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Woodwind Instruments

Medieval life and Times

Medieval Music - Woodwind Instruments
Medieval Musical instruments would be used by the musicians of the period including the Waits, Minstrels or Troubadours. There were three categories of musical instruments in the Middle Ages - woodwind, string and percussion. Haut referred to loud instruments (literally "high" but referring to volume, not to pitch) which were suitable for outdoors.

This type of instrument included many Woodwind Instruments including the shawm, sackbut, flute, pipe, bagpipe and tabor. Many of the Medieval musical instruments were the forerunners to our modern musical instruments.

Definition of Woodwind Instruments
Definition of woodwind instruments: a family of instruments that require air to perform and are made from wood. The woodwind instruments use a column of air vibrating within a pipe that has little holes along it to generate vibration with the with the airflow through the pipe and control the length of the sound waves produced by the vibrating air. Different methods were used to create the sound such as blowing across a mouth hole as with flutes) or blowing into a mouthpiece with a single or a double reed.

Types of Woodwind Musical Instruments
There were many types of Woodwind Musical Instruments played during the Medieval times. Many of the woodwind instruments had strange or exotic shapes including the names of woodwind instruments detailed in the following list:

  • The Flute - Similar to our modern flutes. This type of Musical instruments played by flute-minstrels of the Middle Ages
  • The Trumpet - Long instrument made of metal, often in four parts - often associated with fanfares and pageants
  • The Pipe - The pipe was an extremely basic instrument usually having only three melody holes
  • The Shawm - The shawm was a reed instrument with vent holes
  • Recorder - The recorder was also an extremely basic instrument with melody holes
  • Flageolet - A small fipple flute with four finger holes and two thumb holes.
  • The Bagpipe - The Bagpipe was an ancient instrument, used by the poorest people and was made using a goat or sheep skin and a reed pipe
  • The Crumhorn - The crumhorn (Curved Horn) was introduced in the 1400's as a double reed musical instrument
  • The Gemshorn - The gemshorn was made of horn of an ox, chamois or similar
  • Cornett - The cornett was an early woodwind instrument taking the form of a long tube with woodwind-style fingerholes
  • The Lizard - The lizard was a descriptive term for an s-shaped horn
  • The Ocarina - An egg-shaped woodwind instrument with a mouthpiece and finger holes
  • Sackbut - A medieval musical instrument resembling a trombone
  • Hautboy - A slender double-reed woodwind instrument with a conical bore and a double-reed mouthpiece
  • English Horn- Despite its name it is not a horn - this instrument is more similar to an oboe
  • Cor Anglais - Another name commonly used for the Cor Anglais is the English Horn
  • Horns - Originally made of a horn (ox or a ram)
  • Bombard - The Bombard can be described as a large shawm
  • Oboe - evolved from the Shawm into the hautboy and then the oboe
  • Trombone- a long tube whose length can be varied by a U-shaped slide
  • Tuba- an ancient trumpet, the lowest brass woodwind instrument
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