Woodwind instrument of ancient lineage, made without reed. Forerunner of the flute, but end-blown through a whistle-mouthpiece. In medieval times, the recorder was known under the Latin name fistula, hence 'fipple-flute'.
It had seven finger-holes in front and a thumb-hole behind, and a beak-shaped mouthpiece. The antiquity of the instrument is hard to determine because its playing position is so like that of similar instrument (other whistle types), that contemporary illustrations are of little help. But it has been estimated as being in existence in the 12th century, although the word 'recorder' first appeared in a document in 1388.
A recorder tutor was published in Venice, 1535. By the 15th century, there were several sizes of recorder. Praetorius lists 8, i.e. great bass, quint bass, bass, tenor, alto, two soprano, sopranino. Thus, recorder consorts were a common feature of Renaissance music life. The instrument has been widely revived in the 20th century both as an easy instrument for children and as a part of the revival in performing early music on authentic instruments. Modern composers have written for it, e.g. Britten, Arnold Cooke, and Rubbra. The most common size today is the descant (soprano), but there are also sopranino, treble (alto), tenor, and bass.
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