Possibly the most mysterious of all the brass origin stories, the question of who created the Sackbut is one of the hardest to answer… but why?
The unusual name of Sackbut
Whilst the innovative Sackbut is thought to have been first created during the 15th century in Burgundy, the name of the Sackbut - or ‘Sacbut’ - has taken many forms; in Italian, for example, the instrument was known as the Trompone, whereas in Spanish it was known as ‘Sacabuche’.
This discrepancy in what the instrument was actually called in its infancy has led to many a disagreement over who invented it and where; leaving many a music historian guessing.
The popularity of the Sackbut
However, one thing we can all agree on is this: the Sackbut was hugely popular during the mid to late 15th century; becoming Henry VII’s - King of England - most favoured instrument in 1495, as he claimed no less than 4 for his own ensemble.
This was no real surprise, as thanks to its narrower bell and thicker walls, combined with its double slide for changing pitch (a truly innovative design at the time) made not only for greater flexibility and better intonation, but also for a softer tone which beautifully complimented church choirs.
Its shining endorsements from the King of England, then well known German composer Michael Praetorius many years later, meant that it was regularly heard by crowds across Europe.
The double slide alone impressed the French so much that they named it ‘Saqueboute’ - meaning ‘push-pull’ - which later morphed into the modern-day nickname we all know it by today.
The four varieties
The Suckbut was quickly created in four sizes;
Which gave the already flexible and versatile Sackbut even more leverage in the goliath world of music.
An already outrageously popular instrument all those centuries ago, the Sackbut was first created to answer the need for a lower pitched Trumpet, but still holds its own today.
So there we have it, a brief synopsis of the fascinating and mysterious history of the Sackbut - an instrument as popular today as it was almost 600 years ago.
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