Your One Sure Bet for the New Year

As someone who writes a blog focused on improvement, I am both impressed and intimidated by the number of ways in which it possible to get better!  The paths toward improved musicianship are close to limitless, and the goal posts are always, always just a few miles ahead.

That’s why it bemuses me to be able tell you that if you do only this one thing, and no other, to improve your recorder playing in 2019, you’ll still be miles ahead of where you were last year.

I’ll cut to the chase: Enjoy your air. 

That’s it! Three words! It’s simultaneously the simplest and most complex of musical resolutions, and it’s the one you should make today.

Why? I hesitate to say this before an audience of recorder players, but most instruments are more complicated than the recorder.   Pick almost any other instrument and you’re likely looking at reeds or keys or strings or pegs, apparati requiring attention and care.

The recorder, in contrast, is air moving through a stick with holes.  We’ve had instruments like it for millennia, whereas we’ve had, say, the saxophone for less than 200 years.

Many people assume the instrument’s simplicity means the recorder is simple to master (it isn’t, though one of its virtues is undeniably its accessibility during the earlier stages) or somehow deficient.  But simplicity is among the recorder’s greatest strengths.  Playing recorder is the closest you can come to singing without singing, and the voice of the instrument, that sound of air moving relatively unencumbered through it, is haunting.

This is easy to forget.  You get caught up in the minutiae of fingering or articulation, some particularity of ornamentation or phrasing, and you temporarily lose sight of the fact that your air is the best thing you have going for you. Get involved in executing something difficult, and your air is often the first thing to suffer.

And that’s too bad. Because air- and the enjoyment of the movement of air- is the recorder’s raison d’etre. It should be yours, too.

So enjoy your air. I guarantee you’ll enjoy your playing more.

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© 2016 Anne Timberlake