Recorder Songs

The recorder matches the human voice more closely than most instruments. As soprano voices have a similar range to the alto recorder, songs and other vocal pieces for soprano fit the recorder well. Here we investigate recorder songs, and where they can be found.

During the 16th and early 17th century, songs were often written for 2, 3 or 4 voices. Rather than a single vocal line with accompaniment, the music came from the intertwined parts, resulting in a complex and beautiful sound. This music adapts well to recorders, and probably often did. Great masters of this period include William Byrd, John Dowland, Thomas Tallis and Thomas Morley, their music is still often sung. And played on recorders. A line from a 1597 Morley piece is shown below.


A good introduction to this music is the songs in Two-Part Canzonets for Voices or Instruments, by Thomas Morley and available here.

A major baroque music focus was the opera and church cantata. Here the vocal lines were more complex than the earlier renaissance ones. Matching these vocal line were "obbligato" parts for instruments, which essentially formed a duet with the singer.

These barqoue vocal works often had great recorder obbligato parts. Telemann in particular wrote many, for example, the 72 "Harmonischer Gottes-Dienst" from 1725. They sound like this. The music is available here.

Jumping forward a century or so, and dropping several degrees of difficulty from the baroque era, are folk songs from various countries. The melodies are usually simple, and sit very well on the recorder. Two famous collections are available free online. They are:

  • Cecil Sharp: in the late 19th and early 20th century Cecil Sharp collected and published English Folk Songs. His book "one Hundred English Folk Songs" is available here.
  • Zupfgeigenhansl: this book of around 250 German folk tunes, first published in 1908, is available here.