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Recorder Practice Books

  • Would you like to improve your sight reading and playing skills?
  • Would you like to improve your pupils’ sight reading and playing skills?
  • Would you like your child to be a good sight reader and skilled player?

With this series of books, called Recorder Practice Books, good sight reading and skilled playing are not only possible, they’re almost guaranteed!

The main drawback to becoming a good sight reader and competent player is the lack of suitable material to read and play. That is until now.

These books contain so many pieces, at each level, that the student will be ready for the next stage before the stage they’re on is completed!

There are 31 Recorder Practice Books in the series

The series contains books for:

* Pre-Grade 1 Descant to Grade 8 / Diploma Descant
* Grade 1 Treble to Grade 8 / Diploma Treble
* Grade 1 Bass to Grade 8 / Diploma Bass
* Reading up an octave on the Treble – Books 1 & 2
* Great Bass Practice Books in Bass or Treble Clef
* Celtic Airs & Dances Book 1: Reels, Book 2: Jigs
   Book 3: Hornpipes etc, Book 4: Strathspeys etc.

100s of tunes for each instrument at each level

All Grades contain music for Descant, Treble or Bass (with the exception of Pre-Grade 1, which contains Descant music only). The music for Treble at each grade is different from the music for Descant. The Bass books, Great Bass books and Reading up an octave books contain a selection of pieces taken from the Descant and Treble books of the same grade and transcribed into Bass Clef where appropriate. The largest books contain over 300 pieces of music each. The whole series of books contains over 2,000 pieces of music in over 1,400 pages. It would be difficult not to make progress with so much material in one series of books!

Graded Music

The music is not only graded from one grade to the next but also within each grade. There is a slight overlap between grades meaning that the pieces at the beginning of one grade will be the same standard as the pieces at the end of the previous grade, thereby giving the student confidence in the new grade. The Introduction to each book contains “rules” for tackling a piece of sight reading. If these rules are followed progress is assured. The first three books are in Landscape format and contain music for Descant and Treble or Bass. All other books are in Portrait format and are separated into Descant books, Treble books or Bass books. Grade 3 Descant and Grade 3 Treble books are in two versions, either Descant and Treble in the same book, back to back, or Descant and Treble in separate books.

Covers and Bindings

The covers are 200gsm coloured card, laminated for strength, and all books are wire bound to enable them to stay open on the music stand.

Piano Accompaniments

All the music in the series is unaccompanied. The intention being to provide ample music for private study alone, possibly late at night! However, the upper grades contain a number of Sonatas, Sonata movements and other works which require an accompaniment for performance. In such cases suggestions are made, at the foot of appropriate pages, of publishers from whom suitable music with accompaniments can be obtained.

Music from around the world

All the music in the series has been chosen for its tunefulness and its suitability. It comes from a wide range of sources throughout the world, from Chile to China, Norway to New Zealand and many countries in between. All styles and periods have been utilized from simple folk songs to Operatic Arias, 4-bar melodies to full concertos, music from 1,000BCE to the present day, including ragtime. Many of the pieces have come from the British Library and are here published for the first time. Other National Libraries have been consulted for their collections of original manuscripts. There is something for every taste and every preference!

The First 23 Practice Books

Books 1 to 23 are in three sections. The first section contains the sight reading pieces with instructions in the Introduction on how to tackle a piece of sight reading, the second section consists of a number of Studies and Study-like pieces to improve technique with comments on how to get the most from a study, and the third section contains pieces which can be treated as more advanced sight reading, especially if the pieces at the beginning of the book were found to be quite easy, or they can be used as pieces to practice for pleasure. The Introduction to each book also contains a section on breathing. The whole series of books contains such a wealth of material, all of which is good to play, that the player cannot fail to improve his or her Sight Reading, Technique and General Playing.

Bass Recorder Playing

There is not enough solo music available in the Bass Clef.
It’s all very well playing the Bass in a Group and in a Concert if you are already a Bass player but for the tyro, Bass parts are generally boring and, without a tune to play, there is little incentive to practice.
All the music in this series of books has been chosen for its tunefulness and provides more than enough material, at each level, for the player to become sufficiently skilled in reading from the Bass Clef, that ‘ordinary’ Bass parts will not need practising.
Sticking with the Bass Recorder and playing a lot of music in the Bass Clef is advisable until confidence and a degree of proficiency have been achieved. Changing back to the Treble Clef too soon is likely to create confusion. It is assumed that anyone taking up the Bass Recorder is not a complete beginner on recorders, that some ability and experience have already been gained in music reading and playing, presumably on the Descant or Treble or both. In fact many Bass Recorder players graduate from the Tenor Recorder, one assumes due to a preference for low instruments, either in one-to-a-part ensembles or larger groups up to Recorder Orchestras. This series of Bass Recorder books takes the player from the beginning, with 5-note tunes, gradually adding more and more notes with more complex rhythms in more advanced keys. The Bass Recorder requires more breath than smaller instruments so places will need to be found in the music for additional breaths. Try not to break phrases or upset the rhythm.
There is a tendency to believe that Bass instruments are only capable of playing slow music.
Not so! The limitation is literally in the hands (and fingers) of the player. The Bass speaks as readily and rapidly as a Descant or Treble Recorder. The range of the Bass is comparable to the Treble. The higher grades in this series contain music which gives ample practice in the very highest notes on the instrument, and at high speed!

Reading up an octave on the Treble

Music printing is believed to have begun around 1465 in Germany, shortly after the Gutenburg Bible. Prior to this time, music had to be copied out by hand. This was a very labour-intensive and time-consuming process and was usually undertaken only by monks and priests seeking to preserve sacred music for the church. Later, composers of both sacred and secular music wrote out their music in score and employed copyists to provide them with parts for their singers and instrumentalists to read from. These Part Books, as they became known, contain many unrelated compositions for just one part, eg., Soprano, Alto, etc., for singers, and Cantus, Bassus, etc., for instrumentalists. Many scores and part books from this period are now lost and it is the job of scholars today to write out fresh scores, if all part books are still extant, and to recreate a part in the absence of a part book and score. Many of today’s publishers, some specialising in early music from the 15th & 16th centuries, accept modern-day arrangements of this music, much of it arranged for recorders. Some arrangers, with a desire to maintain the character and spirit of the original compositions, retain as much of the original music as they can. Thus some parts are written too low for modern recorders to play. Hence the need for players skilled in reading up an octave (usually on the Treble) when performing this music. As far as is known, practice books in reading up an octave, don’t exist. For those players who wish to become skilled in reading up an octave on the Treble Recorder, these two books provide all that will ever be needed. They presume no previous knowledge and take the student from the very earliest stages, by playing tunes with only 4 notes, right up to full Sonata movements. Anyone who has played through these books will have no trouble meeting the demands of any published music requiring the player to read up an octave. All the music used in the books comes from the standard repertoire. All the pieces are taken from Recorder Practice Books Grades 1 to 8/Diploma, Descant & Treble.

Great Bass Recorder Playing

It is important when playing the Great Bass, to be comfortable. A spike, set at the right height, is useful for putting the mouthpiece at the end of the bocal level with your mouth. Many players turn their feet so that their shoes form a platform on which to rest the end of the recorder. A sling is also useful but should not be used to take the whole weight of the instrument. It should be used in conjunction with a spike or your shoes. Sit comfortably and bring the instrument to you, don’t bend your body to meet the instrument. Doing so will lead to backache and pains in other areas. Try to keep the instrument vertical and resting on the floor or your shoes. Leaning the instrument to the left, in order to see the music, will put a strain on the left hand thereby restricting the use of the thumb when playing “pinched” notes. Keeping the instrument vertical may restrict your view of the music but turning the bocal rather than leaning to the right will allow an unrestricted view of the page, top to bottom. It is common for all Bass players, regardless of instrument size, to raise their music stand to a comfortable height. This is natural enough but a clear view of the conductor is required at all times. The height of your chair is also important but often there is little choice when visiting an unfamiliar venue. A cushion often helps or it may be possible to stack one chair on top of another. The ideal solution, of course, is to take your own chair or stool! The Great Bass requires more breath than smaller instruments. An attempt has been made in this book to allow for that. Extra breath marks have been inserted, many in brackets. Always take full breaths when playing the Great Bass and try to avoid breathing at the bracketed marks if you can. The faster you play, of course, the fewer breaths you will need! You will have to shake out condensation from the bocal frequently, unless your instrument is fitted with a tap, but this will need opening and blowing out often too. Great Bass music is printed in either Treble Clef or Bass Clef. If you are reading from the Treble Clef think of the Great Bass as being a very large Tenor! It may also help to think of the Great Bass as being a large Tenor when reading from the Bass Clef but the Bass Clef will have to be borne in mind at all times. All Great Bass music is written in C fingering. It will help if you think Descant fingering when playing the Great Bass regardless of whether the music is in Treble or Bass Clef. It will also help if you name each note in your head as you play.

Progress is assured if you THINK DESCANT FINGERING!

How to get the maximum benefit from a study

A study is a piece of music written with the intention of improving some aspect of a player’s technique. It may be a technical point, like wide leaps, arpeggiated figures or very high notes etc., or it may be a musical aspect such as expression, rubato etc. Play through a new study ignoring any mistakes. While playing through it make a mental note of any awkward passages. Play through it again this time stopping at the awkward bits marking them with a pencil. Practice the awkward bits, one at a time, playing each one several times until you can play it. Then try to blend each one into the music by starting a few bars before, playing through the awkward section without hesitating or stopping, and out through the other side without mistakes. When you can do this with all the awkward passages start at the beginning and see if you can reach the end without errors. When this has been achieved you are ready for the next study!

The importance of choosing the right speed for you

Your choice of tempo in any piece of music is essential. There is little point in playing a piece fast simply because it’s marked Allegro, especially if, at high speed, it’s full of errors and hesitations. Always play Tempo Comodo, at a comfortable speed. In other words choose a speed at which YOU can play it! When you can play a piece accurately (slowly) try it at a slightly higher tempo. If there are many mistakes at the higher tempo drop the speed a little. If it goes well, up the tempo slightly. At the end of the day there is only one way to play fast and that’s to play fast! But only after much practice. An examiner in an exam will award more marks for a piece that is performed correctly even if it’s too slow. Marks will be deducted for playing too slowly but more marks will be lost if the piece is attempted at the “correct” speed but is full of mistakes.