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The crumhorn, with its odd umbrella handle shape, first appeared from around 1400 onwards, as part of a larger family of renaissance "windcap" instruments. Probably derived from either pipe organs or bagpipes, they had a double reed enclosed inside a windcap - unlike the shawm from the same period whose double reed (like that of modern oboe) is placed in the mouth. Crumhorns make a

Picture of a Group of Crumhorns

Crumhorn Sound Clips


play clip size: 70 kb


play clip size: 70 kb

Large printable image of the crumhorn

Large printable image of the crumhorn and book./.dagger

 Picture of Crumhorn & medieval gloves & sword very distinctive nasal buzzing sound which you either love or hate, but suffered from a very limited range of just over one octave - unlike recorders, they cannot be overblown to play higher notes - and had gone out of fashion by the end of the 16th century. King Henry VIII was a skilled crumhorn player and had his own collection of the instruments. The photograph above shows soprano, alto and tenor crumhorns. No explanation has been given for their odd shape: the curved end does not make any difference to the tone or volume of the instrument.

Text copyright © James McCafferty 2000 Photographic images copyright © John Credland and James McCafferty 2000