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Early versions are believed to have double-reeded chanters, most likely with single-reeded drones.
The word "hümmelchen" probably comes from the Low German word hämeln meaning "trim". This may refer to the hümmelchen's small size, resembling a trimmed-down version of a larger bagpipe. Another possibly etymology comes from the word hummel ("bumble-bee"), referring to the buzzing sound of the drone. The term hummel is still used to refer to a type of droning zither in Germanic countries.