It is usually a long cone bent into a snakelike shape, hence the name.
The serpent is closely related to the cornett, although it is not part of the cornett family, due to the absence of a thumb hole.
The outside is covered with dark brown or black leather.
Despite wooden construction and the fact that it has finger holes rather than valves, it is usually classed as a brass; the Hornbostel–Sachs scheme of musical instrument classification places it alongside trumpets.
The serpent usually has six holes, which are ordered in two groups of three.
On early models, the fingerholes were keyless, like those of a recorder.
However, later models added keys as on a clarinet, although they were for additional holes (out of reach of the fingers), while the original holes remained unkeyed, and are covered or uncovered directly by the player's fingers.
This date for the invention of the serpent did not appear until 1743, in Jean Lebeuf's "Mémoires Concernant l'Histoire Ecclésiastique et Civile d’Auxerre".
Herbert Heyde asserts the serpent evolved from a type of bass cornetto and was invented in Italy in the 16th century.
The instrument also appears in operatic scores by Spontini and Bellini, but it was replaced in the 19th century by a fully keyed brass instrument, the ophicleide, and later on by valved bass brass instruments such as the euphonium and tuba.
After that, the serpent dropped off in popularity for a period of time.
Luigi Morleo composed in 2012 "Diversità: NO LIMIT" – Concerto for Serpent and String Orchestra, World Premiere at Conservatory of Music "Nino Rota" – Monopoli (Ba) – Italy.
- Michel Godard, jazz musician and tubist, who also plays the serpent
- Douglas Yeo, professional trombone player, who also plays the serpent
- serpent player and maker ca. 1847.
Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serpent (instrument).