Supplemental Music to play
There is an abundance of music either written or adapted for recorder which is accessible to beginning and intermediate players. Playing in a wide variety of styles is a great way to expand your understanding of the instrument and of music itself.
In what follows I've graded the music into two main categories by difficulty level:
- Advanced Beginner - most or all of the pieces are playable by someone who has completed approximately Zeitlin Book 1, Orr Volume 1, Recorder Fun!, or a similar basic introductory method. (See Choosing an Instruction Book for more information about methods.) The pieces generally remain in the lower octave plus D', have only the commonest of sharps and flats (typically F# and Bb), and have relatively simply rhythms and time signatures.
- Intermediate - most of the pieces are playable by someone who has completed approximately Zeitlin Book 2, the first half of Orr Volume 2, or a similar intermediate level method. The pieces will frequently contain notes up into the lower half of the second octave, and use additional sharps (mostly C# and G#). Rhythms may be more complex, but tempos are within reason and fingering is not too insane. No high Cs.
Since working with a CD model is so important to teach-yourselfers, I've highlighted materials that come with a play-along or demo CD.
Note that all of these are selections for SOPRANO recorder.
1. Advanced Beginner Level Music
a. Music that comes with a CD
- Cantiga's Renaissance Festival Favorites. This huge collection of 143 tunes is overflowing with gems. It was not written specifically for recorder, but can be played on basically any melodic instrument. The melody line and chords symbols are presented, in a very usable "Fake Book" style. The CD demonstrates 40 of the melodies with a variety of instruments, and is one of my absolute favorites to listen to. Like Walsh's Celtic Music for Recorder CD (see below), this is one I frequently pop in for pure listening pleasure, and would recommend it to anyone whether they play recorder or not. The dance tunes are rollicking fun, and the execution and instrument choices are superb. Not all of the songs will be within the beginner range, but there are more than plenty to make a start with. This is a collection that you can play from through the years.
- Echoes of Time (Music Minus One). This collection of 27 Renaissance Dances contains music scored for 3-4 parts. You play the top line: in about half of the pieces, the top line is a Soprano recorder; in the other half it's an Alto. Most of the pieces are within the note range of an Advanced Beginner (typically the highest note is D or E, and there are few semi-tones). Some of the longer pieces might be challenging because of their length, but there are shorter pieces too. The Okeghem is challenging because it is just so weird :-) (lots of Renaissance disharmony here), but Susato is very cheery. Tempos are quite clippy on many of these, but you can play them more slowly if you like. Overall a fun set to play along with, especially recommended for those with an interest in Renaissance music. The booklet comes with two CDs: the first one has the melody line plus authentic and varied accompaniment for each piece, and the second one has accompaniment only. Composers include the stars of Renaissance dance music: Tielman Susato, Josquin des Pres, Isaac, Okeghem, Obrecht, Agricola, Compere, Brumel.
- Album I: Seven Easy Pieces for Descant (Soprano) Recorder (Dowani). This is the first of Dowani's four volumes of "Easy" recorder music, and the easiest in terms of technical difficulty. It contains seven very short Renaissance dances. Of these about 4 should be playable by Advanced Beginners, and the other three will be not far off. The awesome thing about the Dowani CDs is that each song is reproduced on the Cd four times: once in a fully realized "performance" version, and then three "practice" versions at different tempos: slow, medium, and fast (at pace). The practice versions have the melody line played very softly in the background, so you can still hear it to check for "errors," but can hear your own playing too. Really a great practice resource for teach-yourselfers. The accompaniments are very classy, and this is a nice collection of tunes.
b. Score only
- Christmas Favorites for Recorder. This small collection of nine well-known Christmas carols was selected and formatted with beginners in mind. The arrangements are simple and easy to play. The notes are printed in very large type, with the letter-names written on each note. A couple of the songs go up to E' or include G#, but most are playable by someone with very minimal experience. There are a couple of pages of basic instruction at the beginning, but I would not recommend trying to use this as your primary instruction book - not sure why they bothered including that.
Selections from Star Wars for Recorder. This is another title in Hal Leonard's series of music targeting beginner recorder players. Included are seven short excerpts from John Williams' beautiful cinematic score. Personally some of the melodies were recognizable from the movie (including the "main" Star Wars theme that you can surely recall), but some were not. To me, some work well on recorder and some don't seem to be very well suited to the instrument. In any case, if you have a Star Wars fan+recorder player among your acquaintance, it's certainly worth the nominal cost to have some fun with these melodies. Most are accessible to Advanced Beginners, although a few tunes have a variety of semi-tones that may be tricky at this level. Like other titles in this series, the print is large and easy to read, and the letters are written on the notes for you.
2. Intermediate Level Music
a. Music that comes with a CD
- Celtic Music for Recorder (Jessica Walsh). 40 absolutely lovely tunes from Scotland, Wales, and England in addition to Ireland. The CD, which features gentle guitar accompaniment, is one of my favorites. The recorder playing is inspired, and the melodies are haunting and beautiful. It's one of those I'd listen to "just because," even if I had no idea what a recorder was. About five of the tunes would actually be accessible to Advanced Beginners, but most are more Intermediate level. I can't recommend this one more highly.
- Classical Hits for Descant Recorder (Schott). 21 selections from well-known classical tunes. Spans a variety of periods and styles. Includes selections from Vivaldi, Bach, Handel, Mozart, Brahms, Haydn, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Bizet, and Wagner, among others. Some rhythms are tricky and fast, but most should be within the range of an Intermediate player. I personally thought the accompaniments on the CD were a bit cheesy - perhaps because (judging by the cartoonish cover art) it's marketed towards kids. However, still a useful play-along CD that can provide some much-needed listening/intonation practice.
- 95 Dexterity Exercises and Dances for Recorders in C (Rooda). This little booklet is chock full of technical exercises that will give your fingers a fine workout. Generally, each exercise is repeated in a variety of keys. The idea is to play them slowly at first, and then faster and faster until your fingers know what they're doing without your help. In simpler keys (C, F) the exercises could be done by Advanced Beginners as well, but I've placed it in the Intermediate section because the fingering is often quite tricky. Following each exercise are some short dance tunes which practice the fingering patterns just introduced. These are primarily Baroque and Classical (lots of Bach, Handel, Haydn, and Mozart), but also some European folk dances. I really wish that one could purchase a CD of the dances!
- Classical Repertoire for Recorder (Costel Puscoiu). This is a very nice collection of more than 100 short pieces of music that can be used as solos or to give you extra practice. The pieces are organized in graded fashion, so the difficulty progresses as the book goes on. (The first few pages are actually accessible to Advanced Beginners even.) The music is taken from Baroque, but also Classical and Romantic periods (Bach, Handel, Telemann, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Haydn, Brahms, Chopin, Grieg, Dvorak, Schubert, Mendelssohn, ...). The original music has often been arranged - including changing to a different key - to make it playable on recorder. So this is not necessarily "authentic" recorder music, but IMHO it's a lot of fun to play.