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The Difference Between the Trumpet and the Cornet

Beverley Byer has been writing professionally for a number of years. Her work has been published in magazines and newspapers.

The trumpet and the cornet are often mistaken for the same musical instrument. They are both in the brass and wind classifications, made from brass tubing, have oblong frames, three valves (usually), a cup mouthpiece, standard-wise, they are similarly pitched in the key of B-flat, and sound is made from blowing air into them through pressed lips.



Trumpet Description and Types

The trumpet’s frame is more slender and cylindrical all the way to its bell. It also has a shallower, longer mouthpiece which renders a clearer, more luminous, and deeper sound. That quality makes the instrument better suited for concert, jazz, and marching bands, and modern symphony orchestras. Trumpet valves can be piston or rotary. Mechanisms are usually built into the tuning slides to address the instrument’s pitch problems.

There are other types of trumpets beside the standard B-flat. Some of them are pitched in the same B-flat key. Pocket trumpets, for instance, but they have smaller bells and more closely wound tubes. Their sound quality is said to vary because of poor design. Herald trumpets which have longer bells and are favored in parades. Piccolos, the smallest of the lot, come in the keys of B-flat and A. They have four valves with individual leadpipes for each. Then there are soprano trumpets or bugles which are pitched in low G and have either rotary or piston valves. Brass trumpets which sound like trombones. And slide trumpets which were the first of this class of instruments to be permitted in Christian worship.

Trumpet History

The trumpet is one of the world’s oldest musical instruments with evidence harkening back to 2,000 B.C.E., says one article. They were used in religious rituals and mentioned in the Bible. Their precursors were animal bones and horns. Straight trumpets were constructed prior to the 15th century. These early versions did not have valves. The instrument was not used in symphony orchestras before the 19th century. Manufacturers include Fides of Spain, Smith & Watkins of England, Bach, Yamaha, and Getzen of the United States. Famous trumpeters include Cat Anderson, Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Al Hirt, Miles Davis, Herbie Hanock, Wynton Marsalis, and Chris Botti.



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Cornet Description and Types

The cornet’s tubing starts to widen as it edges towards its bell. This feature gives it a softer sound than the trumpet and according to Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, makes the instrument more adept at playing fast and more melodic tunes. The sound is perfect for brass and concert bands. The cornet’s design also makes it easier for children new to wind or brass instruments to grasp.

Types of cornets include the short-model standard and the long-model with a smaller bore. The latter is the one most seen in United States concert bands.

Cornet History

Cornets originated early in the 19th century from the French post horn. The first ones, manufactured by Halary of Paris, were bent into one coil and had double valves. Improved versions were made by Jean Aste in 1828. The cornet had many names as it traveled through history and country. The English also called it cornopean or stop horn. The word cornet is Latin for horn. Cornets became part of United States ensembles in the early 1900s. They were used along with trumpets until the early 20th century and were later replaced by them. Cornets can still be found in brass bands in the United Kingdom. Manufacturers of this instrument include Joseph Higham, Boosey & Hawkes, and Besson in the United Kingdom; Lyon & Healey, Eliason, and Schilke in the United States. Famous Cornetists include Ruby Braff, Bobby Bradford, Leon Oakley, Nat Adderly, and John Philip Sousa.

Favorite Wind or Brass Musical Instrument


Beverley Byer (author) from United States of America on September 25, 2017:

Thanks, for your supportive comments, Reginald! I find the sound of both instruments appealing.

Reginald Thomas from Connecticut on September 24, 2017:

Very nice article Beverly. Lots of nice information in there. I do prefer the cornet sound over the trumpet. A bit more "mellow".

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