The Dulcian

Curtal, Korthol, Dolcian, Dulzian, Dulciaan, Bajon, Baixão, Basson, Fagotto, Dulciana, Chorist-Fagott
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Bass dulcian by Graham Lyndon-Jones


Gedacktbass Dulcian by Eric Moulder


Contrabass dulcian by Guntram Wolf


The Dulcian or Curtal is the renaissance predecessor of the bassoon, developed in the first half of the 16th century. The Dulcian has the conical expanding bore from the Shawm, and the folded two parallel bores from the Sordune and Kortholt.

Like many other instruments in the renaissance, Dulcians were made in a family, soprano until contrabass. The smaller instruments up to the bass, are in general made from one piece of wood. Larger instruments are in many cased made from two or three pieces of wood.

In the 17th century, the small Dulcians are getting less and less important. At the same time the baroque Bassoon is developed, while the bass Dulcian is still in use.
A special situation is found in Spain1, where still in the 19th century various sizes Dulcians are in use.

1 See B. Kenyon de Pascual. in Galpin Society Journal 1984.

Dulcian sound samples:

  • Bass dulcian in the lowest voice. Wav file (273 kByte), mp3 file (101 kByte).
  • Tenor dulcian in the lowest voice and an f-alto dulcian in one of the middle voices. Wav file (426 kByte), mp3 file (156 kByte).
  • G-alto dulcian, playing in its upper range, in the highest voice. Wav file (157 kByte), mp3 File (58 kByte).
  • Soprano dulcian in the highest voice. Wav file (216 kByte), mp3 file (80 kByte).

Early sources:

  • The description of the Dulcian in Syntagma Musicum by Michael Praetorius, published in Germany in 1619.
  • Some information on Dulcians from Marin Mersenne's Harmonie Universelle published in France in 1636/1637.
  • Although a very late (1697) source for dulcians, the Vierfaches Musicalisches Kleeblatt by Daniel Speer contains a dulcian fingering chart and two sonatas for three dulcians.

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Last updated:

Bass dulcian by Eric Moulder


Soprano dulcian by Eric Moulder


Quart bass dulcian by Eric Moulder


Contrabass dulcian by Martin Praetorius

Remarks and comment to: Hans Mons

© Copyright 1998-2017 by Hans Mons.
Last updated on 2 August 2017