New and Improved Musical Instruments of the Romantic Period

Oboe lesson
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During the Romantic Period, musical instruments were greatly improved due to recent advancements in technology and the artistic demands of the new movement. Instruments that were improved, or even invented, during the Romantic Period included the flute, oboe, saxophone, and tuba. 

Romantic Period

Romanticism was a sweeping movement in the 1800s and early 1900s that influenced the arts, literature, intellectual debate and music. The movement emphasized emotional expression, sublimity, the glory of nature, individualism, exploration, and modernity.

In terms of music, notable composers of the Romantic Period include Beethoven, Schubert, Berlioz, Wagner, Dvorak, Sibelius, and Shumann. The Romantic Period and society at the time, in general, was greatly affected by the Industrial Revolution. Specifically, the functionality of instruments' mechanical valves and keys was immensely improved.


Between 1832 to 1847, Theobald Boehm worked on redesigning the flute in order to improve the instrument's range, volume, and intonation. Boehm changed the position of keyholes, increased the size of the finger holes and designed keys to be normally open rather than closed. He also designed flutes with a cylindrical bore to produce a clearer tone and lower register. Most modern flutes today are designed using the Boehm system of a keyword.


Inspired by Boehm's designs, Charles Triébert made similar modifications to the oboe. These advancements to the instrument earned Triébert a prize at the 1855 Paris Exposition. 


In 1846, the saxophone was patented by the Belgian instrument maker and musician, Adolphe Sax. Sax was inspired to invent the saxophone because he wanted to create an instrument that combined the elements of instruments from the woodwind and brass family. 

Sax's patent expired in 1866; as a result, many instrument makers were now able to manufacture their own versions of the saxophones and improve its original design. A major modification was the slight extension of the bell and the addition of a key to expand the range down to B flat. 


Johann Gottfried Moritz and his son, Carl Wilhelm Moritz, invented the bass tuba in 1835. Since its invention, the tuba has essentially taken the place of the ophicleide, a keyed brass instrument, in the orchestra. The tuba is the bass of bands and orchestras.