Since both the flute and the recorder belong to the same family of musical instruments, they can be compared and contrasted. There are many situations or events where a flute fits perfectly than a recorder and there are some others where a flute can not be used in place of a recorder. Let’s see what flute and recorder are before we talk about their similarities and differences.
WHAT IS A FLUTE
A flute is a tabular-shaped woodwind musical instrument played by infusing air across the embouchure( the mouthpiece) to produce a vibrating chain of air that we hear as a melodious sound. It is a reedless wind instrument that produces its unique sound from the flow of air across an opening.
The flute’s unique feature is the style of generating sound by infusing air directly across the embouchure which is what distinguishes it from other instruments alike. The mouthpiece of a flute could either be at the end of the tube or at the side of the tube.
According to history, flutes belong to one of the primordially distinguished musical instruments from the paleolithic period. There are several flutes in the Swabian Jura, now Germany which dated back to 35000 to 43000 years ago. Ancient flutes have been discovered in different countries like China and America. It was referred to as ‘floute’ when it got to the English language in the Middle English Period. A player of the flute is called a flutist or a flute player.
As earlier said, the flute produces sound when a chain of air is plumped across a hole in the flute that creates a vibration of air at the hole. The pitch can be changed by the player by causing the air to resonate harmonically rather than a straightforward frequency without the opening or closing of the finger holes.
THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF FLUTES
These include flutes that have compressed mouthpieces. They are held vertically and the player blows directly across the edge of the compressed mouthpiece with a quarter of their lower lip covering the mouthpiece hole. They have a duct that takes air onto the edge. Examples of fipple flutes include Gemshorn, Whistle, flageolet, tin Whistle, Tonette, and Ocarina. The fipple flutes are easy to play but with much control from the flutist.
Side Blown Flutes
These are also known as ‘transverse’ flutes. The transverse flutes are held horizontally and the player has to blow across the mouthpiece hole in the flute. The finger hole on the side is used to produce a tone rather than blowing at the end of the tube. Examples of side-blown flutes or transverse flutes include the Western Concert Flute, Piccolo, Dizi, Fife, and Bansuri.
End Blown Flutes
These are played vertically by infusing air on one end of the flute. Examples of end-blown flutes include Anasazi, Kaval, Xiao, Danso, Ney, Guena, and Shakuhachi.
CHARACTERISTICS OF FLUTES
- A flute may be open at one end or opened at both ends. An example of an open-ended flute is the concert flutes. An example of close-ended flutes is the Ocarina. However, another flute, organ empire may either be closed or open depending on the desired effect.
- Flute may have more than one tubes but they are mostly one.
- Flutes do not discriminate air sources as they can be played with many different air sources. The standard flutes are blown through the mouth however, some cultures prefer to use nose flutes.
A recorder also belongs to the woodwind musical instrument family. It is a flute-like instrument that produces clear and sweet sounds. The recorder has also been documented since the middle ages which became so very popular during the renaissance period.
Flutes have however been overshadowing the recorder since the 17th century since the flute can play several notes. Although, at the beginning of the 20th century, the recorder decided not to go into extinction and rather sprung back to life. The recorder has since then regained its special popularity.
The recorder is known to be played vertically with an inbuilt duct to direct the airflow to the edge of the tone hole. It has seven fingers hole together with a thumb hole. The recorder can be classified under flute and sub-classified under the fipple flute. Recorders come in various sizes with different vocal ranges. They are conventionally handcrafted from wood and ivory, but in this recent times have been molded from plastic. There are several internal and external proportions for the recorder, however, the bore for all recorders is always conically reversed.
The melody of a recorder is mostly described as clear and sweet. The recorder is known for its active response and approximating capacity to produce a wide range of articulations. Its many finger holes enable it to have tonal varieties and special effects.
Some recent recorders are too large for a player’s hands to reach which had caused the provision of ergonomically placed keys used to cover the tones holes. These keys can be easily used rather than the player battling with reaching the holes while playing. The modernization of these keys gives room for the production of a longer recorder with bigger tone holes. When playing these larger recorders, players may face difficulty reaching the keys with their fingers, a bocal may be used to solve this issue as it allows players to blow into the recorder while maintaining a relaxing hand position.
TYPES OF RECORDER
There are five main types of the recorder with different features. They are the Sopranino, Soprano, Alto, Bass, and Tenor.
This is the smallest and at the same time highest of the five main types of recorders. The sopranino is not really common among the recorders as it does not appear in recorder consorts greater than four people. The sopranino makes use of the lowest pitch, the pitch F5 and it gives it an effective range of F5- F6. It is mostly 7.87 inches long and the major challenge with the sopranino is getting high-pitched sounds.
This is the most popular of all the main recorders. It comes mostly 11.81 inches long suitable for smaller fingers from 3rd grade to 5th-grade pupils. Its lowest pitch is C5 and has an effective range from C5 to C7. In any recorder consorts, the melody is usually given to the soprano recorder. This will result in the soprano recorder replace the other melodic instrument.
This is the largest recorder of the main types of recorders. It has the same look as the soprano but much longer. It usually ranges from 17.17 inches to 17.73 inches. The lowest pitch of the modern-day alto is F4 and it gives an effective range from F4- F6. The alto can be read on the octave and at written pitches. If in a group of a quartet of soprano, alto, tenor, and bass, the alto is mostly given the melody in recorder consorts.
This is the next in line after the alto recorder. The tenor recorder is also based on C4 like the soprano. It comes in around 25.6 inches in length. This makes the tenor recorder have an effective range of C4- C6 but has an exact one octave lower than the soprano. They can however both be played using the same fingerings. It mainly adds one more key to assist reach the lowest holes which are way beyond the reach of most fingers.
This is the lowest of the main five types of recorders. The bass is based on F3 and it plays an octave lower than the alto recorder. This gives the bass recorder an effective range of F3- F5 and the bass recorder is around 35 inches long. It uses some specific keys to help fingers reach the holes easily and some may have a curve in the neck for comfortable positioning of the instrument while playing.
CONTEMPORARY EXPANSION OF THE RECORDER
In this recent time, the recorder has been reproduced and modernized with newer and better designs. There are now recorders that are squarely shaped and are possibly cheaper and bigger than the conventional recorders.
The recent recorders have better different ranges and great bottom notes. These differences make it a better choice and enhance its volumes in concerts.
Moreover, recorders now come with a downward extension of a semitone which can make the recorder play a full three octaves in a tune. Recorders now have simple fingering, pitch, acoustics, harmonic profile, air, different techniques, partial covering of holes, coordination among others.
SIMILARITIES BETWEEN FLUTE AND RECORDER
- The two instruments belong to the family of woodwind instruments.
- The wind instruments produce sound in a similar manner through the division of air from the mouthpiece which in turn creates vibration at certain pitches.
- Both the flute and the recorder alter pitches on their instrument by covering certain holes of the tube.
- They share common features like wedge, splitting, and holes.
- The two instruments have similar airy and clear tones.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN FLUTE AND RECORDER
- The major difference between flute and recorder is that recorders have a fipple that sends air across the edge of the tone hole while standard flutes do not have a fipple to perform such action.
- While a flute is the most common woodwind musical instrument, a recorder can be classified under the flute itself.
- The sound of the flute is produced by infusing air across the embouchure hole while the sound of the recorder is produced by infusing air into a duct that directs it to the edge.
- Flutes are played horizontally or vertically, recorders are played strictly vertically.
- Flutes are typically made of wood or metal while recorders are made of wood, ivory, or plastic.
- The flutes’ fingering system is a flap system while that of the recorder is a simple finger hole drilled into the tube.
- The recorder sometimes has unpleasant finger combinations due to the many holes, the flute on the other hand uses mechanics that are easy and pleasant.
- The path of air through the gap of the mouthpiece is fixed in the recorder but in flute, the path must form itself with the lips.
- The wind instruments are different in size.
- Their holes are covered in different ways.