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Trumpet Marine (Trumscheit), Switzerland, ca. 1675-1750

NMM 10928.  Trumpet marine, Switzerland, ca. 1675-1750. Left side (partial) Left side (full) Back Right side (partial) Right side (full)

Note:  Click on necks and body sections above to see enlargements of those areas.

NMM 10928. Trumpet marine (Trumscheit, tromba marina), Switzerland, ca. 1675-1750. Recovered from the Cloister St. Anna, Bruch (part of Lucerne), Switzerland, when it was torn down in 1904. Ex colls.: Heinrich Schumacher, Tribschen (Lucerne); Karl Mangold, Zolliken (Zurich), Switzerland. Jean M. Abramson Estate, Laurium, Michigan, 2006.

The trumpet marine has a long, rich history, emerging, as it did, in the 15th century. It is different than other bowed monochords because of a special bridge that vibrates against the belly of the instrument, producing a distinct sound that has been likened to that of a trumpet.

The popularity of the trumpet marine grew throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, but declined during the 18th century. Theorists, such as Marin Mersenne—writing in his treatise, L'harmonie universelle, in 1636—used the trumpet marine to help explain acoustical questions. The composer, Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687), wrote for the instrument, and Jean-Baptiste Prin (b. 1668) was a well-known trumpet marine virtuoso early in the 18th century.

The trumpet marine is most commonly associated, however, with convents, where they were used in place of trumpets (which were traditionally played by males). Their use in convents led to another name for the instrument, the "nun's fiddle." This is not to say, however, that the trumpet marine was used exclusively in place of trumpets or that brass instruments were never played by nuns. The records of the Aula Sanctae Mariae, a Cistercian convent in Moravia, document that the nuns there had a musical ensemble of five trumpets and one trombone in 1697 and another of three trumpets, two horns, and a trumpet marine in 1753.

The NMM's trumpet marine was made in Switzerland, ca. 1675-1750. It was played at the convent St. Anna in Bruch (now part of Lucerne); and, as evidenced by the many repairs, was well used. The convent closed in 1904, and the instrument was acquired by a Swiss collector, Heinrich Schumacher, in Tribschen (Lucerne), then by Karl Mangold in Zolliken (Zurich). Schumacher's inventory number, 53, is written in pencil on the inside of the instrument. Two other trumpets marine from the Convent St. Anna are preserved at the Richard Wagner Museum in Lucerne.

Playing the Trumpet Marine

Note:  Click on printed node markings and Galpin image below to see larger images

Nodes E and D

Node A

Node F

Node D

Node A2

Canon Francis Galpin playing a trumpet marine

Canon Francis W. Galpin (1858-1945) playing a trumpet marine. From Hortense Panum, The Stringed Instruments of the Middle Ages (London: William Reeves, 1939), fig. 215.

When played, the trumpet marine is leaned back against the shoulder of the player, with the open end resting on the ground. The player's left thumb lightly touches the string, dividing it at specific nodes (marked, in this case, by the letters shown to the left) that produce pitches from the harmonic series. The right hand manipulates the bow, which is placed between the player's thumb and the upper end of the instrument, in contrast to the way that most European stringed instruments are played.

Node markings are printed in black capital letters on square pieces of paper that are glued to the neck in such a way that the player can read them in playing position—looking down the neck from the upper end.

Vibrating Bridge

Vibrating Bridge

The trumpet marine's vibrating bridge is thick and high at the end on which the string rests and low and narrow at the other end, which is loose so that it vibrates against the belly of the instrument at the same frequency as the string, producing a distinct sound that has been likened to that of a trumpet.

Vibrating Bridge and Associated Features on the Trumpet Marine

Note:  Click on any structural feature below to see a larger image

Bridges on lower end

Front, Sides, and Back of Pegbox

Note:  Click on any image below to see a larger image

Front of pegbox Left side of pegbox Back of pegbox Right side of pegbox

Additional Pegbox Details

Tuning mechanism Lower end of pegbox Pegbox interior Pawl gear Wing nut

Metal tuning peg is inserted, on the left, into a wing-nut-shaped handle, before passing through the pegbox and into a ratchet and pawl mechanism. A small wing nut secures the tuning peg on the right side. Ratchet is held in place by a pawl that is attached to pegbox with a screw. Sides of pegbox are reinforced with tear-drop-shaped metal plates attached with metal nails.

Neck Block

Note:  Click on any image below to see a larger image

Exterior view of neck block
Interior view of neck block
Exterior view of neck block

Exterior view

Interior view

Exterior view

Interior Views of Trumpet Marine

Note:  Click on any image below to see a larger image

Interior seen from lower end Interior seen from lower end

Belly and five staves joined together at the neck block, gradually flaring to the base opening where they are attached to an internal wood frame (seen above) and an external metal frame. Staves are reinforced, on the interior, with strips of parchment from old music manuscripts and various texts (a litany of the saints inscribed on one piece of parchment can be seen below); belly seams are reinforced with plain paper.

Parchment with litany of the saints

Internal Bracing of Belly

Interior seen from lower end

A single interior brace supports belly. The single, gut string is anchored in center of brace with a simple knot.

External Metal Frame at Base of Trumpet Marine

Note:  Click on any image below to see a larger image

Exterior, front and left stave Exterior, front and right stave Exterior, right and corner stave Exterior, right and back stave

Exterior seams reinforced with marbled (nonpareil design) paper strips.

Excerpted from:  Sarah Richardson, "What is That . . . !?!," National Music Museum Newsletter, Vol. 33, No. 4 (November 2006), p. 3.

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Vibrating bridge Peg Bridge Bridge String holder Neck, front view Body, front Neck, back Body, back Neck, left side Body, left side Neck, left side Body, left side Neck, right side Neck, right side Body, right side