I played the flute for nearly a decade, so when I picked up the recorder I naturally started with the soprano, as the fingerings are similar. I've since acquired an alto and a tenor. As I get better, there's less music that I can play on the soprano and tenor and more that only works on the alto. All the anecdotes I've read say that good recorder players know how to play both C- and F-recorders. Is there a method for re-wiring my brain and fingers to learn that? Also, why is it the standard to write music for F-recorders in concert key rather than transposing it? Is it blasphemy for me to do some transposing myself, just to ease me into it, and will it come back to bite me if I do?
Hi! From personal experience, I'd say that the best way to learn to play F recorders is to learn a few notes and then just play. As you've probably noticed, F and C fingerings follow the same pattern. Guess at the intervals sometimes instead of trying to look up every fingering. I don't think that transposing would hurt, but it wouldn't help learn F fingerings, either.
If it's an option for you, I found that playing with a practice group really helped me because I had to keep up with the other players in a song- it was for fun and practice, so they were okay with me screwing up, and I couldn't let myself fall into the habit of looking up every note. It forced me to learn notes, too.
I've heard people recommend playing F instruments exclusively when starting to learn F fingerings, but I don't know that that really helps. Personally, tenor is my true love, so I swapped back and forth rather than play alto, bass or sopranino exclusively.
As for why recorder music isn't transposed for F instruments, I'd guess that it's because a lot of music isn't written for one recorder- or even one instrument- in particular, especially old music. Some lines have ranges that just aren't C or F friendly, it's true, but other lines can be played on either, or could be played on krummhorn, harp, viol, etc. Learning two fingering patterns instead of having transposed parts makes it easier to experiment with different combinations of instruments since you don't have to have transposed music for every part. There are people I know who've played for years who still have those "oh, wait, I'm playing an F instrument" moments, so it happens to everyone.
So there's my two cents worth. I hope something in there is useful. Good luck. =)
I do have a small group of people I play with, but we're not all quite up to par enough to do SATB arrangements yet. I can understand what you mean about tenor being your true love--it's got the most gorgeous sound by far of my recorders. And the more I practice on it, the higher my range extends, and the less urgency I feel to switch to the alto for those nasty in-between-range solo pieces. So I guess I've shelved the problem, at least for now.
I never had too bad of a problem with it, though it does take a little practice to get used to. But once you get going with the F recorder, pretty soon it will become second nature.
I'm assuming the reason everything's in concert key is that transposing systems of notation weren't in much use back in the 16th-18th centuries. I suspect that it wasn't until horns and clarinets became commonplace that transposed sheet music found a serious following, as these were the first two instruments of the orchestra that came in many different keys. A standard transposed notation was necessary in order to avoid having to juggle several different keys. (But, of course, since modern horn is in F the hornists must either transpose mentally or request/make a Horn In F part.
Just practice lots of scales and simple melodies and arpeggios, and it won't be too long before the alto becomes really easy.
And after 3 years I still occasionally make a C-F flub.