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  shawm Der Sackpfeyffer zu Linden
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In general "shawm" is the term for a whole family of instruments. Mostly known are shawm, bombard, rauschpfeiff, oboe, bombarde, zurna and shenai. The shawm instruments are also called oboe instruments in the western influenced organology, although the (modern) oboe is the most atypical member of the shawm family. Shawms are double-reed wood-wind instruments with a conical bored tube that's mostly finished with a large bell. Shawms have 7-8 medium sized fingerholes whereby the eight hole is fingered with the left thumb. Crossfingerings can be used. The lowest tone often is handled with a key on large instruments. The modern bombarde is available as a fully cromatic instrument with fingerholes and keys. The modern oboe is fully equipped with keys. All instruments sounds rather loud except the oboe. All instruments have a large range to slide the tones. Shawms overblow at first times into the octave, at second times into the twelfth. Mostly they are overblown only once.
In the era of the Renaissance shawms, rauschpfeiffs and bombards were build in different sizes. The c/f-pitch has come to stay. The shawms and the rauschpfeiffs were build without any keys in the sizes sopranino (lowest tone f1), soprano (lowest tone c1), alto (lowest tone f0) and tenor (lowest tone c0). The fingering on the tenor instruments is very problematic caused by the large distances between the fingerholes. The bombards were build in the sizes soprano (lowest tone c1), alto (lowest tone f0), tenor (lowest tone c0) and bass (lowest tone F). The lowest tones are handled with keys on larger instruments. A great bass instrument (lowest tone C) hasn't come to stay because it's very unwieldy and consumes a lot of air.

Three techniques exist to blow instruments of the shawm family: The instrument shown above is a modified soprano Renaissance shawm.

Download here a sound example ("improvisation over a Saltarello", own work / Saltarello: script in the British Museum, 14. c.): Sopranschalmei.ogg

Originally the instrument had no fingerhole for the left thumb. This was bored later. That enables to play faster and more easily in the non overblowing range (tones c1d1-d2). The pirouette was lost. On whose hold a hold for the windcap was mounted. The windcap and whose hold were manufactured out of a beechwood stick and were stained and waxed. The scale of the instrument encloses c1d1-c3 and it's tuned up to the tuning pitch a1 = 440 Hz. The complete scale range will be available if the instrument is played via the windcap. The windcap increases the "life" of the double-reed extremely :-)

The term "shawm" has some other meanings too:

shawm (1): family of instruments (see above)

shawm (2): instrument (see above)

shawm (3): general term for all reed instruments

shawm (4): chanter of a bagpipe. This meaning confuses a little bit and can only be understood by means of the term shawm (3).

shawm (5): organ stop, usually 8′ or 4′. This reed stop has either gentle conical or cylindrical resonators. If cylindrical resonators are used they are finished with a large conical bell. If gentle conical resonators are used, they can be finished with a large conical bell too. This stop is to be imitated the sound of the Renaissance shawm.

shawm (6): popular name for the Martin's trumpet. This instrument was developed at the beginning of the 20. century and has nothing to do with the shawm (2).

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last update: 03.11.2007