The Complete History of Medieval Horns
Posted by Sharp Import on 12/29/2023
It is difficult to corroborate the various descriptions of the medieval horns, for they are so diverse as to be fanciful. These instruments are shown on a drawing of an eleventh-century musical instrument, which will have been drawn in the late Middle Ages. By that time they were said to be made of brass and shaped like bells. What function these horns served is unknown, but one can speculate on the possibility that they might have been used in worship.
They certainly would not have been for secular use unless it was for church music. The most likely use would have been during ceremonial occasions such as coronations or consecrations, as well as religious ceremonies such as funerals and weddings where trumpets might be impractical or impossible to play because of the space needed to make them work effectively.
What are Medieval Horns?
Medieval horns are played in orchestras, by military musicians, and sometimes in dance performances. There is a long history of the use of these horns, going as far back as the Roman Empire. Let's take a detailed look at the cool features and specifications of these horns:
1. MouthpieceThe mouthpiece of these horns is a funnel shape. It's shaped and sized to allow the horn player to perform the embouchure required for the particular horn.
2. PreservationThese horns are known as "stag horns" because as mentioned, they are long, tube-like horns without keys, valves, or slide sections. These "long horns" were played by hand on horseback and on foot with a mallet or drum stick, and were used from early Europe (Roman) times until modern times in all parts of the world. The fact that these instruments have not been found in quantities dating from more recent centuries suggests they were used only occasionally for military purposes.
3. MaterialThese horns are made from a number of materials including wood, ivory, bone, and animal horn. The most common material is cow or ox horn, which was traditionally used in Europe and the Americas to make the "long" or "stag" horns. Although the trend has been to use synthetic materials for modern horns, there is still a small market for medieval-style horns made from natural materials such as wood, bone, or horn.
4. CharacteristicsThis horn is usually a conical bore, cylindrical bore, or "double" bore. There are minor differences in design and sound from one maker to the next. Most of these variations relate to the shape and size of the bell, also known as the cup. The woodwind instrument "shakuhachi" is an example of a conical bore horn that is still played in Japan. In fact, the shakuhachi was used extensively in the development of many other instruments such as saxophones and clarinets.While there is a small market for medieval horns and medieval swords in countries like the US and the UK, there are many people who will try to make a profit by offering "medieval" instruments. Many of these purchases are made by people who simply get fooled. Some websites selling this type of instrument include the word "medieval" in their titles or names; this is done to entice buyers.It is important to note that horns made from natural materials (the ones that might be considered "medieval") are generally expensive compared to those made from synthetic materials. This is because it takes a lot of time and labor to make a horn out of natural materials, whereas it only requires a few minutes with a few small tools for synthetic horns. Anyone who might be trying to sell a modern horn as being medieval will try to convince you that it's an 1800s-era replica or complication of some sort.
5. LengthThese horns are bigger and longer than many modern horns, which affects their sound as well as the way they're played. Longer horns can be stacked on top of each other to produce different musical pitches in the same way that longer strings are stacked to produce different notes on guitars and lutes. For example, three medieval goods tuned an octave apart could play a C-major chord (three notes at once).
The Early Users of Medieval Horns
The purpose of medieval horns is still debated. Theories range from using it as a warning signal or hunting horn to using it as a ceremonial instrument within religious services. Some historians believe that while testing old instruments, they found out that they could make two sounds with these horns. The first sound was a loud rushing noise which people would use to scare animals away and the second sound was softer and used for hunting purposes.
The "scarlatina" horn is often depicted in medieval illuminated manuscripts. It was used to help protect against this disease and as a signal of danger. The sound made from this horn could be heard for miles around and was loud enough to be heard clearly by all who were in the community at that time. The method of using it, however, would make it difficult for medieval people to use it.
This method would require one person to blow into the horn while another person held a mirror over his or her mouth thus concentrating the sound of the horn on one location. There is also speculation that it was also used as a hunting horn similar to what could be heard through plays about Beowulf many years later. The use of horns was prevalent in the Middle Ages. They were made from elk horns, cow or ox horns, deer antlers, and silver.
It is believed that the sound coming from the horns was the reason that medieval people were successful at hunting for food and bringing home meat to feed their families. The way that these horns are depicted in medieval illuminated manuscripts shows them in a variety of ways to prove each theory about why they were used. A common theory is that hunters would blow one horn to calm animals while they concentrated on shooting an arrow into it and a second horn was used as a signal when they actually killed an animal.
How Were Medieval Horns Worn?
This horn was a beautifully ornate metal instrument that was played by blowing air from one end. The other end would be pointed into the mouth of the person being serenaded like it's an instrument of war. A person could also wear a medieval helmet as a decoration on their head. So to wear a medieval horn is to have something that can be blown into fitted onto your head like it's an odd piece of armor or an expensive fashion accessory.
The first step in wearing this horn is to find your head. The horn will go onto your head, so you must discern which part of your body is known as the head. This will take a little practice to master, but once you find it, mark its location with color or a branding iron. You will be very glad to know where the top of your head is later in the process. It may be helpful to stand in front of a mirror and compare it to other people's heads; after all, they are most likely wearing their heads too!
If you cannot find the top of your head, try looking downward at yourself and see how far you can see from your eyes down towards the floor. Your head should start there and not at your shoulders as if you were looking at a wall with your eyes. This is the most common place to start.
The next step is to find a horn that will fit on your head comfortably and snugly. Many people have their horns intricately etched with designs, so be sure the inside of the horn is plain. If you wish to decorate with something more than an iron brand, consider getting a grant from the local Guild of Stonemasons or Goldsmiths. Just for information only, as they are not needed in this step of construction.
The Popularity of Medieval Horns Today!
Somehow, Medieval horns have been making an appearance on the football field. These horns are large and heavy metal sheets with a wide flare and trumpet shape. They were often placed on the shoulder of a player to provide a long shallow "A" shape sound resembling early trumpets or trombones. The popular music group, Metallica, even stated that early these horns were used as instruments by many of the “bandit bands” that would roam the open fields of Europe during this time period.