The trimmed buck
The hummelchen is a small "dudelsack", a small German bagpipe, and spread throughout the whole of Germany during the Rennaisance under various names. Compared to larger bagpipes such as the shepherd's bagpipe, in south Germany also called a Bock (buck, as in male sheep), the hummelchen is significantly quieter and smaller. Hence the name "Hümmelchen" handed down by Michael Praetorius. This is by no means derived from the German word for bumble bee ("Hummel), but from the Low German word "hämeln" or "humeln", which means "pruning" (castration) with regard to male lambs. A "Hümmel", in turn, was a trimmed (de-horned) cow. Thus the hummelchen is virtually a trimmed buck or a reduced shepherd's bagpipe. Therefore the sound of the hummelchen is warmer and the instrument is clearly more suitable for chamber settings than its louder siblings. In addition, the hummelchen needs less blowing effort from the player to make a sound, making it a good bagpipe for beginners.
Unfortunately, Praetorius did not provide much more about the hummelchen. Merely an image on which many replicas are based, and the Dde tuning of the two drones (c' and f') are known. Whether the chanter was equipped with a simple or a double-reed is unfortunately not handed down. However, the thin bore of extant pipes suggests the use of a double-reed. Most of the chanters are played with German recorder fingerings according to their tonal range. However, there are also replicas with an open or semi-closed fingering.
Those who would like to buy a hummelchen, will find inexpensive replicas from our own production in our shop. We offer one-drone as well as two-drone hummelchens.