The Tárogató Page


The tárogató is a single-reed, conical-bore woodwind, created in Hungary around the turn of the century shortly after the invention of the saxophone. The tárogató is sometimes called the national instrument of Hungary (on the other hand, so is the cimbalom). The mouthpiece and reed are roughly similar to those on a clarinet, but although newer tárogató mouthpieces take a clarinet reed, the actual mouthpieces are not interchangeable. The fingering is also roughly similar to an Albert-system clarinet, but because of the conical bore, the tárogató breaks into the upper register an octave higher like a saxophone, rather than the musical twelfth of the clarinet. Thus the thumb hole and two upper keys used to bridge the lower part of the upper register are omitted. The tárogató also has an extra key down on the bell, operated by the right thumb. If you are confused, look at this even more confusing PostScript fingering chart for a A-flat tárogató. A more readable fingering chart for the B-flat tárogató may be found in [ref 3].

Because of the conical bore, tuning a tárogató by sliding the mouthpiece like for a clarinet will not produce good results. The various harmonics will not change together with the mouthpiece position, so that the instrument rapidly becomes "balky" or difficult to play. If your instrument does not play at the pitch you desire, consult a highly qualified and experienced saxophone mouthpiece expert, since saxophones have the same difficulty.


The modern tárogató was invented in the 1890's, either at the Schunda Factory [ref 2,3] or the Stowasser Factory [ref 1]. My personal guess is that the founder of Stowasser invented the tárogató while working at the Schunda factory. Both factories made all of the early tárogatók. In either case, the story [ref 1] of the inventor being offended by the large holes and metal construction of the newly invented (circa 1842) saxophone probably contains some truth.

The tárogató featured here should not be confused with the historical Hungarian instrument of the same name, sometimes called a kuruc tárogató. The historical tárogató was a double-reed conical-bore instrument similar to a shawm or a Vienna oboe. Since all living tradition of playing the historical tárogató in Hungary had died out by the 1830's, the name was recycled.

New Instruments

New tárogatók are still made by Karl Hammerschmidt & Söhne in Germany. The elder Hammerschmidt used to produced these instruments for Stowasser. The quality is high, and they play well. The walls are thicker than the old Stowasser instruments, which helps prevent cracking, but also increases the weight. The retail price is about 6000 Deutschmarks. The factory address is:

Karl Hammerschmidt & Söhne
Industriestr. 6 D-89331 Burgau Germany
(0) 8222-1436 Phone
(0) 8222-1059 fax

Used Instruments

If you are in the market for a used tárogató to play, look for ones with two register keys for the left thumb. Notes in the upper half of the upper register can be difficult or impossible to sound with only one register key.

One place to buy a tárogató is from Lark in the Morning, which sells both new and used tárogatók. Their prices are around $4000 to $5000. Lark in the Morning has a no-return policy with store-bought instruments, and a three-day policy on non-special-order mail orders, so buyer beware. As a comparison, my antique tárogató was purchased from a music store in Budapest for $750 (Thanks, Pál!). Many new tárogatók may be found in Romania as well, but the quality is generally poor.


There is a systematic tárogató course book written by Julius Kaldy, and distributed by

Edition Neuma
ENR 007, Tahi u. 94, Budapest 1135, Hungary

There is a summer camp in Hungary where the tárogató, clarinet and saxophone, are taught. The camp location is in the city of Eger, in southwest Hungary. This camp includes workshops, competitions, private lessons, and a concert. The cost is about $150 US, plus about $100 to stay at the student hostel. The last day to register is July 1. There exists some connection to USA, as some guest professors participate. The contact adress is:

Balogh Jozsef
Budapest, Bécsi ut 88/90. 1/31. 1034 Hungary
Tel / Fax (0036) 1 388 6689
Balogh was formerly the solo clarinetist for radio orchestra of Budapest.


People who play the tárogató the USA are J. Robert Moore, an associate professor of music at the University of Oregon, Esther Lamneck, the Director of the NYU New Music Ensemble, and Mike Curtis, who has three recordings listed in the discography below. In Hungary, Berán István (formerly?) of Méta plays the tárogató and has made various CDs. In Germany, there are Peter Brötzmann (Jazz) and Mars Williams.


An International tárogató Society exists. It was created by Csaba Nagy and others at a 1996 Tarogato conference in Hungary.


Cigány Vigadalom: Tárogató es Cimbalom / Torok Sandor es Cigányzenekara
New York: Fiesta, FLPS-1656 [1980] 33 1/3 rpm stereo

Hungary: Hungaroton, HCD 31294 [1990] CD
Csaba Nagy, tárogató ; Péter Ella, harpsichord ; Viktória Herencsár, cimbalom

Hej, Rákóczi!
Hungary: Hungaroton/Qualiton HCD 10278 [1992] CD
Nagy Csaba

Virtuoso Violin, Clarinet and Tárogató Music / György Lakatos, Sandor Kecskes
Hungary: Qualiton SLPX 10125 or LPX 10125, [196-] 33 1/3 rpm stereo

Toertenelmi Dalok Tárogatóra es Cimbalomra
Hungary: Qualiton LPX 10099 [1965] 33 1/3 rpm
Sándor Burka, tárogató ; János Németh, cimbalom ; Mihály Szitai, bass ; Dezső Orogona, viola

Petrica Pasca - taragot - Melodii din Tara Zarandului
Romania: Electrecord-Cs 0319

Street Song CD, Mike Curtis Klezmer Quartet
USA: Louie Records 006 (1997)

Between 2 Worlds CD, Oomph Intercontinental Klezmer (Mike Curtis)
NY: Global Village Records 135 (1993)

Path CD, Dave Leslie with Mike Curtis
USA: Orb Recordings ORB001-D (1993)


[1] Benade, Arthur H. Fundamentals of Musical Acoustics. New York, Dover Publications, 1990.

[2] Sárosi, Bálint. Folk Music / Hungarian Musical Idiom. Budapest, Corvina, 1986.

[3] Moore, Robert J. Saxophone Journal. Needham, Mass, Dorn Publications, March/April, 1996.

Photo Credits

[1] Edinburgh University Collection of Historic Musical Instruments

[2] Leonardo Fuks

[3] Leonardo Fuks

Daniel Seidenberg, Mal Harris, and Leonardo Fuks contributed information for this page.