I saw a baroque ensemble play last night; the group included 2 guest soloists, one who played the sackbut and one who played the natural trumpet. I had never heard of these instruments before, but the sackbut did indeed look very like a trombone, as Webster 1913 suggests. As I researched the sackbut (or sakbut) today, I found that it is the Renaissance precursor to the modern trombone, perhaps named from the French sacqueboute, meaning "pull-push". It was considered a very useful instrument in its day because of its versatility: it can be played quietly or loudly, so it can accompany vocalists or marching bands, as required; and it uses a double slide, so that it can be played with perfect tuning at virtually any pitch. Instruments with finger holes differ, apparently, as they are played optimally at only one pitch. It has a narrower bore and smaller bell than the modern trombone. Find out more, and see photos of sackbuts, at

Sack"but (?), n. [F. saquebute, OF. saqueboute a sackbut. earlier, a sort of hook attached to the end of a lance used by foot soldiers to unhorse cavalrymen; prop. meaning, pull and push; fr. saquier, sachier, to pull, draw (perhaps originally, to put into a bag or take out from a bag; see Sack a bag) + bouter to push (see Butt to thrust). The name was given to the musical instrument from its being lengthened and shortened.] Mus.

A brass wind instrument, like a bass trumpet, so contrived that it can be lengthened or shortened according to the tone required; -- said to be the same as the trombone.

[Written also sagbut.]

Moore (Encyc. of Music).

⇒ The sackbut of the Scriptures is supposed to have been a stringed instrument.


© Webster 1913.

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