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A cornet is a brass instrument similar to a trumpet, but with a condensed shape and mellower tone. It is usually tuned to B♭, but a soprano cornet is tuned to E♭. The cornet is used across musical genres such as brass bands, concert bands, orchestral and jazz.

This instrument is recognised as one of the most popular brass instruments, especially with beginners and children due to its compact size.

The difference between cornets and trumpets is the physical appearance of the instrument, or the tubing. Cornets are much smaller and lightweight, making them easier to travel with.

The first modern cornet was manufactured in the 19th century. The leading manufacturers today are:

  • Yamaha
  • Vincent Bach
  • Besson
  • Jupiter
  • Schilke

Soprano Cornet

A soprano cornet is similar to a standard cornet but it is tuned to E♭. It is usually used in bigger bands, but is replaced by a clarinet in British concert bands.

It is a perfect 4th higher than a standard trumpet and is described as a brighter sound. A piccolo trumpet can be used in the place of a soprano trumpet.

Musical Genres

In brass bands and concert bands, the cornet usually takes the lead melody. In brass bands it is typically used instead of a trumpet.

Concert bands differ from brass bands and have separate parts for cornets and trumpets. In military bands the highest instrument is always the cornet.

Jazz is a genre where the cornet is used frequently, and is sometimes preferred over the trumpet.

Notable cornet players include:

  • Buddy Bolden – jazz pioneer
  • Louis Armstrong – famous trumpet player who began his career playing the cornet
  • Herbert Lincoln Clark – one of the best cornet players at the start of the 20th century
  • Joe “King” Oliver – played with Louis Armstrong and influenced him significantly

There are many accessories available to buy with cornets, including:

  • Hard cases
  • Soft cases for comfort
  • Stands
  • Mutes
  • Mouthpieces
  • Valve oil 
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