The Shepherds Crook
American Brass Band Association
Volume V: No. 1
from Spring 2000 Ed.
CORNET IN THE BRASS BAND
cornet mouthpiece is deeper than the trumpet cup and more gently shouldered into the throat. The stem is short and narrow
and modern designs of the cornet no longer have the detachable shank, the mouthpiece is inserted directly into the instrument.
Parisian brass players in
1830 regarded the cornet a pistons as a valved improvement of the circular post horn.
is gay and homely, and delivers neither the exciting ring of the trumpet or the ominous sonority of the bugle. It has remained
popular because of the technical flexibility inherent from its mouth-pipe taper and from the characteristic mouthpiece.
is not a mouthpiece article, but it seemed important to talk about this aspect of tone production).
Brass bands use four cornet parts.
1. Solo Cornet
2. Repiano Cornet
(Flugelhorn also reads from this part)
3. Second Cornet
4. Third Cornet
Salvation Army units usually have three.
1. Solo Cornet
2. First Cornet
Second Cornet (There is usually no third cornet part)
Eb Cornet is
included as an important brass band voice pitched a 4th higher. A separate consideration of Eb Cornet has been done in an
earlier Shepherd's Crook.
The cornet was derived from the Circular Post Horn to which valves were added. It
should be noted that cornet and trumpet evolved from separate lines. A quick perusal of the Barkley book (mentioned below)
will make this obvious.
An analogy could be drawn to the classical guitar and lute, which are both plucked
cordophones, but with two completely separate histories.
The trumpet seems to have been derived from the longer,
straighter instruments such as the heraldic trumpets while the cornet came from the Circular Post-Horn.
keyed bugle in Brass Band history was important prior to 1856. The history of this instrument and its recent revival are chronicled
in The Keyed Bugle by Ralph T. Dudgeon.
The famous contest in 1856 between Ned Kendall (keyed Bugle) and Patrick
S. Gilmore (Cornet) in Boston was the beginning of the end of keyed bugle in Brass Bands. Some authors have seen this event
as a decline of the Keyed Bugle as a virtuoso instrument and its replacement by the Cornet. Dudgeon found no mention of an
outcome of this contest that favored Gilmore on the Cornet. Thomas Carroll, an eyewitness, felt the outcome was indecisive.
(Carroll, Thomas. Bands & Band Music in Salem. Historical Collection of the Essex Institute XXXVI,
No. 4, October
1900. P. 227)
Tonal Quality of the Bb Cornet
vital difference between cornet and a small-valved trumpet lies in the deeper cupped mouthpiece. It is this that gives the
cornet its unfatiguing nature and flexibility of execution. This is why Brass Bands have owed their success from the cornets
first manufacture in London under the name Cornopean, horn of triumphal song.
The tone quality of the modern
cornet has changed since the mouthpiece has changed. The early cornet mouthpiece in England as well as France was like that
of the French horn; narrow-rimmed, thin-walled, with a deep conical interior. This author recently toyed with such a mouthpiece
on a pocket cornet found in a local pawnshop. (For an interesting photo, see the pocket cornet photo in The New Grove,
under Don Cherry.)
Surprisingly, I was able to produce reasonable tones quite easily on the pocket cornet. (I
have never actually played cornet). I attribute this to the mouthpiece that was with the instrument; it was of the French-horn
style. These older mouthpieces were said to produce a rounder and more velvet sound than the hardy penetrance made when the
more cupped trumpet style mouthpiece was used.
Unfortunately, Arban, Levy, and Clark all used this trumpet
style mouthpiece and its use has persisted. Arban was not yet twenty-three years of age when the cornet was labeled a snappy
vulgarity among classically minded brass players.
Bb Cornet in BRASS BANDS
bands are enjoying rising popularity in the North America. This resurgence adds to the marketing of the instrument and to
resurgence of playing orchestral cornet parts on cornets.
Cornet parts add contrast in tone color between cornets
and trumpets. This contrast was utilized in scoring by Berlioz, Franc, and other composers.
tone is darker and mellower than the clear ringing trumpet timbre and can be colored with an expressive vibrato. The latter
effect can easily be overdone and should be avoided for purposes of blend. To stress once more, this cornet timbre is achieved
only through the use of a mouthpiece with a distinctly deeper and more conical cup. Trumpet players often use the same trumpet
mouthpiece with a smaller shank when performing on the cornet. This negates much of the contrast in timbre between the two
The only traditional cornet mouthpieces available in North America are the Denis Wick models;
these were designed in collaboration with leading British cornet players. In the Bach range, only the 5A approaches the requisite
Most manufacturers have produced long model cornets (lacking the Shepherds Crook in the bell).
The changes in these models unfortunately affect the timbre and the tone becomes closer to the trumpet than the cornet.
cornet is at its best in soft melodic passages where its voice like tone can be uncommonly expressive. Another asset of the
cornet is its uncommon agility.
The true Brass Bands of England have an unbroken performance style reaching
back to the 19th Century. This style has been maintained independent of the influence of the trumpet and modern orchestral
Salvation Army Brass Bands place a premium on melodic expression. Of particular interest is
a recording produced by the International Trumpet Guild of performances of the legendary Herbert L. Clarke, dating from 1904
to 1921. (Crystal S450).
The cornet is a versatile workhorse in the Brass Band. It has been fruitfully utilized
in a myriad of instrumental combinations by arrangers and composers.
Each new arrangement and composition
seems to bring surprises. The cornets can be utilized as soloists, unisono, solo groups within the section, as well
as in ensemble with various combinations of other instruments in as many permutations as the composer can conceive.
cornets can provide harmonic counterpoint to other Brass Band soloists and provide rhythmic, harmonic and melodic diversity
as well as distinctive tone qualities in the milieu of the Brass Band. Truly, the brass band is a cornet band!
A POIGNANT LETTER !!
In 1921 Herbert L Clark
was conducting the Anglo-Canadian Leather Company Band in Huntsville, Ontario Canada. In a letter to Elden
E. Benge of Winterset, Iowa the same year, this was the text:
My Dear Mr. Benge:
Replying to yours
of the 19th just received, would not advise you to change from Cornet to Trumpet, as the latter instrument is only a foreign
fad for he time present, and is only used properly in large orchestras of 60 or more, for dynamic effects, and was never intended
as a solo instrument.
I never heard of a real soloist playing before the public on a Trumpet. One cannot play a decent
song even, properly, on it, and it has spring up in the last few years like jaz music, which is the nearest Hell, or the Devil,
in music. It polutes the art of Music.
Am pleased that you are making improvements in your playing. Keep it up, and
become a great Cornet Player. You have an equal chance with all the rest, but you must work for it yourself.
you all the best of success, I remain.
Herbert L. Clarke (signed)
copy of this letter was published in the INSTRUMENTALIST and is used with their kind indulgence.)
Finally, I must
give credit for this edition where credit is due:
Baines, Anthony. Brass Instruments, their History
Development. Faber & Faber. London. 1976.
Barkley, Robert. The Art of the Trumpet Maker:
materials tools and tecnniques of the 17th
and 18th Centuries in Nuremberg.
Clarendon Press, Oxford University
New York. 1992.
Dudgeon, Ralph T. The Keyed Bugle. Scarecrow
Press, Inc. Metuchen NJ
& London. 1993.
The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.
Ed. by Stanley Sadie.
Ltd. London. 1980.
Volume 4. Cornet. by Anthony Baines.
Whitener, Scott. Complete Guide to Brass.
Books, New York, Toronto.
A Division of Macmillan, Inc. 1990.
The Shepherds Crook
Newsletter of the
American Brass Band Association
Volume V. No. I Spring 2000