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How The Recorder Became The Preferred Instrument Of Elementary School Kids Everywhere


One day, your kid is going to come home and make you listen to them play “Mary Had A Little Lamb” on a recorder, because this is America and something like 273 percent of American students will learn the recorder during elementary school. You know you’ll tell your little peanut it sounds beautiful, because you’re a parent, but what you don’t know is why are you being tortured with this cheap plastic flute to begin with?

For that, you can thank a German composer named Carl Orff who, in addition to being the guy behind that epic arrangement played at the end of Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King, is arguably the father of modern music education. Orff is credited with developing curriculums that rely on easy-to-play and cheap-to-produce instruments that kids can learn relatively quickly and beat the crap out of without breaking. To this day, no one has come up with an instrument that ticks all those boxes better than a recorder, so it gained popularity in American schools in the mid-20th Century and is still popular enough that you’re listening to your kid butcher “Mary Had A Little Lamb” and smiling like it’s Miles Davis.

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There’s ample evidence that learning to play an instrument has all sorts of academic upsides for your kid, so be grateful that the recorder makes it a lot easier than, say, a French horn. And it’s not all pinched notes and raspy winds — Paul McCartney jammed on a recorder in “Fool On The Hill,” and who rocks harder than Paul McCartney? Actually, pretty much everyone, including this band of Finnish heavy metal dinosaurs.

On second thought, maybe you should just buy the kid a guitar.