Cornet verses Trumpet?

At the 2020 Super Bowl halftime show, there was one song where dancers held trumpets and trombones.   They weren’t playing, but the distinctive trumpet sound was clearly heard coming from the band.  This probably wasn’t the reason, but your child has decided they want to play the Trumpet.  Great.  But when you show up at school, the band teacher puts a Cornet in their hands.  What gives?  Why?  

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Your child: “I’d like to play the Trumpet”
Band Teacher: “Great. Here’s a Cornet.”
You: “What?”

Cornet Vs Trumpet. What’s the difference?

The reason most elementary school children start with the Cornet is that it’s easier for them.   The Cornet and Trumpet are more alike than they are different.   The Cornet and Trumpet, if stretched out from the tip of the bell to where the mouthpiece goes in (leadpipe), are the same length.   They sound similar, though the Cornet has a softer, warmer tone than a Trumpet because of the shape of the bell and the tubing shape throughout the Cornet.   They weigh about the same too. So how is the Cornet easier? 

This bell is the flared portion on the upper right and the leadpipe is the tubing from the mouthpiece (silver object on the far left) that bends 3 times before entering the valve cluster.

Is Cornet easier than Trumpet?

Young man playing a cornet
A cornet is “easier” because it’s shorter in length making it easier to hold for younger musicians.

First, the Cornet’s tubing starts off small and slowly gets bigger until you get to the bell.   A Trumpet’s tubing is the same size until you get to the bell.  This makes sound production on the cornet easier because it takes less physical effort to play.   Second, while a Cornet and a Trumpet weigh about the same, the shorter, more compact Cornet is easier to hold.    Your child’s hands will be closer to their body with a Cornet, so it takes less strength to hold than a Trumpet.  This is why most band programs start elementary school age children on the Cornet versus the Trumpet.   In middle school or the start of high school, most Cornet players progress to the Trumpet.  Their playing ability and physical strength will have improved greatly since elementary school so it’s a natural progression.

What key does a Cornet play in? 

B-flat, same as the Trumpet and Flugelhorn.   That means if you press the B flat key on a piano (which is in the key of C), that is the same tone or note that is a C on the Cornet, Trumpet, or Flugelhorn. This will make the transition to the Trumpet easier. What does a Cornet sound like? Glad you asked.

Here’s Musician 1st Class John Armstrong playing a cornet with the United States Navy Concert Band. He’s playing the classic Arban “The Carnival of Venice”. This is a piece that every cornet, trumpet, and flugelhorn player has or will play. Just because it’s one of the songs that we are expected to master. That’s what my band teacher said so i guess it’s true.

Back to Musician 1st Class John Armstrong. Check out his single finger playing at timecode 7:30. And he played the whole piece from memory. Just amazing.

Musician 1st Class John Armstrong playing a cornet with the United States Navy Concert Band. He’s playing the classic Arban “The Carnival of Venice”.

Rent a Cornet? Rent a Trumpet?

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Rent or buy? Either way, it still can add up.

Rent verses buy? The age-old question.  Since you or your child is just getting started, or coming back to playing, what makes sense?  If their school or program has an instrument they can use, great.  If you aren’t in school, you don’t have that option (and no pesky tests and PE either). The only equipment you need to invest in is a mouthpiece which can be around $50 at the high end.  If you and/or your child aren’t sure if you/they will like the Cornet/Trumpet, it’s best to rent for the first few months.  The costs of course will vary based on your area.  Average costs for a Cornet are roughly between $15 to $40 per month for the instrument.  This adds up to $180 to $480 per year.  Then you have to include the required Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) insurance which covers you should something happen.  This can range from $5 to $10 per month. So the range to rent a Cornet for a year can be anywhere from $240 to $600 or more.   Going for the lowest rental Cornet is always tempting.  Inspecting the instruments quality, playability, and how it’s been maintained before signing a contract cannot be recommended more strongly. Then, go home and do the math.  For one semester or 4 month period, what is your total out of pocket costs?  What about a year?  Armed with that information, compare that to what a good beginner Cornet would cost.   It may make sense to purchase an instrument.  If you or your child decide it’s not for something to continue on with, you can sell it to recoup a good chunk of your investment.  Your child’s school or one in the neighborhood will likely be a great place to sell it as the new children and parents will be going through what you are now.

Playing Trumpet With Braces?

Getting braces used to be the beginning of the end for many aspiring Cornet/Trumpet players.  The age that most children get them happens around the time they have developed some talent for the instrument.  Some are able to continue to play with metal braces using wax and other covers that let them continue to develop.   I personally avoided getting metal braces as a kid because of my trumpet playing. Getting them as a adult wasn’t a picnic so maybe getting them in school would have been a better idea. Instead of metal braces, the better solution to consider is to have your orthodontist use the removable plastic aligners like Invisalign braces or Smile Direct Club.  These can be removed while playing and won’t interfere with practice or performing.  Many children report it improved their playing because their teeth are straighter and make for a better embouchure.  The cost difference between traditional metal braces and these plastic removable types have mostly gone away.  The benefits for your child are the improved self-image by not having metal braces, improved self-confidence as their smile improves, and they can keep playing their instrument. 

The downside of plastic removable braces are well, they are removable. I remember my friends in school that would wrap their metal and plastic retainers in a napkin for lunch. Then they would throw it in the trash along with their lunch tray. The next day they’d be crushed as their parents spent the night yelling at them for throwing away something that costs a ton of money. So the concern is, will your child remember not to throw the plastic braces away or just plain not use it enough for it to do its job. Definitely worth having an agreement with your child on the responsibilities if you go this route.

Cornet Mouthpiece?

If you are looking for info on cornet mouthpieces, please check out What is the best Cornet Mouthpiece.

How to carry a Cornet?

Best Cornet Cases

A Cornet will come with a sturdy case.   The hard sided, heavily padded case the Cornet came with is designed to protect it from extreme handling.  I had my Cornet partly run over by my parent’s car.  While the case was a bit worse for wear, it still works decades later and the Cornet was fine.  Your child likely has a lot more to carry back and forth to school. Adding a heavy case with a single handle, just won’t do. Our recommendation is a soft case with different carrying options that will literally, lighten their load.

Best Cornet Case – Backpack style

Tom & Will 26CO-315 Cornet Gig Bag

This Cornet “Gig Bag” is shaped like a backpack and has great padding all around to protect the Cornet.  It has two zippered front pockets. It has a side handle, backpack straps, and a shoulder strap.  The straps can be hidden behind the back pad which is also breathable.  Your child can use one strap to carry it on their shoulder or both, to use it as a backpack.  It also comes with a small padded pouch to store the Cornet mouthpiece.  Best of all, it weighs only 2.16 pounds and comes in a light gray with black trim or red with black trim.

More information for the Tom & Will 26CO-315 Cornet Gig Bag in Grey

Tom & Will 26CO-315 Cornet Gig Bag in Grey
Tom & Will 26CO-315 Cornet Gig Bag in Grey

More information for the Tom & Will 26CO-315 Cornet Gig Bag in Red

Tom & Will 26CO-315 Cornet Gig Bag in Red
Tom & Will 26CO-315 Cornet Gig Bag in Red

Best Cornet Case – Shoulder Carry

Gator Cases Lightweight Cornet Case

If a lightweight soft case that doesn’t need to be carried like a backpack is the answer, the Gator Case will fit the bill.  It uses sturdy, closed cell foam padding covered in soft fuzzy material.  The outside is covered in a sturdy nylon.  It has an interlocking handle and a removable shoulder strap.   Best of all, it weighs only 2.2 pounds.

More information for the Gator Cases Lightweight Cornet Case

Gator Cases Lightweight Cornet Case
Gator Cases Lightweight Cornet Case

Best Cornet Case – For Protection

Protec Pro Pac Cornet Case

If you need something as strong as hard case, then the Protec Pro Pac Cornet case is it.    It comes with a shoulder strap and there is an optional backpack strap which is highly recommended.  This case has a hard shell inside the heavily padded interior/exterior.  The ballistic nylon covering is what the military used in their shrapnel vests to protect soldiers from grenade fragments.  It has two spots to hold mouthpieces, a side pocket with a built-in organizer.  This includes an additional small zippered pocket for valuables and pen holders.  It weighs 5.5 pounds so it’s probably not much of a weight savings over your hard case, but the flexibility of carrying it like a backpack and/or over the shoulder makes it a winner.

More information for the Protec Pro Pac Cornet Case

Protec Pro Pac Cornet Case
Protec Pro Pac Cornet Case

More information for the Protec Pro Pac Backpack Straps

Protec Pro Pac Backpack Straps
Protec Pro Pac Backpack Straps

What about Accessories?

The accessories your child needs to be successful are a mouthpiece, cornet, and they are good right?  Sorry, no.  Thankfully the list is very short.  And best of all, each is under $50.  We’ve compiled a short list of the must haves in our accessories checklist.

When does my child need private lessons?

The band teacher will teach my child, right?  Well, to some degree, yes.  The band teacher is responsible for all the children in band class.  That means individual instruction will be done by them or their helpers for very brief moments.    They may be cornet/trumpet players, maybe not.   Remember, there is a class full of children wanting to learn the flute, clarinet, trombone, drums, saxophone, French horn, and yes, the cornet.  Like any lifelong endeavor, getting off on the right foot makes sense.  The benefits of private lessons from the beginning are:

  1. You’ll learn how committed your child is, fast.   The instructor will give your child exercises to practice.  They will be expected to improve from lesson to lesson.  If they aren’t committed, that will come up quick.
  2. Your child will get better faster than their classmates.  If they do what their instructor tells them, they will learn the proper fundamentals.  They can build upon them and focus on improving.
  3. After the first year, it becomes very clear who has taken lessons, practiced, and is enjoying their cornet.   They will be the ones that sit in the first chair of the cornet section.  They will get to play the fun parts of the music.  They will most likely be the leaders of the cornet section.

How to practice the Trumpet or Cornet without driving you (and the neighbors) crazy?

You want your child to explore their new found talent and become as good as possible.  But, isn’t the Cornet loud?   Yes, it can be played loudly.  In the beginning, it won’t sound beautiful.  It won’t sound like amazing.   That will come with time and practice.  The best gift you can give yourself, your family, and neighbors is a practice mute.  This is a device that is inserted into the bell and reduces the sound that comes out. There is really only one that won’t interfere with your child’s developing technique.  It reduces the sound coming out of the instrument by as much as 90%.  Best of all, your child won’t feel like there’s something in the bell.   It’s the Yamaha Silent Brass System reviewed here.  

Yamaha Silent Brass for trumpet/cornet.
Yamaha Silent Brass for trumpet/cornet.

What is the best cornet to buy?

Like all questions about what is “best”, the answer is “That depends.”   Think about the following:

  1. What are the aspirations of the player?   If your child is just starting out, a good beginner model would be a good choice.  If your child is upgrading from a rental instrument after some time on the instrument, a good intermediate model would be a good choice.
  2. What is the budget?   If your child is just starting out, why not get the lowest cost cornet?  Like all things, quality costs money.  Quality materials and construction methods costs money.  The lowest cost Cornet models may develop problems due to lower quality materials and construction.  
  3. What does a Cornet cost?   There are beginner, intermediate, and professional level Cornets.    Beginner Cornets are the lowest in cost, usually up to about $500.   An intermediate Cornet goes from $500 to $1,500.  And Professional Cornets go from $1,500 on up. 

Here are our recommendations based on the needs of your child.  We have separated them out as:

Best Beginner Cornet

 Blessing Brass was started in 1906. E.K. Blessing started the business and it’s home in Elkhart Indiana is the home to the legendary Vincent Bach company.    Blessing has a reputation as the maker of one of the premier Flugelhorns, the 1541.  The Blessing BCR-1230 Cornet is design and built like a professional model Cornet, focused on the student player.  It has a bend at the beginning of the bell called a “Shepard’s crook” which helps deliver a rich, warm timbre.  It helps the younger player as it shortens the cornets length so their hands are closer to their body.  This makes it easier to hold and play.    The Blessing BCR-1230 Cornet comes with two water keys or spit valves on the main tuning tube and third slide.  It has a first valve thumb saddle so your child can extend it to play in tune.  There is a finger ring on the third valve slide to extend it to play in tune as well.  A big professional feature are the valves.  They are Monel plated which are what you find on professional level trumpets costing over a few thousand dollars.  They will move swiftly and deliver trouble free operation the life of the cornet.  These are features you’d find on professional level cornets and trumpets.   This Cornet is made entirely of yellow brass like most Cornets and Trumpets.  It comes with a silver-plated 7C Cornet mouthpiece which is a great starter mouthpiece.  The plastic sided case is covered in a leatherette with wood inside protecting the instrument.  It also comes with a bottle of valve oil to get started.  For the beginner, to keep costs in check, we recommend the clear epoxy (lacquer) coated model.  The tone is slightly warmer than a silver-plated model.     The natural brass shows through beautifully.

More information for the Blessing BCR-1230 Cornet – Lacquer finish

Blessing BCR-1230 Cornet - Lacquer finish
Blessing BCR-1230 Cornet – Lacquer finish

Best Overall Cornet

This Cornet would work for the beginner to the advanced player.  It is built with materials found in professional instruments.  The leadpipe where the mouthpiece goes is made of Rose Brass.  This is important as the leadpipe adds color to the sound.   It’s also more corrosion resistant than yellow brass, which helps the beginner player when they forget to clean their instrument occasionally.    The bell is also made of Rose Brass.  This means the sound will be warmer with a rich tibre.  It has two water keys or spit valves on the main tuning and third slide.  It has a thumb saddle on the first slide so your child can extend it to play in tune.  The third valve slide has a finger ring to extend it to play in tune as well.  These are professional level features.  It has a 0.460 millimeter bore (the size of the tubing) which is very similar to most Trumpets.  It comes with a 4B mouthpiece which has a cup diameter of 16.40 millimeters.  It is similar to the most common mouthpiece used, the Vincent Bach 7C mouthpiece.  The 4B Cornet mouthpiece that comes with this cornet will be a great starter mouthpiece.  For more information on mouthpieces, please see our Mouthpiece Guide. 

The John Packer JP171SW Cornet comes in a hard case that thankfully has both backpack and shoulder straps.  It is built with a side outer pocket to store sheet music or Trumpet Method Books (exercise books).  It comes with a bottle of valve oil and a owners guide on how to care for the Cornet.

The John Packer JP171SW Cornet comes in either a lacquer or silver-plated finish.  For more information on the pros and cons of each, see our guide here.   Both finishes require regular care.  The silver-plated finish will last longer which is why we recommend the silver-plated model for this category of player.

More information for the John Packer JP171SW Cornet – Silver Plated Finish

John Packer JP171SW Cornet - Silver Plated Finish
John Packer JP171SW Cornet – Silver Plated Finish

Best High End Cornet

The Yamaha Corporation started producing musical instruments in 1887.  It is now the largest manufacturer of musical instruments (and a whole lot of other stuff).  The Yamaha YCR-2330III Cornet is one step below their Professional Cornet.  It features a “Shepards Crook” bell which shortens the Cornet making it easier to handle.  The valves are made of Monel allow which are the same as the ones in their Professional Cornets and Trumpets.  The buttons that your child’s fingers touch, the top and bottom caps are also made of this durable material.  The main tuning slide is manufactured in the same way as their Professional Cornets and Trumpets.  This Cornet plays beautifully with a yellow brass, two piece bell.    The first valve slide has a thumb saddle for your child’s left hand. The third valve slide has an adjustable ring to fit different hand sizes (and as your child grows). The ML (medium large) bore size is 0.459 millimeters which is the same as most Trumpets.  Here is Yamaha USA’s product information on this near professional level Cornet.  They call it a Student model, yet it has all the features of a Professional model at a much more reasonable price.   The hard case has a single handle and a Yamaha CR-11E4S Cornet mouthpiece is included. This Cornet mouthpiece has a 16.46 millimeter cup diameter and a medium cup. It’s a solid mouthpiece matched to this Cornet. We recommend the clear, epoxy finish (lacquer) to keep the cost down.

More information for the Yamaha YCR-2330III Cornet – Lacquer Finish

Yamaha YCR-2330III Cornet - Lacquer Finish
Yamaha YCR-2330III Cornet – Lacquer Finish

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