Gemshorn English, German
Gemshoorn Dutch?
Cor de Chamois French
    Bachflöte German
Bokflöte German
Gemster German?

The modern Gemshorn is a foundation stop of conical construction, found at 32', 16', 8', or 4' pitch, having a tone which may be classified as a flute/string hybrid. Its tone has apparently varied considerably since it first appeared in the first part of the 16th century; Williams lists the name Gemshorn as an alternate name for Waldflöte

It is reasonable to assume that it was originally intended to imitate the instrument of the same name, a fipple flute with a closed end made from an animal's horn. The instrument has a sweet, hollow tone which is similar to that of an ocarina, not at all like the tone of the modern organ stop. Here is a brief sound clip of the instrument: GemshornInstr.wav (187kb).

The diameter at the top of each pipe is anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 of the diameter at the mouth; 1/3 is the ratio most often cited. The pipes of the Gemshorn are often slotted, rendering the tone horn-like to some degree.

This stop has much in common with the Spitzflöte, so much so that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between their pipes or even their tone. Most sources, though not all, give the Spitzflöte a sharper, more pointed taper than the Gemshorn. The Spitzflöte typically tends more toward flute-tone than the Gemshorn.

Skinner claims to have developed it, but the name, tone and pipe-form all predate Skinner by centuries. The name Bachflöte, cited only by Sumner, is probably a corruption of the more correct Bokflöte; see Bachflöte.

The illustration is by Audsley; the photo is by Edward Stauff.

See Baarpijp and Jula.


Double Gemshorn
Echo Gemshorn
Gemshorn Celeste
Gemshorn Cornet
Gemshorn Fifteenth  
Gemshorn Gamba
Gemshorn Mixture
Gemshorn Octave
Gemshorn Super Octave  
Gemshorn Twelfth
Gemshorn Violin
Harmonic Gemshorn
Hörnlein ?
Octave Gemshorn


Osiris contains over 700 examples of Gemshorn from 16' pitch to 1' pitch, 29 examples of Gemshoorn, 11 examples of Cor de Chamois (all from the 20th century), and 5 examples of Bachflöte (all from the 20th century). No examples of Bokflöte or Gemster are known. Contributions welcome.

Gemshorn 2', Oberpositiv; Jacobikirche, Hamburg, Germany; Scherer or Fritzsche 1543-1696.

Gemshorn 2', Oberwerck; Katherinenkirche, Hamburg, Germany; Stellwagen 1543. May have been added between 1606 and 1670.

Gemshorn 2', Oberwerk; St. Johannis, Lüneburg, Germany; Niehoff & Johansen 1553.

Gemshorn 8', Hauptwerk; Gemshorn 4', Rückpositiv; Nicolaikirche, Leipzig, Germany; Lange 1598, Thayssner 1693.

Gemshorn 4', Werck; Kreuzkirche, Pilsum, Germany; Grotian 1694.

Gemshorn 4', Pedal; Stiftskirche, Römhild, Thuringia, Germany; Weisse 1680. This stop may not be part of the original specification.

Sound Clips

See the Sound Files appendix for general information.

Gemshorn 4', Swell Prudhoe Methodist Church, Northumberland, Scotland arpeggio St. Anne
Gemshorn 16', Swell Kellogg Auditorium, Battle Creek, Michigan, USA Aeolian-Skinner, 1933 St. Anne
Gemshorn 4', Swell First Baptist Church, Riverside, California, USA Schantz, 1966 arpeggio St. Anne
Gemshorn 8', Great Culver Academies, Indiana, USA Möller 1951 arpeggio St. Anne


Adlung[1]: §129 Coppelflöt, §153 Gemshorn, §171 Oktave, §195 Spielflöt. Audsley[1]: Gemshorn;. Audsley[2]: I.XIII Gemshorn; II.XXXVI Gemshorn. Bonavia-Hunt[1]: Gemshorn. Grove[1]: Gemshorn. Hopkins & Rimbault[1]: § 387, 399, 603. Irwin[1]: Gemshorn. Locher[1]: Gemshorn. Maclean[1]: Gemshorn. Skinner[1]: 33; XII Gemshorn. Sumner[1]: Bachflöte; Gemshorn. Wedgwood[1]: Gemshorn; Gemster. Williams[1]: Glossary: Gemshorn.
Copyright © 2003 Edward L. Stauff, all rights reserved.
Gemshorn.html - Last updated 25 November 2009.
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