The instrument has been known by its modern name at least since the 14th century. Grove’s Dictionary reports the earliest use of the word ‘recorder’ was in the household of the Earl of Derby (later to become King Henry IV) in 1388: fistula nomine Recordour. The name originates from the use of the word record, one meaning of which is “to practise a piece of music”.

Recorders are made in a variety of sizes. They are most often tuned in C or F, meaning their lowest note possible is a C or an F. However, instruments in D, B flat, G, and E flat were not uncommon historically and are still found today, especially the tenor recorder in D, which is called a “voice-flute.” The table shows the recorders in common use, though the large ones are very rare; however, a still larger instrument, descending to sixteen foot C (the lowest C on the piano keyboard), exists and is known as an octosubcontrabass. This has an extended compass of 3 octaves and a third and is manufactured by Jelle Hogenhuis in Holland.

Recorder range

For further info on Recorders, click here

The Sub Contrabass

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