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Submitted by on Apr 23, 2021

The cornet is a metal instrument similar to the trumpet but distinguished by its conical gauge, more compact shape, and smoother sound quality. The most common cornet is a transposing instrument in B, although there is also a soprano cornet in E ♭ and cornets in A and C. Not all are related to the Renaissance and early Baroque cornet.

The cornet is derived from the posthorn, applying rotary valves to it in the 1820s in France. However, in the 1830s, Parisian manufacturers were using piston valves. Cornets first appeared as separate instrumental parts in 19th-century French compositions.

This instrument could not have been developed without the improvement of piston valves by the Silesian trumpeter Friedrich Blühmel and Heinrich Stölzel in the early 19th century. These two instrument makers invented valves almost simultaneously, although it is likely that Blühmel (or Blümel) was the inventor and Stölzel, who developed a practical instrument. They filed a joint patent application and obtained it for ten years. Later, and most importantly, François Périnet received a patent in 1838 for an improved valve that is the basis for all modern piston valves for brass instruments. The first notable virtuoso was Jean-Baptiste Arban, who studied the cornet extensively and published La grande méthode complète de cornet à piston et de saxhorn, commonly known as the Arban method, in 1864. Until the early 20th century, the trumpet and cornet lived together in musical groups. The symphonic repertoire often includes separate parts for trumpet and cornet. As more instrument makers improved the two instruments, they began to look and feel more alike. The modern cornet is used in brass bands, concert orchestras, and a specific orchestral repertoire requiring a softer sound.

The cornet’s name derives from corne, which means horn, itself from the Latin “cornu.” Although not related musically, instruments in the Zink family (which includes serpents) are called “cornetto” or “cornett” in modern English to distinguish them from the valve horn described here. The eleventh edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica called snakes “old wooden cones.” The Roman / Etruscan horn (or simply “horn”) is the lingual ancestor. It is an ancestor of the pole horn from which the cornet evolved, and was used as a cornet to signal orders on the battlefield.

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