So Which is the Better Recorder?
Profesionals will generally prefer a wood recorder over a plastic one, especially those who like to perform in period ensembles where an attempt is made to reproduce older instruments and their sounds. Several companies make recorders which are modeled after the actual ones used in the Rennaisance and Baroque periods, and besides being more accurate material for the time, wood simply sounds more accurate as well.
In modern recorders which are meant to sound at standard concert pitch (A 440) wood is still the overwhelming choice for performers. With different types of wood come different "personalities" of instruments which are better suited to a style or simply to the performer. Some performers like a more focused tone while others like a fuzzier more reedy tone. With wood one can choose this. The texture and density of the wood each have a bearing on the tone of wooden instruments, but not always as one might think.
Another advantage of wood over plastic is the way wood absorbs moisture. Plastic instruments have no absorption as does cellulose, so the moisture which accumulates in an instrument can often build up and cause a rattling or "buzzing" sound in the windway. Though wood does a much more efficient job at dealing with moisture, it must also be much more carfeully proteced from moisture. Thus a wooden wind instrument must be oiled on the inside regularly. The oil keeps the wood from drying out or becoming brittle. Due to this fact there is more involved in the care and cleaning of wooden recorders. A plastic recorder may even be submerged in water for cleaning without sustaining damage, but this is not so for wood. It must be cleaned much more carefully.
Another concern in the care of a wooden recorder is that of how it is actually played. Though wood recorders can have better response, they must also be played with more care. One must avoid overblowing , which can cause damage. As well, a wood recorder cannot be played continuously for vast amounts of time without its tone being affected. In fact, when it is new, the wood recorder should not be played more than a few minutes a day during a breaking-in period. After years of constant use the recorder's tone will eventually change, ofen becoming brighter.
Plastic recorders also have some advantage in the area of price. If one is playing the recorder as a beginner or for recreation, plastic is a very economical choice. Several brands of plastic recorders are produced with high pitch precision and at excellent quality. But if one wants the sound of wood, many wood recorders are very affordable. There is also a new construction technique of making the more complicated headjoint out of plastic and using a wood body. This can get you the sound of wood at palstic prices!