You can see the Ode To Joy on their cute little faces. Picture: Troy Snook
You can see the Ode To Joy on their cute little faces. Picture: Troy Snook

Why are we still sending kids home with recorders?

The recorder is the Redfoo of instruments, and I certainly wasn't LMFAO when my daughter brought one home from school.

There are so many developmental benefits to instilling a love of music from a young age, but are we really doing that by sending kids home with an instrument conceived in the pits of hell?

Because not a single person in history has started a band, or even a Spotify account because they heard their classmates blasting Ode To Joy in different keys, at different times, in their classroom.

I'd say it'd have the opposite effect - turning generations of kids off music and triggering their parents with something that sounds like the wheeze from an obstructed windpipe.

Redfoo and the recorder would be much more enjoyable to listen to if you couldn’t hear them. Picture: Chris Pavlich
Redfoo and the recorder would be much more enjoyable to listen to if you couldn’t hear them. Picture: Chris Pavlich

"Horrible" is how our daughter described the recorder's high-pitched atonal sound.

Then I suggested she learnt some "cool" songs instead of Frère Jacques and Merrily We Roll Along.

"Then it'll become not cool music, Dad, duh."

I was surprised to find out Australia has our own recorder virtuoso, Genevieve Lacey, which proves that in the right hands it can be a thing of true beauty.

In the wrong hands - say, for instance, a Year 3 classroom - it can sound like being waterboarded aurally.

"What songs are there recorder even in?" my daughter asked me.

So I did three minutes of research and found a grand total of zero in the ARIA Charts. Woodwinds, however, are all the rage in hip-hop at the moment, with the flute making cameos in a bunch of bangers - from Future's Mask Off to Drake's Portland and Broccoli by Lil Yachty and DRAM.

Recorder virtuoso Genevieve Lacey’s music will make your heart sing but put that recorder in the hands of a Year 3 student and be prepared for bleeding ears. Picture: News Corp
Recorder virtuoso Genevieve Lacey’s music will make your heart sing but put that recorder in the hands of a Year 3 student and be prepared for bleeding ears. Picture: News Corp

Not that my daughter would ever know that. Those tracks drop the N-word more casually, albeit less problematically, than a Tarantino film.

So why does the recorder still occupy such an important role in a child's musical development? Like homework, is it part of a Department of Education directive to bring more conflict into every Australian household?

To find out, I did another three minutes of research and reached out to my inspirational high school music teacher, Paul Scott-Williams - now the CEO of Goulburn Regional Conservatorium - on Facebook.

I wanted to find out why I was forced to play recorder in Year 7 when all I really wanted to do was learn the solo from Guns N' Roses' November Rain on guitar.

He said that while the early years can be a bit grating, the recorder is portable, communal, and can open students up to other instruments such as the entire wind family and even some brass.

"It is a gateway instrument that can quite quickly lead a child to other more viable instruments."

So I guess it's like marijuana then, but instead of a crackhouse, kids could end up at a concert hall?

This analogy was starting to make the recorder seem cool, but surely there were other musical entry points for kids that sounded a bit less like a cat dying in slo-mo?

It's probably a bit disruptive to fill a classroom with electric guitars and overdrive pedals, but in a time when people are making platinum-selling records on their iPads, there must be another way to start 'em young.

"Interestingly, these days, the ukulele is starting to outstrip the recorder as the beginner instrument of choice," Paul said.

That's music to my ears, actually. Give me Vance Joy's Riptide over Hot Cross Buns any day.

Darren Levin is a RendezView columnist.

@darren_levin



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