Elody Electric Recorder

As one of humanity’s most ancient types of musical instrument, the recorder has undergone few fundamental changes over the centuries. The 18th century Baroque style plan seems to have found few contenders for improved designs. It’s partly a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But its longevity is also due in part to the fundamental physics of the thing. There is just so much you can do to the bore size, its conical taper, or the size and shape of the windway without also disturbing the fingering, affecting the tone, and altering its range. The basic design used by nearly all recorder makers to this day is a delicate balance that simply works. For the lower ranges, probably the most successful aberration are the German Paetzold recorders (now made by Jo Kunath), which are designed after square organ pipes and thus take more wind and have a certain mechanical clatter to the key system, but provide a powerful sound at the bottom end where traditional recorders are usually weakest.

A recent entry into the alternative recorder market is the Elody electric recorder made by the well established German firm Mollenhauer. They have basically created an instrument for the rock and roll market, with gaudy paint jobs and inlaid bling. But at its core it is simply another alto recorder in a new dress. It can be played like any other alto, though the flute-like keys on the foot joint are a bit different from most altos. The main feature of interest in the Elody is the built-in electronic pickup which can be plugged in to any amplifier or effects boxes. The company does not provide much technical information about the pickup or the overall design. At a price point of around $2200, the Elody is at the top of the company’s list short of the best wooden great bass recorders. I’m not sure how they justify the cost, but I doubt that many would find it attractive. Perhaps some rock star with more money than sense… But conceptually, the integration of a pickup is a good idea and they seem to have gotten it right. I’d personally like to learn more about the type of microphone that is used and how they manage to install it inside the instrument without it affecting tone or being bothered by humidity condensation (not to mention being rammed by a swab).

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