German Stadtpfeifer

Bach | Darmstadt | Halle | Hamburg | Leipzig | Magdeburg | Mecklenburg | Reiche

Various German Stadtpfeifers and their instruments

There’s some very interesting information about German town musicians and their instruments at

David M Guion

Below is a memorable quote from “The trombone: its history and music, 1697-1811” by David M Guion (on line at Google Books).

“In the early eighteenth century, German towns, carrying on a centuries-old tradition, hired bands to perform for various civic and ceremonial occasions, including worship in the town’s leading churches. There were two divisions of town musicians. The Stadtpfeifer, the more prestigious of the two, specialised in wind instruments, although they played stringed instruments whenever the occasion demanded. The Kunstgeiger, string players, played wind instruments publicly only when substituting for the Stadtpfeifer. It was the ambition of every Kunstgeiger to gain promotion to the ranks of Stadtpfeifer. Indeed, of twenty-five Leipzig Stadtpfeifer listed by Arnold Schering, fifteen had previously been Kunstgeiger.”

Darmstadt Waits (Germany) in the eighteenth century:

“Georg Abraham Schneider was born in a small village near Darmstadt 19th April 1770. Because of his poor parents, he did not receive a good school education but was soon sent to the town waits of Darmstadt. There he learnt playing a number of instruments.”

Georg Abraham Schneider (1770-1839) was a German instrumentalist who played the horn, oboe, and other instruments. He studied with the violinist Magnold at Darmstadt. He also studied composition with Portmann. His concerti for two, three and four horns are rarities of the horn repertory. The autograph copies, kept among many other works of Schneider in the university library in Darmstadt until 1944, were destroyed during the Second World War.
Biographhy (Dutch Wikipedia).


According to text on the website of Capella de la Torre, the leading German early baroque composer Samuel Scheidt (1587 – 1654) was the Head Stadtpfeifer of Halle.


Johann Schop (1590-1664) became a member of the Royal Danish Court musicians in Copenhagen and, in 1621, leader of the Ratsmusik (municipal musicians) group in in Hamburg, Germany. There’s an engraving of him at

William Brade (1560-1630) whom we know as a court musician in Denmark and Brandenburg and a composer of consort music, was a stadtpfeifer in Hamburg from 1608-1610 and again 1613-1615. Subsequently he worked as a stadtpfeifer in Gottorp, Copenhagen, Halle, Güstrow and Berlin.


See also the Bach Family page

In J S Bach’s day a member of the Leipzig musicians’ guild was called a “Stadtpfeifer” – town piper. Every one of these “union” members was expected to play violin, oboe, viola, cello, flute, horn, and trumpet.

Four Leipzig waits
As far back as 1479 the Leipzig town council had engaged performers (called town pipers, or Stadtpfeifer, though in fact they played a variety of instruments) to provide municipal music—for weddings, banquets, and official occasions. Starting in 1599 they (usually four in number) also played twice daily from the tower of the town hall, overlooking the Leipzig market square.

Copies of Othmayr’s Tricinia and Forster’s secular songbooks appear on the inventory of at least one Leipzig household, that of the Stadtpfeifer, Gottfried Krause (d. 1573).

The following quote comes from:

“The city of Leipzig retained records of various practices of the Ratsmusiker that provide insight into the music practice of the time. By 1650, the devastating toll of the Thirty Years’ War was at an end, and Germany was finally able to return to the cultivation of commerce and artistic pursuits. Leipzig was about to enjoy the greatest century of its music history. Initially four Stadtpfeifer were employed as Ratsmusiker, serving primarily as wind players.

In time three more musicians, referred to as Kunstgeiger, were hired to play the violin. Surviving records reveal much squabbling between the two groups, mostly due to the perceived inconsistencies felt by the Kunstgeiger who were subordinate to the Stadtpfeifer. The Kunstgeiger were considered apprentices to the Stadtpfeifer and were often exploited for the sake of money, having to endure an income below that of their superiors. Jealousy was the common denominator as the Stadtpfeifer, being the privileged group, received first choice for engagements outside their required duties. On occasion these two groups would band together to fight the competition presented by the Bierfiedler (fiddle players employed by beer halls). During this time string players were often considered second class citizens when compared to wind players. By 1700, another class of musician, the NeuKirchenmusiker (new churchmusicians) made the situation even more complicated for the city council.

Since the Stadpfiefer and Kunstgeiger were trained simply as craftsmen, the Ratsmusik lacked the respect that organists and cantors enjoyed due to their liberal arts education. Kuhnau wrote that among one hundred Kunstgeiger, there could hardly be one who could write ten words without making a mistake, and Mattheson also had little regard for them, noting their perceived conceit and lack of education. Since the brass instruments were provided for this function by the city, both the instruments and the music were stored in the tower. For outside employment, musicians had to provide their own instruments.

In addition to the provision of music and instruments, the Ratsmusiker enjoyed other privileges, including weekly salaries, occasional extra money, and clothing. Also, until 1717, the Stadtpfeifer paid no taxes and were given free living quarters in the Stadtpfeifergäszlein (little city musician street) where they and their families all lived together in one house. While the rank of Stadtpfeifer was a lifetime position, the downside was that upon the player’s death, the surviving family could be left without means of support. Also, income was precarious during times of mourning or pestilence, as music for celebrations such as weddings was curtailed for a prescribed period of time.

On occasion, if not regularly, the Stadtpfeifer joined with the Kunstgeiger under the direction of the Cantor for church performances. Because of their versatility in playing both wind and string instruments, the combination of the two groups of musicians, coupled with student players, allowed the Cantor a respectable orchestra with which to work.

When a musician applied for a position as a Stadtpfeifer, a complete knowledge of the Stadtpfeifer instruments was usually required. These could include trumpet, cornett, trombone, French horn (in time), bombart [German for shawm], dulcian [early bassoon], flute, oboe, plus strings. Little is available today as to textbooks or written instructions concerning the craft of the Stadtpfeifer due to the secrecy surrounding the guild. Indeed, it was most difficult to reach a high level of maturity, unless fellow musicians provided the training.”

There is a history of the Leipzig Stadtpfeifer at

Magdeburg town waits

The case of the organ in Magdeburg Cathedral was extremely richly decorated, with 42 figures, 12 of them moving. The cock which crowned the case could flap its wings and even apparently crow, although it is reported that this was actually done by hiding one of the town pipers behind the case, who then blew on an oboe reed.

Survival of Stadtpfeifers in Mecklenburg into the 1950s

Today there are nearly no musical traditions in the Northern/Platt German regions alive. Looking back, it is interesting to hear that in Mecklenburg there were educations for town pipers (Stadtpfeifer) still in the 1950s. These were musical educations in the sense of trade, of travelling around. “There were examinations that the last town piper (Stadtpfeifer) went in apprenticeship in 1954, in Grabo, a small town in Mecklenburg.”

6 jun 2017: In “The Rise of European Music 1380-1500″ by R. Strohm, there is an account of the musical entertainment presented before Duke Albracht VI of Austria on his travels in the period 1443-1446. In addition to being entertained by aristocratic musicians, schoolboys etc., he was entertained by a number of civic pipers:” Most of these are listed inthe German section of “Where Waits?”, but Rottweil, Villingen, Winterthur, Riedlingen and Kempten are new – Alan Radford.

Town pipers of Straubing

City pipers of Regensberg

City pipers of Nuremburg

City pipers of Nordlingen

Citty pipers of Ulm

City pipers of Reutlingen

City pipers of Rottenburg/Neckar

City pipers of Rottweil

Town pipers of Villingen

City pipers of Strasburg

City pipers of Winterthur

Town pipers of Riedlingen

Town pipers of Kempten