Pulling the Head Joint Out

I usually attempt to tune sectional recorders to play at a′=440 at 70° F when the head joint is pulled out a bit. This allows you some latitude to adjust up if necessary, and also some room to adjust octaves when playing in warmer or cooler environments. Some makes or models don’t allow for this to be done, but most do, as it is the way all other woodwind instruments are built.

Typically the amount of space to pull out is about ½ to 1 mm for sopranos, 1–1.5 mm for altos, about 3 mm for tenors, and around 5 mm for basses.

Playing these instruments with a lower breath pressure and the head pushed in all the way is not advised. Doing so causes the instrument to be less well in tune with itself. Any change in length at the head end affects the notes closer to those fingered T-2 twice as much as it affects those with all fingers down, resulting in left hand notes being sharp relative to the bottom notes and their harmonics. Since left hand notes often do not provide as much resistance to center the pitch on their own and players often blow them sharp, such a change to these notes only makes playing them in tune more difficult.