About the rauschpfeife

The rauschpfeife is a double-reed instrument, which is technically related to the oboe. Rauschpfeifes are conically bored woodwind instruments, which differ from the Renaissance schawm only by the presence of a windcap and a narrower bell. Correspondingly, the reed, unlike with the schawm, is not taken directly into the mouth and thus the lip tension has no effect on the sound of the tone.

The rauschpfeife blossomed in the 16th and 17th century. The instruments were built in various sizes (sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor and bass). A complete set of original instruments from the second half of the 17th century is part of the so-called Naumburg wind instrument collection, which can be admired in the Berlin Music Instrument Museum. These extant instruments influence the look of the rauschpfeife to this day as the company Heinrich Moeck in Celle produced two instruments in sopranino and soprano which visually refer to the Naumburg pipes. Because for quite some time, Moeck was the only manufacturer in Germany to produce rauschpfeifes in large numbers, the look of the rauschpfeifes in the 70s was characterized by this manufacturer.

It is interesting that the rauschpfeifes in Berlin are technically almost twice as large as they need to be. The tone holes of the instruments cover only half of the body. Because of this, Moeck's instruments have a large number of holes on the back, which serve solely to shorten and stabilize the air column inside the instrument.

Moeck has now discontinued the production of these historical wind instruments. Thus, the look of the rauschpfeifes has changed again. Most of the rauschpfeifes played today in Germany are technically based on the chanters of German bagpipes and have a tonal range of a ninth. The vast majority of the instruments are built in open, German recorder fingering system. The instrument makers have also often based the appearance of the rauschpfeife on the chanter of the German bagpipe scene. As a result, many newly built rauschpfeifes have significantly larger bells than their historical ancestors. In addition, although having the same musical range, they are not quite half as long as the extant instruments of the Naumburg collection.

A further technical aspect is that modern instruments mainly use standard reeds from various kinds of bagpipes. The alto instruments in G/a are often played with Scottish reeds, the instruments based on French bagpipes often with plastic reeds for the conemuse du center, and the soprano rauschpfeifes in C/d often with reeds similar to those of the Spanish gaita.