The crumhorn is a capped reed member of the woodwind family. During the Renaissance, it was at its peak and it was revived in modern times. It has an unusual bent shape because it resembles the letter J. There are some people with presumptions that this is so to direct the produced sound to the crumhorn player.

Often, the crumhorn is wooden. It has a cylinder-shaped bore and a double reed which has a cap made of wood. The wooden cap is pierced by a slit where the lips of the player rest.


Its name, crumhorn, originated from the German word Krumhornn or Krumphorn which means bent horn. This could be connected to the word crump, an old English word, meaning curve. This is also the derivation of the crumpet cake, a curved pastry, and the word crumpled. Cromorne, a French term similar to crumhorn, is a woodwind with a contrasting design.

Sound production

A twelfth is overblown by the crumhorn rather than an octave. That can be seen through the reed that covers the edge of the resonating tube and through the cylindrical bore. The reed vibrates as the player blows which causes a wave through the bore.

The length of the pipe is not the only factor that affects pitch because the breath pressure does too. This requires crumhorns to be at a fixed dynamic level when played and shortening notes implies crumhorn dynamics. The change in pitch of sound produced by the bagpipe while the player fills the bag is comparable to the variation in pitch caused by breathing changes.

Crumhorn music is commonly played by a consort of crumhorns because of limited range. A consort of crumhorns is a cluster of instruments with different pitches and sizes. Crumhorns are meant to copy the vocal quartet with bass, tenor, soprano, and alto. It has pitches in F and C.

The instrument has a naturally sharp sound that gives a good effect in the modern ensemble. The tone which is from nasal humming to rich buzzing depends on the way their reeds are voiced.


Crumhorns are made of wood which was hollowed, packed with sand, and closed. The bottom is steamed to become soft and bent to form a J shape. The bell is then hollowed out to be conical with the goal of increasing volume and sound production.

The reed is made of cane. This cane is folded and attached to a short tube called staple which is placed in the wooden pipe’s top. Access to the high notes comes with enormous difficulty because of the lack of reed control of wind capped instruments. Its range only encompasses the fundamental sounds made by consecutive opening of the horizontal holes. There are larger but rarer types of the crumhorn that widens the range by one to two notes down through auxiliary holes.

Possible origins and early use

In Europe, the crumhorn was used in the 1300’s to the 1600’s. It is said to originate from the chanter of bagpipes and the bladder pipe.

These could have been possibly played at the court of England’s King Henry the Eighth because he owned twenty-five pieces of the instrument. In Great Britain, crumhorns were not as popular as in the Continent where a small group of music for crumhorns has been kept. It was used in modern times by Richard Harvey and Brian Gulland from the rock group named Gryphon.