This is a problem many people have which can be solved in two simple ways! You won't believe how easy it is!
1) RELAX YOUR MOUTH AND DROP YOUR JAW
Think of a fish opening its mouth to take in air, or of a nutcracker soldier whose lower jaw drops for the nut to be inserted! Picture how the lower jaw simply hangs when you breathe in; we don’t create an embouchure on the recorder. In fact, the recorder is the one wind instrument where no embouchure should be produced. Imagine you’re about to say or sing the word ‘Arthur’. Breathe in to say the word and feel how your lower jaw drops to say it. Repeat this a few times, so you can really feel what is going on. This relaxed lowering of the bottom jaw is where we should place the recorder when we start to play. Very often people tighten their lips and raise their lower jaw to start playing, which creates tension and therefore a tense, tight sound. Keep your bottom jaw lowered when you have your recorder in your mouth to play so that your teeth stay apart, with the recorder resting in between them, but NOT touching the instrument. DO NOT play with your teeth clenched shut and DO NOT play with the recorder in front of your teeth, as this is tight and restricts the air flow needed to produce a nice tone.
2) THINK OF A PELICAN! DON’T CHANGE YOUR MOUTH FOR HIGH NOTES
In the past, recorder players were told to tighten their mouths to help get the high notes out but this is the exact opposite of what you should be doing! You need to STAY relaxed, with your lower jaw lowered. Sometimes it can help to visualise that you have a large ball in the back of your throat to produce the high notes, which widens the back, releases any tension and keeps everything relaxed. I often think it helps to picture a PELICAN with its huge throat pouch and imagine your sound is coming from here. Try doing this when playing leaps going up and then leaps going down.
Further details are in my 'Improve Your Recorder Playing Booklets' NO.1 RECORDER TECHNIQUE FROM SINGING: Breathing and Basic Articulation, available from my SHOP page.
See if these two points help. Let me know how you get on, or if you have any other questions. Good luck!
Emma Murphy @ Recorder Helpdesk!
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Hi, I'm Emma Murphy & I'm a recorder player. I've taught for many years so have lots of answers to lots of recorder problems! JUST ASK!