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A TRUMPETER’S GUIDE TO THE CORNETT
BY ELISA KOEHLER
January 2006 • Page 14
14 ITG Journal / January 2006
© 2006 International Trumpet Guild
F
ew instruments suffer from the identity crisis that
plagues the cornett. As the premier virtuoso wind
instrument of the Renaissance, it flourished between
1500 and 1650 under a variety of names: cornetto (Italian), cor-
neta (Spanish), cornet á bouquin (French), and Zink (German).
For the sake of clarity, this article will refer to the instrument
by its English name, cornett, rather than the Italian cornetto.
1
Although the cornett is often played by trumpeters, it is also
popular with recorder players. This highlights a fundamental
issue regarding the cornett: it is essentially a woodwind instru-
ment with a brass instrument mouthpiece, and a rather small
one at that.
2
Given its unique hybrid nature and fickle tech-
nique, the cornett is undoubtedly one of the most difficult
instruments to master.
During its heyday, the cornett was strictly an instrument for
professional musicians. Cornettists were trained through rigor-
ous apprenticeships. While the cornett was briefly mentioned
in sixteenth-century theoretical treatises, few detailed instruc-
tion manuals were written for the instrument.
3
The 1990s wit-
nessed a distinct flowering in pedagogical and scholarly litera-
ture for the cornett. Some contemporary cornett virtuosi pro-
duced new study material, most notably Bruce Dickey, Mich-
ael Collver, and Jeremy West.
4
The Historic Brass Society
(HBS) was founded in 1989 and has since produced a wealth
of scholarship regarding the cornett as well as several interna-
tional conferences. HBS President Jeffrey Nussbaum, in partic-
ular, has done a tremendous service for the early brass commu-
nity with his many articles (listed in the bibliography below)
that compile lists of instrument makers, discographies, and
artist interviews.
This article aims to provide a practical introduction for
trumpeters desiring to play the cornett. For that reason, back-
ground information on the instrument’s heritage and literature
will not be discussed here. Many fine historical introductions
to the instrument are readily available.
5
A detailed bibliogra-
phy follows this article directing readers seeking more informa-
tion to some of the best recent scholarship on the cornett and
related issues.
Thanks to the cornett renaissance (pun intended) and the
popularity of early music recordings, basic information about
the instrument is now more commonly available. Gone are the
days when trumpeters were surprised and perhaps even
appalled to hear how Gabrieli and Monteverdi were meant to
sound on period instruments. In fact, contemporary cornett
masters have reached heights of artistic expression to which
modern trumpeters would do well to aspire.
The Cornett and the Early Music Revival
The cornett gradually declined in prominence during the
middle of the seventeenth century as the violin usurped its role
as the dominant soprano solo instrument. Unlike instruments
that mutated into altered versions of their former selves (like
the recorder, the traverso and the modern flute), the cornett
simply went the way of the dinosaur.
6
Although cornetts still
accompanied liturgical music in Germany and North America
as late as the middle of the 19th century,
7
the instrument fell
out of the mainstream. The cornett survived, scarcely noticed,
as a museum piece for over a century until the early music
revival turned its attention to the instrument, thanks in large
part to Otto Steinkopf and Christopher Monk.
The early music revival began in stages, depending on the
repertoire and philosophy under consideration. For example,
England’s Academy of Ancient Music regarded anything writ-
ten before 1580 to be “ancient” in 1731.
8
From Mendelssohn’s
1829 revival of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion to the neoclassic
movement of the 1920s, the concept of rediscovering old
music seems to have never gone out of style.
Today, as in the past, the early music movement has gener-
ated controversy among mainstream critics. It has been vari-
ously derided as reactionary, counter-cultural, and puritanical
while being championed by supporters as a revelation.
9
Regardless of such shifting opinions, the proof is in the per-
formance. Paul Hindemith defended “historically informed
performance” (abbreviated as HIP) in 1951 by pointing out
that,
All the traits that made the music of the past lov-
able to its contemporary performers and listeners
were inextricably associated with the kind of sound
then known and appreciated. If we replace this sound
by the sounds typical of our modern instruments and
their treatment we are counterfeiting the musical
message the original sound was supposed to trans-
mit.
10
Although Hindemith later admitted that it was not possible
to recreate period audiences as easily as period instruments,
attempts at “musical time travel” attracted a growing following
among those disenchanted with 20th-century modernism.
Hindemith joined the faculty at Yale University in 1940
and exerted a powerful influence on the growing early music
movement. He founded the Yale Collegium Musicum, and is
considered the father of the collegiate early music movement
in North America. His primary goal was to broaden the hori-
zons of his students by providing them hands-on experience
with music they were studying. Hindemith often conducted
performances on period instruments borrowed from the
Metropolitan Museum of Art as well as from private collec-
tions. Such performances included Dufay’s Mass Se la face ay
pale at Yale in 1946 and Monteverdi’s Orfeo in Vienna in
1954.
11
Throughout the Baroque Revival of the 1960s and 1970s,
HIP grew more professional as musicians gained experience
with period instruments. The 1980s and 1990s witnessed a
surge in HIP recordings as well as institutions devoted to fos-
tering early music, such as the Historic Brass Society. Many
notable performance ensembles were formed featuring bril-
liant cornett soloists such as Concerto Castello (Bruce
This article was reviewed and approved for publication by the ITG Editorial Committee.
A TRUMPETER’S GUIDE TO THE CORNETT
BY ELISA KOEHLER
© 2006 International Trumpet Guild
January 2006 / ITG Journal 15
Dickey), Concerto Palatino (Bruce Dickey), Le Concert Brisé
(William Dongois), La Fenice (Jean Tubéry), His Majesties
Sagbutts and Cornetts (Jeremy West), Les Sacqueboutiers de
Toulouse (Jean-Pierre Canihac), and Musica Fiata (Roland
Wilson).
Today, at the beginning of the 21st century, HIP finds itself
in the curious position of becoming a mainstream phenome-
non. The true barometer of HIP’s influence and success
remains the emotional impact of the music performed.
Regardless of the philosophical debates and artistic turf wars
surrounding HIP, there is no denying that brass musicians now
have more repertoire and convincing interpretive options
available thanks to the
early music revival.
The cornett occupies a
unique position among
period instruments. Un-
like violinists playing alter-
ed forms of that well-
known instrument, trum-
peters taking up the cor-
nett are faced with a steep
learning curve and delayed
gratification. With dedica-
tion, patience, and serious
study, there can be light at
the end of the tunnel,
though. The cornett reper-
toire is sumptuous and
vast.
12
Opportunities for
good players are growing.
Best of all, acquiring a
level of competence on the
cornett can open up new possibilities for artistic expression,
and this can translate into more sensitive and sophisticated
playing on modern instruments as well.
Preliminary Study
One of the best prerequisites for cornett study is to learn to
play the recorder. Woodwind fingering technique presents a
formidable challenge for trumpet players approaching the cor-
nett, and playing the recorder provides a relatively stress-free
introduction to this vital skill. The recorder also requires sub-
tle articulation and gentle airflow which is useful for good cor-
nett playing. Plastic instruments are inexpensive and easily
obtainable, and many good method books are available.
13
It is
advisable to begin with the soprano (descant) recorder pitched
in C. The alto (treble) recorder pitched in F is also an option.
Because the cornett is pitched in G, recorder fingerings for
either the soprano or alto instruments are not identical to
those for the cornett.
14
Still, the basic fingering techniques are
the same, and trumpeters accustomed to transposing should
not be bothered by switching between recorder and cornett.
Studying good vocal technique also prepares a musician for
success with the cornett. Cornett literature often doubles vocal
parts (known as colla parte playing), and the instrument is
highly prized for its ability to imitate the soprano voice. If pos-
sible, take some voice lessons, or at the very least, take a classi-
cally trained singer out to lunch and pick his or her brain.
15
Understanding vocal placement and nasal resonance along
with consonant and vowel articulation is part and parcel with
cornett playing. Modifying the shape of the inside of the
mouth (i.e., forming different vowel sounds, such as “oh, oo,
ah, ee,” etc.) is also an important skill for altering tone color
on the recorder as well as the cornett. And, of course, any
added work on breath control and phrasing pays enormous
musical dividends for any wind instrumentalist.
Acquiring a working knowledge of foreign languages, espe-
cially Italian and German, is extremely useful for budding cor-
nettists. A large portion of the repertoire is Italian (witness the
Historic Sources cited below), so the ability to follow texts and
perceive appropriate pronunciation and word stress greatly
enhances phrasing. Liturgical Latin (the wellspring of all
romance languages, especially Italian) is another important
language to learn.
Finally, listening to good recordings of cornettists, period
instrument ensembles, and singers is essential. Immerse your-
self in the sound and the style. If you have not previously heard
the likes of Bruce Dickey, Jean Tubéry, Jeremy West and their
colleagues, you are in for a rare treat (see Selected Recordings
below).
Finding an Instrument
With the advent of the Internet, locating and purchasing a
cornett is much easier now than it was only ten years ago. The
Historic Brass Society Newsletter regularly publishes updated
lists of contact information for a variety of recognized makers.
The most recent list was published in 1999.
16
Professional
wooden instruments cost about as much as a new trumpet, so
starting with an inexpensive resin (plastic) cornett is highly
recommended. Such instruments are available from Chris-
topher Monk Instruments (run by Jeremy West) at about 25%
the cost of a wooden cornett (approximately $300 US).
17
It
should be noted that makers vary the pitch and temperament
of their instruments. For example, Jeremy West and Serge
Delmas craft instruments that play in meantone temperament
at a variety of pitch levels. The cornetts of American maker
John McCann can be designed to play in equal temperament
as well as meantone.
Once a degree of comfort has been acquired playing a Monk
resin cornett, upgrading to a wooden instrument is highly rec-
Fig. 1. Two cornetts pitched in different tunings, A = 465 (top) and A = 440 (bottom).
Both instruments are made by John McCann. It should be noted that the smaller, high-pitched cornett,
which plays one half step higher than A = 440, is not a cornettino, which would be pitched a fourth
higher than the standard cornett.
ommended. Wooden cornetts are lighter than resin (less stress
on the hands) and play with more ease and resonance.
Cornetts are available in boxwood, sandalwood, maple, plum-
wood, and other fruitwoods. Mouthpieces are often supplied
with cornetts, depending on the maker. Cases are sold sepa-
rately. Jeremy West’s web site (Christopher Monk Instruments,
listed below) carries a variety of hard and soft cases for single
and multiple cornetts. In addition to Monk and McCann,
other fine cornett makers include Serge Delmas, Paolo
Fanciullacci, Graham Nicholson, and Roland Wilson. When
ordering a professional wooden cornett, time must be allowed
(an average of 3 – 8 months) for the instrument to be hand
crafted.
Mouthpieces
The quest for the ultimate mouthpiece is nothing new for
trumpet players learning the cornett. Given the one-piece con-
struction of the cornett, it is the only part of the instrument
that is remotely customizable to suit individual preferences.
Just as the size and inner dimensions of the mouthpiece affect
the sound on a trumpet, such considerations are magnified
tremendously on the cornett. Selecting a good cornett mouth-
piece is undoubtedly one of the most important decisions a
player can make. Because most mouthpieces are handmade, a
player must try out several different models to find a good
match.
Authentic cornett mouthpieces of the acorn type are notori-
ously small and feature a sharp rim. Although playing on such
a mouthpiece may seem like an impossible proposition for a
trumpeter, it can be done.
18
An efficient, focused embouchure
makes it possible.
19
Acorn mouthpieces tend to produce a
clearer tone and cleaner articulation, and are generally consid-
ered to be more historically appropriate. A large body of icono-
graphical evidence indicates that many cornett players used an
embouchure at the side of the mouth (see Fig. 5 below), where
the lips are thinner and have more response and resonance.
20
Contemporary cornett virtuosi Jean Tubéry and Yoshimichi
Hamada both play with a side embouchure, however many
others play in the center with an acorn mouthpiece (see Fig. 4
below).
Larger compromise mouthpieces are available from Chris-
topher Monk Instruments that are specifically designed to
accommodate trumpeters with deeper cups and thicker rims.
21
According to Jeremy West, “a trumpet-type mouthpiece […]
tends to help [modern brass players] feel at home on the
instrument relatively quickly.”
22
While West notes the pitfalls
of a larger mouthpiece (i.e., a tubby sound and impaired flex-
ibility), he wisely counsels players to “find a mouthpiece that
enables you to play the cornett in a style and with a sound that
resembles the human voice.”
23
Professional cornettists who
play the instrument exclusively usually prefer the acorn
mouthpiece while those who double on trumpet sometimes
prefer the larger compromise mouthpiece. It should be noted
that few historic mouthpieces exist
24
and measurements differ
widely among makers.
The material used for a mouthpiece is also important. The
sound and flexibility of those made from ivory and animal
horn is superior to those made from resin or plastic.
Instrument Care
Both plastic and wooden cornetts should be swabbed out
frequently. Unlike the trumpet, there is no “water key” on the
cornett. Moisture tends to accumulate inside the instrument
16 ITG Journal / January 2006
© 2006 International Trumpet Guild
Fig. 2. Two different sized cornetto mouthpieces made of animal horn: an acorn type by Graham Nicholson (top) with a thin rim
and bowl-shaped cup, and a trumpet type by Jeremy West (bottom, David Staff model) with a wider rim and larger cup. Dental floss
is wrapped around the shank of both mouthpieces for use in making slight tuning adjustments.
© 2006 International Trumpet Guild
January 2006 / ITG Journal 17
during playing sessions and seep out of the thumb hole and the
bottom end of the cornett. A simple woodwind cloth swab
with a weight on the end of a string works well. An English
horn swab is a good size for the cornett. An oboe swab is also
acceptable, but a clarinet swab might be too thick. Just remove
the mouthpiece and turn the cornett upside down. Drop the
weighted end of the swab into the bell and slowly pull the swab
out the other end.
The inside bore of a wooden instrument should be oiled
with light mineral oil approximately once a month. Common
woodwind bore oil is a good choice, but it is important to fol-
low any specific directions from the maker. Cornetts are made
from a variety of woods and some require special oils like wal-
nut, linseed, or olive oil. A good way to oil the bore is to
remove the mouthpiece and turn the cornett upside down,
dripping oil down the inner sides. Twist the instrument gently
while dripping the oil for maximum coverage, and rock the
cornett back and forth like a baby to help distribute the oil.
After oiling, prop the cornett in a corner (upside down)
overnight with a folded hand towel underneath to soak up any
excess oil.
Cleaning out the mouthpiece can be accomplished with a
string of dental floss. Thread the floss through the backbore
and work it around the inside of the cup and throat. Pipe
cleaner can also be used. Oil and residue tend to collect under
the thumb hole on the inside of the cornett, so dabbing the
area with a cotton swab once a week is a good idea.
Finger Technique
One of the most vexing facets of cornett technique is the
hand position. Although the standard cornett is curved to
facilitate fingering, this fact is small consolation when starting
out. The position of the thumb hole for the left hand is sub-
stantially higher on the cornett than it is on the recorder.
Finding a stable bracing position for the hands is of prime
importance in order to allow the fingers to move freely over the
holes. This is a daunting proposition on the cornett where no
thumb rests or other handling aids exist;
25
however the leather
covering of the instrument is specifically designed to provide a
better grip in addition to binding the wooden halves together.
The foundation of a stable bracing position lies between
three points on each hand: 1) the bottom knuckle joint on the
index finger, 2) the base of the thumb, and 3) the little finger,
or pinky. The thumb of the right hand also serves as a stabiliz-
er. Ideally, the weight of the cor-
nett rests on the right hand
between the thumb, the pinky,
and the two joints of the index
fi nger (the knuckl e and the
curved middle joint). The left
hand merely rides on top with
the thumb operating like an
octave key on a clarinet. The
right hand grip is similar to that
used to hold a cello bow. A good
way to test a stable right hand
position is to raise the cornett up
and down, vertically, while hold-
ing it with just the right hand. If
the grip feels natural, balanced,
and secure, the position is cor-
rect. Figure 3 demonstrates good
playing position for the cornett.
The fingering chart on the next
page shows the common patterns
used for notes on the standard
treble cornett pitched in G. Alter-
nate fingerings are also listed to
assist with awkward passages and
to adjust intonation for different
temperaments. Cornetts all have
individual personalities, so be
sure to select the fingering for any
given note based on optimal
sound and intonation.
As is shown in Figure 4 (below), the size of a player’s hands
does not dictate success on the cornett, provided the fingers are
curved. Those familiar with recorder finger technique should
be warned that the cornett hand position is not the same.
Perpendicular fingers plague many novice cornettists. Take the
shape of the instrument as a cue and be sure to curve the fin-
gers.
Effective cornett hand position is similar to that of the flute
adapted to a vertical plane. The inside of the knuckle joint of
each index finger should be close to the body of the cornett
allowing the fingers to curl into a naturally stretched position.
Trumpeters who also play the violin or guitar will notice some
similarities in the curved finger position used by the left hand
to move up and down the neck of a stringed instrument.
The importance of an effective hand bracing position for the
cornett cannot be overstated. If the knuckle joints of the index
fingers are not touching the instrument, undue stress is placed
on the fingers covering the holes, and the player feels as though
the cornett might be dropped while playing.
Fig. 3. Effective cornetto hand
position is similar to that of the
flute adapted to a vertical plane.
The inside of the knuckle joint of
each index finger should be close
to the body of the cornett allowing
the fingers to curve into a naturally
stretched position. Note the high
placement of the thumb on the left
hand (top hand).
• Bear the weight of the cornett with the right hand.
• Remember, the fingers don’t have to stretch very far;
they curve.
• Practice holding the cornett with the stable hand brac-
ing position while freely moving the fingers over the
holes.
• Keep the fingers very close to the instrument. Min-
imize any flapping motion.
• Stretch the hands regularly. Take frequent practice
breaks.
• Practice “finger aerobics” by silently practicing difficult
passages.
HELPING HANDS FOR THE CORNETT
18 ITG Journal / January 2006
© 2006 International Trumpet Guild
T1 or T1 T1 T1 T1 T1 T1
2 2 2 2 2 O O
3 3 3 O O 3 O
O [Ø] O 4 O O O
5 5 O O O [5] O
O 6 O O O O O
TO or TO TO or OO OO or OO T1 T1 T1
2 O O 2 [2] O 2 2 2
O 3 O 3 O 3 3 3 3
O O O 4 O O 4 4 4
O O O 5 O [5] 5 5 O
O O O O O [6] 6 O [6]
T1 T1 T1 T1 T1 or T1 T1
2 2 2 2 O 2 O
3 3 O O 3 O O
O O 4 O O 4 O
5 O O O O 5 O
[6] O [6] O O 6 O
TO TO TO OO T1 T1
2 2 2 2 2 2
O 3 3 3 3 [Ø]
O 4 O O 4 O
O O O O 5 O
O 6 O O O O
T1 TO OO
O O O
[3] O O
O O O
O O O
O O O
The following symbols designate finger positions:
T: thumb of left hand
1 O = open hole
2 T, 1, 2, etc. = closed hole
3 Ø = half open hole
4 [n] = optional closed hole
5 = lip up; note tends to be flat
6 = lip down ; note tends to be sharp
T1 T1 T1 T1 or T1 T1 T1 or T1
2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2
3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3
4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4
5 5 5 5 5 5 O O
6 6 6 6 Ø O O 6
© 2006 International Trumpet Guild
January 2006 / ITG Journal 19
Fig. 4. Stanley Curtis and Flora Newberry demonstrate good posture for playing the cornett. Note that the hand positions are
slightly altered, depending on the size of the hands.
20 ITG Journal / January 2006
© 2006 International Trumpet Guild
Although sound is the single most important component of
cornett playing, proper hand position is the first major hurdle
for new players. Time spent developing a secure grip with
ergonomic finger movement is a wise investment. Working
with a teacher in the early stages is highly recommended.
Beginning to Play
Once a player gains a comfortable working hand position,
playing the cornett is a joy. Long tones are the natural place to
start. It is advisable to begin with the notes G and A in the
middle of the treble staff.
26
They require the least number of
fingers and respond well for most players. Strive for a smooth,
consistent airflow at all times, especially when connecting
notes. A good exercise for developing the appropriate airflow
for cornett playing is to hold up a feather and blow at it gen-
tly through a straw.
27
Make sure that the feather moves lightly,
and is not blown across the room.
It is important to minimize muscle tension when performing
breathing and blowing exercises. Wind players tend to store
tension in the jaw and the neck, especially when learning new
skills. Exercises like shoulder rolls and neck stretches can help
alleviate and prevent such problems. Many of the good breath
control exercises used in brass pedagogy can also be adapted for
the cornett. The main difference is the air velocity and direc-
tion, which is very similar to that of the modern oboe.
After some good work on airflow and long tones, play small
streams of slow notes. It is best to start with a left hand finger
pattern like the following example:
Be sure to finger the A in the third measure with the second
(or third) finger for added stability. Although the pitch can be
played completely open, with no finger holes covered, this
awkward position for A is discouraged, especially for fast pas-
sage work (passaggi). Experiment with different articulations
and dynamic levels (e.g., breath attacks, slur groups of two, slur
the entire line, tongue one and slur three, etc.). Play at a
leisurely pace and focus on connecting the notes as smoothly
as possible. Extend the fermata on the final note and be sure to
practice a dynamic swell (also known as a messa di voce). Let
the air flow and try forming different vowels inside the mouth
to color the sound. Close your eyes and enjoy creating the
uniquely seductive sound of the cornett.
An important technique that should be mastered very early
is known as “going over the break” (i.e., suddenly using all the
finger holes after using only one). On the treble cornett, the
break occurs between the notes A and B flat (or B natural,
depending on the key) in the middle of the staff. A helpful
exercise for learning this skill is to take an extra beat between
notes to change fingerings.

finger A finger B finger C etc.
Swiftly coordinated finger movement is essential. Note that
it is harder to lift the fingers than it is to put them down.
Practice with a metronome and strive for regular, rhythmic
motions. Be patient and don’t rush. With a steady, solid foun-
dation, finger technique develops quickly on the cornett. Save
the lip and spend some extra time practicing finger patterns
silently. It’s a good idea to plant the mouthpiece on the chin to
simulate a realistic playing position when doing isolated finger
work.
After a good technical workout, be sure to play some enjoy-
able simple melodies. Find a church hymnal and play some
easy, familiar hymns. Hymn tune playing was one of the most
important aspects of cornett playing in Protestant Germany.
Not only will they be in a good range for novice cornettists,
but their vocal nature will reinforce the singing quality neces-
sary for good phrasing. Always remember, mechanical fingers
and fluid sound are the twin goals of good cornett technique.
Tuning and Temperament
During the golden age of the cornett, a universal pitch stan-
dard did not exist. Instrument manufacture, especially that of
keyboards, exerted a strong influence on pitch levels along
with regional performance traditions. Before the Industrial
Revolution, pitch standards were not labeled in terms of fre-
quency (e.g., A=440 Hz), but rather by the circumstances of
their use. For example, the pitch for secular music was called
Cammerton [chamber pitch], while that for church music was
Chorton [choir pitch].
28
Chorton was usually the pitch of organs
and brass instruments. A vestige of this system lives on today
through the term, “concert pitch.”
Studies of historic cornetts from museum collections have
shown that the general pitch of those instruments (A=466) was
about a half step higher than A=440. This higher pitch stan-
dard was labeled Cornet-ton. According to musicologist Bruce
Haynes, “Cornettenthon [Praetorius’s spelling] can be regarded
as a constant, since cornetts had a single principal pitch center
that did not change from the 16th to the 17th centuries, or
even from the 17th to the 18th.”
29
Many contemporary early
music ensembles (e.g., Roland Wilson and Music Fiata Köln)
perform at high pitch and most of the recognized cornett mak-
ers build instruments in a variety of tunings. Beginning cornet-
tists are advised to start on an instrument pitched at A=440 to
maximize performance opportunities with modern keyboard
instruments. However, it should be stressed that singers (espe-
cially sopranos) and string players are affected by historic pitch
standards far more than wind players.
Terms for individual tuning notes should not be confused
with temperament, or the tuning between notes in a scale.
© 2006 International Trumpet Guild
January 2006 / ITG Journal 21
Equal temperament is the system used today, but much of the
cornett literature was written in meantone temperament.
Without getting too technical, suffice it to say that playing in
meantone is a game of opposites. Notes with sharps should be
tuned low and flat notes should be played on the high side.
30
Meantone produces beautifully pure thirds and narrow fifths,
and is only effective in keys with fewer than four flats or
sharps. A good multi-temperament electronic tuner like the
Korg OT-12 is extremely useful for working in meantone. The
tuner can play reference pitches in addition to providing visu-
al feedback from the meter. It’s best to practice with a drone
(root, third, or fifth) played by the tuner. This gives the player
more of a feel for the relationships between pitches. Checking
isolated pitches is good for reference, but it doesn’t develop
ensemble intonation skills. In the meantone system, every note
has its place, so it is important to know exactly where the notes
lie. Playing scales in meantone while watching the meter point
you in the right direction helps to train a sense of appropriate
pitch tendencies.
Navigating intonation on the cornett is quite a challenge.
The only adjustable part of the instrument is the mouthpiece
and there’s very little room to move. Dental floss should be
wrapped around the shank of the mouthpiece (see Fig. 2
above) to allow for adjustments. The floss may be unwound to
move the mouthpiece further in and raise the pitch and more
floss can be added to move out and lower the pitch. The famil-
iar strategy of lipping pitches up and down certainly works
well on the cornett, and there are a number of possible alter-
nate fingerings for most notes. Finally, changing the inside
shape of the mouth, like a singer, also helps
to alter pitch as well as tone color.
Articulation
Historical articulation is perhaps the least
familiar playing technique for trumpeters
learning the cornett. Unlike the straight-
ahead equal tonguing normally used by
modern trumpet players, early wind music
required tonguing patterns that were decid-
edly unequal. For example, rather than “ta,
ta, ta,” for single tonguing, “ta, da, la” might
be used to reflect metric stress (e.g., strong
and weak beats) and phrase direction.
Syllables were generally softer and more
vocal, overall, and reflected a hierarchy of
articulations. Most important was bringing
out differences between melodic high points
and passing notes.
Double tonguing presents even more pos-
sibilities. The trumpeter’s familiar “ta ku ta
ku” is most unwelcome in the realm of the
cornett. Instead, a variety of more subtle
options are employed, again, to reflect met-
ric stress, melodic shape, and the more vocal
nature of the music. Bruce Dickey outlines
three different compound tonguings, “1) te
che te che, 2) te re te re, and 3) le re le re. The
first of these tonguings was described as
hard and sharp, the third as smooth and
pleasing, the second as intermediate.”
31
Trumpeters learning the cornett may prefer
to begin articulation work with the intermediate articulation,
te re te re.
The third option, le re le re, was highly favored for perform-
ing florid virtuosic passages (passaggi) and lines of sparkling
ornamentation because it imitated the sound of coloratura
vocal passages (i.e., melismas, or streams of fast notes on “ah”).
This technique was often referred to as lingua reversa. English
speakers should note that the rolled “r” in Italian results in a
sound very similar to “d.” With this in mind, le re le re, results
in a sound that resembles le de le de or diddle diddle, which
approximates the “doodle tonguing” familiar to jazz players.
32
A good way to get used to this sound is to pronounce “Little
Italy” as “liddle iddally.” Learning the fluid, unequal articula-
tion patterns is greatly aided by preliminary study of the
recorder and the Italian language, as recommended previously.
Discerning where to employ the various flavors of articula-
tion in the music is largely left up to the player. Listening to
good recordings and studying vocal music is a good way to
develop an ear for the style. A great deal of cornett literature is
based on vocal music, so following the text provides ample
clues for word stress, syllabic rhythms, and breathing points.
This is especially important when performing sacred works
with a choir. Cornetts routinely doubled choral vocal parts
(i.e., colla parte playing) in ensemble music, so the text is com-
monly printed underneath the notes played. Following such
“instrumental diction” is a vital component of good perform-
ance practice. Subsequently, these tendencies become habit
when the cornettist transfers these techniques to purely instru-
mental music.
Fig. 5. The painting by Valentin de Boulogne (1594 – 1632) on the cover of this
fine CD by Bruce Dickey features a cornettist with a side embouchure.
22 ITG Journal / January 2006
© 2006 International Trumpet Guild
Repertoire and Ornamentation
One of the great benefits of playing the cornett is the abun-
dant repertoire available. Obviously, familiar works by Andrea
and Giovanni Gabrieli spring to mind, but it is best to work
first on simple hymn tunes, as discussed previously. Because
the cornett customarily doubled the soprano line in vocal
pieces, the possibilities for performance are remarkable.
Michael Collver and Bruce Dickey compiled the definitive list
of repertoire in their book, A Catalog of Music for the Cornett.
A wealth of good repertoire is also available (free of charge)
at the Choral Public Domain Library on the Internet
(http://www.cpdl.org).
Musical notation developed gradually between 1500 and
1700. For this reason, new cornettists must become acclimat-
ed to reading “white note” rhythms and original sources that
lack the familiar conventions of modern notation. The most
important difficulty is that the notes lack beams and barlines.
For those accustomed to Robert King’s arrangements of Gab-
rieli for modern brass, it can be unsettling to see the same
music recast in larger rhythmic values, but it is not difficult to
get used to reading such notation. The duet collections listed
in the bibliography below provide an excellent introduction to
this type of notation and repertoire for beginning cornettists.
Many pieces also include text for the original vocal sources,
and this provides good material for practicing “instrumental
diction” and unequal articulations as well. There are no “cor-
nett excerpt books” available; however, Jeremy West’s method
book includes some good introductory repertoire.
The summit of the cornett playing is undoubtedly the art of
ornamentation. Known as “playing divisions,” the skill of dec-
orating melodic lines was highly prized during the golden age
of the cornett, during which time musicians were expected to
ornament freely, especially at cadences. After all, that’s the ori-
gin of the cadenza at the end of a concerto movement. Trum-
peters familiar with jazz improvisation will have a field day.
Much of what is known as the cornett solo literature is actual-
ly written-out divisions. Many good historical sources are list-
ed in the bibliography below. The works by Bassano, Bovicelli,
Brunelli, and Dalla Casa are highly recommended, although it
is best to begin with the divisions by Ortiz.
Further Study
Practicing the cornett can be a very lonely experience. Once
some skill on the instrument is developed, playing with other
musicians is crucial. The cornett is essentially an ensemble
instrument, so that is also where many playing opportunities
are to be had. If there are no cornettists in your area, play duets
with a recorder player or an oboist. The Historic Brass Society
holds annual summer festivals that feature informal playing
sessions for players of all levels.
There are several fine summer programs where opportunities
for group lessons, private study, and ensemble experience may
be found. The largest and most comprehensive program in the
United States is the Amherst Early Music Festival, held each
summer in late July in different locatikons in the Northeastern
U.S. Over the past few years, the cornett faculty has included
such outstanding professionals as Bruce Dickey, Douglas Kirk,
Michael Collver, Jean Tubéry, and Kiri Tollaksen. Ensemble
coaching sessions with the renowned sackbut player and con-
ductor Wim Becu were an added attraction. Other prominent
festivals are held in Europe and Canada. The Historic Brass
Society is the best source for information on such events. The
HBS regularly publishes updates on study opportunities, inst-
rument makers, and recordings as well as interviews with pro-
fessional players.
Despite all the work required to learn the cornett, the artis-
tic benefits are enormous. Spending time with the cornett,
even just for exploratory purposes, affords a perspective on
musical phrasing and interpretation that is not available
through the modern trumpet. So, if you are interested in learn-
ing to play the cornett, just close your eyes, take a deep breath,
and cross the threshold into a new world of sensuous sound.
Recommended Resources for Cornett Study
Selected Repertoire
Duets
Bistmantova, Bartolomeo. 66 Duetti á due tromba ò Cornetti &
Preludio per Cornetto. Edited by Edward Tarr. Cologne:
Wolfgang G. Haas Musikverlag, 1997.
di Lasso, Orlando. Motetti et Ricercari a due voci. Edited by
Bernard Thomas. London Pro Musica Edition LPM RM6,
1990.
Giamberti, Gioseppe. Duo Tessuti con dieversi Solfeggiamenti
Scherzi Perfide et Oblighi (1657) for Two Instruments. Edited
by Bernard Thomas. London Pro Musica Edition, LPM
RM4, 1985.
Morley, Thomas. First Book of Canzonets to [sic] two voices
(1595). Edited by Bernard Thomas. London Pro Musica
Edition LPM RM8, 2000.
Solo Literature
Bassano, Giovanni and Girolamo Dalla Casa. Divisions on
“Vesti i colli” for treble instrument and continuo. Edited by
Bernard Thomas. London Pro Musica Edition LPM REP
13, 1987.
Cima, Giovanni Paolo and Andrea. Two Sonatas and Capriccio
for Soprano Recorder or Violin and Basso Continuo. Edited by
Martin Nitz. Winterthur: Amadeus Verlag, 1995.
Frescobaldi, Girolamo. Five Canzoni for Soprano Instrument
and Continuo. Edited by Bernard Thomas. London Pro
Musica Edition, 2002.
Selected Recordings
Cornett Soloists
Dickey, Bruce. Quel lascivissimo cornetto: Virtuoso Solo Music
for Cornetto. Tragiocomedia. Accent CD, ACC9173D,
1991.
Dongois, William. La Barca D’Amore: Improvisations and Dim-
inutions of the Italian Renaissance. Le Concert Brisé. Carpe
Diem CD, 16254, 1997.
Hamada, Yoshimichi. Estro Venetiano. Anthonello. Cookie &
Bear CD, C&B 00002, 1998.
Tubéry, Jean. Dialoghi Venetiani. La Fenice. Ricercare CD,
RIC 157142, 1995.
West, Jeremy. The Age of Extravagance: Virtuoso Music from
Iberi a and Ital y. Ti mothy Roberts. Hyerpi on CD,
CDA66977, 1998.
Ensembles
Castello, Dario. In stil moderno. La Fenice. Jean Tubéry.
© 2006 International Trumpet Guild
January 2006 / ITG Journal 23
Ricercar CD, 206422, 1995.
Gabrieli, Giovanni. Sonate e Canzoni “per concertar con l’or-
gano.” Concerto Palatino. Bruce Dickey and Charles Toet.
Harmonia Mundi France CD, HMC 901688, 2000.
Gabrieli, Giovanni. The Canzonas and Sonatas from Sacrae
Symphonae (1597). His Majesties Sagbutts and Cornetts.
Timothy Roberts. Hyperion CD CDA66908, 1997.
Monteverdi, Claudio. Vespro Della Beata Vergine. His Majesties
Sagbutts and Cornetts. English Baroque Soloists. Monte-
verdi Choir. John Eliot Gardiner. Deutsche Gramophone
DVD, 073 035-9, 2003.
Schmelzer, Johann Heinrich. Sonata e Balletti. Musica Fiata.
Roland Wilson. CPO CD, 9998782, 2001.
Bibliography
Historical Sources
Bassano, Giovanni. Ricercate, passage et cadentie… (Venice,
1585), modern edition by Richard Erig (Zurich: Pelikan
Verlag, 1976).
Bismantova, Bartolomeo. Compendio musicale (manuscript,
1677), facsimile edition with preface by M. Casetllani (Flor-
ence: S.P.E.S., 1978); partial English and German transla-
tion and commentary by B. Dickey, P. Leonhards and E. H.
Tarr in “The Discussion of Wind Instruments in B. Bisman-
tova’s Compendio musicale (1677),” Basler Jahrbuch für his-
torische Musikpraxis 2 (1978), 143-87.
Bovicelli, Giovanni Battista. Regole, passaggi di musica, madri-
gali et motetti passeggiati (Venice, 1594); English translation
by Jesse Rosenberg in Historic Brass Society Journal Volume
4, 1992.
Brunelli, Antonio. Varii esercitii (1614). Zürich: Musikverlag
zum Pelikan, 1977.
Dalla Casa, Girolamo. Il vero modo di diminuir con tutte le sorti
di stromenti (Venice, 1584), facsimile edition with a preface
by Giuseppe Vecchi (Bologna: Forni, 1970); English transla-
tion by Jesse Rosenberg in Historic Brass Society Journal
Volume 1, 1989.
Ganassi, Silvestro. Opera intulata Fontegara (Venice, 1545).
Modern edition. (Bologna: Forni, 1980).
Ortiz, Diego. Tratado de glosas sobre clausulas y otros generos de
puntos en la musica de violones. (Rome, 1553). Edited by
Max Schneider. Kassel; New York: Bärenreiter, 1961.
Praetorius, Michael. Syntagma Musicum III. Translated and
edited by Jeffrey Kite-Powell. Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 2004.
Rognoni, Francesco. Selva de varii passaggi Vol 1. (1620),
Edited by Richard Erig. Zürich: Musik Hug, 1987.
Rognoni, Riccardo. Passaggi per potersi essercitare nel diminuire.
(Venice, 1592), modern edition with preface by Bruce Dick-
ey (Bologna: Forni, 2001).
Study Material
Collver, Michael. 222 Chop-Busters for the Cornetto. Second
Edition. Privately published, 2000.
Collver, Michael and Bruce Dickey. A Catalog of Music for the
Cornett. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996.
Dickey, Bruce. Varii esercitii per cornetto. Privately published.
Bologna, 1992.
Kernbach, Volker. How to Play the Treble Cornett. [c. 1970]
Monkemeyer, Helmut. Spielanleitung für Zinken in d’ und a.
Celle : Moeck Verlag, 1978.
Van Eyck, Jacob. Der Fluyten Lust-hof. Vol. 1. Edited by Win-
fried Michel and Hermien Teske. Winterthur: Amadeus
Verlag, 1984.
West, Jeremy. How to Play the Cornett. With Susan Smith.
London: JW Publications, 1997.
Books
Ahrens, Christian and Gregor Klink, ed. Zur Geschichte von
Cornetto und Clarine: Symposium im Rahmen der 25. Tage
Alter Musik in Herne 2000. [On the history of the cornetto
and clarino: symposium in the course of the 25th Early
Music Days in Herne, 2000]. Munich: Katzbichler, 2001.
Baines, Anthony. Woodwind Instruments: Their History and
Development. Mineola, NY: Dover, 1991.
Butt, John. Playing with History: The Historical Approach to
Musical Performance. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2002.
Carse, Adam. Musical Wind Instruments. New York: Da Capo
Press, 1965.
Carter, Stewart, ed. A Performer’s Guide to Seventeenth-Century
Music. New York: Schirmer, 1997.
Cellini, Benvenuto. Autobiography. Revised edition. Translated
with an Introduction by George Bull. London: Penguin
Books, 1998.
Cline, Gilbert. “The Cornetto: A Guide Toward Performance,
Within Historical Context, Indicating the Use of the
Recorder as a Companion Instrument.” D.M.A. Disserta-
tion, University of Oregon, 1990.
Erig Richard, ed. Italian Diminutions: The pieces with more
than one Diminution from 1553 to 1638. Zurich: Amadeus
Verlag, 1979.
Grouse, Charles Frederick. The Cornett. Dissertation, Boston
University, 1973.
Haskell, Harry. The Early Music Revival: A History. Mineola,
NY: Dover Publications, 1996.
Haynes, Bruce. A History of Performing Pitch: The Story of “A.”
Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2002.
Herbert, Trevor and John Wallace, ed. The Cambridge Com-
panion to Brass Instruments. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ-
ersity Press, 1997.
Heyde, Herbert. Hörner und Zinken. Leipzig: Deutscher Ver-
lag für Musik, 1982.
Kite-Powell, Jeffrey, ed. A Performer’s Guide to Renaissance
Music. New York: Schirmer, 1994.
Klein, Linda Marie. “The College Teacher’s Guide to the Cor-
nett” D.M.A. Dissertation, University of Wisconsin – Mad-
ison, 1994.
Lasocki, David with Roger Prior. The Bassanos: Venetian Music-
ians and Instrument Makers in England, 1531-1665. Lon-
don: Scolar Press, 1995.
Overton, Friend Robert. Der Zink: Geschichte, Bauweise und
Spieltechnik eines historischen Musikinstruments. Mainz:
Schott, 1984.
Selfridge-Field, Eleanor. Venetian Instrumental Music from
Gabrieli to Vivaldi. Third, Revised Edition. Mineola, NY:
Dover, 1994.
Sherman, Roger. The Trumpeter’s Handbook: A Comprehensive
Guide to Playing and Teaching the Trumpet. Athens, OH:
Accura Music, 1979.
Steele-Perkins, Crispian. The Trumpet. London: Kahn & Aver-
24 ITG Journal / January 2006
© 2006 International Trumpet Guild
hill, 2001.
Articles
Carter, Stewart. “The Salem Cornetts.” Historic Brass Society
Journal Volume 14 (2002): 279 – 308.
Campbell, Murray. “Cornett Acoustics: Some Experimental
Studies.” Galpin Society Journal 49 (1996): 180 – 196.
Dickey, Bruce. “L’accento: In Search of a Forgotten Orna-
ment.” Historic Brass Society Journal Volume 3 (1991): 98 –
121.
_____. “Cornett and Sackbut” in A Performer’s Guide to Seven-
teenth-Century Music. Edited by Stewart Carter. New York:
Schirmer, 1997.
_____. “Ornamentation in Early Seventeenth-Century Italian
Music” in A Performer’s Guide to Seventeenth-Century Music.
Edited by Stewart Carter. New York: Schirmer, 1997.
_____. “A Message from a Cornettist at St. Mark’s, Dated
1614.” Historic Brass Society Newsletter No. 10 (1997): 16 –
17.
_____. “The cornett” in The Cambridge Companion to Brass
Instruments. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Drake, Julian. “The Christ Church Cornetts, and the Ivory
Cornett in the Royal College of Music, London.” The Gal-
pin Society Journal 34 (1981): 44 – 50.
Dudgeon, Ralph. “A Handbook for the Cornetto” Internat-
ional Trumpet Guild Journal. Vol. 3, No. 1 (October 1976):
30 – 34.
Fontana, Eszter. “The Manufacture of Ivory Cornetti.” The
Galpin Society Journal 36 (1983): 29 – 36.
Garnier-Marzullo, Marie. “A Brief Discussion on Cornetto
Making with Serge Delmas.” Historic Brass Society Newsletter
No. 15 (2002): 10 – 11.
Hamada, Yoshimichi. “The Side Embouchure” Historic Brass
Society Newsletter No. 5 (1993).
Haynes, Bruce. “Cornetts and Historical Pitch Standards” His-
toric Brass Society Journal Volume 6 (1994): 84 – 109.
Kirk, Douglas. “Cornett.” A Performer’s Guide to Renaissance
Music. Edited by Jeffrey Kite-Powell. New York: Schrimer,
1994.
Klaus, Sabine. “Persistent ‘Detective Work’ Sheds New Light
on Two Precious Ivory Cornetti in the Utley Collection.”
America’s Shrine to Music Museum Newsletter 28, no. 1
(February 2001): 4 – 5.
Koehler, Elisa. “An Interview with Kiri Tollaksen.” Internat-
ional Trumpet Guild Journal. Vol. 28, No. 4 (June 2004):
39 – 41.
Nussbaum, Jeffrey. “An Interview with Cornetto Virtuoso
Bruce Dickey.” Historic Brass Society Newsletter No. 4
(1992): 3 – 5.
_____. “Cornetto Discography.” Historic Brass Society News-
letter No. 8 (1995): 21 – 41.
_____. “Cornetto Discography: Part 2.” Historic Brass Society
Newsletter No. 11 (1998): 13 – 22.
_____. “Cornetto and Serpent Makers Worldwide.” Historic
Brass Society Newsletter No. 12 (1999): 10 – 12.
_____. “Cornetto Symposium in Oxford.” Historic Brass Soc-
iety Newsletter No. 13 (2000): 21 – 23.
_____. “An Interview with Cornett Player, Maker, and Musica
Fiata Director Roland Wilson.” Historic Brass Society News-
letter No. 14 (2001): 3 – 7.
_____. “An Interview with Jean-Pierre Canihac and Marie
Garnier-Marzullo.” Historic Brass Society Newsletter No. 16
(2003): 4 – 7.
McCann, John. “A Cornett Odyssey.” Historic Brass Society
Journal Volume 3 (1991): 33 – 42.
Monk, Christopher. “First Steps Towards Playing the Cornett:
1.” Early Music Vol. 3, No. 2 (April 1975): 244 – 248.
_____. “First Steps Towards Playing the Cornett: 2.” Early
Music Vol. 3, No. 3 (July 1975): 132 – 133.
Paduch, Arno. “New Facts About Cornetto Playing in 17th-
Century Central America.” Historic Brass Society Newsletter
No. 15 (2002): 13.
Parks, Raymond. “The Tuohitorvi: Cornett Survival or Re-
Creation?” The Galpin Society Journal 48 (1995): 188 – 193.
Smith, Susan. “A Cacophony of Cornettists.” Historic Brass
Society Newsletter No. 9 (1996): 26 – 32.
Web Sites
Amherst Early Music Festival
http://www.amherstearlymusic.org
Choral Public Domain Library
http://www.cpdl.org
Historic Brass Society
http://www.historicbrass.org
Christopher Monk Instruments
http://www.jeremywest.co.uk/cmi/cornets.html
David Jarratt-Knock’s Cornetto Page
http://www.cornetto.org.uk/cornetto.html
McCann Cornetts
http://www.mccann-cornetts.com
About the Author: Elisa Koehler is assistant professor of
music at Goucher College and the music director and conduc-
tor of The Frederick Orchestra. She also performs with the
Lyric Brass Quintet, the Orchestra of the 17th Century, and
the Washington Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble. Between 2002
and 2005 she served as Recording Reviews Editor for the ITG
Journal and contributed several articles as well. Research for this
work was supported by a grant from Goucher College’s Lahey
Faculty Development Fund. The author thanks the following
for their kind assistance: Stanley Curtis, H. Gene Griswold,
Michael Holmes, Flora Newberry, and Kiri Tollaksen.
All photographs courtesy of Elisa Koehler unless otherwise noted.
Endnotes
1 It is important to distinguish the cornett from the 19th-
century valved cornet. Some musicians prefer to use the
Italian term cornetto for similar reasons of clarification,
but recent scholarship in the English language overwhel-
mingly favors the British spelling.
2 Anthony Baines, Woodwind Instruments and Their History
(Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1991), 237, 259 –
263. It is notable that Baines omits any formal discussion
of the cornett in his similar volume on brass instruments
(Brass Instruments: Their History and Development. Dover,
1993), but he does classify the cornett in the “Trumpet
class” of early woodwinds (237). The familiar instrument
© 2006 International Trumpet Guild
January 2006 / ITG Journal 25
tables from Praetorius’s Syntagma Musicum II (1618) pic-
ture the cornett with brass instruments (plate reproduced
in Herbert & Wallace, The Cambridge Companion to Brass
Instruments, 71). Crispian Steele-Perkins describes an ob-
scure descendent of the cornett called the “Mock-Trum-
pet” in the chapter concerning the cornett is his book, The
Trumpet (London: Kahn & Averill, 2001), 57 – 59.
3 Bruce Dickey, “The cornett” in The Cambridge Compan-
ion to Brass Instruments ed. Trevor Herbert and John
Wallace (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997),
62 – 64. Some of the theoretical treatises that mention the
cornett are Aurelio Virgiliano’s Il dolcimelo (c. 1590),
Michael Praetorius’s Syntagma Musicum (in three volumes,
1615 – 1619), and Mersenne’s Harmonie universelle
(1635). The most extensive instructions on playing the
cornett appear in Bistmantova’s Compendium musicale
(1677).
4 Bruce Dickey. Varii esercitii per cornetto (Bologna: Private-
ly published, 1992). Michael Collver. 222 Chopbusters for
the Cornett (Privately published, 2000). Jeremy West and
Susan Smith. How to Play the Cornett. (London: JW Mus-
ic Publications, 1995, revised in 1997).
5 Bruce Dickey. “Cornett and Sackbut” in A Performer’s
Guide to Seventeenth-Century Music. Ed. Stewart Carter
(New York: Schirmer, 1997), 98 – 115. Douglas Kirk.
“Cornett” in A Performer’s Guide to Renaissance Music. Ed.
Jeffrey Kite-Powell (New York: Schirmer, 1994), 79 – 96.
Ralph Dudgeon. “A Handbook for the Cornetto” in Inter-
national Trumpet Guild Journal Vol. 3, No. 1 (October
1976).
6 Hotteterre, Jacques Martin. Principles of the Flute, Recorder
and Oboe [Paris, 1707]. Translated with Introduction and
Notes by Paul Marshall Douglas. (Mineola, NY: Dover,
1968) It should be noted that the recorder can be claimed
as an ancestor of the oboe as well as the flute. While the
oboe certainly developed from the double-reed shawm,
many 18th-century musicians doubled on the flute and
the oboe, which employed the same fingering patterns.
For example, Quantz played cornett as well as the flute,
oboe, recorder, violin, trumpet, and cello. Johann Joachim
Quantz, Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversiere zu
spielen [On Playing the Flute. Berlin, 1752] Second Edit-
ion. Translated with notes by Edward R. Reilley (Boston:
Northeastern University Press, 2001), xii – xiii. Medieval
and Renaissance stadtpfeifer and pifarri [pipers] were
renowned for their versatility.
7 Stewart Carter, “The Salem Cornetts” in Historic Brass
Society Journal 15 (2002): 296 – 303. Carter’s article con-
cerns Salem, North Carolina. See also Baines, 262.
8 Harry Haskell, The Early Music Revival: A History. (Min-
eola, NY: Dover, 1996), 9.
9 John Butt, Playing with History: The Historical Approach to
Musical Performance (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2002), 3 – 50. See also Peter Kivy, Authenticities:
Philosophical Reflections on Musical Performance (Ithaca:
Cornell University Press, 1995); Richard Tarushkin, Text
and Act (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995); Lydia
Goehr, The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works: An Essay
in the Philosophy of Music (Oxford: Clarendon, 1992).
10 Haskell, 179. A picture of Hindemith playing the cornett
at the Berlin Academy of Music in 1933 is available online
(http://www.hindemith.org/E/paul-hindemith/life.htm).
11 Haskell, 108 – 109, 145. Nikolaus Harnoncourt was par-
ticularly inspired by Hindemith’s performances.
12 Michael Collver and Bruce Dickey. A Catalog of Music for
the Cornett. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press,
1996).
13 The Trapp Family Singers. Enjoy Your Recorder. (Sharon,
CT: Magnamusic Distributors, 1954). Many beginning
soprano recorder methods are written for elementary
school general music instruction and move at a slow ped-
agogical pace. That is not the case with this excellent
method by the Austrian musical family of The Sound of
Music fame. It includes satisfying quality repertoire and
assumes that students already possess a working knowl-
edge of musical notation and basic theory. A good source
for technical advice on breathing, blowing, fingerings and
tonguing is Frances Baker. The Recorder Player’s Compan-
ion (Albany, CA: PRB Productions, 1994).
14 Although Renaissance alto recorders pitched in G do exist
(which use fingerings identical to the treble cornett), they
are rare and expensive instruments. Purchasing a good
wooden cornett would be a much wiser investment. Also,
some sources label the treble cornett as being pitched in A
because the instrument plays “A” with all the finger holes
covered as well as with no finger holes. The cornett is
pitched in G because of the instrument’s length, even
though there is no 7th hole for the pinky of the right hand
to play the low G.
15 Renée Fleming. The Inner Voice: The Making of a Singer
(New York: Viking, 2004), 16 – 55. Hardly a tell-all mem-
oir, Fleming’s book primarily concerns the development of
her vocal technique and career in astute detail. Of course,
listening to any of Fleming’s fine recordings is highly rec-
ommended. A collection like Renée Fleming: By Request
(Decca CD, B0000C3ICO, 2003) is a good place to start.
16 Jeffrey Nussbaum. “Cornetto and Serpent Makers World-
wide.” In Historic Brass Society Newsletter 12 (1999): 10 –
12.
17 http://www.jeremywest.co.uk/cmi/cornetts.html; resin
cornetts are tuned in meantone temperament and pitched
at A=440.
18 Elisa Koehler, “An Interview with Kiri Tollaksen” Inter-
national Trumpet Guild Journal Vol. 28, No. 4 (June
2004), 39 – 41.
19 An exceptional tool for developing a controlled, efficient
embouchure is James Thompson’s Buzzing Book (Editions
BIM, 2001). Thompson’s well-written introduction out-
lines embouchure mechanics very clearly. Jeremy West
(25) notes, “As you move up the register the best practice
is to keep the lips ‘bunched,’ the corners of the mouth
tight, and the tongue flat and relaxed. You can achieve
everything you need by increasing the airflow with your
abdominal muscles.” West also cautions cornettists to
think “about maintaining the poised and relaxed attitude
of lower register playing: open throat, bunched embou-
chure but open aperture, and lots of support from your
lungs.”
20 Yoshimichi Hamada, “The Side Embouchure” in Historic
Brass Society Newsletter No. 5 (1993). See also Douglas
Kirk, “Cornett” in A Performer’s Guide to Renaissance Mus-
Continued on Page 31
© 2006 International Trumpet Guild
January 2006 / ITG Journal 31
ic (New York: Schirmer, 1994), 87 – 88. Bruce Dickey,
“Cornett and Sackbut” in A Performer’s Guide to Seven-
teenth-Century Music (New York: Schirmer, 1997), 108.
Jeremy West with Susan Smith, How to Play the Cornett
(London: JW Publications, 1997), 9. Some contend that
the side embouchure for the cornett was employed to
avoid interference with a center embouchure used for
another wind or brass instrument.
21 Some of the models are named for the players who use
them: Michael Laird and David Staff. Allan Dean has also
achieved good results on a cornett with a larger mouth-
piece.
22 West, 5.
23 West, 6.
24 The few that do exist have very shallow cups and paper
thin backbores; this generates an entirely different concept
from a large, deep mouthpiece. Susan Smith, “A Caco-
phony of Cornettists” in Historic Brass Society Newsletter
No. 9 (1996), 28.
25 Some cornettists prefer to affix an improvised thumb rest
on the instrument for the right hand. While this may be a
useful aid for some players, it is not recommended for
developing an optimal level of technical facility.
26 Jeremy West’s book includes several pages of good begin-
ning exercises which he affectionately calls “a cornetto
nursery” (59 – 61).
27 I am indebted to Kiri Tollaksen for this helpful exercise.
28 Bruce Haynes, A History of Performing Pitch: The Story of
“A” (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2002), xxxiii – xxxvi.
29 Haynes, 79.
30 The system is formally known as “Quarter Comma Mean-
tone.” Herbert W. Myers, “Tuning and Temperament” in
A Performer’s Guide to Seventeenth-Century Music. Ed.
Stewart Carter (New York: Schirmer: 1997), 318 – 324.
Before meantone, musicians favored Pythagorean tuning,
which actually favored pure wide fifths, but had high
thirds and high leading tones.
31 Dickey, “Cornett and Sackbut,” 109 – 110. Ganassi’s
Opera intulata Fontegara (Venice, 1545) is an excellent his-
toric source for information on articulation.
32 West, 30.
Cornett continued from page 25