The name first occurs in 1489 as an organ stop.The crumhorn, used in
the 14th to17th centuries in Europe, is wooden, with a cylindrical bore.
The crumhorn is the earliest and most common instrument of the reed cap
family which also includes the kortholt,
and hirtenschalmei. The crumhorn is thought
to have developed from the earlier bladder pipe.
click image for sound of
for the same in mp3
Beginning with the fifteenth century a new type of double reed instrument
was developed. The player's lips did not touch the reed because the reed
was enclosed inside a protective cap with a slot at one end. Strongly blowing
through this slot causes the reed to vibrate as it does in the bagpipe
chanter. The name of the Crumhorn comes from the German krumhorn (also
krumphorn), meaning curved horn (or the older English
meaning curve, surviving in modern English in crumpled and crumpet,
a curved cake).
- dance tune by Negri
(fifth verse by bass crumhorn)
- dance tune by Fabrito Carioso
(sixth verse by bass crumhorn)
(seventh verse includes soprano crumhorn)
The cylindrical bore (as opposed to a conical bore) and the reed
closing the end of the resonating tube mean that the crumhorn overblows
a twelfth rather than an octave, giving the instrument a fingering system
similar to the lower register of the clarinet. However, the lack of direct
control of the reed of a windcapped instrument renders these higher notes
extremely difficult to access. Thus the normal range is limited to the
simple fundamental sounds produced by successive opening of the holes giving
a range of an octave and one note. Many larger surviving instruments have
auxiliary holes that extend the range downwards to just over an octave.
On modern reconstructions additional keys are provided to extend the range
upwards by one to three notes. And there is some evidence to suggest that
crumhorns were sometimes played without the windcap, possibly to facilitate
the production of higher notes.
||Crumhorns have a characteristically sharp attack which is very effective
in an ensemble. Depending on how their reeds are voiced, they range in
tone from a gentle, somewhat nasal humming of a bumble-bee to a rich, resonant
The crumhorn was turned out of a length of wood, which was then bored
out, filled with sand, plugged, and the lower end steamed (to soften it)
and finally bent into a half circle. The curve is decorative only, having
nothing to do with the sound. The curved bell section of many surviving
instrument is hollowed out to form a more or less conical foot, which has
the effect of raising the volume.
The reed comprises a thin strip of cane, folded over and bound to
the staple (a short tube) inserted into the top of the wooden pipe. When
the reed is blown through, it vibrates, causing a standing wave to develop
in the bore of the crumhorn. Pitch is governed not only by the length of
the pipe down to the open finger holes, but also by breath pressure, so
that the crumhorns are played at a fixed dynamic level. Variations in pitch
from changes in breathing are like the change in pitch of a bagpipe chanter
as the player starts to fill the bag. Blow too hard and the reed closes
(no sound). Blowing too softly allows the pitch to flatten or sag to unusable
|Note that larger crumhorns have a pipe or airway on the side of
the cap (similar to the large recorders) which is blown into to allow reaching
the finger holes on these longer instruments.
A four-part consort usually comprised an alto crumhorn (in F
or G), two tenors (C) and a bass (F). Less frequently,
soprano (C) and great bass (C) crumhorns were used.
Despite its strange shape and the amusing reaction of listeners when
the instrument is played poorly, the crumhorn played a serious role in
all kinds of renaissance music ranging from dances and madrigals to church
music. As early as 1500 crumhorns were used along with other instruments
to accompany two masses performed for the wedding of Duke Johann to Sophia
of Mecklenburg. King Henry the Eighth of England owned 25 crumhorns, so
they may have been played at his court. However, they were not as popular
in Great Britain as on the Continent, especially Germany, Italy and the
Low Countries, from where a small repertoire of music specifically for
crumhorns has been preserved.
Country Dances in One
(ground bass by bass crumhorn)
labourez les vignes in mp3 format
(soprano voice with three crumhorns)
Musica Antiqua's krummhorns include a soprano in
alto in f, 2 tenors in c, bass in F, and a great bass
in C by Koerber of Germany as well as a great bass in C by
Moulder of England and a soprano, alto, tenor, and bass by Steinkopf.
Musica Antiqua Instruments
Additional Crumhorn Sources
(some sources courtesy of Nicholas Lander of Crumhorn
Agricola M. 1529/r1969) Musica instrumentalis deudsch
Boydell, B. (1979). Ieorg Wier, an early sixteenth-century crumhorn maker.
Early Music 7: 511-517.
Boydell, B. (1982). The Crumhorn and other Windcap Instruments of the
Renaissance Frits Knuf, Buren. Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music.
Boydell, B. (1984). Crumhorn In Sadie, S. (ed) The New Grove Dictionary
of Musical Instruments. McMillan, London.
Early Music Shop (undated). The Adjustment and Maintenance of Plastic reeds.
Brochure. Hanchet, J.F. (1980). Adjustjment and control of double reeds
for direct blown early instruments Early Music, July: 361-207.
Brown, H. M. (1973) Sixteenth-century Instrumentation: the Music for
the Florentine Intermedii
Cerone, D. P. (1613/r1969) El melopeo y maestro
Diderot, D. (1765) Encyclopedie
Douwes, C. (1699/r1970) Grondig ondersoek van de toomen der musiek
Hantelmann, G. v. (19??). Directions for Playing the Crumhorn, Cornamuse
and Kortholt Moeck Verlag, Celle. Ed. Nr. 2077.
Hunt, E. (1975). The Crumhorn Schott, London. Ed. 11239.
Kinsky, G. (1925) Doppelrohrblatt-Instrumente mit Windkapsel AMw
Kite-Powell, J.T. ed. (1994). A Performer's Guide to Renaissance Music
Schirmer, New York.
Kite-Powell, J.T. (1994). The Crumhorn In Kite-Powell (loc. cit.
Leguy, J. (1978). Precis de Facture d'Anches Renaissance -- Handbook
of Renaissance Reed-Making. Zurfluh, Paris. French and English text.
Lesure, F. (1955) Le Traite des instruments de musique de Pierre Trichet
Lewin, G. (1985). The cornamuse - a reassessment. Recorder and Music Magazine
Lorraine, K. (1982). A Handbook on Making Double Reeds for Early Winds
Musica Sacra et Profana, Berkeley.
Mersenne, M. (1636, 1648/r1972) Harmonicorum instrumentorum libri
Meyer, K.T. (1983). The Crumhorn: Its History, Design, Repertory, and Technique.
Studies in Musicology 66. University of Michigan Research Press, Ann Arbor.
Moeck, H. (1971). Zur Geschichte von Krummhorn und Cornamuse Moeck,
Moeck, H. (undated). The Adjustment and Maintenance of Plastic reeds
Monkeymeyer, H. (1976). Album of Pieces and Exercises in Four Volumes for
the Crumhorn, Cornamusa, Curtall and Other Wind Instruments of the Renaissance
and Baroque Era. Volume I, For two instruments with intervaliic fifth relationship.
Edition Moeck Nr 2088. Moeck, Celle.
Monkeymeyer, H. (1976). Album of pieces and Exercises in Four Volumes
for the Crumhorn, Cornamusa, Curtall and Other Wind Instruments of the
Renaissance and Baroque Era Volume II, For two instruments of the same
pitch Edition Moeck Nr 2089. Moeck, Celle.
Montague, J. (1976). Mediaeval and Renaissance Musical Instruments
Ure Smith, Sydney.
Munrow, D. (1976). Instruments of the Middle Ages and Renaissance
Oxford University Press: London.
Nickel, E. (1971) Der Holzblasinstrumentenbau in der Freien Reichsstadt
Papineau, G. (1980). Comment Tailler vos Anches -- Reed Do It Yourself.
Le Droit Chemin de Musique, Paris.
Praetorius, M. (1618/r1980) Syntagma musicum
Robinson, T. (1973). The Amateur Wind Instrument Maker University
of Massachusetts Press.
Sachs, C. (1909) Doppioni und Dulzaina: zur Namensgechichte des Krummhorns
Smith, D.H. (1992). Reed Design for Early Woodwinds Indiana University
Press, Bloomington & Indianapolis.
Stevenson, C. (1980). Make your own Crumhorn Recorder & Music
Thomas, B. (1973). An introduction to the crumhorn repertoire. Early Music
Thomas, B. (1973). Playing the crumhorn: First steps. Early Music 1: 151-156.
Thorn, C. (1984). Things to play on crumhorns and the like. Recorder and
Music 8(3): 76-78.
vander Straeten, E. (1888/r1969) La musique aux Pays-Bas avant
Virdung S. (1511/r1970) Musica getutscht
Wells, M. (1973). The crumhorn: Historical sources. Early Music 1: 139-141.
Whone, J.F. (1975). Constructing a crumhorn. Recorder & Music 5(3):
Young, P.T. (1980). The Look of Music: Rare Musical Instruments 1500-1900.
University of Washington Press, Seattle.
Young, P.T. (1993). 4900 Historical Woodwind Instruments: An Inventory
of 200 Makers in International Collections Tony Bingham, London.
Zacconi L. (1592/r1967) Prattica di musica