Parts Of A Recorder Explained

image parts of a recorder banner

Do you want to learn more about the parts of a recorder? 

Are you looking for resources on how to better teach about recorder and sound to your students? 

You may not need to teach about how the recorder functions in order to teach how to play it well, but you’re missing a golden opportunity. 

Early in my career, I blew teaching this off. After I started teaching it intentionally, I did notice my kids play a little better, but, more importantly, they developed a better understanding of how sound is made by instrument through learning the parts of a recorder. 

The 3 main parts of a recorder are the head joint, body joint, and foot joint. These parts also contain smaller parts that help the recorder function. 

Look ahead to the rest of the article for more details.

What Are The 3 Parts Of A Recorder Called? 

First, the recorder is divided into 3 main parts. This section will describe these main parts. 

If you’d rather see this in video form, watch the video I made for YouTube.

Head Joint 

The recorder parts are called joints, similar to flute and clarinet. 

Check out flute and recorder similarities if you’re interested in learning more. 

The head or head joint is the top section of the recorder. 

This is where you blow into the recorder. It’s also where the sound is created when blowing. 

There are many smaller parts which make up the recorder’s head joint including: 

  • Windway
  • Block
  • Mouthpiece/ Beck
  • Window
  • Labium/Edge

These parts are a little complicated and will be explained in more detail in the next section. 

If there was one part the most important on the recorder, it would be the head. This is where all sound comes from. 

Body Joint

The body joint or middle joint is the largest part of the recorder. 

There isn’t much to this joint except for the holes which are used to alter pitches by covering them up. 

The body joint usually contains 1 thumbhole and 6 tone holes on top with one of the top holes being a doubled hole towards the bottom. 

On the recorder, the first top hole needs to align with the windway. 

You may notice the holes on the body joint don’t align with each other. This is intentional. 

Your fingers aren’t all the same length, and the altered line is meant to fit the natural finger lengths. 

Of course, this only works when you play with your left hand on top. 

Learn how I explain how to hold a recorder the right way

Foot Joint

The foot joint is the bottom-most section of the recorder. It’s also the shortest. 

It begins where the recorder “bumps” or “bubbles” out. 

It has only one tone hole (a doubled one) and a hole at the very bottom. 

This joint is usually adjustable to help the final tone hole better align with your pinky. 

Here are two things my students always discover on their own through experimentation: 

  1. Removing the foot joint and playing without it doesn’t affect the pitch and tuning much for higher notes, but low notes get really off. 
  2. Covering up the very bottom hole doesn’t stop the sound until you cover all of the holes. 

I don’t specifically teach this until I notice some students discover or experiment with this. 

When I see the beginnings of this, I consider it a teachable moment, and we experiment to see why we need the foot joint on and the hole uncovered on the bottom. 

2 And 3 Joint Recorders

If you already own some recorders, you may notice there are some recorders with 3 joints and some recorders with 2 joints (a merged body and foot). 

Either one is fine, though most higher-quality recorders will be the 3 joint variety. 

3-joint recorders tend to sound better and are easier to play because they’re adjustable. 

2-joint recorders are more durable and the bottom small joint doesn’t get as easily lost. 

parts of a recorder

Parts Of A Recorder Head Joint Explained

This section covers the smaller and more complicated parts of the head joint. These involve how the recorder makes its sound. 

I specifically teach these as well; I feel it’s helpful for kids to better understand how sound is made through the exploration of the recorder. 

Windway

The windway is the small hole in the top where you blow. 

It’s either shaped in a straight line or an arch. 

Both are easy to play for different reasons. 

The straight windway requires a little more control on the part of the player, but the sound will be richer and generally nicer. 

An arched windway provides some air resistance and makes it easier for others to play, but you lose some of the timbre control and richness of tone. 

Block

The block is a solid piece of plastic or wood that gives the windway its shape.

The job of the block is to narrow and focus the air in the windway into a form which will soon split to create vibration. 

Some recorders have a visible separate block while others appear to be molded in one piece. 

In my experience, students are likely to use a cleaning rod to accidentally crack or even pop out the block. 

This is bad for your recorder and may damage it beyond repair. 

Always advise your students to use the cleaning rod gently. 

Learn more about how to clean a recorder. 

Mouthpiece/ Beck

The mouthpiece is simply the top part of the recorder above the windway.
The mouthpiece is also sometimes used to refer to the section of the head joint you put your lips around. 

Window

For a recorder, the window is where the vibration occurs. Some of the split air must come out here. 

Covering up the window will block all sound except maybe a small, high-pitched, and obnoxious one. (This sound is a pet peeve of mine). 

Labium/Edge

Believe it or not, this is probably the most important piece on the whole recorder. 

It’s a little wedge or edge inside the windway where the window is. 

As the air travels down the windway, it hits the edge of the labium. 

When it does, the air split. This splitting causes the vibration which produces the recorder’s sound. 

Some air goes out the window while some travels down the rest of the body and foot joints. 

Vibration happens inside and outside the recorder. As you cover the tone holes, the vibration is , and thus the pitch changes. 

You may also enjoy watching how a recorder is made (my students love this!). 

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed learning about the parts of a recorder and how to explain them to others. 

The whole process is much more complicated than I put out here, but this is enough to get a good idea of how the sound is made and altered on the recorder. 

If you’re looking for new, good recorder music, you may want to check out Sheet Music Plus. 

They have great deals and a huge library of sheet music, even for the recorder, on classical through popular music genres. 

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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