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The cornet is a brass instrument that visually resembles the trumpet. It is not to be confused with the Medieval instrument, the cornett.

The cornet is a brass instrument, derived from the post horn. Sometimes it is called Cornopean. This term refers to the earliest Cornets with the Stoelzel valvesystem. This instrument could not have been developed without the invention of the valves by Stölzel and Blühml. These two instrument makers almost simultaneously invented the modern valves, as still used today. They jointly applied for a patent and were granted this for a period of ten years. The first great player was Jean Baptiste Arban. In the first half of the 19th century he studied Cornet at the Conservatoire National in Paris. He started studying the Cornopean but quickly changed to the Cornet. He was influenced by Niccolo Paganini, the violin virtuoso, and tried to apply his technical virtuosity to brass instruments. The Cornet proved to be the perfect vehicle for this. For the next 100 years the trumpet and cornet coexisted in musical ensembles. In symphonic repertoire one will often find separate parts for both trumpet and cornet. As several instrument builders made improvements to both instruments, they started to look and sound more alike. The modern day cornet is used mainly in wind ensembles and in specific symphonic repertoire that requires the more mellow sound of the cornet.


[edit] Ensembles with cornets today

After about two centuries of cornet history there are a number of musical ensembles that use the cornet.

Brass band This ensemble exists completely of brass instruments (except for the percussion) The cornet is the leading melodic instruments in this. The ensemble consists of about thirty musicians, of which about eight are B♭ cornets and one is an E♭ cornet (soprano cornet) Mainly used in Great-Britain, Scandinavia and Northern-Europe. Also the only instrumental ensemble within the Salvation Army.

Fanfare orkest (NL and B) This orchestra is only found in the Netherlands, Belgium and Northern France. The leading melodic instrument are the Flugelhorn and the Soprano saxophone but it uses both Cornet and Trumpet in its standard setup, also the E♭ soprano cornet is used. In the last decades the cornet has been largely replaced by the trumpet.

Wind band (Harmonieorkest in NL and B) The role of the Cornet is the same as in the Fanfare orkest, but the E♭ soprano cornet is not used. That role is performed by the E♭ clarinet.

Jazz band In old style jazz the cornet was preferred to the trumpet. But since the 50's it has almost completely been replaced by the trumpet and the stretched cornet. In the Bigband you will not find it anymore, mainly because of the limited volume of the cornet when compared to the trumpet. Players like Louis Armstrong started of on the cornet, but later switched to trumpet. The general taste for more aggressive sounding instruments is largely to blame here.

[edit] Relationship to trumpet

The cornet was invented by adding valves to the post horn in 1814. The valves allowed for melodic playing throughout the register of the cornet. Trumpets were slower to adopt the new valve technology, so for the next 100 years or more, composers often wrote separate parts for trumpet and cornet. The trumpet would play fanfare-like passages, while the cornet played more melodic passages. The modern trumpet has valves (or a similar mechanism) that allow it to play the same notes and fingerings as the cornet.

Cornets and trumpets made in a given key (usually the key of B♭) play at the same pitch, and the technique for playing the instruments is very similar. However, cornets and trumpets are not entirely interchangeable, as they differ in timbre (or tone quality). Also available, but usually seen only in the brass band, is an E♭ soprano model (often shortened to just "sop"), pitched a fourth above the standard B♭. This instrument, with usually just one in a band, adds an extreme high register to the brass band sound and can be most effective in cutting through even the biggest climax.

Unlike the trumpet where the tubing mostly has a cylindrical bore, the tubing of the cornet has a mostly conical bore, starting very narrow at the mouthpiece and gradually widening towards the bell. The conical bore of the cornet is primarily responsible for its characteristic warm, mellow tone, which can be distinguished from the more penetrating sound of the trumpet. The cornet's sound is often preferred by jazz artists as it relates better to the other instruments commonly used in jazz ensembles. The conical bore of the cornet also makes it more agile than the trumpet when playing fast passages. The cornet is often preferred for young beginners as it is easier to hold, with its centre of gravity much closer to the player.

The cornet in the illustration is a short model traditional cornet, also known as a "Shepherd's crook" shaped model. There also exists a long-model cornet which looks about half-way between the short instrument and a trumpet. This instrument is frowned upon by cornet traditionalists and it is not clear what its intended role is. However the common opinion is that it has a more musical sound than the short model or trumpet. The long-model cornet is generally favoured in the United States, but has found little following in British-style brass bands.

[edit] Playing/technique

Like the trumpet and all other modern brasswind instruments, the cornet makes a sound when the player vibrates ("buzzes") his or her lips in the mouthpiece, creating a vibrating column of air in the tubing of the cornet that generates a musical sound. When the column of air is lengthened, the pitch of the note is lowered.

From the basic length tube of the cornet the player can produce a series of notes like those played by the bugle, which has gaps so that true melodic playing is impossible except in the extreme high register. So, to change the length of the vibrating column and provide the cornet with the ability to play chromatic scales, the cornet is equipped with three valves. The action of each valve is to add a length of tubing (and thus vibrating air column) between mouthpiece and bell. As the player presses the valves, the pitch is lowered, thus allowing complete chromatic scales.

Although the cornet is very similar to the trumpet, it usually takes a period of adjustment to cross between the trumpet and cornet for the first time, in order to get the desired tone quality out of the instrument.

[edit] Lists of important players

[edit] Today's players

These are some influential cornet players in the world today.

  • Ron Miles, Denver based jazz musician and composer.
  • Olu Dara, jazz musician and father of noted rapper Nas.
  • Warren Vache, Jr., mainstream jazz and recording artist.
  • Richard Marshall, current Principal Cornet player of Black Dyke Band.
  • Roger Webster, current Principal Cornet player of Grimethorpe Colliery Band and formerly Black Dyke Band.
  • Carl Saunders, a Salvation Army cornet player who has recorded a solo CD and performed at many prestigious events world-wide
  • David Daws, a Salvation Army cornet player who is renowned for his lyrical style of playing and effortless technique. Has made several solo CDs.
  • Gordon Ward, Principal Cornet of the New York Staff Band of The Salvation Army, and director of The Salvation Army Greater New York Youth Band.
  • Chris Howley, Principal Cornet of Polysteel Band, ex Sunlife Principal Cornet.
  • Jim Cullum, traditional/swing jazz and recording artist, leader of the Jim Cullum Jazz Band of San Antonio, Texas.
  • Chris Tyle, traditional/swing jazz and recording artist, leader of the Silver Leaf Jazz Band of New Orleans.
  • Geoff Arnold, former principal cornet of the Swadlincote Salvation Army band
  • Mark 'Slim' Roberts, Australian traditional style player and Parramatta Salvation Army's YP Band leader.
  • Dave Douglas, New York based jazz musician and composer, with a long association with John Zorn's Masada.
  • Kevin Metcalf, Canadian, Australian-based former member of The Salvation Army's Canadian Staff Band and current Soprano Cornet for The Salvation Army's Sydney Congress Hall Band.
  • Alan Garratt b.1936, a former Salvation Army cornet player who is known for his warm tone and technique. Currently principal cornet of the Salvation Army Central Division Fellowship Band. Learned to play at High Wycombe Salvation Army. Still teaches at schools in Buckinghamshire despite being in his 70s
  • Taylor Ho Bynum,avantgarde-jazz musician,composer-performer

The cornet was used in early jazz by Joe "King" Oliver and Louis Armstrong. Later in his career Armstrong switched to trumpet, following a general trend towards trumpet. Notable performances on cornet by players generally associated with the trumpet include Freddie Hubbard's on Empyrean Isles by Herbie Hancock, and Don Cherry's on The Shape of Jazz to Come by Ornette Coleman.

[edit] Important players from the past

  • Leon Bix Beiderbecke
  • Edward (Teddy) Gray, former Principal Cornet, Foden's Motor Works Band.
  • Reuben "Ruby" Braff, mainstream/swing jazz and recording artist
  • Nat Adderley, jazz artist and brother of the famous alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley
  • Buddy Bolden, the father of jazz
  • Alex Owen - a former great cornet player, was given a specially engraved cornet bt Queen Victoria, Roger Webster now has possesion of this cornet.

[edit] External links

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