Oboe by Marigaux

Shawms by Eric Moulder

Forerunner of the modern oboe, the shawm was a popular mediaeval and renaissance member of the reed-blown woodwind family. The shawm was at the peak of usage in the Renaissance as is well documented by Praetorius, Mersenne and Maximillian but it was still being made in its traditional form as late as the end of the 17th century. Shawms were highly favoured by the renaissance town and court bands for both outdoor and large indoor festival occasions. As well as being used in pure consorts (SAAT and SATB) they were also played in broken consorts in combination with cornets, sackbuts and curtals, indicative of a degree of expression and dynamic range that is not fully exploited today.

Rauschpfeife by Eric Moulder

The rauschpfife is a member of the windcap woodwind family (an instrument where you blow through a wooden mouthpiece into the reed enclosed inside). This instrument enjoyed a relatively small period of popularity as (like its fellow windcap instruments, the crumhorn and the cornamuse), it failed to develop into a more flexible modern instrument. This is probably because with windcap instruments there is precious little control over dynamic or pitch unlike their reed-blown counterparts. This is a limitation which it is necessary to accept and love if you are to play them! Rauschpfeifen were by far loudest woodwind instruments of the 16th century and with their distinctive strident tone would have been used mainly outdoors. They have an expanding conical bore with a small bell and despite having a capped reed, overblow readily to give a range of 1 and a half octaves. They are a useful instrument in a shawm band and they also mix well with bagpipes.

English Bagpipes by Sean Jones

These are an example of a popular form of bagpipe that would have been played by street musicians from the middle ages onwards. They make a sonorous yet earthy sound (not unlike that of the Flemish bagpipes played today). They are the sort of pipes that the Miller from Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales might have played…
"A baggepype wel coude he blowe and sowne, And ther-with-al he broghte us out of towne".
Written between the 1380s and 1390s in the prologue of The Canterbury Tales.

Alto Curtal by Eric Moulder

The curtal (also known as a Dulcian) is the predecessor of the modern bassoon. Eric Moulder's Curtals are based upon various original instruments in the major European collections including the well know set in the Brussels Conservatoire by R S Melchor. They were popular instruments in the Renaissance and early baroque periods and were played in mixed consorts. There also exists a large repertoire of solo virtuoso music was written for the bass curtal. Its dynamic range means it can sit equally well under a consort of loud or soft instruments. As well as providing a good bass for recorders and shawms, etc. it also blends well with saxophones, violins or bagpipes. Because of its adaptability it has found its way into folk and traditional music. The alto curtal has a range of 2 octaves.


The name of the Crumhorn comes from the German krumhorn, meaning curved horn (or from the older English 'crump', meaning curve). The crumhorn is another member of the windcap family (see rauschpfife above) and is probably the most well known of the group for its distinctive curved shape. Unlike it's nefarious brother the rauschpfife, the crumhorn makes a softer buzzing sound (akin to a bumblebee trapped in a jam jar). It is therefore more suited to playing in quieter consorts with recorders, flutes and other crumhorns. Crumhorns do not over blow, so both my crumhorns (being keyed) have a limited range of an octave and a 3rd.

Pipe and Tabor. Pipe in D by Barry Lloyd

The pipe and tabor (also known as the whittle and dub) is a pair of instruments held in such a way that enables you to play tune and accompaniment at the same time - the original one-man band! The pipe is a three hole pipe played with the thumb and two fingers. The tabor is the drum that hangs from the wrist of the pipe hand, leaving the other hand free to beat the tabor using a drum stick. There is plenty of iconography dating from the middle ages and later of pipe and taborers, and mediaeval carvings of angels and mortals playing pipe and tabor in churches up and down the country. Notable examples can be found at Rosslyn Chapel and Beverley Minster. Mine is a lovely cherrywood pipe in D made by Barry Lloyd.