Introducing the Cornet

Greta introduces the Cornet, and plays a short excerpt from “My Heart Will Go On”, from the movie Titanic.

The Cornet is a small brass musical instrument, similar to the more familiar trumpet. It was invented in the 1820s in France by adding valves to the posthorn. Today it is mainly used in traditional brass bands, where you will find up to 10 of them! They are the highest pitched instruments in a brass band and they play a lot of the melody and higher harmonies in the band.

A brass band has a Principal Cornet player who leads the Cornet section, plays many of the solo parts, and may also help to encourage and develop the other cornet players. Then there are 3 other “Solo” or “Front row” Cornet players, and behind these sit the “Back row” Cornet players: 2 “Second” Cornets and 2 “Third” Cornets, who play accompanying harmonic parts; a “Repriano” Cornet player whose role is to fill out the harmony and support the other cornet parts, and a Soprano Cornet (which Greta introduces in another video on our Introducing page). Read more at Brass Band Academy.

The Cornet is very similar to the Trumpet. It has the same length of tubing (a bit less than 1.5 metres or 5 feet without any valves pressed), and plays the same range of notes. The difference is in the shape of the instrument, with the Cornet being more compact. The tubing of a Trumpet is the same width or diameter all along its length (cylindrical) until the bell, whereas the Cornet tubing gets slowly wider along its length (conical).

Also, a Cornet mouthpiece is deeper and more V shaped than the Trumpet mouthpiece which has a shallow bowl shape.

These differences give the Cornet a warm, mellow tone in contrast to the Trumpet’s lively, brash tone. The Cornet fits well in a Brass Band where it blends with the other brass instruments, whereas the Trumpet is used in orchestras and other bands to give contrast and stand out above the other instruments.

As a special treat, Greta plays the whole of “My Heart Will Go On”, the theme from the movie Titanic. The beautiful, soaring melody of the theme shows off the warm, mellow tone of the cornet very well. Greta plays it as duet – listen to the 2 parts and try to hear how they combine and complement each other.

The standard Cornet is also called the Bb (“B flat”) Cornet to distinguish it from the Soprano or Eb (“E flat”) Cornet. It is called the “Bb” Cornet because when the player plays a note written as a C, they are playing the same note as a Bb on the piano (“Concert Bb”). For more information on this see the Soprano Cornet.

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