The history of the Bb Cornet

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Bbmad, Sep 10, 2015.

  1. Bbmad

    Bbmad Active Member

    I am currently assisting a nephew with a school project and have some questions regarding the Cornet and its relationship with Brass Bands.
    We are specifically looking for answers to these questions:
    1. Why was the cornet chosen in preference to the trumpet in Brass Bands?
    2. When was it first formally stipulated (in contest rules) that a trumpet could not be used?
    Are there are historians out there that can help?
  2. cjwood555

    cjwood555 Member

    Can't answer those two but this may be of interest:

    iancwilx likes this.
  3. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    The cornet was cheaper to buy and had a softer sound, more suited to concerts. As the above suggests, the trumpet was considered an orchestral instument for use in large orchestras and had a (not always undeserved) reputation for being loud and brash - hence why they were often used as military instruments. In the US it was also associated with 'negro music' and, due the the racial stereotyping of which our American cousins were so proud, was associated with African american slaves and the ever-so-sleazy Jazz music.

    In UK bands, the cornets were to play the melody and using trumpets would have been the musical equivalent of shouting. Despite their beginnings amongst the working classes, bands wanted to attract the well-paying audiences from the aspiring middle classes. Also, I think the cornet was the first instrument to successfully incorporate the piston valve in the early 1800s. Someone who has access to Roy Newsome's book might have an answer to the second question.
  4. GordonH

    GordonH Member

    The simple answer is that brass bands were founded before trumpets had valves. Cornets had valves before trumpets did and even when they did trumpets were pitched in low F usually with a change to E. The best book on this is the one by John Wallace.

    I don't accept Mikes suggestion above that the trumpet was associated with black music in the USA. Nobody played the trumpet in jazz until the late 20's. Louis Armstrong didn't switch from cornet till around 1926/27 and his choice of trumpet was quite influential. King Oliver only ever played cornet, as did Rex Stewart. The reason for switching to trumpet was partly volume and partly looks - this was the era of the streamlined look. If you are interested in the cornet vs trumpet in jazz this excerpt from Nat Gonella's 1931 book "Modern Style Trumpet Playing" might be helpful:

    A for the rules, there is no stipulation about trumpets nor being used. If someone made a trumpet but sold it as a cornet then under the current rules it would be permitted. Previously the rule was that cornets had to have rearwards pulling main tuning slides and a cornet mouthpiece receiver. This rule was changed when B&H launched a soprano cornet with a front pull tuning slide. From that point onwards things got a bit vague and its basically down to the manufacturer. Modern trumpets and modern cornets have very similar bore profiles. My Maestro cornet is more of a trumpet than a Bach MLV trumpet.
  5. Pauli Walnuts

    Pauli Walnuts Moderator Staff Member

    An interesting aside here: I recall many years ago, the PC of Aldershot Brass Ensemble used to use what was called a "long model" cornet and often heard people questioning if he was allowed to at contests! (I suspect that was more to do with how successful they were at that time!)

    Haven't read the rules in a long while but they used to include a phrase along the lines of players using "brass band instrumentation" - but there was no accompanying definition of what that was. There is a brass band archive National Brass Band Archive - maybe they have the oldest copy of any contest rules that could help on that point.
  6. GordonH

    GordonH Member

    Long model cornets are of two types:

    1. A cornet that is stretched out to look exactly like a trumpet. The leadpipe often has a non functional cover tube to disguise its narrower opening. Conn made these.

    2. A cornet without a bend in the bell bow resulting in the bell having to stick out further in front of the bell. These divide into two types: the ones with truly cornet shaped bells and the ones with re-purposed trumpet bells.

    The second of these was always permitted in brass bands and I am pretty sure Maurice Murphy played an Olds Superstar long model for at least a short time when he was at Black Dyke - or maybe when he went back and made that record with the other two cornet soloists.

    Having owned and played a number of long model cornets in Jazz, some can be more brass bandy than some current production brass band cornets. The Besson Stratford was a great cornet and they were cheap. The King Silversonic and Master are a bit tight sounding and don't like brass band mouthpieces. The Later Bach long models usually have a 37 trumpet bell. The earlier ones have a variety of bells and some of them can be very good Bix Beiderbecke played a Bach long model with a more cornet like bell for most of his recording career (in spite of being pictured in early photos with a Conn New Wonder Victor).

    The Bach long model cornets all have a receiver gap like a trumpet. Most cornets do not have this - there is a smooth transition from the receiver to leadpipe entrance - this is one of the biggest contributors to the cornet sound.

    There are very few long model cornets in production. Yamaha make a student one and Bach make one model. A couple from smaller US manufacturers. It is largely dying out as an instrument, but it had its place. A real fruity and flexible sound. Not really anything like a trumpet. look up anything by Ruby Braff.
  7. Pauli Walnuts

    Pauli Walnuts Moderator Staff Member

    I was also going to mention Ruby Braff - had the pleasure of seeing him at Ronnie Scotts in the mid 70's - used a cornet a lot on that gig.
  8. GordonH

    GordonH Member

    I saw Warren Vache recently. A true legend of the cornet. If you go back to the bands of Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington there were cornets in them well into the 1940's. I think the cornet died in the US when wind band scores stopped having separate cornet parts in them. This was the reason for kids being exposed to some form of cornet at school. It all went trumpet after that.
  9. owain_s

    owain_s Member

    Well, Kapitol's rules do state: "Brass instrumentation will be from the following list: Eb Soprano Cornet, Bb Cornet, Bb Flugel Horn, Eb Tenor Horn, Bb Baritone, Bb Euphonium, Slide Trombones, Eb and EEb Bass, Bb and BBb Bass." Fair point about the vagueness of what does or does not actually tick those boxes!
  10. DS2014

    DS2014 Active Member

    As Mike says, the go-to man on this is Roy Newsome. You can download for free his PhD thesis about the development of brass bands. Chapter 3 is probably the part you can focus on. It talks about instrumentation in the 1850s-70s and mentions that the trumpets were "natural" i.e. valveless. You can see how the cornet gradually edges out the trumpet over these decades. After which, I would imagine, that by the time good valved trumpets were available then the instrumentation had settled down. The instrumentation up to this point was very fluid, with clarinets and all sorts in use.
  11. Cornet Nev.

    Cornet Nev. Member

    I was under the impression that Arban had quite a bit of influence regarding the invention (If you can call it that) of the valve as we know it today, and also the development of the cornet from that.

    Edit to add, you can ignore a lot of the above, it seems I may be wrong, this Wikipedia article is worth a read.

    Cornet - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2015
  12. GordonH

    GordonH Member

    Kapitol inherited those rules from the old National Championships. The definitions are vague. Provided an instrument is advertised in a catalogue as a cornet then that is enough to make it a cornet.
  13. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

    Slide trombones.

    So the superbone would be allowed, its a slide trombone with 3 triggers (rather than the usual 1 or 2) and they happen to be piston triggers rather than rotary triggers.

    Superbone - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  14. WhatSharp?

    WhatSharp? Active Member

    Our third cornet still plays one too :D ( not sure if Mike was ever principle though, have to ask him ).
  15. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    At one point virtually the whole cornet section of Alder Valley (or the Aldershot Brass Ensemble, as they used to be known at the time) used to play on long model Bach Strads; certainly the whole front row, at any rate. Principal Cornet at the time was, I believe, Gerry (Jerry?) Nicholson. Wonderful player; was able to produce a surprisingly mellow traditional cornet sound from the long model cornet, as I remember, however it did tend to make the section sound a bit bright at higher volumes.
  16. Pauli Walnuts

    Pauli Walnuts Moderator Staff Member

    It was Gerry I was referring to.
  17. Accidental

    Accidental Supporting Member

    You might find this paper quite a useful place to start:
    (The author Nigel Horne is also the man behind Brass Band Portal).
  18. mattthebass

    mattthebass Member

    One other possible reason for the Cornet winning out over the Trumpet is that many early conductors also played the solo parts, many using pocket Cornets as the compact nature made them easier to hold, the centre of gravity being closer to the hand and body. Might be a load rubbish?

    Spelling out the obvious here, but they conducted with one hand and held the Cornet with the other
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2015
  19. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    ...or by waving the cornet around, rather in the manner of lead violinist in a chamber group?
  20. GordonH

    GordonH Member

    Most brass bands were formed before trumpets had valves. Cornets did. That is why they were generally adopted by brass bands and were embedded in it before the trumpet really got going as an option.

Share This Page