Cornet (instrument)

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French:  cornet à pistons
Bb Cornet.JPG
Cornet in B
classification Aerophone
brass instrument
Template: Infobox musical instrument / maintenance / parameter range missing
Template: Infobox musical instrument / maintenance / sound sample parameters missing

The cornet or Piston is a brass instrument with conical brass tube and three piston valves, despite the trumpet-like shape and pitch, due to its scale to the Horn instruments is counted. It should not be confused with the " cornetto ". The cornet is a transposing instrument and is mostly tuned in Bb , sometimes also in Eb .


The name of the instrument is derived from the French cornet à pistons ("small valve horn"). It was first constructed around 1828 by Louis Antoine Halary , the inventor of the Ophiklëide . Halary is said to have had the idea to equip the German post horn with valves in order to be able to generate a chromatic series of tones. In fact, the cornet à pistons is just a further development of an earlier valveless variant ( cornet ), which took over the function of a signal horn in the French chasseur regiments .

After a further development by the French Gustave Auguste Besson , the cornet gained enormous popularity. In 1837, at the age of only 18, Besson was granted a patent for an instrument that had all the defining features of the modern cornet and was superior to all contemporary models. The Besson brand still exists today as part of Buffet Crampon .

By 1850, a short, deep form of the cornet became known in England as the cornopean . The English form was equipped with three pump valves and a trill key for full-tone trills. In addition, it was a modular instrument with interchangeable retuning bows for A-flat, G and F as well as mouthpiece tuning slides for Bb and A. Up until World War I , it was reproduced in France as a cheap version without the deep F-bow.

A duplex version of the cornet is the so-called. Echokornett (also echo Horn above) which has a built-in damper. A special valve enables the instrumentalist to instantly switch between normal and muffled sound.


Cornetist of the Metropolitan Opera (1917)

Today, the cornet is found almost exclusively in wind bands , brass bands and military bands . Occasionally, however, the instrument can also be found in symphonic works, especially in Romance countries, and also played an important role in early jazz music ( Louis Armstrong , Nat Adderley , Bix Beiderbecke , Buddy Bolden , King Oliver , Rex Stewart , Red Nichols , Ruby Braff ).

The cornet is rarely found in classical orchestral literature, since trumpets are usually used for this brass register (while horns usually cover the alto, the trombones the tenor and the tuba the bass). The cornet is usually used here when a slightly softer sound than the trumpet is desired. The cornets often replace or complement the trumpets. One outstanding work is the Symphonie fantastique , in which two trumpets and two cornets are required. Debussy's orchestral composition La Mer calls for two cornets in addition to three trumpets, as does Danny Elfman's film soundtrack for Edward Scissorhands .

The cornet also partly replaced the trumpet in French orchestras of the 19th century. Especially with small string ensembles, as in the operettas by Jacques Offenbach , the cornet mixes better than the trumpet with the other instruments, so that the sound of the tutti passages does not seem so brittle.

The cornet is also popular as a school instrument for trumpet students, because the tone is more responsive than the trumpet and because of its more compact construction it is easier for children to hold.

Differences from the trumpet

The similarity in construction and playing makes it easy for advanced players to switch between cornet and trumpet, but there are some important other differences in addition to the features already mentioned: the more conical bell and a mouthpiece , which has a thinner rim compared to the trumpet and deeper cup, the cornet has a softer, rounder tone, which conversely does not offer the dynamic possibilities of the trumpet and makes playing very high notes difficult. The more extensive turns of the tube have no influence on the sound.

Well-known cornet soloists

In 2005, the International Trumpet Guild (ITG) released a double CD with historical sound documents (1899 to 1950) mainly by cornet soloists : European Cornet And Trumpet Soloists. This documentation is based on the collection of Ernst W. Buser, the founder of the Trumpet Museum in Bad Säckingen .

See also

Web links

Commons : Cornet  - collection of images, videos, and audio files