Tárogató (aka Taragato), sounds like a cat… being strangled… slowly…

DSCF0337 I picked up a tárogató from my instrument selling maniac and friend QuinntheEskimo (eBay handle). The tárogató (or taragot, taragato) is a woodwind instrument in Bb with a conical form similar to soprano saxophone. I’ve read that the instrument probably originated in Turkey, and was played with a double reed. Around 1890, the instrument maker Schunda of Budapest invented the tárogató in its present-day form.

DSCF0333 Today it sports a clarinet-like mouthpiece and a key mechanism with characteristics of the oboe and the German clarinet. I’ve found I like the sopranino sax mouthpiece myself. In contrast to the clarinet, the tárogató over blows to the octave (just like the oboe and the saxophone). I’m guessing the taragato is mainly used in Hungarian and Rumanian traditional music. Stephen Fox builds new ones but I got an unmarked, vintage one.

From Stephen Fox‘s site: “The tárogató of the present day bears very little resemblance to the instrument bearing the same name in earlier times.  Before the mid 19th century, the term referred to keyless, conical bored, double reed instruments – shawms, generically speaking – which took a number of forms:  straight or curved body, simple or with beadlike knobs; with an integral wooden bell or a metal bell.

Mention of the tárogató in Hungarian writings dates back at least as long ago as the 15th century.  It is not clear whether it was first brought into Europe by the Magyars when they first immigrated from the east in the 9th century.  It is certain, however, that instruments of this type, decended from the Middle Eastern zurna, were introduced into Eastern Europe by the Turks in the Middle Ages, as evidenced by the term töröksip – “Turkish pipe” – which was used as a synonym for tárogató.  It is possible that instruments from both traditions were combined into one entity.”

In these pictures I’ve placed my instruments next to a Bb soprano clarinet and a Bb soprano sax. The sound is a little more whiny than I’m used to but that could be due to my inexperience with the instrument.

About Gandalfe

Just an itinerant saxophonist trying to find life between the changes. I have retired from the Corps of Engineers and Microsoft. I am an admin on the Woodwind Forum, run the Seattle Solid GOLD Big Band (formerly the Microsoft Jumpin' Jive Orchestra), and enjoy time with family and friends.
This entry was posted in Music, Music Instruments, Vintage and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Tárogató (aka Taragato), sounds like a cat… being strangled… slowly…

  1. Laoch says:

    It’s always cool to pick up obscure new instruments!

  2. Rambling says:

    I just started laughing..but only because you used that adjective that you did.  Whiny.  LOVE!!!  I know what you meant as that word described it wonderfully!  Who knew I would wind up enjoying learning about this instrument but also getting a good smile too.!!  =^..^=

  3. Beth says:

    I can’t hear the music??

  4. ciprian says:

    hi,i am originally from romania where the taragot, like we call it it’s very popular. my dad used to have one a long time ago but it got lost somehow. i would like to buy him a used one for his birthday, he turns 60 and i know that would mean so much to him. my question is where can a find a good used one that it’s not too expansve. i now live in los angeles.please e-mail me at ciflute@gmail.comthanks you so much.

  5. JaAG says:

    Ebay often has them. LA is home to many professional musicians; maybe you can run a want ad. I just got lucky myselfe.

  6. Taragot says:

    Hey Gandalfe,
    how did you manage to fix a soprano mpc on your tarogato.
    I’m thinking of building a kind of adaptor for mine.

    Thank you

  7. Gheorghe says:


    I recently bought a tarogot myself. I’m finding that in the 2nd octave, it is nearly impossible to reach correct pitch – everything is flat by a half note. It even takes some effort in the first octave to be in pitch (embouchure needs to be tighter than I think it should).

    Is this common, and would making a slightly shorter mouthpiece take care of this?


  8. Gandalfe says:

    Finding a good tarogot mouthpiece is near impossible. I was fortunate to get a reworked piece that is excellent. If you are using a soprano or sopranino sax mouthpiece, it really kind of a dice roll to find something that works well.

    Also I tune to the clarion (middle) range of the instrument because is then easier for me to adjust in the chalumeau (low) range by dropping my jaw. I don’t play in the altissimo range on this instrument.

    • Gheorghe says:

      Thanks for the info. My tuning issues have been resolved since my post first. The mouthpiece I have is very good, in fact, I made a copy of it for my friend’s taragot.


  9. Pingback: Top Ten Post (since I moved from Windows Spaces) | The Bis Key Chronicles

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