Guide to the Dulzaina

The dulzaina, also known as dolcaina, is a double-reed instrument that is part of the oboe family. This instrument originated from Spain during the 14th century and is often used to replace the clarinet or oboe. Also, the dulzaina was first introduced in Spain through Arabic people. It is deeply rooted in the folklore of Soria, Segovia, Madrid, Toledo, Burgos, and Salamanca. In some Spanish regions like the Aragon and in the city, Huesca, the dulzaina is played as an accompaniment of drums or bagpipes.

Moreover, it can also be heard in the region of Castilla y Leon.The dulzaina has a distinguishable conical shape and can often be seen in Ukrainian or Armenian folk music.Interestingly, there are many types of dulzainas that exist in Spain. In Catalonia, the dulzaina is called Gralla, while it is called xirimita or dolcaina in the Valencian community. Meanwhile, in the Basque Country, the dulzainas are called Bolin-Gozo.

Typically, the range of the dulzaina in the concert pitch goes from A3 to E5. Occasionally, F#5 is used, although it needed to be the next note progression of the scale. Also, it has to slur on the previous note. In musical compositions, the music for the dulzaina was written in treble clef. In short, the scores written for this instrument should be transposed into the treble clef. With that, the lowest note would be placed in the first one below the treble clef staff, and the highest one should be on the first additional line just above the treble clef. To find the concert pitches in a score for the dulzaina, the notes must transpose up to a perfect fifth. It is also good to remember that unless stated otherwise, the notes or keys of the dulzaina that most players used are in G.

In fact, the most common and the easiest tonalities of the dulzaina are in D or G major. But other keys like the C#, F#, E minor, D# were also easy to play. The most difficult key to play in the dulzaina is the C major. This may be because the lower C or, the lower tonic does not exist in this instrument. Aside from the C major, there were also other tonalities that are difficult to play in this instrument. These were the B minor, A major, G minor, and A minor. D minor, F# minor, F major, C# minor, and Bb major were deemed as very difficult tonalities.

A photo of men playing the dulzaina

Despite some note difficulties, the sound of the dulzaina was described as a powerful and penetrating sound. Originally, the dulzaina was used in festivities and local gatherings. However, years later, several events that involved the dulzaina have been restricted to the towns, cities, streets, and squares. Because of its iconic tube-shape and double reed, it resembles the character of the xeremia and oboe. Nevertheless, under certain conditions, the dulzaina appears to have a high-pitched sound range that is quite similar to the trumpet or soprano saxophone. Additionally, the tuning of this instrument usually changes in the embouchure and air pressure. Its fingering is composed of eight finger holes, with seven in front and one on its rear part.

As it was mentioned, the dulzaina has a penetrating and powerful sound. However, getting a louder sound than forte is quite impossible. Interestingly, the effects of dynamics can be attained through various changes in the embouchure and variations of air pressure. As well as that, good breathing practices and the diaphragm technique may also be applied to control the volume effectively. Although the effects of dynamics can be controlled, it is still challenging to do, as they make the tuning difficult and the timbre less powerful. Therefore, the following points must be taken to make the best of expression and interpretation of this instrument. First is that the dynamics should not be used from high E to high A. Next is to remember that decreasing the volume while playing the instrument is difficult and uses a huge physical effort. Third, playing the dulzaina lower than the volume of the mezzo-piano is also very difficult. Lastly, if you are to make a change, sudden change must not be excessive.