The classroom recorder debate!
Updated: Jun 8, 2020
What's your first thought on the mention of the words "school recorder"?
It was an instrument I was always good at and enjoyed so I can't say I had any strong negative feelings about it. Some around me, however, particularly in secondary school and beyond weren't so keen! I seriously considered these comments and opinions when it came to planning my primary school music schemes...is recorder an
dated instrument? Is it boring? Am I wasting my time and my pupils' time delivering these lessons? And when asking children (who either had their own recorder or got to take a school one home) how much practice they had done this week, keen and enthusaistic 7 and 8 year olds were coming back telling me I'm not allowed to practice, the sound is too annoying! or my mummy (or daddy) says its a terrible sound and to stop playing I felt incredibly disillusioned!
I had heard of some teachers exchanging the humble recorder for new and exciting options such as ocarina and ukulele. A good side step compared with abandoning the instrumental option altogether, may I add. However, the classes participating in my lively, but yes, noisy, recorder sessions were never anything but excited to be there, with a recorder ready and waiting in their hand, and disappointed the weeks we were covering something different. I decided to stick with it, making the sessions as exciting, accessible and enjoyable as I possibly could. They were to never be about the children's natural skill and speed of progress on the instrument but more the benefits the various components of the sessions had to offer, I was to discover, in a staggeringly beneficial way.
The more I promised to make recorder fun, the more my eyes started to open and recognise the incredible benefits learning the recorder (as would ukuele or ocarina or tin whistle) was bringing to my little students age 7 and 8 and dare I say it right through to the big 10 and 11 year olds. First, the self discipline of only lifting the recorder when told it was okay. The ability to control a slow and steady breath combined with awareness of, and working with, a steady beat. So good for self soothing and self regulation. Fine motor skills to locate and place the fingers and find a variety of notes to be able to successfuly play a tune. The literacy skills in reading and processing music notation from left to right off a music stave. And all this needing to happen all at the same time! Like Anita Collins reminds us in the clip below: https://www.ted.com/talks/anita_collins_how_playing_an_instrument_benefits_your_brain?language=en
there are fireworks going off in the brain!
And that's all before we start the creative bit! The handwriting control in learning to draw music notation. The creativeness in choosing rhythms and letters to use in their own llittle music compositions. And the pride that was displayed on their faces when they or someone else performed the music they have written.
Quality of note production, writing of music notation or ability to play a piece of music note perfectly all come secondary to the brain development that is taking place through simply engaging in the activity of playing and writing for the recorder. The individual does not need to be "a natural musician" or "good at music" to benefit, just simply take part, making it a level playing field for all, so long as the constant encouragement is there and the expectations are shifted a little.
My conclusion? Recorder is not boring, it's not out-dated, it's not a waste of time. In fact, it's very possibly one of the best things a child can be doing for complete brain development and exercise and with a positive approach with a different perspective can be something very enjoyable to engage in!
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