The recorder is in the family of fipple flutes — instruments in which the initial sound comes from a whistle that is built into the mouthpiece. Like the saxophone, the recorder has four standard sizes – the soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. The most common is the soprano, which consists of three sections — a mouthpiece, main body, and foot.
The recorder, or block flute as it is sometimes called, has one of the longest histories of all musical instruments, dating back to the late part of the fourteenth century. From the renaissance through the baroque era, it was one of the most important instruments in music. Every significant baroque composer, including Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), George Frideric Handel (1685-1759), and Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) used the recorder extensively in solo, chamber, and orchestral music.
To its disadvantage, the recorder has a much narrower range of volume and pitch than other wind instruments. As a result, it was gradually replaced by the transverse flute and virtually disappeared from the world of classical music for almost two hundred years. It experienced a revival in the early part of the twentieth century and has again found favor with modern composers. Also, in the last few decades there has been a growing interest in performance practice — the scholarly pursuit of performing early music pieces exactly as they would have sounded when the composers wrote them. Therefore, ensembles play on original instruments, giving the recorder an important place in the performance of the music of past centuries. The recorder owes much of its success in this century to Arnold Dolmetsch and his son Carl. Arnold was an instrument maker who improved the tone and pitch of the instrument and Carl was a virtuoso performer who demonstrated what the recorder is capable of doing.
Wood and ivory were the main materials used in the construction of recorders up to the early 1700s. Today, professional recorders are made of wood and student instruments are mass-produced from plastic. The recorder has a very sweet sound and in Italy it is called the [i]flauto dolce[i], or sweet flute. The instrument is quite simple in design — it has eight holes and no keys, with a range of ab1out two octaves. Since an internal whistle generates the initial tone, it is very easy, even for a beginner, to create a good tone with the recorder. These factors led German educators to use the recorder as a tool to teach music to students in the 1920s. School systems in England and the United States followed suit and began teaching young students how to play the recorder.