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Cornets typically come in either a Bb key, C key or Eb key, with Bb cornets being standard in brass bands. With different cornets available for students through to professionals, there are several considerations to make when choosing the right cornet for you.

Technical Specifications of Cornets

Most cornets feature a one-piece bell, with the standard bell diameter being 125.5mm. Yellow brass and gold brass are the most common construction materials, with the outer finish including clear lacquer or silver plating.

Playing the Cornet

The smallest and most common instrument in a brass band, cornets are played with the left hand supporting the weight of the instrument while the right hand operates the valves. Most cornets have three piston valves, with some including compensation mechanisms like levers or rings to allow for problems with intonation. While some beginner cornets do not feature compensation mechanisms, they are often found in intermediate cornets and cornets designed for professional players.

Comparing Cornets and Trumpets

Trumpets and cornets are visually similar and can play the same range of notes. The main difference between professional cornets and trumpets lies in the tubing, also known as the bore. The bore of a trumpet maintains the same diameter from the bell through to the mouthpiece, known as a cylindrical bore. In contrast, the tubing of a cornet is wider at the bell than it is at the mouthpiece, with the widening being a gradual one along the length of the tubing. It is this subtle difference that caters for the difference in sound quality of cornets compared to trumpets, with cornets considered to produce a mellower, warmer sound. While the main tube has a similar length for both cornets and trumpets, visual differences are accounted for the fact that the tubing arrangement differs between the two brass instruments. Trumpets appear to be longer instruments, simply because the tubing is arranged in a straighter format with fewer loops and curves than a cornet.

The Role of Professional Cornets in a Brass Band

A cornet is the highest pitched instrument in any brass band, and plays the role of the principal soprano voice. Small brass bands will see the cornet providing the melody, with some brass band including a second cornet to supply the alto voice.

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