Cornet as a possible big band lead instrument?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Local 357, Nov 20, 2011.

  1. Local 357

    Local 357 Banned

    Jul 1, 2011
    Is the cornet a possible big band lead instrument? It's doable though probably not a first choice. Seems to have some applications though.

    For several years now I've brought one on along on every gig. For when the lead stays at or below High C. OK maybe a few E's and F's but nothing substantial up in the ledger lines. When the really high charts came around? I'd use my trumpet. The idea being to get a bigger sound between Third Space C and High C by switching to cornet. To mitigate some of that middle register small mouthpiece edge common to the screamer pieces I usually leave in my trumpet. In fact I could go with a piece nearly as shallow as one of my lead trumpet pieces and get a sound (from the cornet) similar to putting a 3C in my trumpet. So the idea has practical applications. If I can get a big tone without going too deep in the mouthpieec? Saves a lot of energy.

    Then this weekend I had a gig that involved a lot of walking and bus travel just to get to the job. Not possessing a multiple instrument gig bag I decided to bring just the cornet. Easier to carry. All it was was a brief four tune rehearsal band showcase. Something I'd gotten conned into doing and had no diplomatic way to get out of. As there were only four charts and maybe just a half dozen high F's I figured it would save more energy to blast them out on the cornet. If it's only a few songs? My ego told me ""you can play lead on a Schilke 22 for just four songs".

    Interesting thing was that no one noticed a different sound from the trumpet section. I liked the over all tone better. In fact in some ways the High F's were easier because with a mouthpiece that isn't way shallow (as I usually use) accuracy at high volume is better. At least at the beginning of the gig. Again just played the four charts. I can do that standing on my head...

    So I dug the tone. Problems? I had trouble getting a truly big sound in the tutti sections. It was still loud enough but a tad short of the dominance I normally like to put out. I had to really "work" the FF sections. I know when I'm blowing full out because no more air will move through the horn beyond what i'm capable of blowing. Hitting "The Wall"...

    However when in the loudest tutti sections the cornet tone was still plenty audible from behind the instrument. Spreading laterally out end of the horn and/or off the music stand. Not a lot of trumpet players can do this mind you (caution: brag share coming). I know a few local cats who have easier high notes than me (not many) but theirs will not be heard over the top of a band playing in a loud chorus. Mine will. Guarantee it... (end brag share)

    It was harder to get this to happen last night. The cornet "maxed out" more often.

    "Maxed out" being the absolute top limit of volume possible to blow on an instrument. Usually i won't completely max out on the trumpet except in a rock and roll band and even then not too often.

    Jeez that cornet is a sweet tone though. And in a way that is almost another problem too but not in the upper register. The problem is that the lower middle tone can be almost too candy sweet. I'll have to work on that. Maybe bring an even deeper mouthpiece for those accents.

    Over all it was time well spent. It's all about getting the best tone with he least amount of work. And compromising as little as possible of either.

    I'd say that if I could find one with better volume and similar tone/response? It would be the perfect horn. I heard a special tone coming from my cornet last night that I'd often looked for on my trumpet and yet so far had found impossible.
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2011
  2. Mark_Kindy

    Mark_Kindy Mezzo Forte User

    Jul 11, 2010
    Gainesville, FL
    It sounds interesting... but while you may get a BIG sound, I wonder if you can really cut through the section as well. It may be possible, but I'm sure it's tiring. And you may be playing louder/less efficiently on the cornet than you would on a trumpet in order to do so.
  3. amzi

    amzi Forte User

    Feb 18, 2010
    Northern California
    Weren't the Conn Victor model long cornets built, in part, so that guys who wanted to play cornet could do so without looking out of place when playing in bands? Maybe you could pick up an old Victor or Connstellation--enjoy the rich sound and nobody will be the wiser. Or play your current cornet and disregard what anyone says or thinks.
  4. DaTrump

    DaTrump Forte User

    Oct 21, 2011
    Huntsville, Texas
    That is something you might want to look into, how much you are ACTUALLY cutting through the section. I've always like the idea of using cornet for lead, I love the sound., its just the conical nature of it that gets in the way. Also, since you are working so hard, can you play a full set?

    As a side note, in the band I'm in, the lead player exclusively uses flugelhorn, still not sure how but he does.
  5. Dale Proctor

    Dale Proctor Utimate User

    Jul 20, 2006
    Heart of Dixie
    There may be a few cornets that will do pretty well in trumpet mode, but in the end, a trumpet works best as a lead trumpet. Projection and endurance are the main areas where a cornet comes up a little short (pun intended) in a big band situation.
  6. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    My personal experience is that the "big sound" is only for the player. We hear ourselves differently with the shorter instrument, and what we hear is not what the audience gets. I use a deep vee cornet mouthpiece cup. That gives it a sound that does not match what is in my head for lead.

    I have used the cornet as the lead instrument when the rest of the section uses flugels.

    When using trumpet cup mouthpieces, the sound of the two instruments is close enough that one could get away with it.

    PINCHUNO Piano User

    Apr 4, 2005
    A flugel as a lead instrument? I doubt it.
  8. BrassEye

    BrassEye Pianissimo User

    Sep 9, 2011
    For comparison (and out of interest) what cornet were you playing and what trumpet do you usually play lead on?
  9. Kujo20

    Kujo20 Forte User

    Sep 29, 2010
    Is it possible? Why the heck not!?!?! I've never heard the rule that said you can't use a cornet for playing lead!

    I think you answered yourself quite well after your first question. "It's doable though probably not a first choice. Seems to have some applications though...

  10. richtom

    richtom Forte User

    Dec 7, 2003
    Here are two thoughts from one of the greatest, William Vacchiano, from his website.

    “You have to light up the room with your sound.”

    "The difference between a cornet and a trumpet is that you can’t hear the cornet past the third row.”

    There are some clips on youtube from big bands of the 30s and 40s where there is a cornet in the section, but those players are on the
    bottom. When I can find one or two, I'll post them.

    Rich T.

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