Cornet against trumpet | Classical music

Trumpet and cornet are brass instruments that are similar in appearance but differ in tone and shape.

How is a trumpet different from a cornet?

Although the trumpet is now the standard brass instrument – as in the highest voice – in symphony orchestras and jazz bands or together, it was not always the case. The cornet, a warmer-toned and more obviously versatile instrument, by the 1890s looked poised to supplant the trumpet. Important parts were written for him by Rossini, Berlioz, Bizet and Tchaikovskywho all appreciated both its virtuosity and its ability to blend with other instruments more easily than the trumpet does.

However, it seems that the more piercing tone of the trumpet eventually took precedence over the softer tone of the cornet, and was more suited to the higher-pitched style of 20th-century music, both for dance bands and orchestras. The cornet is found today mainly in marching bandswhere it appears in greater numbers than any other instrument.

Why is the sound of the cornet different from that of the trumpet?

Unlike the trumpet, which has a cylindrical bore, the cornet has a more tapered bore, giving its sound quality something of the quality of the French horn, which likewise has a gradual widening rather than a cylindrical bore. The “cup” of the mouthpiece of the cornet is also deeper than that of a trumpet, which adds to the warmth of its timbre. The instrument, thanks to the width of its bore, also has greater flexibility than a trumpet, performing double or even triple licks (a technique that allows the player to play at rapid fire staccato notes) much easier: there is a quick burst of this playing in Tchaikovsky’s cornet solo italian whim.

What are the Similarities Between Trumpet and Cornet?

Like the trumpet, the cornet operates on the harmonic series and has three keys or valves that allow it to “fill in the gaps” to play scales rather than just fanfares. Also, like the trumpet, there are cornets in B flat, and those in A (the difference being that one works best in flat, while the other works best in sharp); the cornet, unlike the trumpet, has a third type in E flat, which is only used in harmonies. The similarity in technique and range of the cornet means that often music originally written for this instrument, as in Tchaikovsky italian whimis now played by a trumpet.

What music requires a cornet?

Even in the 20th century, when the cornet was replaced by the trumpet, composers sometimes wrote music to be played specifically by a cornet because of its particular sound quality. Examples include Vaughan Williams in A London Symphonyand Constant Lambert in Rio Grande.

Of course, the trumpet is particularly famous for the fanfareplayed to announce the arrival of someone important – or a special event

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