Beginning a Dynamic Recorder Program

Beginning a Dynamic Recorder Program

By NAfME Member Jim Tinter


Greetings colleagues! Beginning a Dynamic Recorder Program is one of two sessions I’ll be presenting at this year’s NAfME conference in Nashville, and I can’t wait.* In this blog, I’d like to give you an overview of the session and provide some ideas to help you begin to develop a fun, exciting, and musical recorder program.

Keep in mind that the suggestions I will be offering spring from the general music program I had in which I saw grades 1-4 twice a week for 40 minutes. Yes, I know it was a great schedule, even though I mostly pushed a cart or taught in the cafeteria.

If someone asked me what a dynamic recorder program might look like, I’d show the photo below of Brandon holding five voices of recorders with an expression that says, “Recorder playing rocks!!!

elementary school

Brandon exemplifies a successful recorder program: kids who have quality instruments, know how to get a good sound and can articulate legato and staccato, can play a lot of notes, practice like crazy outside of school, know many songs by heart, can improvise, and experience printed notation after being able to sing and play.

I like to use the acronym, E, I, E, A, GO! to help teachers remember how to create a dynamic recorder program. It stands for:

  • Equip: Be sure students know how to get a good sound (warm, slow air, and flat fingers) and know as many notes as possible. At our first lesson, we learn B, A, and G; then we play “Hot Cross Buns” and “Merrily We Roll Along” in G (mi, re, do). It is imperative that students be able to sing both songs with lyrics and solfege prior to learning to play them. In addition, have students begin “walking down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon,” by adding one note at a time until they reach low C. Yes, on the very first lesson! The longer you wait to introduce correct right hand position, the harder it will be.

Most kids will struggle at first, but you will be amazed at how many will learn to play low C the first week IF they take their instruments home to practice. Since we use Baroque or English fingering recorders, for the first two weeks, we play “training wheel F,” which is an out-of-tune F played with thumb and fingers 1-4 explaining that “we’ll take the training wheels off in about two weeks.” Then we learn the correct fingering for F. Within two to three lessons, introduce a harmony part to both songs (d, c, B or so, fa, mi). Gradually add more notes and teach kids to play “Hot Cross…” and “Merrily…” in various keys, major and minor.

  • Inspire: Play a recording of the beginning of “Stairway to Heaven” so kids can hear the alto, tenor, and bass recorders, or play some popular songs for your students on your recorder. Some of my favorites I learned are “Star Wars” (in G), and “Iron Man” (in Em). If you can set a good example, your students can’t help but get inspired.
  • Excite students: Be enthusiastic about recorders! Once you figure out how to get good sounds and play cool music, recorder excitement will become contagious! My students once were so stoked about recorders that a group of third grade girls learned to play my song, “Country Morning,” which uses all the notes of the D major scale — at a sleepover!
  • Achieve: By the end of our first year of playing, my students could play “Hot Cross…” and “Merrily…” in the keys of G, F, C, D, Dm, Em, A, and Am. They also learned to play other cool songs like, “Dessert Rider,” “A Minor Melody,” and “Iron Man.” Knowing the fingerings and letter names of every diatonic note from low C to high A including F# in both octaves made learning to read notation so much easier.
  • GO!: Unleash their creativity. Teach them to improvise using solo/echo patterns from publications such as A Minor Melody, Big Mouth Blues, or B-A-G Bossa Nova.

We’ll cover all of these items in greater detail at the conference. Hope to see you there! More info will be coming once we get our website updated:

Read the second part of Jim Tinter’s series, “Developing a Dynamic Recorder Program.”

*Jim presented on this topic at the 2015 NAfME National Conference in Nashville, TN.

About the Author:

July 21 - Jim Tinter Head Shot for bio

Jim Tinter is a composer, clinician, publisher and retired public school music educator from Medina, Ohio. He has presented dozens of workshops for the National Association for Music Education, the American Orff-Schulwerk Association, the American Recorder Society and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. His six publications have received rave reviews from American Recorder, and the Jazz Education Journal as well as from teachers and students in the U.S., Canada, and Taiwan. Jim’s dynamic and interactive presentations incorporate moving, singing, and playing instruments, in addition to an inspiring and entertaining multi-media presentation with audio and video clips of his students in action.

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