Mogens Andresen



RENAISSANCE (1400 – 1600)

The Renaissance marks a rapid progress in music, at first in vocal music, but soon in instrumental music as well. At the same time there was a big development in the building of instruments, and during this period entire instrument ranges (consorts) where built from the descant to the subbass versions. The Renaissance shows us instruments of remarkable design and construction and entirely new musical instruments were born.



We owe our knowlegde of the music from the Renaissance to the development of staff-notation. Books about musical instruments (some of them fairly illustrated) and a range of preserved instruments allow us to form a clear idea of the instruments of the age. These books gives us often rather explicit descriptions of the instruments, as well as the real method to play them, ( which means how not to play them!)



Apart from the Israelian trumpets, all ancient metal lipwindinstruments were cast. The Europeans got not only the trumpet from the Arabs, but also their way of building them: forming the instrument by soldering flat hammered pieces of brass together.


Fig. 1  FORMING OF METAL SHEETS – Top: making a tube. A sheet is hammered around and soldered. – Bottom: making a bell. A sheet is cut in a triangel-form and one side is cut in stripes. The sheet is bend and soldered, thus forming a ”cone”, whereafter the cone is hammered into the required ”bell-form”.


All brass instruments from the Middle Ages are straight, but an epoch-making discovery from about 1400 made all the difference: the technique of bending the resonator tube. If you try to hammer a tube into a curve, the tube will get shrivelled. With this new technique they filled the tube with lead (which has a lower melting-point than brass), and when the lead was congealed it was possible to hammer the tube into the required form, without shrivelling. When finally heating the tube, the lead would flow out of the tube, finishing the bended tube.



Fig.2  S-SHAPED TRUMPET. As soon as the technique of bending resonator tubes was discovered it no longer was necessary to build trumpets in the unpractical straight form, and after the first S-shaped instruments:




Fig. 3   TRUMPETER WITH S-SHAPED TRUMPET – in The Garden of Love of the Court of Philip III the Good, Duke of Burgundy 1396 – 1467)

Fig. 4 FOLDED TRUMPET – the trumpet got then its well known folded form:





Brass windinstruments were build in small workshops. Especially Nuremberg, Germany, was the place where there was a great amount of ”masters”, who delivered instruments to all parts of Europe in the 16th, 17th and 18th century, and who gave Nuremberg instrument makers an outstanding reputation. Their instruments were of the highest quality and often supplied with superb decorations. For representative (not musical) reasons even silver instruments were made. To maintain this outstanding high level the instrument makers of Nuremberg were organized in special guilds, and it seems that the profession often was herited from father to son, because the famous names: Ehe, Haas, Schmidt, Neuschel and Snitzer are represented in various generations. The last family gave birth to 9 instrument makers!




FIG. 5    “DER TROMPETENMACHER” (the trumpetmaker) copper engraving by Christoph Weigl (1654 – 1725)




Fig. 6    HANS NEUSCHEL (-1533), a faymos trombonist and brass instrument maker. From woodcut “The Triumph of Maximillian I” by Hans Burgmair (1473-1531)

His father, Hans Neuschel (the elder) founded a whole instrument building family dynasty in Nuremberg, Germany. He was employed by the city council in 1579 and appointed city musician (Stadtpfeifer) 1491.

The adoptive son of Hans Neuschels (the younger), Georg Neuschel, took over the business that flourished with orders from all over Europe.

In 1555 the Danish King Chistian ordered 3 musical instruments at Hans Neuschel, including these brass instruments:


12 ”German trumpets, just like the trumpet that his grace, the Duke of Prussia, apparently recently purchased from Nuremberg, of the best

8 “Italian” trumpets of the best

1 quart-trombone (bass trombone in F), which is very good

2 tenor trombones, with one-tone crooks with which they may be lengthened, which are good     


The instruments arrived d.9. February 1557.

Georg Neuschel has no children but married the widow of a city musician, Anton Schnitzer, whose son (also called Anton) continued the company.




About 1400 A.D. the trumpet had developped in two directions: the folded trumpet and –



The lead pipe of the slide trumpet (the part of the instrument that contains the mouthpiece) was connected with the instrument with a kind of telescope so it was possible to move the instrument in and out and therewith extend the instrument, thus lowering the keynote. It was possible to lower it to an extend of about 3 halftones, and with every new keynote there would be a new range of overtones. With the slide trumpet the holes in the harmonic series were allmost filled, and it was possible to play melodic.



Fig.7    MUSIC AT A WEDDING DANCE. Copper engraving by Heinrich Aldengrever (1502 – c.1558)

To the left: 2 trumpet players with a slide trumpet, to the right: a trombone player. When playing the slide trumpet the musician used to hold the instrument right behind the mouthpiece (in a way to oppose the pressure so the embouchure was not squeezed) while the other hand slid the entire trumpet in and out, a rather difficult and clumsy way to play. This and many other pictures of this age show a mouthpiece with a very broad rim (surely to protect the embouchure from too much pressure), and that it was not uncommon to play with puffed cheeks.





Fig. 10   TRUMPET PLAYER PERFORMING ON SLIDE TRUMPET ? WITH REAR FACE BELL —  an image depicting wind musicians in a balcony atop a triumphal arch, as they prepare to play for a prince’s arrival ; Nuremberg, Stadtbibliothek.


Pictures show us that the slide trumpet was used at the Burgundic court in the northern part of France and in the Netherlands. The court played a leading role in Europe, and their ”Alte Kapelle” (also called Les Haut Menestrels = lout playing musicians) was highly respected.   The ”Alte Kapelle” consisted of one or two descant pommers (or bombards, a double reed instrument of the shawnschalmey family) a tenor pommer and a slide trumpet. They played at processions, dinners and dances.




Fig. 11   ALTA KAPELLE from Leonhard Flexl: Grazwe Schüzenbuch (1568)





Fig.12    THURNERHORN – SLIDETRUMPET WAS ALSO USED TO PLAY FROM GALLERIES AND DONJONS, and here the trumpeter played on his own. It was a tremendous effect when a few players played their own choral melodies from different towers – by Sabastian Virdung (Tyskland): Musica getutscht (1511)




Fig.13    TRUMPETPLAYER ON A TOWER. Fresco from Brarup Church, Maribo, about 1500. The playing from the tower goes back to the 13th century. The player, as a watchman, stood ready to blow alarm in case of fire or enemies.  




Fig. 14    THREE TRUMPETPLAYERS FROM TOWERS – Fresco Dalbyneder Church 1511




The folded trumpet was the most common trumpet. The straight and bended tubes were not soldered but were pushed into each other and tightened with beewax. The bell and tubing sections were separated by a wooden block. Heavy woolen cords held the whole together. The knob on the bell was for decoration and strenghend the point between the bell and the tube. The outer bended part was tied to the bell with a piece of leather or metal through a little hole in the bell. Most trumpets were pitched in D, but there are examples of trumpets pitched in F, Eb og C. The first evidence of a possibility to lower the keynote by putting a small tube in between the mouthpiece and the instrument, is in the book Syntagma Musicum by the German Michael Praetorius (1616-1620)


Fig. 15    FOLDED TRUMPET .  The trumpet became a real instrument for the ruling class, the regents of Europe – and ofcourse the military (wich was under supervision of the regents). The status of the trumpeter became a very respected and honourable one, and stayed that way for a very long time.


Fig. 16  HUNGARIAN TRUMPETER, from The Courtly Household Cards (Das Hofämterspiel) German, Upper Rhineland, ca. 1450. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.


Fig. 16     Trumpets were often elaborately decorated. This trumpet, made by Anton Schnitzer in Nuremberg, dates from 1581, today in Kunsthistorisces Museum, Wien. There is a trombone player engraved on the bell. The player appears to be a woman, probably a symbolic depiction of a muse source:”




The trumpet corpses of the court were in a way ”a sound symbol of power”. They followed, headed by timpani players, the regents on their way to party and dance, to meetings and sessions of all kind, announcing the arrival, the presence and depart of kings and sovereigns, announcing and thus illustrating the splendour of the events.

The trumpeters were organized in a guild, and they had a tremendous self esteem. They were aware of ”not to mingle”: to play with ordinary town- or ”not established” musicians and in that way undermine their position.

All over Europe only the regents were allowed to have trompeter in their train. Only at times of war, the trumpeter were transferred to the military. They had other functions like ”courier” or Kings Messenger.


Fig.17  RIDING TRUMPET CORPS. From woodcut “The Triumph of Maximillian I” by Hans Burgmair (1473-1531)

Fig. 18   TRUMPET PLAYERS PERFORM FOR A WEDDING PARTY FROM THE BALCONY, (1300-1400). These kind af indoor balcony got the name TRUMPETERS SEAT. 



Fig. 21  A BALL IMN AUSBURG c. 1590-1595. AN ENSEMBLE PERFORMING FROM A TRUMPETERS SEAT. Gradually  the trumpeter seats were also used by musicians playing other instruments.


Fig. 23  DRAWING OF A TRUMPETER by Abraham Bloemaert (1564-1651)  


Fig. 23   THE ROYAL TRUMPET CORPS at the funeral of King FREDERIK 2nd in 1588. The engraving is the bookmark of the Det Kongelige Kapel (the Royal Danish Orchestra).



The trumpet corpses were a real joy to the ear and the eye. They played on silver trumpets and were fancy dressed, and both timpani and trumpets had precious drapes and hangings. The timpanist made spectacular and grotesk movements and best of all was a black timpanist, a Moor, on a white horse.


Fig. 25   TRUMPET BANNER WITH ROYAL ARMS OF CHARLES II (1630-1685) KING OF ENGLAND, SCOTLAND and IRELAND.   This silk trumpet banner was made around 1660, probably in England. The banner would have hung from the trumpet of one of the four state trumpeters. These trumpeters announced the heralds when they were making official proclamations.


Fig. 26   GERMAN TRUMPETER FROM THE 16TH CENTURY, woodcut by Just Amman


The trumpet corpses played by head, to not to reveal their melodies. The few examples of written melodies are probably for teaching purposes, as show in a ”Trumpeter Book”, by Magnus Thomsen, the trumpeter of the court of King Christian 4th. The music is written down in codes, and only the second voice is given, the other four were to improvise, following special rules. There were two ways of playing, the PRINCIPAL played fanfare-like with a lot of tongue technic (2nd-, 3rd-, 4th- and 5th voice). The CLARIN played more lyrical in the high register (1st voice). The Fanfare of today, is in fact a reminisence of the playingmethod of the trumpet corpses of the renaissance court. Most places the trumpets were pitched in D: in Danmark Fanfares are still played in D. In Sweden the trumpets were pitched in Eb, likewise their Fanfares are in Eb!

In the military they used trumpets to give signals, in times of war, as in times of peace, as a form of communication between the different troups and cohorts.







Fig. 28    FROM OLAUS MAGNUS: CARTA MARINA, 1539.   The trumpet was also used to signal on board Ships.



The Renaissance shows us the first full-chromatic treble-lipwindinstrument, the Zink, better known as the Cornett (Italian: Cornetto). Unlike the slidetrumpet, build on the principle to lengthen the instrument, the cornett has the possibility to shorten the instrument. It is provided with fingerholes, all holes closed it provides the lowest tone, and by opening them, the aircolumn is shortened, thus making a higher tone. This idea, as we all know from the recorder, was already known in older instruments, like the Swedish shepherdhorn.    


 Fig. 29    TWO CORNETT PLAYERS, from the ceiling painting at Rosenborg Castle, 1617, Copenhagen

The Cornett is made of a round or octagonal piece of wood. The mouthpiece is usually turned from horn or sometimes boxwood, it has a very small cup diameter and a sharp rim, which can hold the embouchure with little pressure. The distance between the fingerholes can be rather big, and to make it easier to play, the instrument was often slightly curved and the musician held the instrument to the side. That made the embouchure rather special too, as the mouthpiece was held to the corner of the mouth. Because of the form and playing method, the sound and intonation of the instrument depended highly on the skills of the cornett player.

The three basic types of treble cornett are curved, straight and mute. The curved cornett, (It. cornetto curvo) is the most common type. It is about 60 cm long and made of a single block of wood cut into a curved shape and split lengthwise. A conical bore is carved out of each half, and the pieces are glued together, the exterior planed to an octagonal profile. The pieces are secured by bindings and a covering of black leather. (hence the name Black Cornett). The straight treble cornett (It. cornetto diritto) is made of wood, usually yellow boxwood (the white cornett) – with a conical bore. The mute cornett, (It. cornetto muto) is made like the straight cornett, but with a mouthpiece as an integral part of the pipe. This integral mouthpiece type had a less sharp timbre, rather a soft and velvety quality.

Furthermore there is the tenor cornett, (It. Corno torto, or cornone), 75-100 cm long and generally made with a double curve. It was pitched a 5th lower than the treble, and provided with an extra fingerhole. Finally the bass cornett pitched a 4th or 5th below the tenor.




Fig. 30   VARIOUS CORNETTS, FROM THE BOOK BY MICHAEL PRÆTORIUS: SYNTAGMA MUSICUM (1616 – 1620) From left to right:Curved cornett, Descant cornett (cornettino), Mute cornett and Tenor cornett.

The cornett’s tone is often described as being close to the human voice, particularly that of a boy soprano, on the other hand it is also somewhat similar to that of the oboe, and in highs it is more like the trumpet. The cornett was mainly used in accompanying choral music, often doubling the voices of the choir, but when it did not double voices it either substituted for them or played instrumental lines of sometimes great difficulty in the high register. The main part of the instrumental music of the Renaissance was not written for special instruments, and the cornett was used from the beginning of the era, together with trombones and strings. It can be heard in the music of Andrea Gabrieli (1510 – 1586) and his famous cousin Giovanni Gabrieli (1555 – 1612), both organ players in the Sct Marco church in Venice. The musical possibilities of the cornett – a flexible intonation, which enabled it to be played perfectly in tune in a range of tonalities and temperaments – made it a “virtuous” and one of the most used treble intruments of the period. ( described by the Baroque theorist Marin Mersenne as: ”a ray of sunshine piercing the shadows”) 



Humans originally used to blow on the actual horns of animals before starting making them in metal, still calling them Horns. At first most horns had this curved form, later they developped into a spiral form with one or several windings. The principle of the horn is a conical tube, but in the Renaissance the terms trumpet and horn are used simultaneous, and we know that spiral trumpets existed up til the Baroque.

Fig.  HUNTING HORN PLAYER WITH A TABLATURE NOTATION FOR RHYTHM.  The early horns were in effect Hunting horns, known as such from a book about hunting from 1349 (“Le Livre du Tresor de Vanerie”, by Hardouin de Fontaines Guérin ) with written hunting signals on a single tone (no staff notation, but a system of black and white squares). As the trumpets were used as a signal instrument in the military, the horns were used to communicate during the hunt.  The rhythm could be written like this in modern notation:



Fig.31    SPIRAL INSTRUMENTS FROM THE RENAISSANCE. Left: By Virdung: Acher horn (probably made of earthenware or porcelain) and Jeger horn. Right: By Prætorius: Jäger trompet (huntsman’s trumpet)



Fig. 32     HUNTING HORN I G fra 1590. Historiches Museum, Dreden.

Fig. 33    PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG MAN, PLAYING A HUNTING HORN (of a kind ?) Michiel Sweerts, Bruxselles 1618-1664





The trombone startet as an improvement of the slide trumpet in the 15th century. By playing the slide trumpet, the player slid the whole instrument in and out, but with the trombone, the player held the bell part of the tube in his left hand, while his right moved the U-shaped tube (the slide). (see fig. 4, slide trumpet and trombone).




Fig. 34    The Slide of the Trombone, and the 7 Positions. In moving the Slide the instruments is extended in two places, thus lowering the keynote with 7 halftones, and filling the holes in the natural harmonic series




With this slide the trombone was ”perfect”, and it is still used in the same way as at the time it was born. It got several names: Italy: trombone (tromba – trumpet and –one means big : big trumpet), France: sacqueboute (old french: sacquer : to draw out), nowadays trombone a coulisse, England: at first Sackbutt (which is nowadays used for “the old trombone”), modern Trombone, Germany: Posaune (from the Latin Buccina), and Scandinavia: Basun.



Fig.35      ALT-, TENOR- AND BASS TROMBONE BY PRÆTORIUS. Pay attention to the extra tube at the tenor trombone to lenghten the instrument, and the bass trombone’s special handle, (to lenghten the players arm, which makes it possible to slide it even further) and the tuning slide.



During the Renaissance there was a entire consort of trombones: the alto-, tenor-, bass- and contrabass trombone, although the last one was rarely seen. The tenor trombone was pitched in A, the alto a fourth higher in D, or a fifth higher in E. You would think that the tenor trombone was the most common, the so called: Gemeine rechte Posaun, by Michael Praetorius in his ”Syntagma Musicum”. (other names: Tuba minor, Trombetta, Trombone piccolo) The bass trombone got its name from the difference in pitch, compared to the tenor: Quart-Posaun in E and Quint-Posaun in D. (other names: Trombon grande, Trombone majore, Tuba major) The contrabass trombone was likewise called after the difference in pitch: Octav-Posaun, or Trombone doppio, Tuba maxima, or la trombone all Ottava basso. (Praetorius: Syntagma musicum II).


Lås til træk 

Fig.36     BRACE ON A RENAISSANCE/BAROUQE TROMBONE. The various parts of the instrument were not soldered, but put together with a system of braces, fastened with crooks, so the instrument could vibrate and sound freely.


Fig.  37   A TROMBONIST FROM A PANEL PAINTING c. 1520, Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon, Portugal..

The trombone was meant to be played in two ways: to produce the low Choir-tone, used by organs and thus used inside, and the high Cornett-tone for outdoor use. To make that possible the Bass trombone had a tuning slide (like the moderne tuning slide), whereas the Tenor and Alto could lower the pitch by adding small extra tubes. The old trombones had a narrow bore and a flad mouthpiece, which gave a light and allmost discreet sound. The trombone was highly populair from the start, it could play chromatic, and it worked perfect with soft instruments like recorders as well as with loud instruments like trumpets and timpani. The soft character was though the most important part, as described by the french Marin Mersenne in his book Harmonie universelle (1636 – 1637): a direct appeal to the soft character of the trombone, and a warning to play ”trumpet-like” . The German Daniel Speer states in his book Grundichtigs Unterricht der Musikalichen Kunst from 1687 that in playing the trombone you needed so little effort that a 8 – 10 year old boy easily could do so. Especially when doubling choir voices you hear a fantastic mix of voices and tones, rich in overtones, a real ”sound from heaven”.



Fig. 38    THREE TROMBONE PLAYERS  from the ceiling painting at the Rosenborg Castle, 1617, Copenhagen.


The popularity of the trombone exploded, and it was used extensively across Europe. The English king Henry VIII (1509 – 1547) had 10 trombonists at his court. In Venice the famous Giovanni Gabrieli and his uncle Andrea Gabrieli used the many galleries in St. Mark’s Basilica to compose ”stereophonic” music for different groups of musicians, set up on various places in the church. In Giovanni Gabrieli’s Sonata Pian e Forte two groups respond to each other. Here, for the first time, the use of dynamics in music were given (hence the title) and it is the first piece of music especially written for certain instruments, a ”light” group existing of one cornett and three trombones, and a ”dark” group of one violin and three trombones. In many places the trombonists were in high favour and in Spain they were like ”Prima Donna’s”. They were the best payed musicians ever and were indirectly cause to the enlargement of the spanish organs with reed pipes as a substitute for the trombones.


Fig. 39  A BASS TROMBONIST. A painting on an the case of an organ by Christian Smith, 1643, London, England


The cornett and the trombones were mates from the start and were both used to double choir voices. As part of the family they played together on various occasions, f.x. when playing in consorts (music played by one instrument family) the strength was usually 2 cornetts, plus an alto-, a tenor- and a bass trombone. This wil have been the case in the work of Anthony Holborne:   Pavans, Galliards, Almains, and other short Aeirs both grave and light, in five parts, for Viols, Violons, or other Musicall Winde instruments (1588), or in the original Music for His  Majesty’s Sackbuts and Cornetts, by Matthew Locke, especially written for the procession at the crowning of Charles II in 1622. ( if the music was written for instruments of different instrument families, it was called broken consorts )



Fig.40     CORNETT- AND TROMBONE ENSEMBLE. Musicians from a wedding procession. German picture  c. 1590, German National Museum.