Musical Instruments Used in Germany

Written by kara rae
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Musical Instruments Used in Germany
Orchestra thrives in Germany. (orchestra image by Pedro Luis from Fotolia.com)

Germany has always had a dynamic music scene. Bach, Brahms and Handel were German; modern Germany boasts 80 publicly-financed concert halls that house 130 professional orchestras. Some German instruments have ancient origins while others have roots in the Renaissance, but no matter where they came from their purpose is the same: music provides pleasure.

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Scheitholt

The scheitholt is a stringed instrument similar to the dulcimer or zither. In his 1618/19 "Syntagma Musicum" Michael Praetorius catalogued the scheitholt as a peasant instrument. German immigrants brought the scheitholt to Appalachian America where it blended and morphed with the local culture and was overtaken by the peppier fiddle. The drone of the scheitholt made it a solo instrument that could be combined with voice.

The scheitholt is an oblong wooden box that averages 50 by 5cm. Three or four strings are attached to pegs on one end for tuning. Three of the strings are tuned alike while the fourth is tuned one octave higher. The instrument is placed on the lap (or tabletop) and strummed with the right hand while the left hand operates the noter, a wooden block that can be dragged along the strings.

Hummelchen

The hummelchen is a small German bagpipe that is typically played solo or combined with the recorder, cittern or pipe and tabor. The hummelchen is smaller than other bagpipes and emits a softer sound. Original hummelchens were held under the arm which operated a bellows. The instrument evolved to possess one to three drones, or pipes, into which the musician blows a steady stream of air and fingers similar to a recorder.

Flute

The Western concert flute, or C flute, is an oblong, hollow tube with a mouthpiece on one end and a series of six to 14 keys along the spine. Air is blown into the mouthpiece and the keys are held and released to change notes. This soprano of the instrumental world didn't become popular in chamber music until the 16th century when it began to replace the recorder. Over the centuries German flute makers have altered the flute's design, experimenting with size, shape, number of keys and working with both wood and metal. The Swiss army began calling this instrument the German flute due to its utilisation as a military signal in the German-speaking world.

Bumbass

The bumbass is an obscure German bass drum that is commonly referred to as the bladder and string or the devil's fiddle. An inflated animal bladder (or drum constructed from taut, dry animal hide) is secured to the centre of a long stick. A thick string is stretched over the bladder and fastened to each end of the stick so the bladder acts as a resonator. The bumbass is placed upright and played with a bow, traditionally made from animal hair. Bells, cymbals or decorative ornamentation are often placed atop the stick to add additional sounds.

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