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Baroque trumpet

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


A "lip-vibrated aerophone," the baroque trumpet is a musical instrument in the brass family (Smithers 1988). A baroque trumpet is a brass instrument used in the 16th through 18th centuries, or a modern replica of a period instrument. Modern reproductions include both natural trumpets and the slightly embellished vented trumpets (Barclay 1998).


The first trumpets were made by vibrating the lips into an amplifier of some type, like a shell or an animal horn. The first metal trumpets are attributed to the Egyptans, after two trumpets were discovered in the tomb of Tutankhamun: one of silver and one of bronze. These types of trumpets were used for signaling, and the sound they produce has been compared to the braying of a donkey. The trumpetís primary use through most of history has been for signaling, especially in times of war. In the middle Ages, the trumpet began to appear in courts, providing ceremonial fanfares (Tarr 1988).

Around 1400, instrument makers discovered the method for tube bending, and the trumpet began to take its familiar curved shape. Around the same time, trumpet players began to experiment with the range of the trumpet. By the 1550s, five part trumpet ensembles requiring each player to perform a different register of the trumpet were appearing (Tarr 1988).

Instruments of the period

Some of the finest surviving examples of trumpets from the Baroque period date back as far as the 1580s, and were made by Anton Schnitzer of Nuremberg (Barclay 1992). Other notable trumpet makers include: the Hainlein family of Nuremberg, the Haas family of Nuremberg, the Ehe family of Nuremberg, and William Bull of London (Bate 1978). All of these instrument makers built what are now called natural trumpets. During the period, however, these instruments would simply have been called trumpets.

Natural trumpets are crafted from brass, copper, bronze, or silver. Natural trumpets are difficult to play because they have no method of chromatic alteration, such as the valve on a modern trumpet. Instead, natural trumpets rely on the harmonic series, and pitch bending by the player to correct the out-of-tune harmonics. The harmonic series is a sequence of harmonics, overtones, or partials that can be created by increasing the frequency of the vibration, in the case of a trumpet, of a column of air (Smithers 1978). The natural harmonic series has several notes that are out-of-tune to modern western perception, notably the 7th, 11th and 13th partials. Where a composition demands these notes, the player must 'lip' them into tune, a notoriously difficult task (Barclay).

Modern replicas

Today, replicas of the natural trumpets from the Baroque era are called baroque trumpets. These reproductions are usually employed by period music ensembles to try and achieve a more authentic performance. However, the modern imitations usually include an element not found on the original instruments (Barclay 1998).

Modern instruments have what are called vent holes. These are located at an anti-node, or a position where the sound wave reflects off of the inside of the tube. The fingers cover these vents to play in the original key of the instrument. When one of the fingers is lifted, the result is a new length of the air column, producing a different transposition of the harmonic series. The vent holes are available in three hole and four hole variations, allowing the performer to correct virtually every out of tune harmonic in the series (Steele-Perkins 2001).

However, the sound produced on a vented or baroque trumpet is not of the same quality as that of the natural trumpet. Many baroque trumpets are made using the current machining methods used for modern trumpets, not the hand hammered technique exercised by the master craftsmen like Schnitzer, Haas, Hainlein, Ehe, and others. Unfortunately, many individual performers and "period instrument" orchestras convey the impression (whether intentionally or not) that these instruments are faithful copies of the originals. This has produced some controversy. Some believe that the pure natural instrument's occasional problems of faulty intonation or attack (which can occur even with the most skilled players) are simply a by-product of the characteristics of the instrument, and should be accepted as "genuinely" recreating the original sound. Others are content with the notion that tone holes are a necessary compromise to insure that the intonation is acceptable to modern ears while still retaining an approximation of the overall sound and balance of the original instrument.


Because the modern baroque trumpet is modeled after the natural trumpets of the Baroque era, the components of both instruments are nearly identical. There is a mouthpiece, which is inserted into the receiver. The receiver is attached to the long tubing, called the first yard by a short connector, called a ferrule. The first yard is connected by a ferrule to the first bow, followed by another ferrule and the second yard. The second yard is attached by a ferrule to the second bow. On the baroque trumpet, the vent holes are located at the top of the second yard, and possibly on the second bow. After the second bow are the bellpipe, the ball, the bell, garland, and bezel. The bellpipe and first yard are separated by a wood block, and over that is placed a cord for binding (Barclay 1992).

See also

  • natural trumpet



  • Barclay, Robert. 1992. The Art of the Trumpet-Maker. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Barclay, Robert. 1998. A New Species of Instrument: The Vented Trumpet in Context. Historic Brass Journal, vol. 10: p.1-13.
  • Bate, Philip. 1978. Instruments of the Orchestra: The Trumpet and Trombone. London: Ernest Benn.
  • Smithers, Don L. 1988. The Music and History of the Baroque Trumpet before 1721. 2nd edition. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.
  • Steele-Perkins, Crispian. 2001. The Trumpet. London: Kahn & Averill.
  • Tarr, Edward. 1988. The Trumpet. Translated by S.E. Plank. Portland, OR: Amadeus Press.

External links

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