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The recorder is a woodwind musical instrument in the group known as internal duct flutes—flutes with a whistle mouthpiece. A recorder can be distinguished from other duct flutes by the presence of thumb-hole for the upper hand and seven finger-holes: three for the upper hand and four for the lower. It is the most prominent duct flute in the western classical tradition.
Recorders are made in different sizes with names and compasses roughly corresponding to different vocal ranges. The sizes most commonly in use today are the soprano (aka "descant", lowest note C5), alto (aka "treble", lowest note F4), tenor (lowest note C4) and bass (lowest note F3). Recorders are traditionally constructed from wood and ivory, while most recorders made in recent years are constructed from molded plastic. The recorders' internal and external proportions vary, but the bore is generally reverse conical (i.e. tapering towards the foot) to cylindrical, and all recorder fingering systems make extensive use of forked fingerings.
The recorder is first documented in Europe in the Middle Ages, and continued to enjoy wide popularity in the renaissance and baroque periods, but was little used in the classical and romantic periods. It was revived in the 20th century as part of the historically informed performance movement, and became a popular amateur and educational instrument. Composers who have written for the recorder include Monteverdi, Lully, Purcell, Handel, Vivaldi, Telemann, Johann Sebastian Bach, Paul Hindemith, Benjamin Britten, Leonard Bernstein, Luciano Berio, and Arvo Pärt. Today, there are many professional recorder players who demonstrate the instrument's full solo range and a large community of amateurs.
The sound of the recorder is often described as clear and sweet, and has historically been associated with birds and shepherds. It is notable for its quick response and its corresponding ability to produce a wide variety of articulations. This ability, coupled with its open finger holes, allow it to produce a wide variety of tone colors and special effects. Acoustically, its tone is relatively pure and odd harmonics predominate in its sound.