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What Is a Soprano Cornet?

Kathy Dowling
Kathy Dowling

The soprano cornet is a musical instrument that is a member of the brass family usually played in brass bands that can be thought of as an E-flat piccolo trumpet with a conical bore. Closely resembling the standard B-flat cornet, the instrument is smaller in size and has a higher pitch of E-flat. The instrument is difficult to play, but, when mastered, produces a light, airy sound similar to the flute. Throughout time, the soprano instrument has produced many great musicians, including Charlie Cook of the Fodens Band, who was popular both before and after the Second World War, and Peter Roberts, who has taken soprano cornet playing to a new level.

A brass instrument is one that produces sound when air passed from a player’s vibrating lips moves inside the instrument. The inside compartment of a brass instrument is called the bore, which can either be conical or cylindrical in shape. The soprano cornet has a conical bore, meaning that the diameter of the bore nearest the mouthpiece begins with a width of zero and gradually increases along the length of the instrument. The shape of the bore affects the timbre or quality of sound of the instrument, and, as such, instruments with a conical bore are made up of a timbre of odd and even harmonics, or overtones.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

Like the standard cornet, the soprano cornet is a transposing instrument, which means that the notes are played and read at a different pitch to the concert pitch. Musical instruments that are tuned before a performance, such as those in an orchestra, are tuned according to the same pitch reference or concert pitch, except for transposing instruments. As a result, if the musical note C was written down to be played during a performance, a different note would be played on the soprano cornet and other transposing instruments.

Just as the standard B-flat cornet resembles a trumpet, the soprano cornet is said to resemble the piccolo trumpet, the smallest member of the trumpet family. The piccolo trumpet is also a brass instrument and is one octave higher in pitch to the standard trumpet. The main difference to the soprano cornet is bore shape, where the piccolo trumpet has a cylindrical bore. The instruments also produce differences in sound, with the piccolo trumpet creating a similar sound to that of the standard trumpet.

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