The recorder is much simpler than other woodwind instruments like the flute and clarinet. However, it still requires some level of skill. Beginners learning to play the recorder should choose simple tunes to start.
Ten songs that are easy for beginners to play on the recorder include Frere Jacques, Hot Cross Buns, When the Saints Go Marching In, Can-Can (Galop Infernal), Old MacDonald, Ode To Joy, Scarborough Fair, Rock-a-Bye Baby, Jingle Bells, and Amazing Grace. These songs are great for beginner practice.
When learning to play the recorder, you’ll need to start from the beginning. By practicing these songs, you’ll move past the beginner’s stage to become an intermediate player.
Tips for Beginners Playing the Recorder
Many people think of recorders as children’s instruments. However, adults and children alike have played the recorder since the fourteenth century. In fact, many adults love and use the recorder regularly. Even the famed musician James Dean played the recorder. And everyone started with the basics.
Recorders aren’t commonly used in modern pop music, so if you want to learn to play, you’re better off looking back at nursery rhymes, classical songs, and folk ballads.
Unlike other woodwinds, beginners should note that the recorder does not require a strong burst of air to work. It’s common for newbies to blow too hard, thus producing a harsh, unprofessional sound. Practice blowing with different levels of force to find the right level for your recorder.
Another important tip while learning to play the recorder is not to force things. Learning the recorder, along with any other instrument, requires time, effort, and dedication. In young children, it can take years to develop the coordination required to play. Adults may learn to play reasonably well in as little as a couple of months.
Finally, recorder enthusiasts should learn how to read sheet music. If you know how to play a song and can “feel it out” on your recorder, that’s wonderful — it means you have a natural musical instinct. You’ll find that these “feelings” help you on your quest to learn to play.
With that said, learning all of your music by feeling it out can hinder your progress. It’s important to be able to learn music you’ve never heard before, especially if you intend to play with other instrumentalists. Learning sheet music may be challenging, but it’s crucial if you’re serious about learning the recorder.
What To Look For in Recorder Songs for Beginners
When seeking out songs to play on the recorder, there are several things to look for, including:
- Slow Tempo – Slower songs make learning easier. You needn’t rush to increase the tempo, so you can focus on your playing skills alone.
- Easy Melodies – Easy melodies are best. Don’t pick songs with constant changes in rhythm unless you want to discourage yourself. Simple rhythms allow you to learn the basics before moving on to more complicated pieces.
- Repetitive Tunes – Tunes that repeat notes are great for beginners because you can practice finger placement over and over again and build valuable muscle memory that makes playing feel easier.
Easy Songs to Play on the Recorder for Beginners
Now that we’ve discussed some tips for beginners, let’s dive into the ten recorder songs that are best for beginners.
1. Frere Jacques
This French nursery rhyme is easy to play because of its repetition and predictability. In fact, the song is often sung as a round, with other vocals or recorders jumping in at different points to give it a cool, circular effect.
To add to its simplicity, “Frere Jacques” only has eight notes from beginning to completion. It’s incredibly easy for beginners to learn. While the song does briefly speed up in tempo, it’s not by much.
If you want to really impress people with your recorder skills, learn to play “Frere Jacques” as a round with other friends who play the recorder!
2. Hot Cross Buns
Because it contains only three pitches (B-A-G), “Hot Cross Buns” is quite possibly the easiest song to learn of all time. It’s used on nearly every instrument to teach beginners how to play. The rhythm is incredibly simple and easy to memorize.
Beginners practicing “Hot Cross Buns” for an hour or two will have no trouble playing it in front of a crowd.
3. When the Saints Go Marching In
Once you’ve mastered “Frere Jacques” and “Hot Cross Buns,” you might want to take your playing up a step. “When The Saints Go Marching In” is the perfect song for improving your recorder skills and technique.
The tempo is pretty consistent throughout the song. It’s somewhat quick, but not so much that you’ll find yourself stumbling. Keep the tempo buoyant and quick.
There are, however, some rests throughout the tune. Rests might confuse people who are new to sheet music. With that said, this song makes a great learning tool.
4. Can-Can (“Galop Infernal”)
Can you do the can-can? Yes, you can!
While this song is popularly known as the “Can-Can,” its more formal name is the “Galop Infernal” from Jacques Offenbach’s 1858 opera Orpheus in the Underworld. It’s associated with the famous can-can dance, which involves extremely high, elated kicks.
This is a great song to work on for tempo. Start slowly, then slowly speed it up. Try and match the joyous mood of the dance.
5. Old MacDonald
Like many of the other songs listed here, “Old MacDonald” is probably a song that you know very well. The original is from composer Thomas d’Urfey, but later versions taught children about the different kinds of sounds animals make.
Like many of these other songs, “Old MacDonald” has only five notes. You’ll have to work on repeating one note several times in a row and making it still sound fluid. This is more difficult than it sounds on the recorder, so this is the perfect song to practice with.
The best thing about this one is that you can repeat it as many times as you want with different lyrics, but the pattern will remain the same. You can teach a kindergarten class what sounds every animal in the zoo makes without changing a note.
6. Ode To Joy
This small piece of Ludwig van Beethoven’s famous Ninth Symphony is easy to play on the recorder and sounds beautiful, too. “Ode To Joy” has made appearances in countless movies, such as A Clockwork Orange.
There’s a little less repetition than some of these other easy recorder songs, so you’ll have to memorize a little more of the melody.
As you learn “Ode To Joy” on the recorder, you’ll realize that learning this gorgeous piece of music was well worth it.
7. Scarborough Fair
Playing classical folk ballads on the recorder will transform your understanding of the instrument. This is an old English ballad that has been covered by folk duo Simon & Garfunkel. Fans of the group have likely heard this tune before.
Listen to the tune below on YouTube:
This magical-sounding tune can make even the most basic beginners sound like they know what they’re doing. This song is made for recorders.
Like with “Frere Jacques,” it also sounds great as a round!
8. Rock-a-Bye Baby
“Rock-a-Bye Baby” is a well-known lullaby. The song is simple and catchy, making it easy to learn — and difficult to get out of your head. It’s also the ideal song for learning to play the recorder.
The song includes only five notes. The tempo remains consistent from beginning to end. In addition, it’s rather short, so it’s great for daily practice.
Just try not to fall asleep!
9. Jingle Bells
Whether you’re playing a song on the recorder for the holidays or just as a random hobby, “Jingle Bells” is an ideal choice. There aren’t many notes to memorize. The “bouncy” sections make it easy, as you’re just repeating the same note multiple times.
Christmas songs, with their repetitive melodies and major keys, usually work well with the recorder.
10. Amazing Grace
Written in 1772 and published in 1779, this Christian hymn has become popular all over the world. Although a bit more complex than other songs on this list, “Amazing Grace” is the perfect bridge between a beginner and a professional recorder player.
There are more notes in “Amazing Grace” than other songs listed here — but don’t fret! Once you’ve mastered the easier tunes, this one offers a great way to improve your skills.
The song is familiar, but it’s important to look at sheet music while you play. Learning how to play a familiar song with sheet music can help you retain that information in your head.
These easy recorder songs for beginners will help you get acquainted with your new instrument. Don’t be frustrated if you can’t play them perfectly the first time. As with any new instrument that you will learn, getting good at the recorder takes practice.
If you’re already a recorder expert, consider upgrading to a different woodwind or brass instrument. Start with research to expand your musical horizons by checking out other instruments such as the trumpet.