E Flat Soprano Cornet
The following introduction to the E flat Soprano Cornet was excerpted from a brief article by Bram Gay in Sounding
Brass, Issue 6, 1977. It seems to provide a non-controversial starting point.
The soprano is essentially a saxhorn
in high E flat (Berlioz would recognize it instantly) which means, approaching it from another angle, that it is a kind of
conical bore E Flat Trumpet. Its function in the band is the obvious one, the supply of the octave above the B flat instrument
(Cornet). In this it is, as one would immediately assume, less successful than a piccolo B flat cornet would be. But the E
flat instrument has a capacity for the lyrical which is hard to sustain in smaller instruments and in the hands of a rare
small number of fine artists it can make a contribution, through its flexibility and highly individual colour (in a medium
where a fresh colour is a life-saver) hardly to be achieved by any piccolo we have so far seen. It is of very little use below
the stave, because its tone there is thin and its intonation usually questionable. These days composers write for it as high
as C. We have seen higher notes and heard them too, though not as often.
Fine soprano cornet players are indeed few.
Charlie Cook of Fodens I always consider to have been, with Dennis Brain, one of the two finest brass players of whom I have
had personal experience (Bram Gray).
The Instrument (E flat cornet) seems to require a certain quirky, fatalistic
personality in the player. A very famous soprano cornet virtuoso once said that to play the soprano at all you have to be
a bity crazy. To play it well, really nuts. And to play it as well as I do, mad as a hatter. The instruments are in some cases
much better now than when that remark was made, and a large number of quite sane people play it decently today.
are not a lot of resources on the historical development of this instrument. What history that this author was able to find
was cloudy to say the least. In spite of its history, the utilization of the E flat Cornet is almost universal in the Brass
Basically, the E flat cornet is pitched a fourth higher than its B flat counterpart. It provides an
airy, flute-like obbligato above the solo cornets in the brass band. This is the sound quality of a brass band that brings
about the comment, What is that? Striking to the ear as well are the high counter melodies made possible by this instrument.
The top of the score in brass band is the E flat Soprano Cornet. The uninitiated ear is quite surprised at this nearly whistling
high soprano voice in the texture.
The clarino register would seem easier to play on this instrument, although it
is not the primary feature of the E flat cornet in the brass band.
The players I am familiar with did not seem to
think it was anything unusual to play the E flat soprano Cornet. Most of them stayed with this instrument once they had switched
to it from the B flat cornet.
The instrument itself is not tiny, as many suspect. I was quite shocked when I realized
that the gross dimensions of the Eb Soprano differ very little from the standard Shepherds Crook Bb Cornet.
comparison was done on Boosey & Hawkes instruments. Many models of the E flat cornet are distinguished by the appearance
of a second deep crook forward.
The tiny piccolo instruments that are seen sometimes in modern recitals (or even in some
brass bands!) are frequently not E flat Soprano Cornets. These are frequently E flat trumpets, distinguished by a longer lead
pipe and tiny body. Also, a small, short piccolo B flat cornet (Pocket trumpet)has been marketed as a novelty instrument in
the last few years by more than one company.
It should also be remembered that European Brass Bands still sometimes
deploy E flat Soprano Flugelhorns (It. Pikolo) to play parts scored for E flat Soprano Cornet. If you see a small cornet with
rotary valves, in a European Band, it is a Soprano (E flat) flugelhorn until proven otherwise.
There are some beautiful
solo works for E flat Soprano Cornet. Many are unpublished. If you ever see Demelza in print, snap it up. I heard this beautiful
piece in New Zealand and was quite surprised at how the instrument handled this beautiful lyrical solo. To my knowledge, this
piece remains in manuscript form unpublished.
Another important use of the Eb cornet in scoring is to combine it with
various other instruments or groups of instruments for colorshadings.
It can be utilized as back up support for solo
cornet obbligato, as well as for the high flute-like whistling countermelody in both marches and lyrical pieces. None of these
effects in its high register should be overdone.
Kevin Thompson, has a particularly good scoring insight for this
instrument: Writing for a young or inexperienced E flat soprano player demands considerable thought and attention. The E flat
soprano player should not be used merely to support the solo B flat cornets in their high register. It is again unwise to
score E flat cornet soaring head and shoulders above the rest. Unless the player is exceptionally expressive, experienced
and consistent, this not a good idea. A high Eb Cornet may be exhilarating to hear, and may well claim attention. It is safer
and wiser to regard the instrument as having a similar quality of expression to that of the flute rather than that of the
piccolo. This would hold true especially when writing for the less experienced E flat cornet players in a school or beginners
brass band. The Eb cornet is
light in tonal quality as opposed to shrill. It may therefore be used in transparently scored
passages, perhaps where the full-bodied rounded tone of a Bb cornet would be out of character. Played well, Eb cornet has
a wispy flute-like quality in contrast to the more rounded tone of the Bb cornets.
A brief interlude to give credit
where it is due.
Cornet High and Dry, Sounding Brass , Issue 6, 1977.
bands and Brass Bands in School and Music Centre. Cambridge University Press. New York, Cambridge, London, Sydney, Melbourne.
When an Eb cornet part is not scored, the Eb cornet can
play an Eb horn part. In scores for military style band, Eb cornet can also play alto saxophone parts. Some Salvation Army
music series do not include a part for Eb cornet, especially if scored for smaller brass groups. Most modern scores for full
brass band do contain Eb cornet parts.
So where do I get an Eb soprano Cornet?
following list has been compiled to aid your search. This list is as complete as we can make it at this time. I am sure there
are other manufacturers that will be able to custom build to your needs as well.
Eb Soprano Cornet
Besson New Standard UK
Hawkes Imperial UK
Getzen Eterna Artist USA
Shilke E Flat USA
Yamaha YCR-2615 Japan
LaFleur 2440-3&4 Czech
E Flat Germany
Rosehill Bandsman Germany
The Eb cornet
should not be approached with the idea that one is dealing with historical or restored instrumentation. This instrument
is a vibrant part of the brass band; past, present and future.
The Shepherds Crook :
Extract from Volume IV: Issue I
American Brass Band Association