How Loud Is A Soprano Recorder?

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Would like a clear answer to give parents when they ask (or complain) about how loud a recorder is? 

I’ve been asked about and heard this from parents often. The recorder is just too loud!

Well, first of all, you’re letting your child play it obnoxiously, and this isn’t how I taught them. But I wanted to do some research into the topic to provide a clear answer to the question: 

How loud is a soprano recorder? 

A soprano recorder’s loudness (measured in decibels) depends on how you play it. Through research, I was able to determine the volume at these levels: 

  • Piano = 50 dB
  • Mezzo Forte = 57 dB
  • Forte = 61 dB
  • Overblowing = 70 dB

Check out the rest of the post for the process I went through to arrive at these numbers and comparisons to the volume of other common items in life. 

My Process

When I finally decided to come up with a concrete answer to the volume of a recorder, I needed to come up with a consistent process with the right tools. 

Materials

First, I needed to gather materials. I decided I needed these materials: 

  • Three types of recorders for measurement across several models
  • A higher quality microphone
  • A program or way for measuring volume

For recorders, I used ones available to me from my school and ones I’ve collected over the years. The three I used were: 

Related Reading: Check out the best soprano recorder brands.

When it came to picking a microphone, I could have used my iPhone one or the built-in one on my Chromebook. But I wanted to get a better read. 

I decided on the Blue Yeti microphone which my wife and I already use in our classroom (her for recording her band and me for my elementary students). This quality microphone has a higher Sound Pressure Level, so I didn’t worry about it peaking. 

For the volume meter, I used the Google Chrome sound meter extension. This free meter provides a range of 0-130 decibels and provides a quick comparison to other things. 

Process

I wanted to come up with a consistent process for the test, and this is what I came up with. 

First, I decided to use my classroom at school. I mostly didn’t want to drive my wife nuts at home with multiple repetitions of the same song.

The room is fairly small at 25 ft (7.62 m) x 25.5 ft (7.77 m). The walls are made of brick with some drywall. There is a light carpet over the floor. 

I placed the microphone in the middle of the room and placed it on the cardioid polar pattern at low gain. I marked off 5 ft (1.52 m) from the front of the microphone and faced the microphone directly. 

When I played each recorder, I measured it at piano, mezzo forte, forte, and overblowing dynamics. 

I played the classic tune, Hot Cross Buns, for each test. I took the readings from the Chrome extension meter at its highest mark for consistency’s sake.  

image how loud is a soprano recorder? pin

The Results

After conducting the test of 4 repetitions at different dynamic levels resulting in 12 total renditions of Hot Cross Buns and at least 5 odd looks from teachers walking by my room, this is what I found. 

Dynamic LevelYamahaKingsleyAulos
Sound of the room25dB
Piano50 dB51 dB50 dB
Mezzo Forte57 dB59 dB56 dB
Forte61 dB62 dB60 dB
Overblowing69 dB72 dB71 dB

You’ll notice the readings for each level were consistent all around. Whether this was due to the designs of the recorder being similar or my naturally trying to play them consistent is unclear. 

However, by taking the average of each category we can get a general result for each dynamic level: 

  • Piano = 50 dB
  • Mezzo Forte = 57 dB
  • Forte = 61 dB
  • Overblowing = 70 dB

Comparison

While this information is interesting, it may not be helpful for parents and students as it is. To help others understand how loud the recorder truly is here is a comparison chart to give the data some context. 

The Noise (How Loud It Is In Decibels)
Quiet Room (25 dB)
Soft whisper (30 dB)
Refrigerator Hum (40 dB)
Piano Recorder (50 dB)
Mezzo Forte (57 dB)
Normal Conversation (60 dB)
Forte Recorder (61 dB)
Washing Machine (70 dB)
Overblowing Recorder (70 dB)
City Traffic Inside Car (85 dB)
Motorcycle (95 dB)  
Shouting in the ear (110 dB) 

*Numbers from the Center For Disease Control on hearing damage thresholds.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed learning about how loud a soprano recorder is and get some use out of it. This experiment may also be a fun activity to do with your older students who play recorder as well. 

Certainly, you may earn some bonus points for the cross-curricular work with your administrators. 

Do you have problems with parents complaining about the volume of recorders? Let us know in the comments below. 

Zach VanderGraaff

Zach VanderGraaff is a K-5 music teacher with Bay City Public Schools in Michigan. He's a Past-President of the Michigan Kodaly Educators and Executive Secretary of the Midwest Kodaly Music Educators Association.

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