Sackbut Class description

The Germanic Lands

16th-century sources of “instrumental” repertoire:

Vienna Öst. Nb. MS 18810, Munich MS 328-331, and the Regensburg Partbooks


Main topics:

More joys and headaches of working from original sources:

clefs, time signatures, note values, ligatures and musica ficta


Renaissance Jukebox: Becoming familiar with popular tunes of the Renaissance

to hone our skills with mode, solmization and musica ficta


Performance Practice according to Michael Praetorius:

combinations of instruments, clefs and transposition


            We’re still cruising along the Autobahn as we continue with our study of German sources of instrumental music from the 16th century.  We will specifically be looking at settings of popular tunes found in Vienna MS 18810 from the fall as well as Munich MS 328-331, both of which were compiled in Munich between 1524 and 1533 by the same scribes and share many of the same works.  Additionally, the so-called Regensburg Partbooks group together vocal pieces specifically chosen for instrumental performance.  This collection gives us a unique glimpse into ensemble performance practice of the time, as many of the pieces were annotated in the musicians’ hand indicating specific instrumentation.


Special attention will also be given to Michael Praetorius’ discussion of performance practice, as recorded in his exhaustive treatise on music the Syntagma Musicum of 1619.  We will focus upon his treatment of the sackbut, dulcian and shawm consorts, where he elucidates on which combinations of these instruments we may possibly use, and which clefs and transpositions to employ accordingly.


The first half of each day will be dedicated to sackbut techniques and performance practice.  The first hour will consist of a warm-up session in conjunction with the popular tunes from the German Renaissance – playing them and owning them.  The second half of the morning will be spent on the discussion and practice of reading original notation, work with mode and solmization, or performance practice according to Praetorius.  Selections from all three sources listed above will be provided in both original and modern notation, though a strong emphasis will be placed on working from the original notation, as was begun in the fall.  This will allow us to see the music in a new light and leave us faced with the musical and theoretical decisions that would have confronted Renaissance musicians .


Afternoons and evenings will consist of playing sessions in mixed groups of sackbuts and double reeds.  As a special treat, trumpet and sackbut maker Michael Münkwitz of Rostock has been kind enough to provide us with an instrument to test out.  This is the perfect opportunity for any modern trombone players who do not yet have an instrument to take the plunge and give sackbut playing a try!

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