Crumhorns shown in the “Syntagma Musicum” Vol. 2 (1619)
modern crumhorns with keys, alto crumhorn in f, bass crumhorn in f
double-reed of an alto crumhorn in f

The crumhorn is a musical instrument of the woodwind family, most commonly used during the Renaissance period. In modern times, there has been a revival of interest in Early Music, and crumhorns are being played again.

The name derives from the German Krumhorn (or Krummhorn or Krumporn) meaning bent horn. This relates to the old English crump meaning curve, surviving in modern English in 'crumpled' and 'crumpet' (a curved cake). The similar sounding French term cromorne when used correctly refers to a woodwind instrument of different design, though the term cromorne is often used in error synonymously with that of crumhorn.

The crumhorn is a capped reed instrument. Its construction is similar to that of the chanter of a bagpipe. A double reed is mounted inside a windcap at one end of a long pipe. Blowing into the windcap produces a musical note. The pitch of the note can be varied by opening or closing finger holes along the length of the pipe. One unusual feature of the crumhorn is its shape; the end is bent upwards in a curve resembling the letter 'J'. Some people think this is so that the sound produced from the crumhorn is directed toward the player to improve the intonation in consort playing.

Crumhorns make a strong buzzing sound, but quieter than their conical-bore relatives the rauschpfeife and shawm. They have a limited range, usually a major ninth. While it is theoretically possible to get the reed to overblow a twelfth above the fundamental note, this is extremely difficult because the reed is not held in the mouth, and in practice all playing is confined to the fundamental series. Some larger instruments have their range extended downwards by means of additional holes and sliders or by dropping the pressure. Modern instruments have their range extended upwards to an eleventh by two keys. Crumhorns can be chromatically played by using cross-fingerings, except for the minor second above the lowest note.

Because of the limited range, music for crumhorns is usually played by a group of instruments of different sizes and hence at different pitches. Such a group is known as a consort of crumhorns. Crumhorns are built in imitation of the vocal quartet with soprano, alto, tenor and bass as a family, as was true with most instruments of the Renaissance. There are examples of higher and lower sounding instruments, of which the great bass is the only commonly used one. The instruments are pitched in C and F:

size scale range (modern crumhorn in parentheses)
Soprano c1 d1 – d2 (– f2)
Alto f0 g0 – f1 (– b1)
Tenor c0 d0 – d1 (– f1)
Bass F G – f0 (– b0)
Great Bass C D – d0 (– f0)

Johann Hermann Schein included a padouana à 4 for crumhorns in his collection Banchetto Musicale, 1617. Michael Praetorius suggested the use of crumhorns in some of his sacred vocal works as a possible alternative to trombones, dulcians and other instruments.

In popular music, the crumhorn is used by the Rock band Gryphon. The Blibbering Humdingers also used crumhorn in one of their more popular songs, "Dobby Bang Your Head." A crumhorn also features prominently in Carey Blyton's 1970 score for the serial Doctor Who and the Silurians.

External links

Additional information:


MP3 Music file:
"L'arboscello Ballo Furlano" by Giorgio Mainerio hosted by external site MILLA crumhorns by Stefan Beck
Direct link to file is not provided as license grants private but not commercial use.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • crumhorn — [krum′hôrn΄] n. an early double reed musical instrument with a curve at the end of the tube …   English World dictionary

  • crumhorn — variant of krummhorn …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • crumhorn — /krum hawrn /, n. a Renaissance musical reed instrument having a cylindrical tube curved at the end. Also, cromorne, krumhorn. [1950 55; < G Krummhorn, equiv. to krumm crooked, bent + Horn HORN] * * * ▪ musical instrument also spelled  Krummhorn  …   Universalium

  • crumhorn — noun Any of several related simple woodwind instruments having a bent horn …   Wiktionary

  • crumhorn — see CRAM …   The Hutchinson dictionary of word origins

  • crumhorn — noun variant spelling of krummhorn …   English new terms dictionary

  • crumhorn — crum•horn [[t]ˈkrʌmˌhɔrn[/t]] n. mus mad a Renaissance musical reed instrument having a cylindrical tube curved at the end • Etymology: 1950–55; < G Krummhorn=krumm crooked, bent +Horn horn …   From formal English to slang

  • crumhorn — /ˈkrʌmhɔn/ (say krumhawn) noun a wind capped double reed instrument of the Renaissance. Also, krummhorn. {German krummhorn curved horn} …   Australian English dictionary

  • crumhorn — see CRAM …   Word origins

  • crumhorn — var. of KRUMMHORN …   Useful english dictionary

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