How To Play Ode To Joy On Recorder

image ode to joy recorder banner

Are your students struggling to play the “black belt” song on recorder? 

Do you want a little extra help yourself with the notes for Ode to Joy?

My students actually love playing this excerpt from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. Many of them recognize it from church or the TV show, Little Einsteins. 

It’s pretty tricky for some to play, so I made this guide on how to play Ode to Joy on recorder. 

Playing Ode to Joy on recorder requires the ability to play D, C, B, A, G, and low D. It’s mostly stepwise in motion making these parts fairly easy, but the leaps in the B section make it a little difficult. 

Read on for more details. 

Where Does Ode To Joy Come From?

The Ode to Joy is a famous melody composed as part of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. 

The symphony was composed between 1822 and 1824. 

Specifically, the fourth movement in particular focuses on the Ode to Joy theme and expands on it until the piece’s climactic finale. 

The Ninth Symphony is widely regarded as Beethoven’s greatest work. It was also one of the best received at its premiere performance. 

This is the piece where Beethoven (who was deaf) continued conducting the end of the piece despite the orchestra and chorus having finished. 

It took the soprano soloist and a violinist to turn him around before he realized the crowd was cheering and giving standing ovations for the piece. 

The Ode to Joy is based on a poem written in 1785 by Friedrich Schiller. 

The words in English go like this:

——— 

Joy, beautiful spark of Divinity [or: of gods],

Daughter of Elysium,

We enter, drunk with fire,

Heavenly one, thy sanctuary!

Thy magic binds again

What custom strictly divided;

All people become brothers,

Where thy gentle wing abides.

—————

Whoever has succeeded in the great attempt,

To be a friend’s friend,

Whoever has won a lovely woman,

Add his to the jubilation!

Yes, and also whoever has just one soul

To call his own in this world!

And he who never managed it should slink

Weeping from this union!

———————–

All creatures drink of joy

At nature’s breasts.

All the Just, all the Evil

Follow her trail of roses.

Kisses she gave us and grapevines,

A friend, proven in death.

Salaciousness was given to the worm

And the cherub stands before God.

—————

Gladly, as His suns fly

through the heavens’ grand plan

Go on, brothers, your way,

Joyful, like a hero to victory.

——————

Be embraced, Millions!

This kiss to all the world!

Brothers, above the starry canopy

There must dwell a loving Father.

Are you collapsing, millions?

Do you sense the creator, world?

Seek him above the starry canopy!

Above stars must He dwell.

——————-

Source: Wikipedia Article on Ode to Joy

Ode To Joy Recorder Notes

Here follows a brief verbal explanation of how to finger each note:

  • D = middle finger on the second hole, no thumb
  • C = thumb on the back, middle finger on the second hole
  • B = thumb, pointer on the first hole
  • A = thumb, 1 and 2
  • G = thumb, 1, 2, and ring finger on the third hole
  • Low D = Thumb on the back, left hand fingers 1, 2, 3, right-hand fingers 1, 2, 3 

Step By Step: How To Play Ode To Joy On Recorder

In this section, I’ll go over the exact language and steps I use to teach Ode To Joy with recorder notes. 

Notice, this procedure assumes the students are comfortable with the notes D, C, B, A, and G. They just need to learn low D. 

#1 Review Known Notes

The first thing I encourage everyone to do is review and warm up with known notes. In this case, students should echo the teacher on patterns using D, C, B, A, and G in ascending, descending, stepwise, and leap figures. 

The teacher and student need to watch out for incorrect fingerings and poor tone. Fix these before trying to learn a new song. 

#2 Rhythm Say and Finger A Section

Project or hand out notation with the A section of Ode to Joy. Ask students to say the rhythm syllables or count the rhythms. 

Then, have students say the letter names and finger the notes on their recorders. 

This may take a few practices before it looks mostly right. 

#3 Try A section

Have the class try playing the A section. It’s likely there will be parts getting messed up. The A section is fairly long and has a few tricky parts, although it’s in stepwise motion which is easier. 

Ask students as they play to notice any spots they do well and any spots they do poorly. 

#4 Reflect and Break It Down to Fix Mistakes

After playing, give the students feedback. Or better yet, ask them to pair up (it helps you tell them their partner) and reflect with each other. 

Ask for a few spots the class thought gave them trouble. 

Break down these spots and practice by fingering and playing slower. 

Piece it back together and try step #3 again. When they can play with 90% accuracy, it’s time to move on. 

#5 Rhythm Say and Finger B Section

Do the same rhythm saying followed by fingering as we did with step #2. 

Many students will notice the low D and begin to panic. Tell them you’ll teach it to them in a second, but you want them to focus on what they do know first. 

#6 Teach Low D Fingering

After attempting the fingering, students will likely be begging you to teach them this new note. Explain its name and discuss its placement on the staff. 

Pro-tip: Use probing questions instead of just telling them:

  • Describe the note’s placement on the staff. 
  • Is it on a line or space? 
  • Is it higher or lower than G?
  • How much lower?
  • What notes do you think are in between G and low D?

 I describe the low D fingering as follows: 

“Put your thumb on the back. Use your right hand to cover the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd holes. We’re not going to use the right-hand pinky. Take your left hand and cover the 4th, 5th, and 6th holes.” 

Have students check each other’s fingerings. 

Have the whole class and small group echo the teacher and focus on blowing softly and covering holes. 

#7 Finger B Section Again

Practice putting the low D in the context of the song by fingering and saying the letters for the B section.

This may take a few tries. 

#8 Try B Section

Play the B section. As with step #3, have students remember parts they struggled with. 

#9 Reflect and Break It Down 

Just like #4, reflect on where the mistakes were, break it down, and attempt it again. 

When the play is 85% or better, move on. 

#10 Put A and B Together

Put the sections together for the whole song. You may want to finger the whole song before playing a few times. 

If teaching this in a class, don’t be surprised if learning this song takes a few meetings. It’s long and more difficult than many others up to this point. 

Final Thoughts

Ode to Joy on recorder is a great and challenging song to learn. Mastering this melody is the mark of an experienced recorder player, and it shows the player is ready for a whole host of other great songs. 

Check out some recorder based articles for more information: 

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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