The Instruments

Below are illustrations of the types of renaissance instruments we play: loud wind instruments like the shawm, curtal, rauschfeife, cornett, sackbutt and some types of bagpipe quiet winds like the recorder, flute, crumhorn, rackett and other types of bagpipe, stringed instruments such as the guitar, cittern, hurdy-gurdy and harp, and assorted percussion instruments.


Sopranino, soprano and alto double-reed instruments, the ancestors of the modern oboe and cor anglais; wide conical bore, hence very loud

Curtal or Dulcian

Soprano and bass double-reed and double-bored instrument, the ancestor of the modern bassoon; conical bore, quite loud


Sopranino, soprano and alto wind-capped shawms with wide flaring conical bore; the loudest of the reed instruments

Great English bagpipes and Flemish bagpipes

Both have a loud double-reeded chanter and two single-reeded drones

Leicestershire bagpipes and Cornish bagpipes

Quiet indoor bagpipes with a chanter and a single drone, and early sixteenth century bagpipe, with two chanters and no separate drone, with moderate volume


Quiet wind-capped shawms with narrow parallel bore: soprano, alto and bass cornemuses and tenor crumhord


Fife and renaissance and baroque transverse or German flutes


Soprano, alto and tenor wide-bored recorders; known at the time as the English or common flute

Cornett or cornetto

A "hybrid" instrument with a trumpet-type mouthpiece and fingering like a woodwind instrument; considered in the Renaissance and early Baroque to be the instrument resembling most closely the humen voice


With a narrow bore and smaller bell than a modern trombone, but otherwise very similar


A flat-backed, wire-strung instrument with re-entrant tuning


A small guitar with four (or others may have five) courses of gut strings


A mechanical violin, with a wheel vibrating the strings, two melody strings played by pressing key-operated tangents onto the strings to alter the note, and several fixed-pitch drone strings


Skin-headed, double-headed drum played with sticks

Spanish cross-strung harp

A chromatic harp with two rows of strings, one diatonic row and the other providing the intermediate semitones

Italian triple harp

The Italian solution to making the harp chromatic; has three rows of strings, the outer two diatonic and the middle row providing the additional semitones


A pair of small kettle-drums worn on a belt around the waist and played with two sticks; one drum usually has a snare

String drum

A tuned percussion instrument, with two sets of strings a fifth apart, played with a single beater; traditionally played as accompaniment for a three-holed pipe


A rebec, a late medieval three-stringed fiddle with the body and neck out of a solid piece of wood.

Baroque violin

A late renaissance/early baroque violin and bow.


Narrow, multiple-bored instrument played with controlled double reed; quite quiet