[ Russian Bassoon Description ]

Russian Bassoon

Russian Bassoon

Fratelli Garignani 

Milan, Italy, ca. 1820

The term “Russian Bassoon ” is something of a misnomer, for this instrument is neither Russian nor bassoon.  Rather, it is technically a bass-horn that has a lip-vibrated mouthpiece instead of a double reed.  Because it was used in the Prussian Army, it maybe have acquired the name “Russian” from that association.

Its invention is credited to J. J. Regibo of France and the instrument was designed to be an improvement on the 16th century Serpent. The Russian Bassoon was made with a narrower bore than the Serpent in hopes of making the pitch steadier and the tone more focused.  It was also shaped to be easier to carry and play while marching.  After 1815, the bass-horn became popular in Europe and was a regular member of military bands throughout Europe until about 1830.  Eventually, the ophicleide then the tuba and sousaphone superseded the bass-horn in marching bands.

The bassoon-like body of this instrument is made of maple in three joints.  The ends of the joints are covered with brass ferrules.  The crook and the mouthpiece are made of brass and the serpent head bell is metal.  There are six finger holes and one thumbhole for the left hand; in addition, there are three holes that are covered by keys.  Not all Russian Bassoons have a decorated serpent head bell, which was likely added to be more decorative than the more usual flaired, brass bell.  The Buccin is another instrument from this era to have a decorative serpent head.

The Belle Skinner Collection

Accession Number 3659.1960



Published March 15, 2018
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[ exhibits ]

November’s Instrument of the Month

In preparation for a forthcoming exhibit of brass instruments, the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments is displaying these post horns as November’s instrument of the month.

Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Joseph M. Dworkin. Accession no. 3602 and 3603.

The instruments are made of copper and brass which are soldered together into a single coil. These instruments are made in coiled form for carrying in the pocket.

The post horn is scored for in Mozart’s Serenade for Orchestra No. 9 in D Major, which was later nicknamed “Posthorn” for its short post horn solo in the second trio of the Minuetto movement. The post horn is also referenced in Schubert’s Die Post from Winterreise when the piano accompaniment includes a post horn-like fanfare. Also, in Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 in d minor, Mahler writes a solo part that is supposed to resemble the sound of the post horn. Today, that solo is often played on a Furst Pless post horn (which has rotary valves), Flugelhorn, or Trumpet.


Historically, post horns were used by postillons and guards on mail coaches to announce arrivals and departures and to call attention en route. Their continued appearance today as a post office emblem in many European countries testifies to the breadth of their former use.  The stamp pictured above was featured in the MOPHILA International Stamp Exhibition in Hamburg (1985) for modern stamp collecting, or Moderne Philatelie, from which MOPHILA takes its name.


Come to 15 Hillhouse Avenue to view these two post horns in person. Or, visit our online Digital Collection to see our entire collection.





Published November 12, 2017
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[ Exhibits ]

October’s Instrument of the Month

This month, the Collection of Musical Instruments is displaying a Sea Dragon Horn as its featured instrument. Traditionally referred to as the Dbang Dung, this Eastern Tibetan horn is a little more than a foot in length with a brass mouth piece indicative of an early brass horn. The narrow body terminates in the head of a serpent with jaw opened wide and a thin brass tongue poking out. Made primarily from light brass and possibly other metal alloys, it has what appears to be three shades of metal coloration. It is unclear whether these colors are due to discoloration over time or purposeful. Turquoise gemstones adorn the dragon’s head. Believed to be acquired sometime before the Chinese invaded Tibet in the 1950s, the Sea Dragon Horn was used in rural areas to call the attention of townfolk to ceremonies and festive occasions.

The Sea Dragon, known in Sanskrit as Makara, is a common mythological being relevant in both Hindu and Buddhist iconography. In Hindu mythology, the Sea Dragon is the animal-vehicle of the Hindu God Ganga, the River Goddess. Tibetan Buddhism, on the other hand, developed a rather different view of the Sea Dragon as a symbolic weapon. Sea Dragons remain viewed as creatures of great tenacity and strength in Tibet.

The Dbang Dung was donated to the Collection by Theodore Woolsey Heermance along with many other instruments within his possession in the 1980s.

We invite you to come to 15 Hillhouse Avenue to view the Dbang Dung in person before it returns to our holdings!


Published October 10, 2017
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[ exhibits ]

November’s Instrument of the Month

This month the staff of the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments is delighted to display examples of the Paul Munier Collection of Military Snare Drumsticks as the Featured Instruments of the Month.

15-015 YCMI, Munier drumsticks

Examples from the Paul Munier Collection of Military Snare Drumsticks.

Three pairs have been selected from his collection of sixty which highlight the various sizes, shapes, and materials used to construct drumsticks. One pair of solid steel practice drumsticks was used by F.G. Holt, a snare drummer in John Philip Sousa’s band. Another pair of Holt’s sticks are the “Tru Balance” model, hand turned by prominent drumstick manufacturer, George B. Stone & Sons, Inc. The third pair is made from the tropical hardwood cocobolo of Central America.

Come to 15 Hillhouse Avenue to view the three pairs of drumsticks in person. Or, visit our online Digital Collection to see the entire collection of drumsticks that Mr. Munier presented to Yale in 2012.

Published November 3, 2016
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[ exhibits ]

October’s Featured Instrument of the Month


The shofar made of animal horn.

After a brief hiatus, we are pleased to resume presentation of the Featured Instrument of the Month with the display of a shofar, a Hebrew ritual horn constructed from the naturally hollowed horn of an animal, such as a ram or kudu.

Since the instrument lacks any keys or fingerholes, the shofar’s pitch is controlled only by the player’s embouchure. It is used primarily in Jewish religious services, and is blown every weekday morning in the month of Elul leading up to Rosh Hashanah (Sunday, October 2nd – Tuesday, October 4th), as well as at the end of Yom Kippur (Tuesday, October 11th – Wednesday, October 12th).

Visit the Collection during October to see the instrument in person, or click here to learn more through our digital collection.

Published October 5, 2016
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[ exhibits ]

May’s Instrument of the Month

May’s featured instrument of the month is a Buddhist temple block. Also known as a Muyu or Mokugyo, this percussive block was used in Buddhist ceremonies, specifically to provide a rhythm for recitation.

More information can be found here or by visiting the museum in person.

Buddhist Temple Block

Buddhist Temple Block

Published May 1, 2016
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[ exhibits ]

April’s Instrument of the Month

April’s instrument of the month is our signal horn of silver and highly polished animal horn.


More information on the signal horn can be found here, or by visiting the Collection in person.


Published April 1, 2016
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[ exhibits ]

March’s Instrument of the Month

This month’s featured instrument is our Sudanese Sansa.

The Sansa (also known as a thumb piano or mbira) was popular in many regions of the African continent. Categorized as a 1325-01-medlamellophone, the metal tongues are plucked by the thumbs of the player, and the metal rings around them produce the instrument’s characteristic buzzing sound.

Visit the Collection to view the instrument in person, or click here for more information.


Published March 1, 2016
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[ exhibits ]

February’s Instrument of the Month


Japanese ryuteki

February’s instrument of the month just returned to the Collection after its stint in the exhibit “Samuri and the Culture of Japan’s Great Peace” at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History.

The ryuteki is a transverse flute made of bamboo which was often used in performances of gagaku, or Japanese classical music of the imperial court.

Stop by before the end of the month to view the instrument on display, or click here for more information.



Published February 5, 2016
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[ exhibits ]

New Exhibit features the Andrew F. Petryn Collection


On January 19, 2016, the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments opened a new exhibit featuring exceptional instruments and bows from the Andrew F. Petryn Collection.


The display comprises a quinton, pochette, violoncello, hurdy-gurdy and four violin bows (a pair by the pre-eminent French archetier François Tourte and individual bows by Simon Pierre and François Nicholas Voirin).

Most notably, however, are the two prized violins crafted by two of the finest representatives of the Cremonese school of violin making: Nicolò Amati and Andrea Guarneri.

AniAccompanying the opening of the exhibit was a concert featuring YSM faculty Ani Kavafian, violin; Arthur Haas, harpsichord; and Wei-Yi Yang, piano. Ms. Kavafian demonstrated the remarkable sonorous abilities of the two instruments, as well as their differences of sound, tone, and vibrancy through the works of Bach and Debussy.

The exhibit was organized by curators Susan E. Thompson and Nicholas Renouf.  Members of the museum’s staff who assisted in the installation include Kelly Hill, Program Coordinator, Sam Bobinski, Museum Intern, and Yurie Mitsuhashi, Student Assistant. The Petryn Collection may be viewed during public visiting hours: Tuesday-Friday, 1:00-4:00; Sunday, 1:00-5:00.

All photos by Kaifeng Wu of the Yale Daily News.

Published February 1, 2016
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