Douglas Yeo, Bass trombonist for the Boston
Symphony Orchestra poses with 4 serpents, ranging from contrabass to tenor
to "small worm". The serpent on the right is a 19th century
military serpent, made by prolific serpent maker Francis Pretty.
The Serpent is an ancient musical wind
instrument, related to the modern Tuba, Euphonium, and Baritone. It is blown with a cup shaped mouthpiece which is
very similar to that of a trombone or Euphonium/Baritone. Played
softly, it has a firm yet mellow tone color, or timbre. At medium
volume, it produces a robust sound which seems to be a cross between
the tuba, the bassoon, and the French horn. When played loudly it
can produce unpleasant noises reminiscent of large animals in distress.
It has a musical range from C below the bass clef to at least a
half octave above middle C. Listen to a sample
of the Serpent
The Serpent was historically made from
wood, although other materials such as brass were used. In the 20th
century, some Serpents have been made from fiberglass, plastic,
synthetic foam resins, and even paper maché.