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What is the difference between the English and German fingerings?

During the development of the recorder, there were many different fingerings. Even today these fingerings have to be used for some recorders made after an original. During the baroque period one fingering dominated. In the beginning of the last century, Carl Dolmetsch made this baroque fingering popular and the standard. He build recorders using this fingering which is therefore today called the English fingering. In Germany it kept the name "baroque" and is called "Barocke Griffweise".

In the 1920's, Peter Harlan experimented in Germany with a different fingering. This would allow an easy fingering for the f (on the Soprano). This development was called the "German fingering". It can only be used for recorders which are constructed for this fingering. The size of some holes are different from the recorders for English fingering. These differences can be used to determine whether a recorder has English or German fingering. See my next Q&A "How do I know whether to use English or German fingerings ...".

Some people believe that Peter Harlan developed the German fingering by mis­take. They say that he was not aware of the correct fingering for the f (on Soprano) and used the most logical fingering between the e and g. Then, because the pitch was not correct he changed the size of the holes until it was in tune. The different fingering for f is the main difference between the German and English systems of fingerings.

For beginners the German fingering looks easier. However, it has a big disad­vantage. The high F# (Soprano) is not in tune. This can be ignored for beginners, but not for experienced players and par­ticularly not in an ensemble. In a consort it becomes a serious problem. Whoever starts with the German fingering, sooner or later will switch to the English system.

In music schools, conservatories, or universities the English fingering is the only one taught. High quality recorders are available with English fingering only.

Questions & Answers
FingWhatD (Upd 2011-11-29) - 74.19-19.10.2014