1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Tromba Marina
TROMBA MARINA, or Marine Trumpet (Fr. trompette marine; Ger. Marine Trompete, Trompetengeige, Nonnengeige, Tympanischiza or Trummscheit), a triangular bowed instrument about 6 ft. in length, which owes its characteristic timbre to the peculiar construction of the bridge. The tromba marina consists of a body and neck in the shape of a truncated cone resting on a triangular base. In the days of Michael Praetorius (1618), the length of the Trummscheit was 7 ft. 3 in. and the three sides at the base measured 7 in., tapering to 2 in. at the neck. These measurements varied considerably, as did also the shape of the body and the number of strings. In some cases the base of the body was left open, and in others there were sound-holes. The bridge, from its curiously irregular shape, was known as the “shoe”; it was thick and high at the one side on which rested the string, and low and narrow at the other which was left loose so that it vibrated against the belly with every movement of the bow, producing a trumpet-like timbre. It is to this feature, in conjunction with its general resemblance in contour to the marine speaking-trumpet of the middle ages, that the name of the instrument is doubtless due.
There was at first but one string, generally a D violoncello string, which was not stopped by the fingers in the usual way, but played only in harmonics by lightly touching it with the thumb at the nodal points. The heavy blow, similar to that of the violoncello, is used between the highest positions of the left hand at the nodal points and the nut of the head. In a Trummscheit in the collection of the Kgl. Hochschule, at Charlottenburg (No. 772 in catalogue) the frets are lettered A,D,F,A,D,F,G,A,B,C,D. Sometimes an octave string, half the length of the melody string, and even two more, respectively the twelfth and the double octave, not resting on the bridge but acting as sympathetic strings, were added to improve the timbre by strengthening the pure harmonic tones without increasing the blare due to the action of the bridge. In Germany, at the time when the trumpet was extensively used in the churches, nuns often substituted the tromba marina, whence the name Nonnengeige. In France, the Grande Écurie du Roi comprised five trumpets-marine and cromornes among the band in 1662, when the charge was mentioned for the first time in the accounts; and in 1666 the number was increased to six. The instrument fell into disuse during the first half of the 18th century, and was only to be seen in the hands of itinerant and street musicians.