Difference Between Trumpet and Cornet (With Table)

Horns have been in use for a long time now, for a variety of reasons. Historically, they were made using clay, wood, and even human bones sometimes. However, they evolved and were made into distinct instruments that fall under the category of ‘brass’. A trumpet and cornet are two brass instruments that look quite similar but have major differences between them.

Trumpet vs Cornet

The difference between trumpet and cornet is that a trumpet is relatively larger with cylindrical inner chambers that produce a vivid and piercing sound. On the contrary, a cornet is smaller and has a conical inner chamber. It produces a warmer sound that is not as piercing when compared to the former.

A trumpet is widely used in jazz and classical compositions. It is a brass wind musical instrument that is played by the mouth. It has a cup on its rim, against which lip vibrations produce a certain frequency, resulting in a bright sound. The most common key for this instrument is B-flat.

A cornet is widely used in symphony orchestras and brass bands. It looks very similar to a trumpet but has a rounder inner chamber, which produces a relatively mellow sound. A mouthpiece is placed at the farther side of a shank, through which wind is blown. Like trumpets, the most common key for this instrument is B-flat.

Comparison Table Between Trumpet and Cornet

Parameters of ComparisonTrumpetCornet
HistoryThe instrument was developed in the 15th century.The instrument was developed in the early 19th century.
InventorIt was invented by Anton Weidinger.It was invented by Jean Asté.
SoundIt has a vivid buzzing sound that may seem piercing.It has a mellow and relatively softer sound.
BoreIt has a cylindrical inner chamber.It has a conical inner chamber.
SizeIt is relatively larger in size.It is smaller than a trumpet.
BodyIts body has one complete turn in oblong shape.Its body has two complete turns.
MouthpieceIt has a cup mouthpiece in the shape of a bowl.It has a V-shaped mouthpiece.
ValvesThe valves cover half of the entire instrument.The valves cover two-thirds of the entire instrument.
PopularityIt is very popular across the world.It is not as popular as the former.

What is Trumpet?

Trumpets come in several types, from the piccolo trumpet to the bass trumpet. Each has its own features. Overall, these versions have a similar tone, sound quality, and shape. A trumpet has an oblong looking shank that has one complete turn. At the end of a shank is a mouthpiece through which wind is blown. It also has valves that decide the pitch of the sound.

The instrument has a conical inner chamber that gives out a vivid, bright, and piercing tone. Most trumpets play in B-flat key. However, the pitch can be transposed by the player to suit different compositions. Trumpets are mostly used in jazz ensembles, orchestras, as well as concert bands. They are even used widely today in pop music.

These instruments were supposedly developed in 1500 BC. They were found in the Egyptian King Tutankhamun’s grave. Other places such as China and Scandinavia are known to use trumpets in the same era. Later, improvements were made to its design in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance period.

Many modern musicians play versions of these ancient trumpets. Trumpeters in Germany and the UK who play Baroque music incorporate them in their ensembles. Most major composers make use of them in classical music for a romantic tone.

What is Cornet?

A cornet is another brass instrument that looks very much like the trumpet. However, it has a conical inner chamber that gives out a mellow and softer buzzing sound. Its body has two complete turns and is smaller in size. However, like trumpets, these come in many variations that have different keys. The most common key for this instrument is B-flat.

The instrument has a narrow V-shaped mouthpiece attached to its rim, through which wind is blown. It has valves covering two-thirds of its body, which allow a player to change the pitch of the sound. The shank is narrower and shorter as compared to trumpets, but long-model cornets are almost the same size.

Cornets are known to be developed in France in the 1820s. Since then, its use spread to other countries and several improvements were made to its original design. The mellow buzzing sound allows players to use it mostly in ensembles, unlike trumpets, which are played solo as well.

The name of the instrument is derived from the Latin word ‘Cornu’ which refers to horns. This term was also adopted by the Romans and Etruscans. Then, cornets were only post horns that were used in battlefields, in the same way as bugles. 

Main Differences Between Trumpet and Cornet

  1. Trumpets were developed in the 15th Century whereas Cornets were developed in the 19th Century.
  2. Trumpets were invented by Anton Weidinger whereas cornets were invented by Jean Asté.
  3. Trumpets have a vivid buzzing sound which may seem piercing whereas cornets have a mellow and relatively softer sound.
  4. Trumpets have a cylindrical inner chamber whereas cornets have a conical inner chamber.
  5. Trumpets are large in size whereas cornets are relatively smaller.
  6. A trumpet has one complete oblong-shaped turn whereas a cornet has two complete turns.
  7. Trumpets have a cup mouthpiece whereas cornets have a V-shaped mouthpiece.
  8. The valves of a trumpet cover half of the entire instrument whereas that of a cornet cover two-thirds of its body.
  9. Trumpets are very popular across the world whereas cornets are not as popular.

Conclusion

Trumpets and cornets may seem to be similar because of their design, but there are many differences between them. It may often be difficult for non-musicians to tell them apart. An easy way to do so is by understanding their sounds. Trumpets have a sharp and bright tone whereas cornets have a mellow and soft tone.

Historically, they both come from the same predecessor which was the post horn. However, trumpets were developed in the 15th century while cornets were developed in the 19th century. Another notable difference is that trumpets have a cylindrical inner chamber whereas cornets have a conical one.

References

  1. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/0957-0233/13/5/313/meta
  2. https://search.proquest.com/openview/f92c2032c9f0ba54c0df4c21d6e65a0e/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750&diss=y
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