Recorder Vs. Flutophone: A Detailed Comparison

recorder vs flutophone

Music teachers looking for a wind instrument to teach their elementary music classes often opt for the recorder. 

But there are those who use the flutophone and love it! 

To pick the best one, you need to know about the recorder vs. flutophone in our detailed guide here. 

The recorder and flutophone are both woodwind instruments perfect to help students in elementary schools learn to control their breath and read music. Both are plastic flutes, but the recorder is a better instrument, though it has flat finger holes instead of raised ones like the flutophone. 

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Recorder Vs. Flutophone Comparison Chart

RecorderFlutophone
Instrument FamilyWoodwindWoodwind
Changing PitchCover and uncover holesCover and uncover holes
TuningIn tuneNot in tune
Tone HolesFlat with bodyRaised off body
Sound qualityHigh but sweetShrill
PriceLowVery low

Flutophone And Recorder Similarities

Both instruments are woodwind instruments. 

They make a sound in the same way by splitting the air in half. 

On the recorder, it’s done through a wedge-like piece. When you blow through it, the air goes half down the recorder and half out the window. 

This splitting makes the vibration and, thus the sound. 

Flutophones work much in the same way, but their tone is a bit more whistle-y. 

Both change pitches by covering the holes. 

To change the pitch of these wind instruments, you need to cover the holes to lengthen the space. 

This lowers the pitch. 

So, in short, the more you cover it up, the lower it goes. 

Both require little air to make a good sound.

One of the struggles of wind instruments with the breath control required. 

Kids have a hard time with that. 

But the recorder and the flutophone are both perfect for this purpose. 

They don’t require much air and allow the students to build the skills for more complex instruments later on.  

Both are easy to learn.

Along the same lines, playing the recorder and flutophone isn’t hard at all.

Once the fine motor control gets underway, both will get picked up easily.  

This makes them simple instruments but great pre-band instruments to learn on. 

Flutophone And Recorder Differences

Flutophones have poor tuning.

Flutophones are known for their easy-to-make-sound, but they aren’t always in tune. 

Even cheap recorders still play pretty well in tune, at least in the diatonic pitches (no sharps or flats). 

Flutophones have no such guarantee, and there aren’t many high-quality ones out there. 

The recorder was a real instrument back in the Baroque period and before. 

In the late 1930s, it rose to prevalence as a great educational instrument, being so similar to other types of instruments, especially the wind ones. 

The flutophone was never such a quality instrument, so manufacturers cut corners in places. 

If you get a flutophone, make sure you pick a good one! (We’ll cover this later.)

Recorders have smooth finger holes; flutophones have raised ones. 

One of the main reasons some music teachers prefer the flutophone over the recorder is the raised finger holes.

By bringing the finger holes up off the body of the musical instrument, it becomes easier to: 

  1. Cover the holes completely
  2. Feel where the holes are

The recorder, being smooth or flat with the body, does make this a lot more difficult. 

Speaking as someone who has taught recorder for over 12 years, I can say this is one of the hardest aspects of recorder playing at first. 

The raised holes fix it for the most part. 

Flutophones have a shrill tone; recorders have a high but sweet tone.

The more whistle-like mouthpiece of the flutophone gives a much more shrill tone than the recorder.

Soprano recorders and the rest of the recorder family have a more mellow tone, especially when they’re made out of wood as they were traditionally. 

For parents and other educators alike, I bet this is shocking. 

We don’t typically think of the recorder as a warm or mellow sound. 

This is partly because it’s not when it’s in the hands of a brand-new player. 

But the flutophone will always be shrill. 

Make sure you know what you’re getting into when you plan for a class of 25 with flutophones. 

Recorders usually cost more.

Recorders aren’t expensive; even professional ones only cost a couple hundred dollars 

The average and decent student one can be anywhere from $8-20. Some $5 ones are even pretty good if you know what to look for. 

But it’s still more than the average flutophone. 

These usually come in between the $2-5 range at most. 

There are a few out there for around $10, and they do sound better, but for the price, you might as well get a recorder. 

Examples of Both

For a good soprano recorder, I’d recommend the Yamaha YRS B. This is the one I play on, and while it costs a bit more, it really makes up for it in the quality of its tone. 

For a good example of the flutophone, you don’t want to go cheap. This is where its already-existing problems with tuning and tone quality. 

This music treasures one is pretty good. 

The Verdict

If you have a student with fine motor control issues, a flutophone may be the right answer for them. 

The raised holes help a lot. 

But in every other case, a recorder is the clear winner. 

For a small cost increase, you get a better sound and better tuning. 

The recorder is a real instrument; the flutophone is a toy instrument. 

Save time with these 60 FREE Music Resources to use in your room right away!

Stop searching the whole internet to find good activities. I’ll help you cut to the chase with my favorite 60 FREE resources.

Zach VanderGraaff

Zach VanderGraaff is a K-5 music teacher in Michigan with 12 years of experience. He's the President of the Michigan Kodaly Educators and founder of the Dynamic Music Room.

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