Episode 52: 10 ways to improve your playing without a recorder

Episode 52: 10 ways to improve your playing without a recorder

This is Maria and this is Hester.
Together we are the CONSORT COUNSELLORS! Today we bring you a list of ten activities
for which you don’t need a recorder, but which for sure will influence your playing positively,
in a consort or alone! Some of the items on our list may seem rather obvious. However, it’s true that most recorder players out there,
including ourselves, have not engaged in all these activities
with the same intensity. If there are a few of them that you have never tried,
consider this video as an invitation to do so! You will see your recorder playing in a new light! Every human being is born
with the most beautiful in-built instrument: the voice! Taking singing lessons, joining a choir,
or even integrating some singing in your daily practice has many benefits for your instrumental playing. Early instrumental music is very strongly influenced
by the sound and the expression of the human voice. For this reason, singing yourself will help you
to understand how Renaissance polyphony works, or the amount of different affects
that can be conveyed by Baroque music, for example. But also by singing pop tunes you learn how to express
your emotions with your voice. Eventually you can translate this to your instrument. Singing also helps your aural skills:
reproducing music by ear, recognising melodies, memorising music… And on top of all of this, singing is great fun! So… HAPPY SINGING! Dance and music are very strong means of expression,
and they are intimately connected. As recorder consort enthusiasts, we can benefit a lot from doing some dance moves once in a while, in any kind of style! Having control over your body,
being aware of your posture, improving your coordination and following the rhythm and the cadence of a piece of music are only some of the benefits of dance for musicians. Besides, there is a style of dance
fitting to each repertoire we play. If you have the chance to join
a historical dance workshop, try it out! Nothing explains the right way of playing
a Pavan or Galliard better than dancing them. Not only historical dance is inspiring for recorder players, also contemporary types of dance from hip hop to break dancing to dance improvisation. If you don’t have the chance
to take dance lessons at the moment, of course watching it live or in videos
is already very revealing. Watching YouTube movies is a great inspiration
to improve your playing. But in these times where moving images
are gaining more and more importance, we would like to stress
the importance of reading as well. When we read, we can take our time
to understand quite difficult concepts. That means that we also get a deeper look on things
than it’s possible by watching a movie, for example. Reading can open your eyes to new worlds, new aspects, new repertoires and new techniques
that perhaps you had never encountered before. In short: read articles, books, online
resources… Look for material that suits your level and interests,
but also look a bit further than what you already know. For example, if you like 17th century music,
how about reading a bit about the arts at the time? All associations we make will improve our playing! Listening to music is the best way to train our ear,
develop our own taste and expand our horizons. Plus, it usually brings a lot of inspiration as well! Listen to CDs and go to concerts! Also here look a little bit further than the recorder itself
or the music that you have been listening to for decades. Like with food, a varied “musical diet”
is the best for everyone… To improve the quality of your listening
you can read the liner or programme notes, you can compare different recordings of the same piece…
In that way you will develop your critical listening and your ear will be more and more refined. Reflect a bit upon what you’ve heard
and talk about it with your friends. It is not always easy to say why you found
a performance convincing… or not convincing. This takes some training too! One of the best ways to learn anything is… to teach it! When you have to explain a complex activity,
like playing or listening to music, you have to look at it from all kinds of different angles. You don’t need to start your own music school
from one day to the other, but you can try to explain some musical concepts
to a friend that doesn’t play a musical instrument, or explain about the repertoire that you
are playing with your group and why it’s so fascinating to you. If you do have the chance to teach
the recorder to someone, to coach an ensemble, or, as we have sometimes spoken about in the past, if, when you are working together with your group,
you take initiative to lead one piece and everyone else does the same… This will be very useful for you to experience the music in a completely different way, and we warmly recommend the experience! In our current conception of music, individual expression is essential. Music and feelings are strongly connected
and expressive playing is an important quality of a good musician or a good ensemble. Like singing or dancing, acting – doing some theatre – can be really useful to discover
new modes of expression in yourself that you had never experienced before. It also makes you more aware of your musical,
expressive and physical presence on stage. It can also help you to separate
your “stage persona” from yourself. Imagine that you have practiced
to be another person on stage, then you also might loosen up as a musician! As we mentioned in our episode about breathing,
if you exercise a couple of times per week you will have more stamina, you will improve your posture
and you will also feel more self-confident. Besides this, if you try out a team sport, you will develop collaboration skills that are very important for any ensemble player! Would you like to play the recorder better?
Pick another instrument on the side! Each instrument has its advantages
to complement the recorder, so follow your heart and make a good choice! Meeting people with whom we share
a passion for music and in particular for the recorder is always a good idea. It may be that in your area there are not many recorder players available, but for sure anywhere in the world,
there are lots of people who like music, so start with those guys! If you want to meet other recorder players or teachers
consider attending a festival or a course. This may give you a huge motivation boost
and provide you with ideas to practice for months! Sometimes it may really be worth the effort to travel
internationally to attend an awesome recorder festival. And although we are not really objective, because
we are involved in the organisation, one of those awesome festivals, which is coming soon,
is the Open Recorder Days Amsterdam (ORDA) 24th until 27th of October of this year, 2019,
at the Amsterdam Conservatoire. You are very welcome to come and visit the festival! It would also be a great opportunity to meet in person. We just published the programme online and there are amazing concerts, workshops, masterclasses and a huge competition
for amateur players and pre-professional ensembles. Have a look at our website and book soon, because
we would like to meet you real-life in October, Amsterdam! Yeah! But first: see you next week! Bye bye! If you like our stuff…
don’t forget to subscribe to our channel so that you never miss
any new video of the CONSORT COUNSELLORS.

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About the Author: Oren Garnes


  1. Great episode as always. Lots of good advice but obviously you never heard me sing so in my case , I pass on that hahaha. The things on your list I do a lot is number 2, 3 and 9 which suits me perfect . Amsterdam in October sounds very tempting so that is something to work on. Have a great week lovely ladies /Christer

  2. Such good ideas, thank you! BTW I attended a Royal Wind Music concert when visiting Amsterdam last year – I really enjoyed it!

  3. Reading along with a piece of music is always good. It's bizarre that people are expected to read music and produce it, often with little or no time to digest it, without previously learning to read as an end in itself.

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