Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, We DO In Fact Need a Cornet Revolution

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Last week, I posted the article titled Trumpet-Shaped Cornets: And Other Inconvenient Truths on the popular Trumpets, Trumpeters and Trumpeting Facebook group.

Boy, did it get a response!

Why would I post it on a trumpet group, and not a cornet group? Well, because when you get right down to it, trumpet players are the core audience I'm trying to reach.

This post is an attempt to explain why.

But first, let me share with you some of the response and feedback I received from the article.

There were quite a few positive reactions, a few downright negative, and yet another few which expressed some confusion as to what "my" Cornet Revolution is all about. (This is not my thing; were that the case, I would promote it very differently.)

One individual made a few snide remarks about the idea of a "Cornet Revolution." They said the whole idea was "stupid" and "ridiculous." This person made another comment on the thread pointing out that the Facebook page has only 41 followers. "Some revolution," they said. (As if Facebook pages are created with thousands of followers built in.) I only mention this because this individual posted this comment more than 24 hours after their initial comments. Perhaps the Cornet Revolution has struck a nerve in this person that they're unwilling to acknowledge.

One person reached out and said, "You may have converted me to the cornet!"


Another wrote and said that while they "love to play their cornet" there's no way it will ever replace the trumpet in settings where trumpet is necessary. "I won’t allow a cornet in the TRUMPET section of my big band," was his exact quote.

Well, I don't recall suggesting that the cornet should replace the trumpet in anything - but we'll get to that in a moment.

Another gentleman wrote a very thoughtful email and took issue in particular with the portion of the article where I said that the Cornet is more than a "beginner" instrument, to which a student can "graduate" to the trumpet. Since his statement will resonate with the "start 'em on cornet" train of thought, I'll quote his remarks in full.

Once a student reaches a certain size where they can hold their arms as naturally close to their body as they can with a cornet, can place the mouthpiece on their lips without the increased pressure and contorted angle that might be caused by trying to handle a larger instrument, and have learned how to make a rich/soft/pleasing/gentle/sonorous tone – as is easier to achieve on the cornet – they can then transition to the much more universally accepted instrument.

So, let me see if I understand this correctly. Once a student learns to appreciate Mahler, we then transition him or her to a steady diet of Elvis Presley?

No, of course not. What he's saying is that since the world wants trumpet, to have a student stick with the cornet would be a huge disservice to them should they want to build a career in music. Or to simply fit in with the other kids in their high school band.

I get it. I really do. I was a trumpet player for 30+ years. I learned all (well, a lot of) the literature. I was employed by the U.S. Army as a trumpet player for nearly 12 years. I've performed the Haydn, the Bohme, the Hummel in many places around the world. I've played trumpet in all the settings where trumpet is used: symphony orchestras, wedding/dance bands, Christmas and Easter. And I've earned the respect of peers and colleagues as a trumpet player. You name it, I've done it.

In hindsight, this is something for which I'm very sad.

Why was Cornet not something I was taught as a youngster in the late 80's and early 90's? I didn't have any serious exposure to the Cornet until around 2010 when I played a season with a pretty legit British Brass Band located in Atlanta, GA.

Why was I never taught the history of my own instrument?

To sum up my education on the cornet: I was told that Arban and Clarke were cornetists; that trumpet is cylindrical and cornet is conical. That's about it.

I have a few trumpet students where I live in Raleigh, NC. From what I gather, kids today aren't being taught even that.

It's truly regrettable that I didn't have any serious exposure to the Cornet until I was 34 years old.

I was 8 years old when my dad gave me my first few lessons on trumpet. It was too big for me at the time, but I grew into it. Today, there are no lingering physical deficiencies as a result of not starting on the Cornet. 

I think the idea of starting a kid on Cornet, then transitioning to Trumpet makes sense intellectually.


People have this tendency to be, well, a tad bit lazy. Ultimately, as was the case with myself and many other kids, trumpet students are going to learn trumpet on trumpet.

So, with all due respect to the "start 'em on Cornet" crowd, I think the record shows your way of thinking to be an abysmal failure.

And I say that from personal experience as well as simply observing the world around me.

This is why we need a Cornet Revolution, ladies and gentlemen.

The gentleman I quoted earlier said in essence that keeping a student on Cornet is a disservice to them because the Trumpet is a more universally accepted instrument.

Is it really? Here in 2017, going into 2018?

I hosted a podcast called Trumpet Dynamics for over a year. I published over 100 episodes. (The archives will soon be available on this website, btw.) I was privileged to talk to some pretty serious heavy hitters in the trumpet community.

Guess what made the vast majority of them want to play trumpet when they were kids? Doc Severinsen. Maynard Ferguson. Harry James. Miles Davis. 

All superstars, not just in the trumpet world, but in popular culture.

Trumpeters, who is your Doc Severinsen of today? Someone with the stature of a Miles Davis, or Harry James?

You've got Chris Botti, who's one of the best trumpet players I've ever heard (if you believe the garbage about him being a "smooth jazz" guy, just watch him live), but hardly the adrenaline-inducing style of Doc, Maynard or Stan Kenton's band. One could be forgiven for thinking he's playing a Cornet listening to one of his albums. (It's actually a Martin Committee trumpet with a really deep cup mouthpiece. He showed it to me when I interviewed him. A "trumpet-shaped Cornet" if there ever was one.)

Phil Driscoll definitely has the power of a Doc Severinsen, but he focused on the Christian niche - plus he's getting up there in years too.

So, you got a boost from some pretty big names in the 20th Century.

Orchestras use trumpets, not cornets.

Trumpet is universally accepted. I'm not arguing with that.

BUT, we're not in the 20th Century anymore. 

Orchestras - the ones that are able to stick around anyways - are now using rotary trumpets for some of their pieces. 

The best-known trumpeter outside of the little pond called Trumpet is Chris Botti.

TV shows and movies don't use Trumpet nearly as much as even 20 years ago.

Call it "enlightenment," call it "seeking the new thing;" the demand simply isn't what it once was.

Trumpet players know this, but the Establishment wants to pretend everything is just fine. 

Just follow the plan. Play trumpet in school, then get a degree in Trumpet Performance, then another degree and another degree. Then we'll send you into the real world with no practical knowledge of how it works, nor of how to survive, let alone thrive.

David Cutler, author of The Savvy Musician told a story of how he asked his most trusted adviser in college, "What do I do now that I'm finishing up my doctorate?" His professor said, "I'm sure you'll be fine."

The days of going to school and getting a job as a musician were short - and they're over.

To succeed as a musician, one needs to have an entrepreneurial spirit.

And THIS is why the world needs, and will welcome, the Cornet Revolution.

Trumpet players who have followed "the plan" will scoff and ridicule it.

But there are plenty of trumpet players who have tried to follow "the plan" and have discovered true riches by deviating from it.

A few have made it happen playing the Cornet; a few have playing the Trumpet.

The point is that we're in a new era of music-making, as well as money-making with Music. 

Who's to say there won't be a pop superstar on the Cornet? Who's to say that in 50 years there won't be a couple of concerto's written for the Cornet that are played regularly?

In the glory days of trumpet, i.e. the 20th Century, there were a handful of concerti or sonatas written specifically for trumpet. They're here to stay because they're fun to play and listen to - if you're into that sort of thing.

If it happened for the Trumpet, it can happen for the Cornet.

But it won't happen if Cornetists continue with this narrative that it belongs only in British Brass Bands and smoke-filled jazz clubs. That it's simply a starter instrument for trumpet players.

The opportunity to write our own history is staring at us in the face. I ask that you join me in writing it.

P.S. If you still think this is "stupid" or "ridiculous," I'll leave you with this quote from one of my favorite movies.

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