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Bladder Pipe

Bladder pipe being played

click on image for bladder pipe sound (164 wav) 
or here for a short mp3

The bladder pipe is a very distinctive loud instrument which has a reed which is enclosed by an animal bladder. The performer blows into the bladder through its mouthpiece, a wooden pipe. Like the bag of a bagpipe, the bladder serves as a wind reservoir keeping the lips from touching the reed directly. The bladder pipe's sound is unusual because the player is unable to tongue or otherwise control the reed. This medieval instrument was one of the principal early wind cap instruments and is considered the forerunner to the crumhorn. Since it cannot overblow for an upper register, the fingering is even similar to the crumhorn.

Bladder pipe being playedEarly images of bladder pipes sometimes show the instrument with a second pipe parallel to the first, apparently serving as a drone. The instrument existed before medieval times with Aristophanes in Lysistrata mentioning a wind instrument called a physalis (a word derived from bladder). It is mentioned in medieval literature and is shown in art from the time. Two bladder pipes, for example, are among the instruments illustrating Cantigas de Santa Maria, a collection of sacred songs written for the court of Alfonso el Sabio (reigned from 1252-1284)By the sixteenth century, the bladder pipe had become an instrument associated with beggars and peasants.


Musica Antiqua's bladder pipe has a bladder from a sheep. It looks like parchment and crackles as it is filled. Replacement cost for the bladder is currently $50.


bladder pipe Additional Resources:

  • G Kinsky: 'Doppelrolrblatt-Instrumente mit Windkapsel', AMw vii (1925), 253-96
  • A. Baines: Woodwind Instruments and their History (London, 1957, rev. 3/1967)
  • H. Becker: Zur Entwicklungsgeschichter der antiken und mittelalterlichen Rohrblattinstrumente (Hamburg, 1966)
  • R. Weber: 'Tournebout-Pifia-Bladderpipe (Platerspiel)', GSJ, (1977)


Cornamuse being played(dulzaina?)

click here for cornamuse sound (120kb wav)

"Corna Muse are straight like bassanelli. They are covered below, and around the bell have several little holes, from which the sound issues. In sound they are quite similar to crumhorns, but quieter, lovelier, and very soft. Thus they might justly be named still, soft crumhorns, much as cornetti muti could be called soft cornetts."

- Praetorius

It Was a Lover and His Lass in mp3 format 
(Soprano voice, rebec, recorders, bass cornamuse)

The cornamuse was clearly described by Praetorius, and is yet a mystery in these modern times, because none have survived to the present and because of the confusion of instrument names at the time. Different names which were used for similar instruments and similar names used for different instruments. cornamuseThe name cornamusefrom the Latin cornamusa commonly meant bagpipe as in the French cornemuse. The use of the name dolzaina, from the Latin dulcis (sweet), is thought to be the same or a similar instrument to the cornamuse, and yet the name is often intermingled with the dulzan or dulzian of the curtal families. These two names were sometimes used in the same sentence, as in an ensemble consisting of dolzaina, cornamuse, shawm and mute cornett.


Praetorius stated that the cornamuse has no keys. They came in several sizes, each having a range of a ninth similar to other reed-cap instruments.


Musica Antiqua has an alto and a bass cornamuse in which are reproductions by Gunther Koerber of Germany. Notice that the Antiqua cornamuse have keys similar to those of the crumhorn family.


Additional Resources:

  • Zacconi: Prattica di musica (Venice, 1592/r1967)
  • M. Praetorius: Syntagma musicum ii, iii (Wolfenbuttel, 1618/r1958)
  • C. Sachs: Handbuch der Musikinstrumentenkunde (Leipzig, 1920)
  • I. Hechler: 'Die Windkapelinstrumente: Geschichte, Spielweise, Besetzungsfragen',Tibia, ii (1977), 265
  • B. R. Boydell: The Crumhorn and Other Renaissance Windcap Instruments (Buren, 1982)


Dulcian being played


"The common bleting musicke is the drone,  
hobuis and curtoll."

-Stephen Batman, 1582

One of the most significant innovations in sixteenth century woodwind instrument building was the development of the double bore principle. Two parallel holes drilled in the same piece of wood and connected at one end by a U-curve allowed aninstrument to sound twice as low for its apparentlength as one with a single bore. Little is known about where the earliest development took place, although some evidence points to Italy. The name dulcian (also dulzian, dulzian, dolzone, delzan, dulcan, dolcan) is from the Latin dulcis (sweet). This instrument was also called the curtal (or curtoll, curtail) from the Latin curtus(short).

By the end of the sixteenth century the dulcian had become a part of the town band. The bass shawm was did not last because it was too cumbersome and heavy. The dulcian could be used not only as an outdoor band instrument, but also in church to double the bass line on motets and masses, and in the courtly chamber for more intimate secular music. To counteract the bottom-heavy sound created by its conical bore, and to allow it to play with softer instruments, a perforated mute or bell cap, looking much like a pepper shaker, may be inserted in the open end. According to Praetorius, this makes the tone considerably softer and more beautiful.

dulcianThe dulcian was made in several sizes and has a range of about two and one-half octaves (C to g1). As the name indicates, the tone has a dolce quality when compared to the shawm. The bass size was the one which lasted as the forerunner of the bassoon.

Musica Antiqua's collection includes a cherrywood bass dulcian in C by Gunther Koerber of Germany and a Moeck bass dulcian.

Additional Resources:

  • T. Albonesi: Introductio in Chaldaicam linguam (Pavia, 1539)
  • L. Zacconi: Prattica di musica (Venice, 1592/r1967)
  • M. Praetorius: Syntagma musicum, ii (Wolfenbuttel, 1618/r1958)
  • M. Mersenne: Harmonie universelle (Paris, 1636/r1963)
  • H. de Garsault: Notionaire (Paris, 1761)
  • dulcianJ. B. de La Borde: Essai sur la musique (Paris, 1780/r1972)
  • E. Ozi: Methode nouvelle et raisonnee (Paris, 1787)
  • W. Heckel: Der Fagott (Biebrich, 1899)
  • F. W. Galpin: 'Romance of the Phagotum', PMA, lxvii (1940-41), 57
  • B. Klitz: 'A Composition for Dolzaina', JAMS, xxiv (1971), 113
  • W. Voigt: Untersuchungen zur Formantbildung in Klangen von Fagott und Dulzianen(Regensburg, 1975)
  • G. Joppig: Die Entwicklung der Doppelrohrblatt-Instrumente (Frankfurt am Main, 1980)
  • W. Jansen: The Bassoon: its History, Construction, Makers, Players, and Music (Buren, 1984)


Gemshorn being playedclick 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'sMusica 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.

gemshorngemshornclick 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.




Additional Resources:

  • C. Sachs: 'Das Gemshorn', ZMw, i (1918-19), 153
  • H. Fitzpatrick: 'The Gemshorn: a Reconstruction', PRMA, xcix (1972-3), 1

three gemshorns



harp being playedclick image for harp sound (220kb wav) 
or here for the same in mp3 format

"Teach him to harpe with his nayles sharpe"
-Kyng Horn
, 13th century

The harp is one of the most ancient types of stringed instruments. It was important in pre-Christian cultures and still survives today in many forms all over the world. Harps use open strings exclusively, thus the range of each is determined by the number of strings. In the Middle Ages strings were made from twisted animal gut (usually from sheep), although horse hair and even silk were used as well.

Each string of the harp is attached to a wooden peg or metal pin. Strings are tuned by adjusting these pegs or pins. Since tuning was diatonic, only one mode could be used at a time.

According to the Laws of Wales (twelfth century), the three items indispensable to a gentleman were his harp, his cloak, and his chessboard, while the three proper things for any man to have in his house were a virtuous wife, his cushion on his chair, and his harp in tune.

HarpDue to the lack of a notation system, little is known about how the harp was used, how it accompanied troubadour melodies and what kind of preludial and interludial material might have been performed. Players relied on memory and improvisation.

The harp had an important role in legend and folklore. It not only was the instrument assigned to King David, but also was credited with supernatural powers which could destroy the feynde's myght.

The Romanesque harp was developed in the eleventh through thirteenth centuries. One of Musica Antiqua's harps is based on a late twelfth century English Bible illumination. It has twenty gut strings, a range of almost three octaves (f to d3), is thirty inches tall, and is ideally suited to accompany minstrel, troubadour and trouvere songs. The brass strung clarsach replica was made by Tim Hobrough of Scotland.












Additional Resources:

  • J. Bermudo: Declaracion de instrumentos musicales (Osuna, 1555/r1957)
  • V. Galilei: Dialogo...della musica antica e della moderna (Florence, 1581/r1968)
  • M. Mersenne: Harmonie universelle (Paris, 1636/r1963)
  • E. Jones: Musical and Poetical Relicks of the Welsh Bards (London, 1784)
  • E. Bunting: A General Collection of Ancient Irish Music (London and Dublin, 1796/r1969)
  • S. F. de Genlis: Nouvelle methode pour harpe (Paris, 1802/r1974)
  • F. W. Galpin: Old English Instruments of Music (London, 1910)
  • F. Harrison and J. Rimmer: European Musical Instruments (London, 1964)

statue of man playing harpHarp strings






harp image in stained glass

King David playing the harp 
stained glass by P. von Andlau - late 15th century 
formerly in the choir of the collegiate at Tubingen 
now in the Wurtemburg museum at Stuttgart


hirtenschalmei being playedclick image for hirtenschalmei trio sound 
(68kb wav) or  
here for the same short clip in mp3 format 
. . . . . . . . 
entire song 
begins with lute and dancers 
and hirtenschalmei trio at 1:46

The name hirtenschalmei (shepherd's shawm) comes from the fact that this instrument, often mentioned in medieval French literature and poetry, was frequently depicted in art as being played by rustic types. The tone is produced by a capped double reed. The tone quality is rich and buzzy, one distinctly different from the krummhorm. The main bore is cylindrical and ends in a large flared bell.


During salvage operations in 1980 on Henry VIII's ship, The Mary Rose, the only surviving example of a hirtenschalmei was uncovered. It had been preserved by the covering of silt in the hold of the ship since it was sunk in the English Channel in 1545. The remnants of that instrument served as a model for Musica Antiqua's Gunther Koerber replicas, including a soprano in c1, alto in f, tenor in c, and bass inF. The Mary Rose instrument may be a unique example of the dulcina (doucaine or dulzaina) described by Tinctoris (c. 1487) as a reed instrument characterized by low volume and a limited range.

Trio playing hirtenschalmeis
















hirtenschalmei bell


lizard being played (tenor cornett) 

click on image for lizard sound (104 kb wav)
or here for same in mp3 format

The tenor of the zink family (also known as lysard or lysarden) has the peculiar curved shape of a flattened letter s. Besides giving the instrument its name, this shape helps the player cover the finger holes on this longer zink. The holes for each hand happen to be in the portion of the curves which are closest to the player. The lizard's tone is pleasing, yet rather foggy. It blends well with voices and plays on one of the inner voices of an ensemble. A Lyserden is listed in the waits' band of Exeter in 1575 and a lysarden appears in the inventory made in 1602 of the instruments at Hengrave Hall, Suffolk, that belonged to Thomas Kytson. Refer to the serpent page to see the bass of the cornett family.

lizardMusica Antiqua's collection includes a replica by Moeck







lizard being played Additional Resources:

  • W. L. Woodfill: Musicians in English Society from Elizabeth I to Charles I, (Princeton, NJ, 1953)
  • F. W. Galpin: Old English Instruments of Music (London, 1910)


Mute Cornett

mute cornett being played The mute cornett is another variety of the zink or cornett. It was favored in Germany and was constructed as a straight, tapered, one-piece instrument which was turned on a lathe. Instead of having a detachable mouthpiece, a tiny conical recess was cut into the top to serve as the mouthpiece. There are holes in the body for fingering similar to recorders. The narrow bore of the mute cornett gave it an exquisitely soft sound and made it ideal in consorts with recorders, lutes, and viols.

Musica Antiqua's mute cornett in was crafted by Monk.






Mute Cornett mouthpiece


drum being playedDrum 

Drums (tambour, Trommel, tamburo, tambor, drome, dromme, drume), along with other percussion instruments were probably among the earliest instruments. There is evidence that the first membrane drums consisted of naturally hollow tree trunks covered at one or both ends with the skins of water animals, fish, or reptiles. Later, skins of hunted game and cattle were used. Drum bodies could be of wood, metal, earthenware, or bone. The head or heads could be fastened by glue, nails, or laced or lapped to the body of the drum. Sometimes there would be the hoop tensioned by rope. A gut snare could be added to the top or bottom head for a different effect.

percussion stickclick image for 210 kb wav 
or here for mp3 format


Numerous representations of drums in a variety of shapes and sizes appear in the art of Egypt, Southern Africa, Assyria, India, Sumaria, China, and Persia. The art of the Greeks and Romans show membrane drums. Small kettle drums (known as nakers, nakeres, nacara, nacaires) and tabors of Arabic or Saracenic origin came to Europe with the 13th century crusades. The bowls of these instruments were of wood or metal or clay, covered with a membrane. Nakers first appeared in England in the early 14th century. Chaucer mentioned them in his Knight's Tale. In 1304 Edward I's musicians included a Janino le Nakerer and in 1349 nacaires helped to celebrate the entry of Edward III into Calais. They were used in chamber music and for accompanying songs as well as in dance and processional music.

statue playing drumsclick image for 125 kb wav 
or here for the same in mp3



Rommelpost Drum 

Rommelpost drum being playedrommelpost drumThe unusual rommelpost drum looks like a small naker but is not played by striking the head. Instead, the sound is generated by sliding the fingers back and forth on a slender wooden rod which is fastened to the center of the head inside the drum shell. Rosin is placed on the rod to help provide friction induced sounds which are amplified by the drum head.

Musica Antiqua's rommelpost drum was made in Brazil, and is similar
to ones used in medieval Europe.



tambourine being playedcloseup of tambourine metal discs and bells The tambourine is a single headed frame drum consisting of a shallow ring of wood covered on one side with parchment. It usually had small metal discs (sometimes bells) arranged singly or in pairs hanging loosely in openings in the shell. The tambourine (timbrel, tambour de Basqui, Tamburin, Schellentrommel, cimbaletto, tamburino, panderete) is believed to be of Near Eastern origin. It was found in various forms in Assyria, Egypt, China, India, Peru, Greenland, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It was used in prehistoric Britain and in Gaul, but its popularity increased with the advent of the Romans. As the Hebrew Tof, it was presumably the instrument used by Miriam and her maidens to celebrate Israel's triumph over the Egyptians. The tambourine is pictured in early art in funeral lamentations, in joyous processions and feasts, and in the hands of angels as well as rustics. It was popular throughout the Middle Ages in all parts of Europe, and was depicted at that time in a form very similar to today's tambourine.

statue playing tambourine





Finger Cymbals 

cfinger cymbals being played lick image for a short finger cymbal 
accompaniment (200kb wav) 
or here for same in mp3

Finger cymbals (crotales, zil) have been known since antiquity, perhaps from the middle of the 1st millennium BC. They are played in pairs, sometimes one in each hand as pictured, and often in one hand, one held on the thumb and the other on either the index or middle finger. Used to accompany dances, and sometimes held by the dancers themselves, they are still used chiefly in the Islamic cultures and on the Indian subcontinent. 


Musica Antiqua owns three drums by Williamson, a Capriol tabor, a large side drum, and a timbrel. The collection's four nakers have bowls formed by Dreeszen and laced by Hauser. Three sets of finger cymbals of various makers are used by the ensemble including a cast set by LP. 

Set of 2 old drums Additional Resources:

  • F. W. Galpin: Old English Instruments of Music (London, 1910)
  • F. W. Galpin: Textbook of European Musical Instruments (London, 1937)
  • H. Hickmann: Catalogue general des antiquites egyptiennes du Musee du Caire (Cairo, 1949)
  • F. L. Harrison and J. Rimmer: European Musical Instruments(London, 1964)
  • J. Blades: Percussion Instruments and their History (London, 1970)
  • J. Blades and J. Montagu: Early Percussion Instruments from the Middle Ages to the Baroque (London, 1976)
  • R. Donington: Music and its Instruments (London, 1982)


Rauschpfeife being playedNachtanz - dance tune by Susato 
(Rauschpheife plays melody line)

The rauschpfeife is a loud reed-cap instrument with a double reed (like the krumhorn, hirtenschalmei, and cornamuse). Its bore is conical like the shawm, so it overblows the octave. Several notes of the upper register are useable. The name comes from the German rausch (noise) or rusch (reed). The Italian name for the instrument, schreierpfeife, is from schreien (to cry or scream). The rauschpfeife's screaming sound, full of overtones, gives it enough carrying power to be used outdoors, unlike the other reed-cap instruments. A famous woodcut. the The Triumph of Maximilian I, shows five rauschpfeifen and five shawms being played on horseback.

Several sizes survive in collections in Berlin and Prague covering sizes from soprano to bass. The larger sizes have a little-finger key and a fontanelle for the lowest note as well as upward extension keys operated by the index finger for the upper range. Modern replicas include sopranino, soprano, alto, and tenor sizes. Like the rest of the early reed instruments, the rauschpfeife could only play chromatic tones outside the fundamental scale by using cross-fingerings and humouring on the players part.. This weakens the sound of some tones and produces rather unsteady results when played by less experienced performers. 

Rauschpfeife mouthpieceRauschpfeifeMusica Antiqua's rauschpfeife is a soprano by Moeck.





Additional Resources:

  • S. Virdung: Musica getutscht (Basle, 1511/r1970)
  • Triumphzug Maximilians (1526, ed S. Appelbaum, 1964)
  • C. Sachs: 'Der Name Rauschquinte', Zl, xxxiii (1913) 965
  • G. Kinsky: 'Doppelrohrblatt-Instrumente mit Windkapsel', AMw, vii (1925), 253
  • E. Nickel: Der Holzblasinstrumentenbau in der Freien Reichsstadt Nurnberg (Munich, 1971)
  • B. R. Boydell: The Crumhorn and Other Renaissance Windcap Instruments (Buren, 1982)


reed box