Fred Morgan’s “Playing In” Process for New Recorders: Way to Go!

“Ideally the ‘playing in’ [...] would take about five one hour sessions over as many days. If he was not entirely happy with the instrument, or he was doing more experimentation, this could occasionally extend to twenty hours!”

Dieter Mücke, Recorders Based on Historical Models: Fred Morgan - Writings and Memories, p. 45

Mr. Mücke remarks that recorder maker Fred Morgan’s “emphasis was always on the quality and never on the speed of production.” A couple of amazing things here: first, Fred would never deliver an instrument without a playing in ⟷ adjusting process that was repeated no less than five times for each instrument:

“Not one would leave the workshop unless he had “played it in,” agonised over its voicing, and was convinced that this was the best he could possibly achieve.”

Dieter Mücke, op. cit., p. 45

“Many hours were also spent playing and adjusting the recorders.”

Joanne Saunders, op. cit., p. 41

This allowed his recorders

“to begin life as complete singing instruments; ready to play for an hour at a time; ready for practice, rehearsal or performance from the first breath.”

Alexandra Williams, op. cit., p. 36

And second, the fact that he employed no less than three people as blowers for the daily playing in sessions: recorder players Alexandra Williams, Rodney Waterman, and Natasha Anderson.

“Were you the only maker in the world to sell recorders that were blown in?”

Alexandra Williams, op. cit., p. 36

Not really,1 but he certainly was one of the few makers who have ever done it in such a consistent way — and with a passion! Recorder makers of the world, please, take note.

  1. On a similar note, Bob Marvin told me he uses to play his own instruments for about two years before delivery, and I must say every instrument I’ve ever got from him carries a serial number mark from two years before...