Extended technique

Extended techniques possible on the recorder include multiphonics achieved either by special fingerings or else by humming and playing at the same time, microtones, extended range upwards and downwards, flageolet tones, slap tonguing, sputato, flutter tonguing, glissandi, playing shakahuchi-style by blowing across the mouthpiece, playing the head-piece alone like a Swanee whistle or by shading the windway, playing without a headpiece cornetto-style, using one of the tone holes to play the recorder like a flute, clicking against the instrument with a metal ring, and playing two recorders at the same time.

Frans Brüggen playing Luciano Berio’s Gesti (1967)

Although Vetter (1969) explores the avant-garde possibilities of the recorder in great detail, he also includes a masterly essay (in English) on conventional recorder technique. More recent researches into the technical aspects of modern recorder music may be found in Rechberger (1991), and in Kientzy (1982). Microtonal techniques are the subject of The Quarter-Tone Recorder Manual by Bennetts, Bousted and Bowman (1988).

Vocalising and playing recorder at the same time has been explored in detail by the Dutch composer Jacques Bank in association with the recorder player Baldrick Deerenberg (O’Kelly, 1990).

Transverbal structural music theatre: Moon and Nightingale for voice & recorder
Natascha Nikeprelevic & Michael Vetter

Helpful considerations of the unconventional notation used for much 20th-century recorder music have been presented by Schmidt (1959) and Wells (2001).

There is nothing new under the sun and certain of these extended techniques have long been used on wind instruments, including the recorder. Samuel Pepys (1668), writing on 20 January 1668, described playing two flageolets (one low and soft) together; and John Hawkins (1776, 2:176) relates that John Banister II (1662-1736) was famous for playing on two recorders at once.

His plainge of instrumentes was a good noyse, His singing as excellent with a sweete voyce; His countenaunce comely with visage demure, Not moving nor streining, but stedfast and sure. He would shewe in a single recorder pipe As many partes as any in a baggepipe.

He played of all instrumentes notable well; But of all thinges mused king of Castell, To heare two partes in a single recorder, That was beyond all their estimations far.

A passage in The Stanley Poem by the harper Richard Sheale (1558, lines 565-570 & 591-594) appears to describe recorder multiphonics achieved by singing and playing simultaneously:

In Bellum musicale Claudio Sebastiani (1563) described playing and humming different parts simultaneously on a wind instrument:

Item dum aliquam uocem fistulant, si simul etiam Bassum, Tenorem, uel aliam uocem contra cantent, cum sulcisusutro, quod facile usa aquirent.

[Likewise, whilst they are playing one part, they can easily sing at the same time, even the bass, tenor, or any voice other than that played with the wind instrument.]

In his encyclopaedic Harmonie universelle, Marin Mersenne (1636: 239) notes the possibility of humming and playing the recorder at the same time:

Mais il faut remarquer que l’on peut sonner un air, ou une chanson sur la Fluste douce, & en mesme temps chanter le chant de la Basse, sans toutesfois articuler les voix, car le vent qui sort de boucher en chantant est capable de faire sonner la Fluste, de sorte qu’un seul homme peut faire un Duo.

[But note that you can sound a melody or song on the recorder whilst at the same time singing the bass without interrupting the voice since the breath coming out of the mouth during singing is able to sound the recorder, and in such a way one man is able to play a duet on his own.]

And in 1710, the visiting German scholar, bibliophile, tourist and paleographer, Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach, described hearing a Scotsman called Cherbourn [?Sherbourne] in a London tavern, the Blue Bell,  giving a perfect imitation on the recorder of the bagpipes and of a transverse flute, and he could also make it sound like two recorders in harmony (Uffenbach, 1710/1934: 180-1):

One could scarce have observed that he was singing, if one did not look prodigious sharp upon him.

But genuinely new techniques are perhaps not so difficult to find. The possibilities of a two-handed player playing simultaneously two recorders designed for right and left one-handed players respectively are yet to be explored. And the vistas opened up by electro-acoustic recorders such as Cesar Villavicenico’s MIDIfied square bass recorder and its “bird cage” are seemingly endless.

two one-handed recorders
Right and left one-handed recorders by Mollenhauer


This bibliography concerns some of the many extended techniques possible on the recorder. A more convenient and flexible way of exploring it is via the Zotero citation database underlying this web-site. The Zotero interface is straightforward to use and allows you to export selected entries in a variety of formats and to create your own citation lists in a range of journal styles. All you need is your web-browser. This will be of particular assistance to students and researchers.

  • Arnott, Joanne. 2014. “Recorders and Electronics: An Introduction to the Performance of Electronic Music.” Master of Music (Performance), Sydney: Sydney Conservatorium of Music.
  • Bali, János. 2013. Introduction to the Avant-Garde for Recorder Players. Budapest: Editio Musica Budapest.
  • Barata, Antonio. 1988. “Sources of Information on Woodwind Multiphonics: An Annotated Bibliography.” Perspectives of New Music 26 (1): 246–56.
  • Bauer, Jürg. 1963. “Revolution der Blockflöte [Recorder Revolution].” Instrumentenbau-Zeitschrift 17 (2): 363–64.
  • Bennetts, Kathryn, Donald Bousted, and Peter Bowman. 1988. The Quarter-Tone Recorder Manual. Celle: Edition Moeck 2084.
  • Boubaker, Heddy. 2015. “Leçons de respiration circulaire” [Circular breathing lessons]. Heddy Boubaker. Accessed June 5.
  • Bowman, Peter. 1999. “The quarter-tone recorder manual: Ein Vortrag [The Quarter-tone Recorder Manual: A Lecture].” SAJM Zeitschrift 27 (4): 24–31.
  • Clark, Paul. 1970. “The Rechorder [sic.].” Recorder and Music Magazine 3 (7): 235–36.
  • Goedhart, Dinie. 2015. “Het spelen van hedendaagse blokfluitmuziek [Playing contemporary recorder music].” Accessed June 5.
  • Fröhlich, Susanne. 2019. “The New Potential of a 21st Century Recorder.” Dissertation, Graz: Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst.
  • Hauwe, Walter van. 1984–1992. The Modern Recorder Player. 3 vols. London: Schott Edition 12150, 12270, 12361.
  • Hawkins, Sir John. 1776. A General History of the Science and Practice of Music. 5 vols. London: T. Paine & Sons.
  • Horringa, Dirkjan. 1991. “De electronische blokfluit – Een interview met Michael Barker” [The Electronic Recorder, an Interview with Michael Barker].
  • Kientzy, Martine. 1982. Les sons multiples aux flütes à bec [Multiphonics on the Recorder]. Paris: Editions Salabert.
  • Mayer-Spohn, Ulrike, and Keitaro Takahashi. 2014. “The Recorder Map.” http://recordermap.com/
  • Mersenne, Marin. (1637) 1988. “Die Blasinstrumente aus der ’Harmonie Universelle‘ des Marin Mersenne und ihre Bedeutung für die Aufführungspraxis heute [The wind instruments from Marin Mersenne’s “Harmonie Universelle” and their significance for performance practice today].’” Translated by Wolfgang Köhler. Tibia 13 (1): 1–14. http://www.moeck.com/uploads/tx_moecktables/1988-1.pdf
  • –––. (1637) 1987. Die Blasinstrumente aus der “Harmonie Universelle” des Marin Mersenne: Übersetzung und Kommentar des “Livre cinquiesme des instruments a vent” aus dem “Traité des instruments” [The Wind instruments from Marin Mersenne’s “Harmonie Universelle”:  Translation of and Commentary on the “Livre cinquiesme des instrumens à vent” from the “Traité des instruments”]. Translated by Köhler. Celle: Edition Moeck Nr. 4038.
  • –––. (1637) 1963. Harmonie universelle, condenant la théorie et la pratique de la musique. Édition facsimilé de l’exemplaire conservé à Bibliothèque des arts et métiers et annoté par l’auteur. Edited by François Lesure. 3 vols. Centre National de la Rechereche Scientifique.
  • –––. (1637) 1957. Harmonie universelle: The Books on Instruments. Translated by Roger E. Chapman. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.
  • –––. 1637. Seconde partie de l’harmonie universelle … [Second Part of ‘Universal Harmony’ …]. Paris: Pierre Ballard. http://imslp.org/wiki/Harmonie_universelle_(Mersenne,_Marin)
  • Müller, Helcio. 2015. “Técnicas contemporâneas para flauta doce” [Contemporary Techniques for Recorder]. Accessed June 5.
  • O’Kelly, Eve. 1985. “The Recorder in Twentieth-Century Music. Vol. 1: The Recorder, Its Music and Technique in the Twentieth Century; Vol. 2: A Catalogue of Twentieth-Century Recorder Music.” M.Phil., London: Goldsmith’s College, University of London.
  • O’Kelly, Eve. 1990. The Recorder Today. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • –––. 1995. “The Recorder Revival. II, the Twentieth Century and Its Repertoire.” In The Cambridge Companion to the Recorder, edited by John Mansfield Thomson and Anthony Rowland-Jones, 152–66. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Pepys, Samuel. 1668. “Diary of Samuel Pepys – Complete 1668 N.S.Project Gutenberg.
  • Rechberger, Herman. 1987. “Die Blockflöte in der zeitgenössischen Musik” [The Recorder in Contemporary Music]. Typescript. Finnish Music Information Centre: Helsinki.
  • Rowland-Jones, Anthony. 1993. “Putting the Clock Back.” The Recorder: Austalia’s Journal of Recorder & Early Music 17: 12.
  • Schmidt, Ursula. 1981. Notation der neuen Blockflötenmusik: Ein Überblick [Notation of new recorder music: an overview]. Celle: Moeck.
  • Sebastiani, Claudius. 1563. Bellum musicale inter plani et mensuralis cantus reges, de principatu in musicae prouincia obtinendo, con tendentes. Strassburg: Pauli Machaeropoei [Messerschmidt].
  • Sheale, Richard. 1850. “The Stanley Poem (c. 1558).” In Palatine Anthology : A Collection of Ancient Poems and Ballads, Relating to Lancashire and Cheshire, edited by James O. Halliwell-Phillipps. London: Privately circulated.
  • Troman, Robin. 1984. “Technique contemporaine de la flûte à bec [Contemporary Recorder Technique].” Flûte à bec et instruments anciens 11: 12.
  • ———. 1985-6. “Flûte à bec contemporaine [Avant-garde Recorder].” Flûte à bec & instruments anciens, 11: 12 (1984), 15: 6-8 (1985), 16: 2 (1985), 19: 3-4 (1986).
  • Troman, Robin. 1985. “Flûte à bec contemporaine: Souffle [Breath].” Flûte à bec & instruments anciens 13/14: 15.
  • Troman, Robin. 1986. “Flûte à bec contemporaine: Whistle tones.” Flûte à bec & instruments anciens 19: 3-4. https://www.flutes-a-bec.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/FABIA19.pdf
  • Uffenbach, Zacharias C. von. 1934. London in 1710: From the Travels of Zacharias Conrad Von Uffenbach. Translated by Margaret L. Mare and William H. Quarell. London: Faber & Faber.
  • –––. 1753. Herrn Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach Merckwürdige Reise durch Niedersachsen Holland und Engelland. Vol. 3. Ulm and Memingen: Johann Friedrich Gaum.
  • Vetter, Michael. 1969. Il flauto dolce ed acerbo [The Sweet and Bitter Flute]. Celle: Edition Moeck 4009.
  • Villavicencio Grossmann, Cesar M. 2002. “The Electronic Recorder Explained.” American Recorder 43 (1): 7–9.
  • –––. 2010. “Developing a Hybrid Contrabass Recorder; Resistances, Expression, Gestures and Rhetoric.” In Proceedings of the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression, 223–28. Sydney.
  • Wells, Peter G. 2000. “‘Giving the Fingers’. I, Conventions in the Notation of Contemporary Recorder Music.” Recorder Magazine 20 (2): 59–62.

Cite this article as: Lander, Nicholas S. 1996–2022. Recorder Home Page: Technique: Extended technique. Last accessed 20 May 2022. https://www.recorderhomepage.net/technique/extended-technique/