Old musical instruments: the warp horn

Double Reed Instrument

In the very last part of the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance, the warp horn became popular, an instrument that is already a striking appearance due to its shape. By the way, also the somewhat nasal sounding sound is quite characteristic. The very first mention of the warp in dates back to 1489, in Germany. The warp horn is a blowing instrument with a double reed. In contemporary musical instruments only the oboe and bassoon are double reed instruments. These are the modern followers of the Schalmei and the dulcian of the Renaissance.


Playing Double Reed Instrument

Instruments with a double reed are played with the double reed largely in the mouth. By varying breathing pressure, lipstand and lip pressure (embouchure), the vibration of the reed can be affected, and therefore also the pitch. The shalmei belongs to the group of 'loud instruments', excellent for playing in large spaces or outdoors.

Photo: The upper part of the warp horn, the wind hairdo and mouthpiece are omitted for a while, so you can see the double reed. In the past, of course, real wicker was used for this, nowadays you can also find plastics more often. Since the wind haircut is usually over it, you don't see that plastic. In the photo looks a 'real' reed on the instrument and there is a plastic reed next to.

Soft Instruments

In smaller spaces, the sound of a shalmei was too loud, too obtrusive. They searched for wind instruments that produced less sound, and therefore sounded pleasant inside. In the group of soft instruments you could find recorder, flutes and curves.


As mentioned, also a warp horn is a double reed instrument. At the warp horn, the double reed is not taken directly into the mouth, but a wind haircut is placed around the reed. The player blows on the nozzle on the wind haircut. As a result, the reed is vibrated and you hear sound. Since there is no direct contact of lips on the reed, it is not possible to influence the tones with lip stand or lip print (embouchure). The only way to influence the pitch is by breathing pressure or by squeezing the reed more firmly (or less firmly) between the lips. The tone you play can be increased slightly by blowing louder or squeezing the lips slightly more.

By the way, the fingering of the warp horn largely corresponds to that of a shalmei or a recorder.

Photo: the upper part of the warp. You can see the wind haircut and the mouthpiece (which you need to blow into)


Limited range

Many wind instruments have a large tonal range, by overblowing. That is, by blowing louder and a special fingering, a second, higher, octave could also be achieved. That does not apply to the warp horn, because the wind haircut prevents this. The tonal range of the warp is therefore limited to an entire octave (consisting of eight tones), plus one tone. Such a tonal range is also called a none (= negen).

More modern warm-horns


The limited range has been extended in more modern versions of the warp horn by applying one or two valves. That saved one or two tones, so you could handle just a little more music. On the specimen in the photo you can see a soprano warp with such an extra valve.

Kromhoorn family

Like so many instruments, the warp horn was also performed in a 'family'. In the imitation of the human voice, you had:

  • soprano, voted in c
  • alt, voted in f
  • tenorm, voted in c
  • bass, tuned in f
  • Sometimes even a big bass was used, also tuned in c.

The lower the instrument sounds, the larger it is.



The choice of music to play always had to take into account the tonal range. Yet there was enough left and several composers have written music that is excellent to play with kromhorns. There were several warp companies, and even in orchestras there was a warp section. In orchestras from 1700 the warp is no longer present.

Picture: Double reed instruments from the Renaissance, as recorded in the Syntagma Musicum by Michael Praetorius (early 17th century)


The warp has a typical shape, you could almost call it a kind of walking stick. This form had three functions:

  • A decorative function. The eye also wants what and the typical form attracted naturally attention.
  • The music sounds mainly through the end of the instrument. Due to the curved shape, this sound is pushed up and forward more than to the floor. So the music could be better directed to the audience.
  • Because the sound is not directed to the floor, the player will also be able to hear the music better. And that was important, because intonating these instruments was not easy. If you couldn't hear yourself properly, then of course you couldn't tune in to each other.


A variant of the warp horn is the cornemuse. This is also a double reed instrument that is played via a wind haircut. The difference with the curving horn is in the shape: a cornemuse does not have the curved shape of the warp horn, but is straight. The playing style and sound are quite similar to each other. A cornemuse often does not have the extra valves that you see on the warp horn. As a result, the tonal range is limited to the none (= negen tonen: één octaaf plus één toon).

The word cornemuse is used in France to denote a bagpipes. When you look at a bagpipes, you see that the pipes of it do look like a cornemuse. The sound of a cornemuse also corresponds to the sound of a single bagpipes pipe.

Photo: soprano cornemuse

The warp now

In orchestras you don't see the warp horn anymore. Groups that play Renaissance music often choose to perform them as much as possible with original instruments or replicas thereof. So the instrument is still being built.

Kromhoorn at the Stadpijpers

I like to play the Renaissance music myself, and as I have told many times before, I do so at the Stadpipers of 's-Hertogenbosch. I mainly play schalmei, dulcian, and sometimes soprano or sopranino recorder. At the Stadpipers we don't really use the Kromhoorn yet, although we sometimes practice with it, and we always take copies with us when we explain (for example in schools) about the music and the musicians from the Renaissance. Because a warp horn is a softer sounding instrument, it is less suitable for outdoor playing. But, we keep the options open, because variety is just always very nice, anyway?

(c) 2021 Hans van Gemert

Own photos and one print from the Syntagma Musicum, which can be regarded as the very first music encyclopedia. Written and signed by Michael Praetorius, between 1614 and 1620.

This article is an edit of an article I had previously posted on Infonu.nl


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Requiem: Chapter 5
- Just in time Stephen March could save himself from a certain death with a lateral leap. The bright red glider drilled into the window of ' Redstone & Son ', a branch of a Western electronics company that had gained a foothold in the New World. One of the first groups to have won this authorization after the Second Cold War. The reinforced windows of the electronics store were no match for the kinetic forces of the runaway vehicle. The window glass splits into countless small pieces. At the last moment, Stephen had seen the murder vehicle rushing at him in the light of the window window. His rapid reaction, an instinctive reflex at the moment itself - was happiness or perhaps the result of his daily workout - had given him that small chance and saved his life. Because most of the pieces of glass had been broken up by the movement of the glider inside the shop space, March had not suffered any serious cuts. His pants and vest were torn and smeared by the fall, and his left leg was a little worse planed by the unsoft contact with the concrete, but the rest was not easy.. While he was still recovering from the first shock, he heard above the panicked screams of the pedestrians who witnessed the event, from the store a metallic scraping. To his great surprise, he saw the red carlide moving out of the storefront and turning to him. Stephen frowned amazed the eyebrows. Apparently, that killing machine was targeting him. This wasn't a coincidence, not an ordinary accident.. His hunch shouted at him a single word: “Run!’. He took the first street on the right at a delirious pace, almost slipping he could just avoid a pedestrian who was angry behind him. A second later he heard a bons accompanied by a creepy scraping sound. Stephen looked backwards and saw the unfortunate passerby crushed by the chasing autobot slipping along the wall in a blood-red pattern. The fear knocked him in the throat, the adrenaline made him run even faster. He thought the Metro, I should get it.. There, the runaway computer car wouldn't be able to follow him. He jumped up the stairs with two steps at the same time that would lead him to the main street via a few inland roads and also to the entrance of the underground train network. Whenever he reached the end of one of those roads, he heard the murderous vehicle approaching and blowing his neck like a hot breath. He walked even faster, and it seemed like he was given wings because of the fear that drove him. Eventually he came into the street where the entrance to the Metro was. He saw it as a redeeming mouth that would swallow it up. Another ten meters. With his last breath he squeezed out one last sprint. With a tiger jump, he plunged forward down the stairs and hurtfully rolled to the bottom of the entrance, where he hoped to be safe from the murderous autobot. Stephen felt vomited. It was a miracle, but apparently he didn't break anything at first sight, even though he was in pain everywhere. He crawled stumbling and leaning against a pillar again upright. The red monster remained hovering in front of the entrance to the Metro for a while and then disappeared out of sight.. People looked at him with fear, and many walked around him in a wide bow.. In the light of a window of a train he saw the reason. He just looked like a wreck. In the toilet of the underground, he tried to decent his clothes some and take up the worst damage. All in all, it turned out to be too easy. All his muscles were stiff due to the intense effort but nothing felt broken to. He bled from a number of small wounds to the elbows and hands. The abrasions on his leg did not look really life-threatening, although it had to be taken care of professionally. Stephen should see a doctor as soon as possible for a skilled patch. Now he no longer looked like a diplomat Stephen March, but more like a clochard who had walked into the wall several times in his alcoholic haze... or perhaps fell down the stairs of the Metro. His first idea was to tell the police everything and file a complaint against strangers. Only then did he realize that he had not seen a license plate number on his murderous stalker. In the New World all gliders or autobots were numbered on the bottom, the doors and the top of the vehicles. So one could immediately see or find out which city or area they came from. In addition, the windows were darkened so that he could not disclose the face of the driver or occupants. weird! He would wait a while to visit the police. His sixth sense told him that he might do more harm than good with that.. After an hour on the emergency service of the nearest hospital, he was given the necessary iodine tincture, special adhesive plasters containing an antibiotic and gauze dressing - and what was especially important - a strong painkiller. His leg was not broken, but still hit worse than he had previously suspected. Stephen told the doctor on duty that he had fallen from the stairs of the subway entrance due to a misstep and sustained those injuries. Even if that was only half the truth, it wasn't a lie. It sounded really convincing how Stephen brought it, but this explanation also avoided any annoying questions from the doctor on duty or a mandatory visit to the law services. Stephen March didn't get high on the Security Service right now, especially after the unsolved murder of his half-sister Suzy. The idea of walking a block and a little more at Redstone & Son to inquire, he also rejected. Maybe any witnesses recognized him while the police were still there investigating the case. What intrigued him most of all was the reason behind this unexpected attack on his person. Why was he attacked, hunted like a wild animal, eventually he was also nearly killed? What was the point, what was behind this, was this connected to Suzy's murder?? All the questions haunted in his head. He felt hunted and anxious and looked around as he sought his way back. When he was back at his apartment, he first poured himself a good whiskey.. He knew that it was not wise to mix medicines and alcohol, but this was an exception to the rule. His hand was still shaking slightly when the golden moisture was poured into the crystal glass. He took a big sip of Chivas Regal. Stephen felt the fluid that immediately warmed him a way to his stomach, which now settled some. Stephen let the last hours before his mind's eye pass. After the identification with Suzy's personal items he had received from Mr. Huang, he went for a walk in the shopping streets of Sanctuary. Getting his feelings back under control after the psychological thump he got in the morgue. Then suddenly the red homicide vehicle that showed up at him? Stephen put the rest of his whiskey glass aside and poured out the contents of the canary yellow plastic bag with his sister's personal belongings, whom he miraculously could have saved during all those struggles of the last few hours, onto the table. There were the usual things that are usually found in the possessions of a woman. First of all, her torn and bloody garments, which he laid apart with due respect and a great piece of dismay. Another example of the lack of sympathy from the New World police forces. In the pocket there was also a torn handbag, a broken lip gloss, a key ring, a hairbrush that had also suffered under the trap, a crushed pack of started paper wipes and a wallet with some banknotes in it, some pictures, but all her credit cards were missing or withheld by the Security Service. Scattered, he was messing around in all the boxes of her wallet when he found between two pictures in a note pleated in two. March immediately recognized Suzy Chang's beautiful female handwriting. There was only one word on it and a number: “Passage 6.”. It didn't tell him anything. That couldn't be the note Captain Vastai was talking about. The conscious note that referred to him? The key ring of four keys he weighed equally predominantly in his palm. He immediately recognized the blue rectangles key of an autobot. Number SW280387. Nothing was referring to that Passage 6. One of the other three keys must have been from Suzy's apartment since the name was printed in the key bar of the residence where she was staying: ' Pinewood House Asurai ’. A number was printed on the tip of the bar: 837. As he already knew, this referred to the eighth floor apartment 37. The other two were still a mystery to him. A mystery that he would certainly try to solve. He wouldn't ask the police what those keys were for.. By the way, if they had been of some interest, he probably wouldn't have gotten it.. Maybe today he took a walk to Pinewood House Asurai. Stephen changed and took the elevator to the underground garage with a painful grimace on his face in his own autobot and entered the address of the residence. The speech recognition program looked this up in its internal memory, started the almost silent drive system and the vehicle automatically slipped into the traffic jam of the pre-programmed route. Stephen leaned weary backwards in the seat and waited with his eyes closed for him to reach his destination.. copyright Rudi J.P. Lejaeghere Requiem: Chapter 4 or 6 - Requiem: Chapter 4 - Requiem: Chapter 6 -