Voicing Considerations—Altitude and Climate

In the course of my travels I have learned, by carefully observing the playing characteristics of a pair of plastic instruments which cannot be affected by humidity or voicing changes, what altitude does to our instruments. Beginning about 1500 feet above sea level, the way recorders play changes, and this becomes more noticeable as the altitude increases. Reeds also need to be scraped differently to perform well at high altitudes.

Voicings are also more stable in the arid climate of this part of the world, and do not change as much in the course of being voiced or played as they do in more humid zones. Again, reeds dissipate moisture in these areas faster than it can be absorbed from the player’s breath, so they must be scraped to perform under different physical conditions.

One of the major services I can offer the Four Corners area and the high desert/high plains of the interior of our country is that I perform my work near (or, when on the road, in) the town or region where you live or play. This is important, as I can voice your instruments to be optimized in this area, not at the sea level humidity of the coastal cities where most other voicing shops are found, thus preventing voicing changes often encountered when an instrument is then returned to a drier climate.

However, since I learned to voice in New York and lived in the swamps of tidewater Virginia for many years, I know how to compensate when I’m working on an instrument from coastal areas in this climate. I voice it like everyone else, and simply set the parameters so they are not “right” for the area I’m working in, but which I know will work in lower altitudes and more humid regions.