The Gemshorn

click image for gemshorn sound (162kb wav) or here for same in mp3 format

entire song Como hua moller in mp3 format


The gemshorn is the only medieval flute with a sharply tapering conical bore. Its shape is determined naturally since it is made from the horn of a chamois or ox. The tone has a sweet color somewhere between a soft recorder and an ocarina. Its haunting delicate sound is even more impressive when one considers the ordinary material from which it is constructed. Shepherds probably used its gentle tones to calm animals. 

The first clear illustration of the gemshorn is found in Virdung's Musica Getutscht (1511). By mid sixteenth century the instrument had fallen out of use. It has survived in the organ stop of the same name. The stop contains a strong fifth-sounding partial.

click image to the right for short wav of gemshorn trio
or here for the complete trio in mp3 format


Musica Antiqua's gemshorns include an alto in E-flat, a tenor in B-flat, and a bass in E-flat by Finke and a tenor in B-flat by Meinl and Lauber.

Musica Antiqua Instruments

Additional Resources:

  • C. Sachs: 'Das Gemshorn', ZMw, i (1918-19), 153

  • H. Fitzpatrick: 'The Gemshorn: a Reconstruction', PRMA, xcix (1972-3), 1