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No Cornets for Beginners?


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Comeback
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 12, 2019 3:48 pm    Post subject: No Cornets for Beginners? Reply with quote

Two of my grandsons, who are both in 5th grade, are wanting to play trumpet. When I was in 5th grade 57 years ago it was not uncommon for a beginner to start on a cornet. My grandsons’ teachers are insisting they start on trumpet. Grandpa is not going to counsel otherwise, but does anyone know why cornets have fallen out of favor?
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jadickson
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 12, 2019 3:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Middle school band director here.

My hypothesis is that competitive marching band took over, and therefore loud trumpets became preferable.

I've always found it frustrating. When I was a kid, my band directors all told us to play with a "dark" sound and "blend" with the band... and gave us Bach 3C mouthpieces and trumpets to do it. Madness. "Sound like a cornet! Here's a trumpet and a shallow mouthpiece."
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TKSop
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 12, 2019 3:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Over here (UK) at least, it's still very common for players to start on Cornet... and many stay with it (BBB).

Then again, learning through local BBB's is very common and a lot cheaper than starting off with lessons at school (which may or may not be added later).
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 12, 2019 7:27 pm    Post subject: Re: No Cornets for Beginners? Reply with quote

Comeback wrote:
Two of my grandsons, who are both in 5th grade, are wanting to play trumpet. When I was in 5th grade 57 years ago it was not uncommon for a beginner to start on a cornet. My grandsons’ teachers are insisting they start on trumpet. Grandpa is not going to counsel otherwise, but does anyone know why cornets have fallen out of favor?


Where I grew up, cornets fell out of favor by the 1980s. I was unaware that professionals were using cornets, some in various keys, until the late '90s with the availability of the Internet. While I was in middle and early high school the question occasionally came up due to the old pictures in the popular band methods still in use at the time. All of my music teachers or instructors, even the ones who played the trumpet, insisted that cornets or trumpets were just the same thing. The only time I saw cornets played in a live performance was when an out-of-town marching band came to perform at my neighborhood's annual fair.

I guess somebody else will respond with a detailed history explaining how the cornet & trumpet essentially became the cornet/trumpet, then the trumpet, at least here in the United States. The major points as I have come to understand:

    ● The invention of the F.Besson trumpet design (a "cornetty" trumpet) dovetailing with the development of the American wrap cornet (a "trumpety" cornet).

    ● The large-scale adoption of trumpets in the F.Besson design by both classical and popular musicians. (Blame the double powerful influence of Vincent Bach as a manufacturer and Louis Armstrong as a musician, even though Armstrong didn't specifically use Bach trumpets.)

    ● The post-war perception in the United States that cornets were for kids and trumpets were for grown-ups.

    ● Parents who could afford only one instrument and settling on a trumpet because their kid(s) can use it in both concert band and marching band.

    ● Student level trumpets attracting more demand and holding more resale value due to that demand.

    ● Band music arrangers indicating that the two instruments could be used interchangeably instead of scoring musically different parts.

    ● Successive generations of music students told that cornets and trumpets were the same thing, even by other trumpeters.

    ● Cornet methods repurposed or re-titled as cornet/trumpet methods or just trumpet methods, giving the impression that cornets evolved into trumpets.


Everything I wrote applies mostly to how it came to be in the United States. I understand that in the United Kingdom the distinction between cornets and trumpets was maintained.

(I still think of the two instruments as basically the same thing, especially when I read about trumpets with "conical bores" and constant advice to use a deep mouthpiece on a cornet or else it will sound like a trumpet.)
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Last edited by Didymus on Fri Sep 13, 2019 8:00 am; edited 1 time in total
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Rompson
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 12, 2019 8:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maybe it is as simple as the teacher doesn’t realize that the cornet and trumpet are functionally identical for beginners, or just isn’t familiar with the cornet at all.
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 12, 2019 8:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There is a bit of back and forth feedback loop between retail store rental/lease programs and teachers and districts.

Teachers don't ask for cornets, they ask for trumpets. Thus, stores don't stock cornets.

Stores don't have cornets in stock to rent/lease, thus teachers don't even think of them.

Stores could order/stock the Bach CR310 or the Yamaha 2310 pretty easily if they put some effort in, but since there is virtually zero demand, they don't. People these days that aren't trumpet players don't even know what a cornet IS. That includes quite a few musicians and even band directors, and some trumpet players.

This is not new. Cornets - other than some kid who is using a family one or an older vintage one bought used have been a rarity even when I started teaching about 20 years ago. I wouldn't say it's gotten worse, but it's just been that same way since then.
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2019 4:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I appreciate your thoughts, folks. My notion is that cornets might be better suited to small beginning students when the ergonomic features of the two instruments are considered. The center of gravity of the cornet is closer to a child’s face, making it easier for a child to support the instrument in a correct position. Also, manipulation of valves is easier for a small child since the valve block is also closer to the child’s face. But then, what do I know? I’m just an old combacker.
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2019 4:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Comeback wrote:
I appreciate your thoughts, folks. My notion is that cornets might be better suited to small beginning students when the ergonomic features of the two instruments are considered. The center of gravity of the cornet is closer to a child’s face, making it easier for a child to support the instrument in a correct position. Also, manipulation of valves is easier for a small child since the valve block is also closer to the child’s face.


This is precisely what my 4th grade band director said in 1965 as he talked to the parents of prospective band students. Soundwise, there is no difference that an elementary school beginner can hear. And the fact is that not all 4th graders can hold a trumpet comfortably. The dogma that kids have to start on trumpets evolves into the stupidity that all kids in high school marching band have to have $3k silver Bachs or Yamahas.

I thought school music programs were supposed to teach kids to love music and pursue it in some fashion all their lives. Dogma like this achieves the opposite, IMO.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2019 5:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

When I started playing at age 7, I could not have held a trumpet comfortably. Cornet was the obvious choice.

When my nephew expressed interest in playing, I gave him a Yamaha 2330 cornet I had in a closet. He could not have held a trumpet.

I think the cornet is a great choice for smaller players!
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2019 5:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The parent of a school player shouldn't be forced or encouraged to pay for more than one instrument. If the later 'marching band' requires trumpets, then the earlier training programs should explain that.

Yes, cornet might be a better 'starter' instrument due to ergonomics. If a trumpet could successfully be used, then I think that's the better course than starting on a cornet with a later need to acquire a trumpet.

My opinion is that in the USA, the cornet is a 'specialty instrument' and not mainline band or orchestra.

If a school player has access (or chooses) cornet, then there shouldn't be a requirement for the player (parent) to also get a trumpet - if the school has that as a requirement, then the school should provide the instrument.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2019 5:21 am    Post subject: Re: No Cornets for Beginners? Reply with quote

Comeback wrote:
Two of my grandsons, who are both in 5th grade, are wanting to play trumpet.

There's no "one-size-fits-all" answer here. And you can easily argue for either approach (starting on cornet vs starting on trumpet). But if they want to play trumpet, maybe they should play trumpet. Let them fit in with the other trumpet players (both visually and musically).
Comeback wrote:
When I was in 5th grade 57 years ago it was not uncommon for a beginner to start on a cornet ... but does anyone know why cornets have fallen out of favor?

Good question. But not long after you started, things were changing. When I started out 50 years ago, no one played cornet. We had cornet parts in concert band, but everyone played trumpet.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2019 7:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

We had about a 30/70 mix of cornets and trumpets in the bands I grew up in. My junior high and high school directors made no distinction between the two, although in high school it was cooler to have a trumpet because supposedly one could play louder, and our marching band was all about loud. For that reason when I got to high school I benched my cornet and used my older brother's trumpet. When I graduated I used the cornet as a trade-in to buy a new trumpet and gave my brother's horn back to him.

Now I have a very nice old Getzen Capri cornet and I'm learning the nuances of cornet vs trumpet, in hopes of playing with a little more authenticity. I do most of my fundamental practice on the cornet, using a deeper mouthpiece than on the trumpet. I have to make a conscious effort to not play it like a trumpet, and it's paying dividends in my musicality. My sound is getting warmer and more relaxed, and that's also helping my trumpet playing. But they are two different instruments and I have to keep that in mind when I play one or the other.
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2019 8:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

For Elementary school? Take your pick of these explanations:

A) Band Director ignorance
B) Band Director incompetence

IMO
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2019 8:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Comeback wrote:
I appreciate your thoughts, folks. My notion is that cornets might be better suited to small beginning students when the ergonomic features of the two instruments are considered. The center of gravity of the cornet is closer to a child’s face, making it easier for a child to support the instrument in a correct position. Also, manipulation of valves is easier for a small child since the valve block is also closer to the child’s face. But then, what do I know? I’m just an old combacker.


All of that is true.

I started on a Yamaha cornet when I was in beginning band back in the mid 80's. Cornets were pretty standard in my district back then. By mid-to late junior high, people had a lot of trumpets. I don't know the ins and outs of the lease/rental program back then, but maybe they exchanged the cornets for trumpets. I did not, I still have mine (great horn, by the way) - but I did acquire a Yamaha 6335 trumpet in 9th grade.

Anyway, in when I taught in a local large urban school district with a lot of school-owned instruments, I started a lot of kids on cornets - both because that's what I had and because it fit certain people better.

On the other hand, I've had some pretty petite and small students on trumpets - students I would have given cornets, personally - and they did just fine.

comebackcornet wrote:
For Elementary school? Take your pick of these explanations:

A) Band Director ignorance
B) Band Director incompetence

IMO


C) Neither.

Speaking as someone who taught beginner band for almost 20 years and still is involved with it - I wouldn't call it a non-issue, but it's a pretty minor one, in my opinion. There are bigger fish to fry and issues in music education and education as a whole - this is quite minor by any comparison.

Sure, cornet would fit smaller students better. Sure, there are a lot of directors who don't know much about cornets. But, I would say the impact that a lack of cornets has on the development of young players is fairly minimal or negligible - and that's coming from someone who LOVES cornets and owns far too many of them.
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2019 9:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great exchange of ideas and beliefs!

I am intending to involve myself in my grandsons’ trumpeting efforts only to the point where my involvement is welcome, helpful, and consistent with the instruction and direction they are receiving. Mainly I am delighted that the boys are interested in experimenting with music! One of you made the point about fitting in with other trumpet playing youngsters, which I recognize can be a big deal.

One of these grandsons is already receiving private instruction close by the Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C. where he lives. I had equipped him with an old somewhat beat up Holton C602 cornet that still plays perfectly and sounds great, and has a lot of family history associated with it. The other grandson is participating in a traditional public school program here in the midwest. Both grandsons could benefit quite a bit from practicing the patience and persistence trumpet playing requires.
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2019 11:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Crazy Finn wrote:


comebackcornet wrote:
For Elementary school? Take your pick of these explanations:

A) Band Director ignorance
B) Band Director incompetence

IMO


C) Neither.

Speaking as someone who taught beginner band for almost 20 years and still is involved with it - I wouldn't call it a non-issue, but it's a pretty minor one, in my opinion. There are bigger fish to fry and issues in music education and education as a whole - this is quite minor by any comparison.

Sure, cornet would fit smaller students better. Sure, there are a lot of directors who don't know much about cornets. But, I would say the impact that a lack of cornets has on the development of young players is fairly minimal or negligible - and that's coming from someone who LOVES cornets and owns far too many of them.


Let me clarify - I did not mean to say that everyone should start on a cornet (although I don't think that is a bad idea either). My point was that I can't think of any reason why it would not be acceptable at that level. (What level is does become "necessary to play a trumpet" is another subject entirely). I would be interested to hear opposing views.
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2019 12:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

if he shows up with a cornet all will be fine
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 19, 2019 6:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

comebackcornet wrote:
For Elementary school? Take your pick of these explanations:

A) Band Director ignorance
B) Band Director incompetence

IMO


MO (my opinion): I think that’s a tad harsh, and more than a tad incorrect. I also started on cornet in 1964, I still think starting especially very little kids on cornet makes sense, but I don’t believe the current lack of the presence of cornets in school band programs is due to failings by band directors, generally speaking. As others mentioned, music stores stock and sell what’s popular, and at least today trumpets are simply more popular than cornets. Why? There are probably many reasons, but I don’t think band director ignorance is one of them.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 19, 2019 7:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

JayKosta wrote:

My opinion is that in the USA, the cornet is a 'specialty instrument' and not mainline band or orchestra.
Jay


When I was in high school (graduated 1999) much of the wind ensemble music we played had split trumpet and cornet parts...I'd say about 75% of it. We never got the nuanced sound differences between the parts because we did it all on trumpet.

All of that literature, and much more, still exists.

Cornet vs trumpet is analogous to, say, a euphonium vs baritone. Different sounds, parts are written differently so it's a shame that someone would consider cornet a "specialty" instrument.
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 20, 2019 3:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree that if he shows up with a cornet all will be fine, and IMO it is a better instrument for young beginners.

I wish we still suggest beginners start on cornet then move to trumpet as they look for that intermediate or professional upgrade.
But I think the change in thinking from that era (I started playing in 70) is a combination of economics, availability, design modifications, and uninformed educators.

-Imagine a band director telling his beginning parents that the should get a cornet to start with then as the student transitions to a higher level greade and instrument they will want to get a trumpet. Without a rental program or trade-in policy that supports this parents, in general, will go the cheapest easiest route.

-Music stores, not the most lucrative business, realize that stocking both is a huge inventory issue.

-Trumpets have become more cornet like in design since the 30's, 40's, 50's.. after WWII better quality materials became more readily available. Then I think with economic growth, companies like Yamaha began selling inexpensive good sounding trumpets

-what percentage of music teachers really know this difference, the ones whose primary instrument is trumpet should, maybe some of the other brass players do, then I doubt any of the teachers whose primary is woodwind, vocal or percussion have any idea. So, they go with what the music stores suggest, or what the norm has been locally.
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