Quick guide to popular Cornets

The Cornet

The Cornet is a brass instrument. It sounded by vibrating the lips against the mouthpiece. They were popular in Germany in as early as the 1500s and were called “zink”. Zink may be said to be a descendant of the cowhorn. In the 1500s, it looked like a leather covered cone pipe made of wood, about 2 feet long, with finger holes on it and a small mouthpiece that was made of ivory. The covering leather was used to seal leaks, and protect the surface.

It could reach 2 octaves upward from the G. The cornet then had variations including the descant, the s-shaped tenor, the treble cornet, and the mute cornet called mute because the mouthpiece was cut in the head of the pipe itself. Designs were often based on making it sound come out good despite different spectra of factors that may affect tone quality.

Like the way the strings of a guitar are bowed, the development of wind instruments took into consideration tongue movement, air inflow / outflow with regards to breathing, size of the tube, the bell, and the mouthpiece.

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How to Get the Most Out of the Cornet

Airstream movement can create pressure that travel into the Cornet’s tube. This is true also for other brass/wind instruments including the flute and other recorders. The tube’s design can enhance oscillation and thus promote vibrato and tremolo. Vibrato or the periodic slow change in pitch, and tremolo or the periodic show change in amplitude, thus, studied as well. Lip shape and movement affect air column and pulsing.  Thus the design of the mouthpiece is crucial for a beautiful sounding instrument.

The treble cornet in G comprises of 2 wooden pieces, hollowed out and glued together to create a cone tube curved on the side.

Succeeding cornetts looked like circular French horns. They were brass valve instruments which appeared in the early 1800s. The first 3-valve cornet was created by Halary in 1828 in Paris. It had canonical tubing that tapered gradually to a narrow shank. The shank is narrow and at the end of it is a brass funnel-shaped mouthpiece.

This deep tapering and the cup mouthpiece create a mellow tone and can be played with flexibility. Among the brass instruments, the cornet became quickly an important instrument for military brass bands. Its music is a tone slightly above its sound in the Key of B flat. There is a also a higher tone E flat soprano cornet used for theaters with a key that tuned it to the key of A with a rotary valve.


The History of the Cornet

The cornet was played by musical masters, 19th Century Hermann Koenig and Isaac Levy both were horn players. They used detachable pieces of tubing called “crooks” to obtain different keys or moods. This resulted in a tone of a darker quality.  With the arrival of the trumpet, the cornet became less popular as a solo instrument and its parts became used to replace parts of the trumpet. It thus actually fathered modern Jazz and was well used by virtuosos like Louis Armstrong.

Aside from the trumpet, the cornet also fathered the bugle, and the flugelhorn including derivatives like the alto horn and baritone.  The cornet, cornet or “cornetto” gave trombones a treble voice in the 1500s. The cornet became obsolete in 1700s but it continued to support treble choir voices as well as trombones and religious music ‘til the early 1800s.  With its clear tonal quality, composers like Claudio Monteverdi found the cornett crucial in their work.


Price and Portability of the Cornet

Cornetts can come priced high up to $10,000 or low like $1,000 when you choose vintage productions.  Serious beginners can buy the more expensive models since these units are made of brass and are otherwise durable. They can fit in a bag and are easily transported.


Fingering, Articulating, Breathing and Tongue Techniques When Using the Cornet

Fingering, articulating, breathing and tonguing techniques for the cornet were laid out by the masters of the Middle Ages.  The cornets’ fingering resembles that of the recorder. Players usually blow from the corner of the mouth where the lips are thinner when compared to the middle.  This gave them agility.

The beautiful sound of the cornet was often compared to the viola and sometimes even to the human voice. Because of the excellent wide range of the cornet is easily and quickly noticeable.  As such, it was used to fill in spaces in choir settings.

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