Instruments | Trumpet | Medieval Era | Classical
At the beginning of the Middle Ages, the trumpet was a straight piece of cylindrical metal tubing, running from a mouthpiece to the wide ending known as a ‘bell’. A medieval instrument rescued from the mud of the River Thames in London in the 1980s was made of sections of metal sheet (brass or copper) which were rolled up and joined to form a tube. The joins were soldered together and a boss was wrapped around the join to strengthen it. Perhaps modelled on the Roman and Byzantine tuba, or perhaps on Islamic brass instruments seen during the crusades, this early trumpet was 1.2–1.5 m (4–5 ft) long.
After becoming a more manageable S-shape around 1400, the trumpet settled down as a loop. The later Middle Ages saw experiments with crooks and a slide. The former were extra lengths of metal tubing which could be fitted into the basic trumpet structure to alter the overall length of the column of air inside and thus the emerging note. The latter was a kind of miniature telescope close to the mouthpiece; by opening or closing it, the player could make the trumpet longer or shorter.
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