where to find music to play. As a member, he now had access to the American Recorder Society Downloadable Music Libraries – a massive online library of music, including sound files minus the alto part that allowed him to play along with the piece. As an example, under “very easy” he chose to play Coventry Carol à 2 by Anthony St. Pierre. He found it very helpful to hear the piece being played before attempting it himself.
The ARS Playing it Safe bimonthly virtual event newsletter inspired him to sign up for a 2nd level ARS course on continuing technique for alto players. He is tempted by many of the summer workshops listed in the newsletter and hopes to be ready to try one soon. 

Finally, he jumped at the chance to follow the AR magazine article on how to practice. The multi-part article, “Learn how to get better – discover the art of practicing” helped him get a handle on how to become the recorder player he dreams of being! See the American Recorder Practice Project online.

Do you have someone you could inspire to take up recorder? You can help start them on an activity that can prove to be life changing and a source of joy, satisfaction, and new friends for many years. The ARS offers many tools that make it easy to join the recorder world. You can spread the joy and ARS resources will help!

In the words of Henry Ford:
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.
Anyone who keeps learning stays young.
The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”
Barb Prescott, of Prescott Workshop in New Hampshire, is an ARS Board member.

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