Here’s the second part of Getting Started on Recorder.
Should I get private lessons?
I’m of the opinion that it’s better to teach yourself first rather than starting out with private lessons because by teaching yourself you by definition have to be an active learner. Going to a teacher, having him/her give you exercises to do, and brainlessly practicing them at home isn’t really good for you as a person, and it’s really tempting to do during your first lessons since you’re a novice and he/she presumably isn’t. Besides passive education not being a good thing in general I’ve also found that it’s not nearly as motivating as taking control of my education.
And then there’s the fact that there aren’t very many private teachers for recorder anyway. Kind of like with buying a high quality wooden recorder, it’s probably better to wait to get private lessons until you’ve realized you can’t make any more significant progress on your own. By that point you’ll know what you’re looking for in a teacher and will get a lot more out of your lessons. Where to look for lessons is something I’ll cover in more detail in another post, but as a general rule, if you know someone locally whose recorder playing you admire you should talk to him/her and see if he/she would be willing to give you lessons or answer your questions. While not foolproof since not all practitioners are good teachers, it’s certainly better than just picking someone out at random.
I’ve finished the Method Book. Now What?
Now it’s time to start playing music. If there’s a music organization in your local SCA group you can probably join that. Talk to the person in charge and explain where your ability is right now and see what he/she has to say. Chances are you’ll be allowed to play with them and they’ll point you to the music they use.
If there is a European Dance group, but no music group you can approach the Dance Master/Mistress and see if he/she is interested in having live music at practice. If there’s interest you can get a list of their usual songs and play for them. You can find arrangements for most SCA dance tunes here. To get an idea for the tempo of the songs attend a few dance practices. Chances are the songs move quite a bit faster than you’d expect. Once you start playing regularly for dancers more musicians will likely come out of the woodwork to play too.
If there isn’t a dance group or a music group you could just start a music group directly. Find out if any of the fighters or artisans or whoever are also musicians and see if they’d like to meet once a month to play some medieval or renaissance music. You can still use the dance music site listed above to get started.
I’m not in the SCA, but I still want to play!
If you aren’t a part of the SCA, but would like to play the recorder with other people find out if there’s a beginner friendly recorder consort in your area. The American Recorder Society has information on Recorder Consorts throughout the US, although I’m not sure how up-to-date those links are. Still it doesn’t hurt to call and find out. Just because a group hasn’t updated their website doesn’t mean the group doesn’t exist! You can also google “recorder your_city” or “recorder consort your_city” and see what comes up. For instance when I a search for “ann arbor recorder”, the fourth listing is for the Ann Arbor Recorder Society.
So, getting started on the recorder is fairly straightforward. Buy an inexpensive high-quality plastic recorder and a method book, play through the method book, look for others to play music with, and start playing. I especially like playing for dancers because it makes the music feel less abstract and it’s less nerve-wracking than a straight-up performance. Dancers appreciate the music but tend to concentrate more on doing the right steps than listening for errors in my playing. Also I’ve had some really great music highs when playing for dancers. ^_^