Teaching Recorder in Elementary Music: Part Two

Last week I wrote a blog post focusing on posture, breath support, and articulation with recorders. You can read that HERE. This week, I’ll be focusing on recorder repertoire. I’ll be going over some ideas on how to maintain proper technique, use engaging warmups, and choose the repertoire that fits your teaching style.


The pieces you choose will largely depend on what you’ve already taught. For example, if your students began learning Solfege with do, re, mi (as with the Feierabend method), then you’ll want to choose pieces that also have those intervals. This is beneficial for three reasons:
  • If your students can sing the piece, then they will be able to play it more easily. They will already “know how the song goes” and will be able to spot their mistakes more easily.
  • If they know how the piece should sound, then they will be able to focus more on expression from the very beginning. They will be able to convey the mood of the music, rather than worrying about whether or not they played the right note.
  • Remember all those fun games they played with the Solfege you taught them? Well, they can play them all over again. Only this time, you can have half the class play the game, while the other half plays the recorder. It’s a win-win.

This isn’t to say that your students won’t ever sight-read a piece of music. But just as we wouldn’t expect a child to read before they speak, we can’t expect our students to read before they play.



Warmups should be a part of every recorder lesson. It gives you the opportunity to explain why warmups are important. Just like athletes, musicians need warmups to prepare for practice and/or performance. And secretly, it gives you a chance to review basic technique and assess student progress. Here are some ideas for warmups you can try with your classes:


  • Play patterns on your recorder and ask the students to echo you on their recorders.
  • Switch it up by asking them to sing the pattern back to you OR sing a pattern and have them echo it back to you using their recorder.


  • Trick students into playing solos by asking them to individually challenge you on their recorder. The volunteer student will play a four-beat pattern (improvised or familiar), and you have to echo it back without any mistakes. You can work this into your daily warmup by limiting it to a certain number of students each day. This way, everyone eventually gets a chance to challenge you, and you can secretly assess them as they do.


If you’ve checked out recorder music online, you already know there’s an abundance of choices in method books. Again, what you choose will primarily depend on what your students already know. I’m going to share a variety of ideas below, in the hopes that you’ll find something that will work best for you and your students.
Several years ago, I wrote about a conference session taught by Lisa Sullivan that changed how I viewed starting notes. Rather than starting with B, A, and G as is traditional, she went full force into some of the most challenging notes to play; E and G. Her reasoning is sound, and I loved that she included a book The Napping House in her lesson. Basically, students play the melodic pattern E-G-G-G-G-E-E, during the words “where everybody is sleeping.” Because it repeats throughout the book, it gives students plenty of practice, but in a sneaky way!

Many students struggle to make the transition from playing notes without written notation, to reading and playing notation. The ideas I’ve already shared, are ways to ease them into this transition. As I’ve mentioned before, if they already know how the song sounds, then that’s one less thing they have to worry about as they attempt to follow along with written music.Once students have gained confidence in playing E and G, have them play a duet with you using the following video. True, it’s technically made for Boomwhackers™, but works nicely for our purposes. Students would play the first four beat of each phrase, while you would play the last four beats. Later on, when your students have learned more notes, they can try playing the entire thing on their own. Or you can create an ensemble of recorders and Boomwhackers™.


Bonus points if you have them sing along too!
STARTING WITH B, A, AND GIf you’re a Feierabend enthusiast (like me) or you plan to follow the traditional recorder methods, then the following video series on Youtube would be an invaluable resource.

I love that the author incorporated so many visual aspects, including proper fingering and color-coordinated notes. I believe color-coordinated notes are another great way to ease students into the transition to reading black and white notation.


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I hope this two-part series has given you a solid starting point for teaching recorders in your elementary music classroom. As always, please share your own ideas in the comments section. I’d loved reading the comments from my last post!