Creating Easy Chromatic Walking Bass Lines: A Publication of Case School of Music

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The perceived pitch is the lowest, and typically loudest, mode of vibration in the air column.

The other pitches are harmonics , or overtones. Players typically describe recorder pitches by the number of nodes in the air column. Notes with a single node are in the first register, notes with two nodes in the second register, etc.

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As the number of nodes in the tube increases, the number of notes a player can produce in a given register decreases because of the physical constraint of the spacing of the nodes in the bore. On a Baroque recorder, the first, second, and third registers span about a major ninth, a major sixth, and a minor third respectively.

The recorder sound, for the most part, lacks high harmonics and odd harmonics predominate in its sound with the even harmonics being almost entirely absent, although the harmonic profile of the recorder sound varies from recorder to recorder, and from fingering to fingering. As in organ flue pipes , the sounding pitch of duct type whistles is affected by the velocity of the air stream as it impinges upon the labium.

The pitch generally increases with velocity of the airstream, up to a point. Air speed can also be used to influence the number of pressure nodes in a process called over blowing. At higher airstream velocities, lower modes of vibration of the air column become unstable, resulting in a change of register. The air stream is affected by the shaping of the surfaces in the head of the recorder the "voicing" , and the way the player blows air into the windway.

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Recorder voicing is determined by physical parameters such as the proportions and curvature of the windway along both the longitudinal and latitudinal axes, the beveled edges chamfers of the windway facing towards the labium, the length of the window, the sharpness of the labium i. The player is able to control the speed and turbulence of the airstream using the diaphragm and vocal tract.

The finger holes, used in combination or partially covered, affect the sounding pitch of the instrument. At the most basic level, the sequential uncovering of finger holes increases the sounding pitch of the instrument by decreasing the effective sounding length of the instrument, and vice versa for the sequential covering of holes. In the fingering , only the bell of the instrument is open, resulting in a low pressure node at the bell end of the instrument.

The fingering sounds at a higher pitch because the seventh hole and the bell both release air, creating a low pressure node at the seventh hole. Besides sequential uncovering, recorders can use forked fingering to produce tones other than those produced by simple sequential lifting of fingers.

In the fingering , air leaks from the open holes 4,5,6, and 7.

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The pressure inside the bore is higher at the fourth hole than at the fifth, and decreases further at the 6th and 7th holes. Consequently, the most air leaks from the fourth hole and the least air leaks from the seventh hole. As a result, covering the fourth hole affects the pitch more than covering any of the holes below it.

Thus, at the same air pressure, the fingering produces a pitch between and Forked fingerings allow recorder players to obtain fine gradations in pitch and timbre. A recorder's pitch is also affected by the partial covering of holes.

This technique is an important tool for intonation, and is related to the fixed process of tuning a recorder, which involves the adjustment of the size and shape of the finger holes through carving and the application of wax. One essential use of partial covering is in "leaking," or partially covering, the thumb hole to destabilize low harmonics.

This allows higher harmonics to sound at lower air pressures than by over-blowing alone, as on simple whistles. The player may also leak other holes to destabilize lower harmonics in place of the thumb hole hole 0. This technique is demonstrated in the fingering tables of Ganassi's Fontegara , which illustrate the simultaneous leaking of holes 0, 2, and 5 to produce some high notes. For example, Ganassi's table produces the 15th third octave tonic as the fourth harmonic of the tonic, leaking holes 0, 2 and 5 and produces the 16th as the third harmonic of the fifth, leaking holes 0 and 2.

On some Baroque recorders, the 17th can be produced as the third harmonic of the sixth, leaking hole 0 as well as hole 1, 2 or both. Although the design of the recorder has changed over its year history, notably in fingering and bore profile see History , the technique of playing recorders of different sizes and periods is much the same.

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Indeed, much of what is known about the technique of playing the recorder is derived from historical treatises and manuals dating to the 16th—18th century. The following describes the commonalities of recorder technique across all time periods. In normal playing position, the recorder is held with both hands, covering the fingerholes or depressing the keys with the pads of the fingers: four fingers on the lower hand, and the index, middle and ring fingers and thumb on the upper hand.

In standard modern practice, the right hand is the lower hand, while the left hand is the upper hand, although this was not standardized before the modern revival of the recorder. The recorder is supported by the lips, which loosely seal around the beak of the instrument, the thumb of the lower hand, and, depending on the note fingered, by the other fingers and the upper thumb. A practice documented in many historical fingering charts is the use of finger seven or eight to support the recorder when playing notes for which the coverage of this hole negligibly affects the sounding pitch e.

Larger recorders may have a thumbrest, or a neckstrap for extra support, and may use a bocal to direct air from the player's mouth to the windway. Recorders are typically held at an angle between vertical and horizontal, the attitude depending on the size and weight of the recorder, and personal preference.

Pitches are produced on the recorder by covering the holes while blowing into the instrument. Modern terminology refers to the holes on the front of the instrument using the numbers 1 through 7, starting with the hole closest to the beak, with the thumbhole numbered hole 0. At the most basic level, the fingering technique of the recorder involves the sequential uncovering of the holes from lowest to highest i. In practice, however, the uncovering of the holes is not strictly sequential, and the half covering or uncovering of holes is an essential part of recorder technique.

A forked fingering is a fingering in which an open hole has covered holes below it: fingerings for which the uncovering of the holes is not sequential.

Forked fingerings allow for smaller adjustments in pitch than the sequential uncovering of holes alone would allow. For example, at the same air speed the fingering 5 sounds higher than but lower than Many standard recorder fingerings are forked fingerings. Forked fingerings may also be used to produced microtonal variations in pitch. Forked fingerings have a different harmonic profile from non-forked fingerings, and are generally regarded as having a weaker sound.

Forked fingerings that have a different tone color or are slightly sharp or flat can provide so-called "alternate fingerings". For example, the fingering and its slightly sharper forked variant Partial covering of the holes is an essential part of the playing technique of all recorders. This is variously known as "leaking," "shading," "half-holing," and in the context of the thumb hole, "pinching". The primary function of the thumbhole is to serve as an octaving vent.

When it is leaked, the first mode of vibration of the air column becomes unstable: i. In most recorders, this is required for the playing of every note higher than a ninth above the lowest note. The player must adjust the position of the thumb for these notes to sound stably and in tune. The partial opening of the thumbhole may be achieved by sliding or rolling the thumb off of the hole, or by bending the thumb at the first knuckle.

To partially uncover a covered hole, the player may slide the finger off of the hole, bend or roll the finger away from the hole, gently lift the finger from the hole, or a combination of these. To partially cover an open hole, the reverse is possible. Generally speaking, the partial opening of covered fingerholes raises the pitch of the sounding note while the partial closure of open fingerholes lowers the pitch.

On most "baroque" modeled modern recorders, the lower two fingers of the lower hand actually cover two holes each called "double holes". Whereas on the vast majority of baroque recorders and all earlier recorders these two fingers covered a single hole "single holes" , double holes have become standard for baroque modeled modern recorders. The open end of the bore facing away from the player the "bell" may be covered to produce extra notes or effects.

Alternatively, in rare cases instruments may be equipped with a key designed to cover the bell "bell key" , operated by one of the fingers, typically the pinky finger of the upper hand, which is not normally used to cover a hole. Fingerings with a covered bell extend the recorder's chromatic playable range above and below the nominal fingered range.

The pitch and volume of the recorder sound are influenced by the speed of the air travelling through the windway, which may be controlled by varying the breath pressure and the shape of the vocal tract. The sound is also affected by the turbulence of the air entering the recorder.

Generally speaking, faster air in the windway produces a higher pitch. Thus overblowing a note causes it to go sharp whereas underblowing the note causes it to go flat. Knowing this fact and the knowledge of a recorder's individual tonal differences over its full range will help recorders play in tune with other instruments by knowing which notes will need slightly more or less air to stay in tune.


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The technique of inhalation and exhalation for the recorder differs from that of many other wind instruments in that the recorder requires very little air pressure to produce a sound, unlike reed or brasswind instruments. Recorder breathing technique focuses on the controlled release of air rather than on maintaining diaphragmatic pressure.

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The use of the tongue to stop and start the air is called "articulation". In this capacity, the tongue has two basic functions: to control the start of the note the attack and the end, or the length of the note legato, staccato. Articulations are roughly analogous to consonants. Practically any consonant that may produced with the tongue, mouth, and throat may be used to articulate on the recorder. Transliterations of common articulation patterns include "du du du du" using the tip of the tongue, "single tonguing" "du gu du gu," alternating between the tip and the back of the tongue, "double tonguing" and "du g'll du g'll" articulation with the tip and the sides of the tongue, "double tonguing".

The attack of the note is governed by such factors as the pressure buildup behind the tongue and shape of the articulant, while the length of the note governed by the stoppage of the air by the tongue.

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Each articulation pattern has a different natural pattern of attack and length, and recorder technique seeks to produce a wide variety of lengths and attacks using these articulation patterns. Patterns like these have been used since at least the time of Ganassi Mouth and throat shapes are roughly analogous to vowels. The shape of the vocal track affects the velocity and turbulence of the air entering the recorder.

The shape of the mouth and vocal tract affect are closely related to the consonant used to articulate. The player must coordinate fingers and tongue to align articulations with finger movements. In normal play, articulated attacks should align with the proper fingering, even in legato passages or in difficult finger transitions and the fingers move in the brief silence between the notes silence d'articulation created by the stoppage of the air by the tongue. Both fingers and the breath can be used to control the pitch of the recorder.

Coordinating the two is essential to playing the recorder in tune and with a variety of dynamics and timbres.