Saunders Recorders

Bristol UK.


Bass Recorder Styles.

There is information on the double hole for IV
found on some German recorders
at the bottom of this page.

Aulos 533B Bass

The traditional bass recorder is straight and sounded by blowing through a pipe. This is the Aulos 533B, current model (in 2019 and for at least ten years earlier).

Some players call this pipe a 'bocal' which is the term used for the very similar part of a bassoon, and smaller pipes used with the cor anglais and baroque oboes.

I don't agree with this choice of word as on the recorder the function is different. It only supplies the air. It does not form part of the sounding air column.

Lets keep things simple and unpretentious by just referring to it as a 'pipe'.

Because the function of the pipe is only to supply the air, it has no influence on the tone quality of the recorder. It does, however, alter the way in which the recorder responds to the player in subtle ways.

Fortunately, it is not a critical part of the recorder. The pipe is often lost. New pipes are very costly but there are other ways of blowing the bass recorder and improvisation is a surprisingly good way to overcome a missing pipe.

Nova Knick Bass

The 'knick' style head is a relatively new (mid C20) style. This one is branded 'Dolmetsch Nova'.

The angles vary (larger bends favour smaller players) and there are many advantages. The angle does not affect the sound.

The player has a good view and the recorder responds quickly to the breath.

Most are made of moulded plastic but wooden models have been produced for a long time. Some had metal angle parts. The configuration is also applied to big bass recorders.

With wooden recorders the head is made in the usual way, then cut at an angle (half the desired bend angle). One part is turned through 180o and the two parts are then glued back together. With plastic models the bend is a short separate unit, very like a plumbing joint!

Aulos Direct Blow Cap

Aulos  Direct Blow Cap

This discontinued
item does not fit
Aulos basses
with a top
entry pipe. The
top of the head
is about 1mm.
too big.

The top of pipe blown bases is removable and Aulos used to produce an alternative 'direct blow' cap.

This has to be fitted so that the air goes straight from the slot in the edge, through which the player blows, straight down into the windway. The window must be towards the player. This makes very little difference to the sound heard by an audience but does help the player to hear himself, which can be an advantage.

It is generally only possible for an adult to play a bass recorder this way. The lowest holes require a long reach. Early basses (and tenors) were (and are) often made to be played this way round. Bent pipes have always been difficult and expensive to make.

Aulos Bass 533

This old model Aulos 533 bass head (and its predecessors) has the pipe entering from the side. This style is now much less common than it was. While the pipe must be easier to produce, the cap, whether of plastic or wood, is more difficult to make.

Short S<b>traight Pipe

If you are an adult, and need to play a bass lacking a side entry pipe, a short straight one will do. You could even use part of an old felt tipped pen!

This one has my first, and rather plain, custom made wooden beak.

Many players simply remove the cap, turn the head so that the window faces them, and hang their upper lip over the windway slot.

Roessler Direct Blown Head

Very good capless direct blown basses were made by Roessler. A pipe was never an option. The head is shaped for direct blowing.

This one is a superior boxwood 'Meister' model with imitation ivory ornamentation.

Moeck Tuju Bass Pipe

Here is an unusual, and over complicated, pipe for a Moeck 'Tuju' bass recorder. It is for side entry, the 'U' bend is a water trap. The cross piece is for strength, only. (The tubing is very thin.)

The device at the bottom of the 'U' bend is a drain valve (very prone to complete seizure). The black tube is the mouth piece (usually known as a 'beak').

Plumbing Tuju Bass Pipe

Replacement pipes for the Moeck 'Tuju' model bass are no longer available. I made this one from plumbing fittings. The beak is original.

Click the image for more details.

Aulos Beak

The Aulos beak is available as a spare. A liner of synthetic cork solves all fitting problems. The latest production includes a resilient (O-ring) insert that makes the fit less critical and ensures a complete airtight seal to a nominal 12mm pipe.

Click the image for a full size view and more information.

Aulos Beak

The Aulos beak is an ideal replacement for lost or broken beaks. This old German pipe has a conventional drain key.

Click the image for a full size view.

Two S shaped pipes.

Pipes vary in length. Longer ones are needed for small players (children). The two illustrated here are roughly 14cm. and 21.5cm. long.

12mm. is now the most common diameter, 10mm. and imperial sizes may also be found. Some instruments have a metal sleeve in the head to accept the pipe. (Sometimes this is lost, with the pipe.) It is generally possible to overcome sizing problems by lapping the pipe, or fitting a sleeve into the hole. Cork, natural or synthetic is suitable.

Click the image for a full size view. (You will then be able to read the graduations on the ruler.)

Cap with sleeve.

This old, German, cap still has its 12mm. sleeve for the pipe.

Click the image for a full size view.

Mollenhauer Denner Bass Pipe.

This is a top fitting pipe from Mollenhauer, for their 'Denner' bass recorder. All the bends are in the same plane and it lies flat. Some (Aulos, for example) have a twist in the 'U' bend that offsets the beak from the line of the recorder. This goes some way to unblocking the player's view of the music (and, perhaps, the conductor). Look closely at the first image on this page.

Click the image for a full size view. (You will then be able to read the graduations on the ruler.)

Converted Aulos Bass Cap.

Click the image for a pdf showing how I effected a good looking conversion of a side entry Aulos cap to top entry.

Never try to bend a bass pipe without specialist tools.

You will ruin it by kinking it.


A cap and pipe for an old Kung direct blow bass.

Towards the end of 2019, when I was in the process of really winding the business down, I was asked if I could get a cap and pipe for an old model Kung bass. As there was no chance of this I decided that I might try to make one myself. I am not an experienced woodworker but thought I stood a good chance of success. The pipe is from Mollenhauer and the beak from Aulos,
Here is a short guide to how it went.
Ash Wood.

Nice wood is not easy to come by but, by chance, I was in Nailsworth when I got the initial email and saw that there was a craftsman picture framer in the town. He found a long length of ash wood and cut a piece off for me, in exchange for a 'folding beer token'.

Ash Wood Cap Preparation.

The first step was to cut the block of wood (which was large enough to make two caps, in case things went badly) in half.

Ash Wood Cap Preparation.

After marking it out and sawing it into an octagonal cross section it could be turned.

Ash Wood Cap Preparation.

The wood fastened (with screws) to the lathe face plate and taking shape.

Ash Wood Cap Preparation.

The shape of the cap emerging from the wood.

Ash Wood Cap Preparation.

At this point I was happy that the tenon that had to fit the head of the recorder was the right size. It would be very difficult to correct any sizing error after the cap had been parted from the rest of the wood. That was the next step.

Ash Wood Cap. Ash Wood Cap.
After parting it off the cap was held in a scroll chuck for final finishing.
Ash Wood Cap.

Here is the completed assembly.

It is amazing what can be done via the internet.

Everything worked out well. The dimensions on the sketches received by email (from Prague) were accurate and the fit was described as 'perfect'.

The cap travelled by normal mail and actually made the journey all the way to Prague and back to me by a devious route before being successfully delivered. Originally I sent it to London where it should have been collected. The 'best laid plan' failed and the forwarded parcel was not well addressed. It is to the postal services great credit that it came back to me via my address on part of my original label.

Ash Wood Cap Fitted.
The Double Hole Key for Hole IV.

This is a feature of older German made Bass Recorders.

Double hole key for bass recorder hole IV.

There are quite a lot of these recorders about but I have only just found one in good enough condition to work out how to make best use of this feature. This bass is an old 'Dulcia' model from Roessler and was probably made in the 1970's. I suspect that these fingerings may also work for 'German' fingered instruments.

I have used 0 for the thumb hole and IV- for the hole IV extension.

  • B natural in both octaves... Add this key, activated by the extension, leaving the hole open, to the usual fingering for C natural...
    0 I II III | IV- _ _  _ and 0 I II III | IV-_ _  _

  • B flat in both octaves... Add this key, as above, and also the next finger (hole V)...
    0 I II III | IV- V_  _ and 0 I II III | IV- V _  _

  • D flat (C sharp) in the upper octave... add this key, as above, to the usual fingering for D natural...
    0 I II _ | IV-_ _  _

  • F sharp (third octave) comes easily, and in tune with
    0 I_ _ | IV-_ _  _
These are all good strong notes and the fingerings are also useful for trills. Their use is not obligatory and treating the hole in the key as a standard hole gives satisfactory results, though with the usual weaker tone associated with forked fingerings.
      © Saunders Recorders
This page was updated with minor revisions in July 2022.