Aulos Auloi Tibia

Max Brumberg and Callum Armstrong playing Aulos

The Aulos : an enchanting sound for the player and the listener. You might have seen pictures or mosaics dating from the Roman and Greek antique, musicians holding two pipes in a V shape.

Only within the last few years, reconstructions were made that sounded well.

This type of reed instruments were already known in the ancient Egypt as 'Memet'. The Etruscans called them 'Subulo' and, in the Roman antiquity, this type of instruments was named Tibia. They can be seen as the direct ancestors of similar instruments we still find today in the Mediterranean (Sipsi, Midschwiz and Launeddas).

Aulos double reed in the light

The Auloi of my workshop have double-reeds made of mediterranean cane (Phragmites australis), similar to oboe, bassoon or duduk though different in the way of construction.

They enable a very fine and sensitive style of playing, known from the instruments mentioned above and resulting in an amazing range of dynamics and sound colors.

I am not using any plastic reeds, handling might be easier but I don’t like the dynamics and sound.

The instruments are made of wood, preferably stained boxwood.

Louvre Aulos

The Louvre Aulos is based on the Aulos found in Egypt, owned by the Louvre, Paris(E10962).

Hole-settings and sizes are the same as the original. The pipes are ergonomically comfortable to play with five fingers, the deeper pipe in the right hand. The upper five holes were probably used for playing, with a thumbhole on the back of each pipe. The lower holes could be closed to change the keynotes. Dr. Stefan Hagel has done interesting research about possibilities on the ‘Berlin’ Aulos wich is similar to the Louvre Aulos. Taking in count the upper five holes of each pipe, the pipes are a fourth apart from each other. We have a diatonic scale with the lowest tone all holes closed an A in 364Hz or a F# in A440Hz. The scale (in A) is A, B, C, D, e, f, g, a, b, c, d.

One version closely follows the original, made of one piece with bindings on the reed seat. I added a second binding in a place that many found instruments had cracked. The bindings prevent the wood from cracking.

The second version has a metal ring to reinforce the wood ; the part with the reed seat and bulb sits in it and can be turned or taken of. This can be very practical to bring the reeds easily into position for playing. The main tube gets by this ring another protection to prevent cracks. 

The sound of the Pydna aulos is fuller and stronger than that of the Louvre aulos. The bass pipe was probably played in the left hand, and is tuned one tone deeper than the other pipe. Since the Pydna aulos is not as intuitive to play as the Louvre aulos, some knowledge of ancient Greek harmonies may prove helpful. This instrument requires an advanced blowing technique.

Pydna Aulos

The Pydna aulos is one of the few complete aulos pairs to have been found. It was unearthed in 1996, on the Pydna excavation site, and dates from the first half of the 4th century BCE.

I make this reconstruction out of boxwood: either in two pieces with a detachable reed seat, or in five segments, like the original.


Robin Howell supported me a lot with his immense knowledge about these instruments. And thanks to him, I could get deeper into the understanding of reed-making.

Callum Armstrong inspired me so much, he guided me on my first steps with this instrument and keeps on beeing so important.

The measurements and researches by Dr. Stefan Hagel helped to work on the Louvre models and Stelios Psaroudakes publications for the Pydna Aulos. I am very grateful for their work, help and the exchanges on the aulos.