The second octave

f♯”/g♭” (c♯”’/d♭”’) is usually fingered - 12- ----. The only useful alternative for this note is O --- ----, although its tone tends to be somewhat harsh. This alternative is used for slurs to and from e” (b”). It is also useful for the f♯”- e” (c♯”’- b”) trill which must commence and end with the normally fingered f♯” (c♯”’).

f♯”/g♭” (c♯”’/d♭”’) can be fingered / 123 4567 in the slur a”- g”- f♯”- g” (e”’- d”’- c♯”’- d”’) using a” (e”’)=- 123 4-67 and g” (d”’) = - 123 4567.

g” (d”’) is usually fingered - -2- ----. An unusual alternative is - --3 4---, used for slurs from g” (d”’) to and from e♭” (b♭”) and d” (a”) = O 1-3 45/- where it is expedient.

The alternative fingering of the a”- g” (e”’- d”’) slur and trill is one of the more difficult aspects of recorder technique! An upward slur from g” (d”’) to a” (e”’) performed with conventional fingerings will produce a pronounced “clicking” or “chirping” noise; with precise fingering this is hardly apparent on the downward slur from a” (e”’) to g” (d”’). Whilst “chirping” of this kind may well be appropriate to Couperin’s Le Rossignol en Amour and to those charming pieces in The Bird Fancier’s Delight, it sounds clumsy and out of place in more serious music. Both the g”- a” (d”’- e”’) slur and the trill require alternative fingering to eliminate this disturbing noise.

The best fingering for the a”- g” (e”’- d”’) trill itself is - 123 45*67. The same fingering serves for the g”- a” (d”’- e”’) slur. Unfortunately, recorders vary tremendously in their response this fingering: it is best thought of, perhaps, as a basis for one’s own experimentation in search of a practical alternative. On recorders where g” (d”’) = - 123 4567 is unduly flat it might be corrected by playing - -23 45*67 or - 123 45*6/, although the resulting a” (e”’) = - -23 4-67 or - 123 4-6/ might then be too sharp and in turn need correction by ensuring that the trilling finger 5 hardly leaves the instrument. One must find the best compromise.

It is imperative that this trill ends on a normally fingered a” (e”’) = (/) 123 45-- when turned upwards. In very fast music f” (c”’) = - 123 ---- can be used followed by the alternative g” (d””) used in the trill itself and ending with a” (e”’) = (/) 123 45--. In all but the fastest passages normal fingerings are preferable for the notes of the turn since the tone quality of the alternatives is poor. The “click” at the end of such a turn can be minimised by precise fingerwork.

When this trill is turned downwards it can be done via f” (c”’) = - 123 ---- followed by a normally fingered g” (d”’) and f” (c”’). Most amateurs’ playing (and that of quite a few professionals) is completely marred by the inability to perform this trill (or the slur) effectively. Unfortunately, it is by far the commonest trill encountered on the recorder!

A third alternative g” (d”’) is / 123 456/, used mostly for the a”- g”- a” (e”’- d”’- e”’) mordent and, very occasionally, for rapid repeated slurs to high notes, particularly c”’ (g”’).

Note that downward slurs from a” (e”’) to g” (d”’) use the ordinary fingerings unless the slur goes down and then up again.

g♯”/a♭” (d♯”’/e♭”’) is usually fingered - -23 456-. The most useful alternative is / 123 45/- which is used for a”- g♯” (e”’- d♯”’) slurs and trills. Note that the timbre of this alternative matches that of the notes in the second octave: more advanced players can exercise their musicianship in choosing the one of these two fingerings which matches best the other notes in the passage in which it occurs. The difference in timbre is noticeable enough to make such an effort worthwhile.

The a♭”- g” (e♭”’- d”’) trill is, as Anthony Rowland-Jones (2003) points out, a crux in recorder technique. He gives 12 possibilities to try. Of these - 123 4*567, - 1*23 4*567, - 123 4567*, - 1*23 4567*, - -23* 4*56- and possibly - --3* 567- seem the most likely. All but the last two can be turned using f” (c”’) = -123 ---- . The second last alternative listed here gives an f” (c”’) turn with O -2- -56-.

The g♯”- f♯” (d♯”’- c♯”’) trill is probably best fingered / 123 456*7, with the trilling finger (6) really leaving the instrument to compensate for the flat g♯” (d♯”’) = / 123 45-7.

For the a♯”- g♯” (e♯”- d♯”’) or b♭”- a♭” (f”’- e♭”’) trill - 123 45*6- is used.

a” (e”’) is usually fingered / 123 45--, but - 123 45-- and - -23 45-- are little different in either intonation or tone quality. For the g”- a”- b♭” (d”’- e”’- f”’) slur the note a” (e”’) is produced by - 123 4-67 with g” (d”’) = - 123 4567 and b♭” (f”’) = - 123 4-6-. The use of this alternative for a” (e”’) in the a”- g” (e”’- d”’) trill has already been discussed.

A notoriously difficult passage involving rapid alternation between a”(e”’) and d”'(a”’) occurs in Vivaldi’s Concerto in D major RV 428, Il Gardellino, for sopranino recorder and strings. Here the movements of fingers in both hands is almost impossible to synchronise at speed. A solution adopted by virtuoso David Bellugi (pers. comm.) is to move the position of the lower hand up a hole prior to commencing this passage, and return it to its normal position aftwards. Thus finger 4 covers the hole normally controlled by finger 3, and so on. This allows the reiterated a”-d”’ to be fingered / 124*5*6*--. Inspection of the score and a little experimentation will soon settle what is required.

b♭”/a♯” (f”’/e♯”’) is usually played / 123 4-6-. Three alternatives are commonly used. The first is / 123 4-/-, used for the b♭”- a♭” (f”’- e♭”’) or a♯”- g♯” (e♯”’- d♯”’) trill, fingered / 123 45*/-.

The second is / 123 -5/-, used for the b”- a♯” (f♯”’- e♯”’) trill, fingered / 123 -5/*- with / 123 45/- as the g♯” (d♯”’) turn.

The b♭”- a” (f”’- e”’) trill can be fingered / 123 45*-- with the trilling finger (5) close to the instrument to compensate for the rather sharp b♭” (f”’)=/ 123 4—. This trill must always begin with the normal b♭” (f”’) = / 123 4-5--. Use - 123 45*67 for the a”- g” (e”’- d”’) turn finishing with the normal g” (d”’) = - -2- ---- if turned downwards, and with the normal b♭” (f”’) = / 123 4-6- if turned upwards.

b♭”- a” (f”’- e”’) trills can also be fingered - 123 4-67* with g” (d”’) = - 123 4567 for the turn.

b” (f♯”’) is usually fingered / 123 -5--. The only useful alternative is / 12- 45-- for the mordent or turn after c♯”’ (g♯”’) and for the c♯”’- b” (g♯”’- f♯”’) trill which can be turned with the normal a” (e”’) = - / 123 45--.

c”’ (g”’) is usually fingered / 123 ----. It can be flattened with / 123 ---7 or / 123 --6-. The latter fingering provides an alternative for the c”’- b♭” (g”’- f”’) trill fingered / 123 4*-6-. For the d♭”’- c”’ (a♭”’- g”’) mordent or trill use / 12- 4-6*- with the normal b♭” (f”’) = / 123 4-6- for the turn. Note that this second alternative cannot be tongued.

c”’- b♭” (g”’- f”’) trills can be fingered / 123* 4-6-, but should be commenced with c” (g”’) = / 123 ---- since the alternative is slow to speak.

c♯”’/d♭”’ (g♯”’/a♭”’) is usually fingered / 12- 4---. This note is notoriously slow to speak, requiring exceedingly delicate tonguing. It is one to check carefully when purchasing a new recorder. / 12- -5-- can be used in the common a”- b”- c♯”’- d”’ (e”’-f♯”’- g♯”’- a”’) slur (or its reverse). / 123 4567 should be used for the e”’- d♯”’- c♯”’ (b”’- a♯”’- g♯”’) slur since it is impossible to slur from d♯”’ (a♯>”’) to the slow-speaking c♯”’ (g♯”’) without a violent “click”.

d”’ (a”’) is usually fingered / 12- ----. It is not an easy note and is often distressingly flat.

/ 123* 456/ can be used for the difficult e♭”’-d”’ (b♭”’- a”’) trill using normal fingers for the notes of the turn. Another fingering for this trill is / 12/ 456*/, again turned using normal fingering. The latter is also used for the equally difficult e”’-d”’ (b”’- a”’) trill fingered / 12/ 456*/*, likewise turned with normal fingerings. Both these trills are impossible with normal fingerings due to severe “clicking”. A further use of this alternative is for the turn of the f”’- e”’ (c””- b”’) trill.

e♭”’/d♯”’ (b♭”’/a♯”’) is usually fingered / 12- 456- which is often sharp, thus many recorders require / 12- 456/. The use of / 12/ 456*/ for the e♭”’- d”’ (b♭”’- a”’) trill has been discussed. Another alternative for this trill is to use e♭”’ (b♭”’) = / 12- --6/ with normal fingerings for the turn; this still “clicks”, but not so intolerably.

e”’ (b”’) is usually fingered / 12- 45--. Apart from the / 12/ 45-- for the e”’- d”’ (b”’- a”’) slur discussed above, the only useful alternative for e”’ (b”’) is / 1-- ----. This alternative is often flat and cannot be tongued. It is used solely in a rapid d”’- e”’- f”’ (a”’- b”’- c””) slur in order to avoid the very noisy “click” between d”’ (a”’) and e”’ (b”’) in favour of the much quieter one between e”’ (b”’) = / 1-- ---- and f”’ (c””) = / 1-- 45--.

f”’ (c””) is fingered / 1-- 45--. On many recorders this is a difficult note to sound, particularly when the windway is dirty or blocked with condensation. It is especially sensitive to the degree of closure of the thumb hole, which varies from instrument to instrument. Removing the block and giving the internal surfaces of the windway a thorough clean with a soft toothbrush dipped in a solution of weak detergent often improves things considerably. Creative use of lower mordents and slurs from notes below f” (c”’) will do much to reduce the anxiety associated with this fractious note. So will practicing notes in the third octave (see below).

David Bellugi (pers. comm.) points out that sometimes it can be useful to finger the high f”’ (c””) / 123 45-- X. This fingering can be played very softly, too. It is especially useful for the g”’ (d””)-f”’ (c””) trill, fingered / 123 4*5*-- X. It can also be used for the g♭”’ (d♭””)-f”’ (c””) slur in which g♭ (d♭””) is fingered / 123 4-6/ X.

On some instruments reducing the bore diameter at a certain point in the head joint can remarkably improve the high f”’ (c””). A plastic ring (cut from those plastic rings that are often used to bind photocopies) at about the level of the maker’s name on head joints of obstinate recorders will suffice. Further instructions can be found in Brown (1989) and Kottick (1975).  On some recorders simply pulling the head-joint out slightly will have the same effect.

References cited on this page

  • Brown, Adrian. 1989. The Recorder: A Basic Workshop Manual. 2nd ed. Brighton: Dolce DOL 112.
  • Kottick, Edward L. 1975. Tone and Intonation on the Recorder. New York: McGinnis & Marx.
  • Rowland-Jones, Anthony. 2003. Recorder Technique, Intermediate to Advanced. 3rd ed. Hebden Bridge: Ruxbury Publications.

Cite this article as: Lander, Nicholas S. 1996–2022. Recorder Home Page: Technique: Fingering: The second octave. Last accessed 3 October 2022. https://www.recorderhomepage.net/technique/fingering/the-second-octave/