Recorder, Saxophone, Flute and Clarinet

Have you ever asked yourself about what the difference between the recorder, clarinet, flute and saxophone is?

I hear it being said at times that you can use the recorder as a “training instrument” for other wind instruments like the flute, clarinet and saxophone. I have said in one of my earlier articles that I don’t like this method of learning because these are all different instruments with their unique perks and learning recorder doesn’t increase your capabilities on these instruments by that much.

When I refer to differences between the recorder, flute, clarinet and saxophone, here I’m obviously not talking about their appearances of the musical instruments, but about such things like posture, fingering, blowing and embouchure as well as production of dynamics in the instrument.

I’ll also be touching on their similarities between the musical instruments briefly as well and why I think it’s a bit easier to play these instruments after playing the recorder (and I’m speaking as someone who has learned all of these aforementioned instruments).

READ ALSO: A Recorder Player’s View on Modes

Okay, so let’s jump right into this:

1. The Clarinet

What are the Similarities between a Clarinet and a Recorder Instrument?

The clarinet has a similar posture and finger positioning to a recorder. That’s it.

What are the Differences between a Clarinet and a Recorder Instrument?

Let’s start with the actual fingering. Other than the fact that the lower register of clarinets are a fifth from its designated C (so it’s 2nd lowest note is its F, rather than its C) the clarinet’s fingering in lower and middle registers are based off of G fingering recorders (not B fingering recorders, the original fingering for recorders) so the forked fingerings you would expect in a recorder in certain notes will not be found in a clarinet. This, and the many keys for alternate fingerings, actually makes fingering in clarinet easier than B fingering recorders (yes, easier), but also different in some notes.

Embouchure/Lipping of Clarinet and Recorder

Now for embouchure. The embouchure is very, very different from Recorder in the sense that while the recorder does have an embouchure, it is far more relaxed and easier to achieve than a clarinet. And since you need the right embouchure to produce the right sound, this would be a huge hurdle for anyone transitioning from recorder to clarinet as unlike the loose embouchure of the recorder, the clarinet’s is tenser and even employs the use of your upper incisors (something you’ll never do for the recorder). Because of this difference, usually it is required for the learner to get the embouchure on the mouthpiece alone first before trying it out on the clarinet. And yes, the fact that the clarinet uses a reed, for some people, it might be something to adjust to.

READ ALSO: Three Reasons the Recorder has such a bad reputation: A Recorder Players View

But once you get the right embouchure, you have to keep practicing, eventually improving on your embouchure, and in doing so, your tone as it is dependent on your embouchure. It is a lot easier to produce sound on the recorder than on a clarinet, something I mentioned as a reason why people look down on the recorder so.

Also, while gradual increase in blowing certain notes on the recorder increases the loudness and the pitch of that note, for the clarinet it just increases its loudness.

2. The Saxophone

What are the Similarities between a Saxophone and Recorder Instrument?

The similarities between the saxophone and Recorder are the same as the clarinet. However, unlike the clarinet, the lower register isn’t a fifth of its designated C, but in the same octave starting from its designated C (if you disregard the lower B and Bb of the saxophone as most people tend to on recorder).

What are the Differences between the Saxophone and Recorder Music Instrument?

First of all, the weight (unless you’re playing the soprano sax) which would require you to have a strap on your neck connected to the saxophone. This is something that I sometimes have to get used to as sometimes I might just pick up an alto sax and start playing, without the strap.

Also, of course, like the clarinet, the saxophone has a lot of alternate keys as well as a fingering system similar to G fingering recorders (which, as I said earlier, isn’t the original recorder fingering). Also like the clarinet, no forked fingerings.

The saxophone’s embouchure is also another unique feature from the recorder. Like the clarinet, it’s tenser and uses your upper incisors as a grip. Also, embouchure can be used to modify not just tone but even the octave of certain notes.

It was easy for me to produce sound from a saxophone, but not because of my background as a recorder player, but because of my background playing the clarinet. Because of what I went through, producing sound from a sax was less of a challenge; hmm, maybe people should use the clarinet as a learning instrument for sax.

Also, the modification of dynamics for saxophone has more in common with the clarinet than with the recorder.
And finally;

READ ALSO: Why the Recorder is Awesome

3. A Flute

Similarities between a Flute and a Recorder Music Instrument

The similarity between a flute and a recorder, like the other two music instruments is the fingering. Although, just like the saxophone, the flute’s lowest note (ignoring the low B) is its C.

Also, the flute doesn’t use a reed nor does it require straps, and it uses the same finger positioning as the recorder.

Differences between a Flute and a Recorder Music Instrument

The most obvious difference would be its positioning which could easily lead to bad posture if not gotten used to, what with its horizontal way of being held.

Then there’s the embouchure, which is not like any instrument already mentioned. Its mouth shape is fit for its unusual way of blowing (like trying to produce sound from blowing on the rim of a glass bottle) and it made producing a sound from the flute somehow even harder than with the clarinet.

The fingering system (aside from being similar to G fingering recorders) doesn’t make use of a special thumb hole that modifies octave (the thumb key in the flute modifies the B note to change it to Bb, handy when playing in F or Bb). And it doesn’t need to, because in order to get a higher octave, you simply need to increase your blowing speed (much like the recorder, except for the absence of an octave-modifying thumbhole). It also does not have similar fingering with some notes on the recorder due to its minimal forked fingerings.

READ ALSO: How to Play the Recorder Tutorial

These are all amazing instruments in their own right and all have prestige, but so does the recorder. Learning the recorder does not have to be about training to move on to a “real instrument” (which the recorder totally is, by the way), but if it increases your enthusiasm to learn other wind instruments alongside it, then you may have just stumbled upon something that makes the recorder so special, and that is, that the recorder ignites a love of music in your heart while giving you a skill as well. And that is one of the reasons why I love this instrument so much.

But what do you think? Do my differences between the Recorder and the other musical instruments cover it or is there more I missed? Please leave comments about it below, and if you like this article, please leave a like and check out some of my other articles if you haven’t yet.

Thank you.

1 Comment
  1. Esther wilson 3 years ago

    Wow! What an eye opener! You know I use to lion at this instrument as been a minor but I see so much potentials 8n then now. Thanks boss. This is just wow!

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