As early as 1594, Ercole Bottrigari (1594) noted that expert wind players, including those of the recorder, were skillful at playing in tune through breath control and shading the finger holes.

Lacking the complex keywork of modern wind instruments the recorder makes extensive use of so-called cross-fingerings. All but the lowest notes have at least several possible fingerings each with slightly different timbres or volumes. Thus, a skilled player can exploit an appreciable range of tone colour by selection of fingerings alone.

Breath pressure and embouchure together have a marked effect on intonation. Variation in pressure without alteration of the oral cavity in compensation will distort pitch intolerably. This coupling of pitch and volume constitutes the recorder’s greatest limitation in comparison with other modern instruments. Thus, contrary to general opinion, recorder playing requires quite a sophisticated control of embouchure. Manipulation of the size and shape of the oral and pharyngeal cavities and of tension in the associated musculature enhances tone projection and the ease of production of high notes as well as enabling subtle control over both intonation and articulation. Delicate shadings and contrasts of volume are possible by these means, which can only be taught by providing a suitable model to emulate along with various “psychological aids” to their execution. See Laurin (1998, 1999), Chen, Laurin, Smith & Wolfe (2007), Ranum (1982, 1995), Van Gele (2019).


This bibliography concerns the control of intonation on the recorder. A more convenient and flexible way of exploring it is via the Zotero citation database underlying this web-site. The Zotero interface is straightforward to use and allows you to export selected entries in a variety of formats and to create your own citation lists in a range of journal styles. All you need is your web-browser. This will be of particular assistance to students and academics.

  • Bak, Niels. 1970. “Temperature and Blowing-Pressure in Recorder-Playing: Study of Treble Recorders.” Acoustica 22: 295–99.
  • Bak, Niels. 1971. “Investigating the Influence of Blowing Technique on Pitch and Tone in Recorder Playing.” Annual Report of the Institute of Phonetics 6: 307–13.
  • Bennetts, Kathryn, Donald Bousted, and Peter Bowman. 1988. The Quarter-Tone Recorder Manual. Celle: Edition Moeck 2084.
  • Bergmann, Walter. n.d. “Authenticity or Snobbery?” Recorder and Music 5 (8): 260.
  • Bouterse, Jan. 1998. “Alternative Fingerings for Long-Foot Baroque Recorders.FoMRHI Quarterly 90: 26–29.
  • Bowman, Peter. 1999. “The quarter-tone recorder manual: Ein Vortrag [The Quarter-tone Recorder Manual: A Lecture].” SAJM Zeitschrift 27 (4): 24–31.
  • Castellengo, Michèle. 1978. “La flûte à bec [The Recorder].” Flûte à bec 2: 9–15.
  • Chen, Jer-Ming, Dan Laurin, John Smith, and Joe Wolfe. 2007. “Vocal Tract Interactions in Recorder Performance.19th International Congress on Acoustics, Madrid, 2-7 September 2007.
  • Clark, Paul. 1984. “Inflectious Cases.” Recorder and Music Magazine 8 (1): 17–18.
  • Delker, Elisabeth. 1980. Ansätze zur Untersuchung dynamischer Ausdrucksmöglichkeiten auf der Blockflöte [Approaches to the investigation of dynamic possibilities of expression on the recorder]. Celle: Moeck.
  • Dessy, Raymond, and Lee Dessy. 1998. “Hear, There, Everywhere: The Psychoacoustics of the Recorder.” American Recorder 39 (1): 8–14, 26.
  • Dunn, John. 1977. “The Middle of the Note.” Recorder and Music 5 (9): 291–92.
  • Fischer, Johannes. 1995. “1+0 = 2, 1+1 = 3, 2+1 = 6 und 2+2 = 10: Von den Schatten die uns im Zusammenspiel begleiten [On the Shadows that Accompany us in Playing Together].” In 3 Internationales Blockflöten Symposium Karlsruhe, ERTA Kongress 1995, Vorträge und Dokumentation, 17. Karlsruhe: European Recorder Teachers’ Association.
  • Haynes, Bruce. 1991. “Beyond Temperament: Non-Keyboard Intonation in the 17th and 18th Centuries.Early Music 19 (3): 357–81. .
  • Kottick, Edward L. 1975. Tone and Intonation on the Recorder. New York: McGinnis & Marx.
  • Laurin, Dan. 1998. “The Relation between the Vocal Tract and Recorder Sound Quality.Dan Laurin, Recorder Player. .
  • Laurin, Dan. 1999. “Shaping the Sound.” American Recorder 40 (4): 13–17.
  • Loretto, Alec V. 1998. “Recorder Fingerings.” FoMRHI Quarterly 90: 30.
  • Machuca, Alonsa S. 1999. “Consideraciones sobre la aportación de la flauta dulce al establecimiento de la justa entonación [Considerations of the Contribution of the Recorder to the Establishment of Just Intonation].” Revista de flauta de pico 13: 22–31.
  • Martin, John. 1990. “It’s the Extra Beating That Makes the Difference (More Kitchen Physics for Recorder Players).” Recorder: Journal of the Victorian Recorder Guild 11: 1–4.
  • Marvin, Bob. 1985. “Commentaar op het Commentaar op ‘Het intoneren van blokfluiten.’” Bouwbrief 37: 16.
  • Mayer-Spohn, Ulrike, and Keitaro Takahashi. 2014. “The Recorder Map.”
  • Mett, Silke. 1989. “Intonation im Ensemblespiel—Theorie und Praxis” [Intonation in Ensemble Playing: Theory and Practice]. Tibia 14 (4): 573–89.
  • Middleton, James. 1975. “Those ‘Buzzing Ears.’” Recorder and Music 5 (2): 51.
  • O’Brien, Emily. 2021. “Temperament and the Harmonic Series.” Recorder  Magazine 41 (2): 50–54.
  • Porter, Maurice M. 1967. The Embouchure. London: Boosey & Hawkes.
  • Prior, Susan. 1990. Improve Your Consort Skills. American Recorder Society Chapter Information Packet 4. Littleton, CO: ARS Education Committee.
  • Reichenthal, Eugene. 1976. “Partial Venting.” Recorder and Music Magazine 5 (6): 193–95.
  • Reiss, Scott. 1987. “Pitch Control: Shading and Leaking.” American Recorder 28 (4): 136–39.
  • Rothe, Gisela. 2001. “Intonation im Ensemblespiel Praktische” Übungen mit Blockflöten [Control of intonation in ensemble-playing]. Windkanal, 2: 24–29; 3: 22–28.
  • Rowland-Jones, Anthony. 1995. “A Short History of Partial Venting.” Recorder Magazine 15 (2): 48–50.
  • Sargent, LaVerne. 2003. “Playing the Recorder with Correct Intonation.” Recorder Education Journal 9: 22–27.
  • Sela, Bábara. 1995. “Afinación de intervalos puros, un artículos sobre los sonidos resultantes de utilidad para los flautistas de pico [On difference tones produced by recorders].” Revista de flauta de pico 1: 2–5.
  • Thalheimer, Peter. 2010. “Eng oder weit, kurz oder lang ? Blockflöten-mensuren und ihre Auswirkungen auf Tonumfang und Griffsystem [Narrow or Wide, Short or Long? Recorder Scaling and its Effect on Tonal Range and Fingering System].” Tibia 35 (1): 3–11.
  • Van Gele, Geert. 2019. Thoughts on the Recorder. Borgerhout: InterCulturate.
  • Waitzman, Daniel. 1978. The Art of Playing the Recorder. New York: AMS Press.
  • Wogram, Klaus, and Jürgen Meyer. 1985. “Über den Spieltechnischen Ausgleich von Intonationsfehlern bei Blockflöten” [On the Adjustment through Playing Technique of Intonation Errors on Recorders].” Tibia 10 (2): 322–25.
  • Wogram, Klaus, and Jürgen Meyer. 1984. “Zur Intonation bei Blockflöten [On the Intonation of Recorders].” Acoustica 60 (3): 137–46.
  • Wyatt, Theo. 1973. “A Question of Temperament.” Recorder and Music Magazine 4 (6): 192–93.
  • Wyatt, Theo. 1972. “A Note on Intonation.” Recorder and Music Magazine 4 (1): 9.
  • Wyatt, Theo. 1975. “My Complimentary Recorder.” Recorder and Music Magazine 5 (4): 120–22.
  • Zimmermann, Manfredo. 1994. “Messa Di Voce on the Recorder—a Mere Wish.” ERTA Newletter (UK), no. 6.

Cite this article as: Lander, Nicholas S. 1996–2024. Recorder Home Page: Technique: Intonation. Last accessed 13 July 2024.