Why did the Cornet become a second rate citizen?

pbirch

Active Member
I don't know whether a trumpet is better than a cornet, but it is definately less versatile. As a conductor of many years I have often heard poor cornet players make their cornet sound like a trumpet, but I have never heard a good trumpet player make his instrument sound like a cornet.
Actually I have, James Watson brought a group of his students to play at my sons youth band, he used his trumpet to play a fanfare, a lyrical solo, a dirty trumpet riff and a classical concerto to demonstrate that the differences are in one’s mind and approach rather than the instrument or mouthpiece
 

trumpetb

Member
Actually I have, James Watson brought a group of his students to play at my sons youth band, he used his trumpet to play a fanfare, a lyrical solo, a dirty trumpet riff and a classical concerto to demonstrate that the differences are in one’s mind and approach rather than the instrument or mouthpiece
Absolutely and totally correct pbirch.

A decent trumpet with a specially chosen mouthpiece and correct tonal concept and good control of embouchure can make a trumpet sound like a cornet or even a flugel. - Within reason. (nothing is perfect in this world)

It is not difficult but it takes mental agility and good control of embouchure good control of chops plus a suitable range of mouthpieces.

I sincerely believe that all players on this site can do the same they simply are unaware of their own abilities in this regard.

If anyone wants tips about how to go about trying to do this this simply ask and I will help as much as a I can.

Everything is impossible until you know how to do it.
 

Jack E

Well-Known Member
Other players have recounted that music teachers in their schools pushed them from trumpet/cornet onto other instruments if they are short of a player for those instruments, robbing the player of their instrument of choice and reducing the cornet / trumpet playing fraternity. Something about forcing a young player to abandon dreams of cornet in favor or euphonium trombone or french horn simply to make up the numbers on less popular instruments in band doesnt sit right with me.
I totally agree on this point. However much you enjoy making music, at least some of it is down to slogging repetition; scales, arpeggios, thirds, rhythm exercises, and so on. For myself, I find that can get pretty tedious, even though I know how important getting those basic skills are. But there's the pay-off; that I love the sound of all the instruments I play - baritone horn, trombone, clarinet, and 5 string banjo in mountain tuning.

But being pressured into going through all those vital exercises on an instrument whose sound that a student doesn't like - just to fill an empty seat? Nope. Like you, that just feels totally wrong. It's not like an employer, who pays your wages, telling you to do a job your don't enjoy; in that scene, doing what the boss wants is fair enough, as that's what the boss is paying your for.

If I was asked to switch from a baritone to an Eb bass, I'd be happy to do that, as I think the sound is of them is gorgeous; but if, in contrast, a teacher or MD tried to push me into playing something I didn't like the sound of - such as an oboe, cornet, sax or euph - I'd remind them that I was a volunteer, not a hired hand, and I'd walk away.
(Please note - I fully appreciate that there are parts in music for which those instruments are ideally suited; I just don't like the sound of them!)

With best regards,
Jack
 
That wonderful story is absolutely priceless Bruce and very funny. For those members who are uncertain about what a Zink might be, it is the other name of a Cornetto, and quite possibly the more correct name.

I am sure you are right about cost being a major factor pbirch, I read some time ago that parents of students often simply buy a trumpet if they suspect the young child might change to trumpet later and they save buying two instruments, so cost is a determining factor there.

Other players have recounted that music teachers in their schools pushed them from trumpet/cornet onto other instruments if they are short of a player for those instruments, robbing the player of their instrument of choice and reducing the cornet / trumpet playing fraternity.

Something about forcing a young player to abandon dreams of cornet in favor or euphonium trombone or french horn simply to make up the numbers on less popular instruments in band doesnt sit right with me.

I think all these factors have complicated a young students life and perhaps contributed to the position of fewer cornets being played that we now find ourselves in.
Pushing students to instruments they didn't want to play happened to me in fourth grade. I wanted to play TROMBONE, of all things. They said my arms were too short. My arms are at least four inches longer than my fellow trombonist in our faculty brass quintet but at that time they needed trumpet/cornet players. I finally won out for I now play as much trombone as I do trumpet.
Be well and live long my friend.
 

2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
Some interesting comments about pushing students from one instrument to another, but there are other angles on this besides the students likes, investment, and familiarities.

Children and beginners in general tend to start on a Cornet or Trumpet because: they are relatively inexpensive; they are relatively small (so a suitable size for children/small people); Bands need many of them; and they teach a substantial chunk of what there is to know about using three valves and a mouthpiece. Now a Band is made of many different instruments so progression from Cornet to those other instruments is needed or otherwise you don’t have a Band, instead you have a Cornet ensemble with (effectively) many good players wasted because only one can play the solo part.

MD’s and Band Directors, etc., have to work with players to fill all the slots in a Band and hence some players will occasionally end up not being on their instrument of choice - of course some will also be introduced to new instruments that they grow to love. My view is that I’m a Bandsman first and a Trombone or Bass player second; if called upon to move I should do so, even if for some years and even if I’m a square peg in a round hole. It’s not all about me (the player) and what I want. Of course there are limits to imposition and if I was clearly unhappy on an instrument, or otherwise clearly unhappy, then I’d have to consider my way forward from that start point of putting the Band first.

I’ve moved Bands a few times over the years but have been with the current one for about seven years and anticipate staying with it - even moving instrument if asked - until I either move away from the area or get too old to play. These days I own my instruments and Tubas (I now play Eb Bass) are not cheap so that significant investment in my preferred instrument would be a factor for me to consider. However Bands usually supply instruments so it’s really a case of accepting the (tolerably) rough with the smooth and understanding that sometimes the way forward for a group involves a little personal sacrifice.
 
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trumpetb

Member
That is very understandable and can be sensible but lets look at it a little deeper.

The band is made up of a group of specialists and when there is a gap in available specialists that gap must be filled and the band members are not paid to play so either we wait for a specialist to arrive who can fill the gap, or someone must move from another area and fill in, for the good of the band.

That is band centric thinking, the band and its needs are paramount above the needs of the player.

Lets look at this from the players and audiences perspective but play devils advocate by looking for a moment at commercial bands and commercial musicians.

Glen Miller was a trombonist and was looking for a band to join. In the bands that had vacancies no suggestion was made that a saxophonist or a trumpet player already in that band change to trombone for the good of the band. They just looked for a trombonist. Glen did not ever accept a position as a pianist if that seat were vacant in a band for the good of the band and to secure an engagement.

I know that is an artificial argument but it serves to illustrate the thinking that demanding a player abandon the instrument they display talent on and have developed their abilities on and are comfortable on may not be a good idea.

The thinking here is that a seasoned trombonist or a seasoned pianist or a seasoned saxophonist should not substitute on to an unfamiliar instrument they have no skills on. To do this would result in a player like a fish out of water who is unhappy because he or she is unhappy with their instrument and will remain relatively unskilled in it for some considerable time.

There is the ability to play beautifully that we all aspire to and I know for a fact that this can only come at the end of decades of commitment to the instrument.

As a cornetist and trumpet player I have developed the ability to change instrument and mouthpiece at will and perform well immediately after the change but I know that many players find it very difficult to make such changes and cannot play well for some considerable time after a change and some cannot ever play well on an unfamiliar instrument or on an unfamiliar mouthpiece that they regard as wrong for them.

The inevitable outcome would be a degradation in overall sound quality of the band and reduction in satisfaction of the audience.

Would Glen miller on saxaphone have sounded competent. What of shifting Dizzy Gillespie to trombone or warren vache to saxaphone early in their career would they have become the draw for audiences that they ultimately achieved on their correct instrument.

There is an element here of player happiness resulting in a desire to excel. If you enjoy playing you practice more then you play better then you enjoy it more then you practice more and then you play better.

If you force a player who loves cornet onto a euphonium and he doesnt enjoy it, he doesnt want to practice any more so he practices less he stops improving and enjoys it less and then practices less. Pretty soon you lose the player so you have then lost not only the euphonium player but also the cornettist he could have become.

The player has a responsibility to the band that is true but the band also has a responsibility to the player.

In commercial bands the player has responsibility to the band but often the band has no responsibilty to the player if you dont conform you are out of the band and yet the band leader still baulks ate the idea of demanding that players change their instruments to unfamiliar ones when the band is short of players. Perhaps they see the size of the problem that can create.

I understand that player substitution onto other instruments helps the band but it must be done wisely and carefully because it carries great risk of destroying the fabric of the band and this can end up hurting the band and the players too.

I play and practice because I enjoy it if I stop enjoying it what possible motive can I have for continuing. Being part of a team perhaps. I can have that in a pool team or in a sunday football team with my mates. My cornet/trumpet however demands several hours hard work a day in constant practice and I practice constantly because I love doing it so much. If I change to an instrument I dont enjoy there would be a huge drop in my level of practice, and I guarantee that I would not be the payer I am today if I had been moved onto a different instrument early on.

If you miss a days practice you notice it, if you miss two days practice your band notice it, if you miss three days practice your audience notices it.

Keep musicians on the instrument that gives them joy and they will repay you by becoming the best musician they can possibly be.

If it comes down to the band having too many cornets and not enough euphoniums, dont accept more cornets, and advertise vacancies for euphonium players or whatever seat is free. Forcing a musician into an instrument they are unhappy with may very well be the worst thing you can do.

In a school environment the goal is to teach children or young adults to develop to their potential and if a student has the potential to be a euphonium god in later life then the music teacher has dropped the ball by forcing the student onto percussion or bass just to make up the numbers and make the music department look good.

I am opposed to making cornet players play anything other than cornet. I do accept however that it can sometimes work out well for the player and the band if the player discovers a love for the new instrument they move to.
 

2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
Yes, it’s a mixed bag and one solution or way forward doesn’t suit all people and doesn’t suit all music groups. Ultimately people have to decide both what defines them most and how elastic they both want to be and can be. Armed Forces Bands demand that their professional musicians both can and on occasion do play multiple instruments, commercial musicians sometimes double on instruments but otherwise tend to focus on one on which they excel (excellence tends to lead to higher income).

Though not always so Brass Bands tend to be communities of family and long time friends who play for pleasure. Certainly one Brass Band local to me has at least one player who’s well beyond pension age and has played with the same band since his youth; he’ll likely have changed instruments a few times over the years and played at different levels too. Another member of that band used to be their MD and has also been their Principal Cornet, but now, in his old age, he’s playing Second or Third Cornet and very happy to let others shoulder the harder parts. Of course players do move bands for personal and playing career purposes too and some advancing bands (moving up the contesting sections) do ditch players who aren’t up to higher levels of play - I suppose that it cuts both ways.

As a band member I’ve one set of views but as an individual music maker I’ve another, if I played in an orchestra then they’d want me for my skills on a particular instrument but in other music making groups long term membership and commitment is what matters most and skills less so.
 
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