Medieval Music, Shawm

Unlike the medieval shawm, the late Middle Ages and Renaissance shawm uses a broad cane reed controlled by the player's lips. With the smaller size shawms, the reed could be placed inside a pirouette, a funnel shaped protector against which the player places his lips. This pirouette not only protects the reed, but also helps avoid lip fatique.

All shawms have several vent holes between the hole for the lowest note and the end of the bell. This section of the instrument is very long and contributes to the tone and carrying power of the instrument. A large fontanelle protects the key mechanism of the lowest note(s), and the crenellated metal band often found wrapped around the bell not only helps protect the instrument but also helps make the shawm a sturdy weapon for settling disputes among town musicians.





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