O.J.'s Trumpet Page Resources

The Wooden Lurs

          shephers lur
A shepherds lur, by Magnar Storbækken, Norway

The wooden Viking lur
The earliest references to a wooden instrument called the lur come from Icelandic sagas, where they are described as war instruments, used to marshall troops and frighten the enemy. These lurs, several examples of which have been discovered in longboats, are straight, end-blown wooden tubes, around one metre long. The viking lur parts were held together with willow rings.

At Oseberg, Norway (close to where I live) they found a grave with a Viking ship.  Excavated in 1904, the 21.5 metres long Oseberg ship is the most magninficent of the Viking ship finds. The ship can be seen at the Vikingskiphuset in Oslo.

In this grave find there was a wooden tube, 1 meter long in 2 parts (longitudinal).
The Oseberg tube (or instrument?) dates back to 850 A.C.

From literature one can guess that the lur has been used as a war instrument.

In 1996 a lur made of wood was found in Herning, Denmark that dates back to the Viking age.

The shepherds or dairy maids lur
A lur similar to the Viking war instruments has been played by farmers and milk maids in Nordic countries since at least the Middle Ages (probably longer). These lurs were used mainly for calling cattle, communication and signalling - it was the instrument of the dairy maid. In Norway these lurs are called Neverlur (Birch bark lur).

The neverlur is an overblown instrument with no finger holes. Within a range of 7-8 notes one can play simple songs and signals.

The instrument is made from to long halves (pine or fir) which are hollowed out and glued together, then smoothened on the outside and wound with birch bark.The longer the lur, the easier it is to produce notes higher up in the harmonic scale.

The main difference between the Oseberg Viking lur and the shepherds lur today is that the last one is held together
with birch bark (see picture above). But older lurs were held together by willow rings, often 5 rings.

The lur used today
The lur is still in use today in the folk music tradition. Egil Storbekken who died in 2002, was famous for his work with the lur, the ram's horn and the salow flute. He kind of "blew" a new life into these folk instruments.

An excellent player is Odd Sylvarnes Lund. He performed on the opening ceremony of the 1994 Olympic Game in Lillehammer, and on the Nordic Ski World Championship, 1997 in Trondheim. He has made a CD where he plays both the lur and other natural instruments like the ram's horn. Other lur players in Norway are Eilif Gundersen and Jørn Simenstad.

In Sweden we also find lur players. Ann-Marie Sundberg perform both on bronze- and neverlur.

I play a lur (in Bb tuning), made by the craftsman Magnar Storbækken, Tolga, NORWAY.

Sound samples:
Here is a sound sample of the modern neverlur, a melody composed and played by Odd Sylvarnes Lund

Related instruments:
The wooden horn called Alphorn, that we find in the Alp region is a "cousin" of the neverlur. This horn is usually much longer than the neverlur. The first written source about Alphorn dates back to a Suisse text from 1527.
Tuning and length :
F#-Alphorn:    3.40 m  (standard tuning in Switzerland)
F- Alphorn:    3.60 m
E- Alphorn:    3.90 m
Ab-Alphorn:    3.00 m
Bb- Büchel:    2.70 m
C- Büchel:    2.20 m

The Büchel (Buechel) in Switzerland is also an Alphorn from design (conical pipe, wood).  Its design is however not stretched, but in three folded parts.  Büchels are usually in Bb or C tuning. The total pipe length is 2,70 m (Bb tuning).  Its overall length is approx. 90 cm.  For playing it is kept horizontal like a trumpet. Her is a picture of a Büchel in Bb

A long time tradition among farmers in Twente, the rural east of Holland, is the "mid-winter horn blowing". This custom begins on Advent Sunday (the fourth Sunday before Christmas) and continues until Christmas Eve. Farmers use long horns made from the wood of elder trees, and everyday at dawn they blow the horn while standing over a well to announce the coming of Christ. Here is a webpage  about  midwinterhoorn.

Ligawka is Poland's equivalent of a lur or alphorn. It is slightly bent and held together with willow rings. Ligawka is known in Poland since 1100.  Here is a sound sample (in MP3).
Here is a webpage describing the use:
Wooden trumpets and horns were signal instruments, used to pass information on distance, to call people and herd together and to warn about danger. “Trembits” in the Tatra's area and west Beskid were used by shepherds on highland meadows and pastures to play melodies, and on Huculszczyzna they were known as well as solo and group- instruments. There, replacing bass, they accompanied dulcimers or the violin, and the group of “ trombits” played (even up to six pieces) during funerals.
Zygmunt Gloger wrote about “ligawka” in the book “The ceremonial year” (1408 ): On Mazowsze and Podlasie they play ligawka obtaining solemn and simple tones. They play through the whole advent in the morning and in the evening and you can hear them going in front of the house in the open space.

Karjapasun in Estonia are made either of bark or wood, and two different technologies exist for their production. In the first, a band of alder or birch bark is rolled up to make a conical tube about 60–70 cm long. A wooden needle is pierced through the broad end to hold the roll tight, while the narrow end is cut even, or a wooden mouthpiece is inserted into it.

To make a wooden trumpet, a slender trunk is sawn longitudinally and each half is hollowed out. Both halves are then put back together and fastened with bast (or other natural fibers) or with birch bark, which is tightly rolled around the two halves. The length of wooden trumpets may vary considerably, from 45 cm to almost 2 m. The trumpet is an important instrument of the senior shepherd; it is played early in the morning to collect the herd, but especially in the afternoon, when driving the herd home. The trumpet sound signals the location of the herd and the shepherd, and it is believed that wolves keep away from the herd as long as they hear the trumpet.  Wooden trumpets are overtone instruments, and sequences of longer and shorter overtone motifs are available to the player.

A relatively short wooden trumpet (ingeri karjapasun) with fingerholes is known in northeastern Estonia, where Ingrian Finns lived. The instrument, with its four to six fingerholes, is suitable for playing certain dance tunes.

Tuohitorvi is a birch bark horn used in Finland.  Here is a picture of it.

Valdis Muktupāvels: Musical Instruments in the Baltic Region

Thanks to:
Odd S. Lund for correction to the text and the use of a lur tune.
Eilif Gundersen for info about the lur and related instruments.
Andrzej Kotlarz for translation from Polish to Norwegian.