As manufacturers of trumpets and cornets, we’re often asked the obvious question: what’s the difference?
While the two brass instruments might look incredibly similar on the surface, there are actually a whole host of subtle differences relating to shape, sound, difficulty, and even cost. In this article, we’ll talk you through some of the main factors that set the trumpet apart from the cornet - and hopefully help you choose which instrument is right for you!
Before we dive into what sets the two instruments apart, we should probably quickly go over what they have in common. Given that the cornet and the trumpet come from the same family of instruments, there are of course some identical features.
Firstly, both are traditionally made from brass (or in our case, sturdy ABS plastic). Both instruments also have three valves, and sound is made by putting the mouthpiece to your lips and buzzing. Both instruments also usually play the same pitch, Bb.
What’s The Difference Between Trumpet And Cornet?
The first thing you’ll notice when looking out for differences between the trumpet and the cornet will probably be that the cornet appears a fair bit smaller - it almost looks like the trumpet’s little brother! Take a look at the pTrumpet next to the pCornet below to see what we mean.
But look closer, and there are quite a few differences in their respective designs. The traditional cornet has four 180-degree curves in its tubing. The trumpet has two. The cornet also has a conical-shaped bore which increases in size down the length of the tubing, whereas the trumpet bore is cylindrical, which brings us on to our next point…
Do Cornets Sound Better Than Trumpets?
The cornet’s conical bore actually makes a massive difference to the kind of sound it produces when compared to the trumpet. The trumpet makes a brighter, piercing sound, while the cornet makes a warmer and more open sound.
As for which is “better”? Well, that’s completely up to you! Some may prefer the warmer sounds of the cornet and the way it can drum up memories of the Coronation Street theme tune. Others will much prefer the more direct sound of the trumpet, and its ability to immediately take the spotlight in any ensemble. Click here and you can hear the difference for yourself.
Is Cornet Easier To Learn Than Trumpet?
Yes, actually. A lot of brass players will have started their lessons on a cornet rather than a trumpet as it’s much easier to hold and get to grips with at a young age. And because the two instruments are the same pitch and operate under the same basic principles, children can absolutely make the move to trumpet if/when they feel like it. Alternatively, they can stick with the cornet and still make plenty of beautiful music!
The pCornet is specially designed for smaller players. It’s shorter, so it can be held more easily, and is made from plastic means it’s less than half the weight of a traditional brass cornet. Because of this, little arms won’t get tired so fast, and children can enjoy playing for longer periods of time.
The pTrumpet was also designed in the same way, with a focus on younger players. Its lightweight design aids your child’s ability to develop good technique and posture much more quickly, allowing them to progress faster overall.
Are Cornets Cheaper Than Trumpets?
Typically, yes: cornets are cheaper than trumpets. The average price of a brass cornet can range from around £165 for a student-level instrument to £2,700 for a professional model. By comparison, trumpets tend to range between £300 to £5,000.
As you’d expect, plastic instruments are much cheaper. The pCornet is a great starter option at £99, while you can get a pTrumpet for £129. Of course, before you buy, you may want to consider reading up on the advantages and disadvantages of plastic instruments.
Style Of Music
Because each instrument makes a different sound, you’ll find them used for very different styles of music. Trumpets will often show up in orchestral or jazz ensembles, and will usually feature in the horn section of pop and rock bands. Cornets are traditionally more at home in brass bands. While you should consider which styles of music you like and what you might want to play before committing to an instrument, it’s worth repeating again that the skills you learn on either trumpet or cornet can be transferred to the other!
After seven years writing about video games, Ewan made the jump to the music instrument industry to stop his family asking when he was going to get a real job. Mostly, though, he adores music and is passionate about its vital role throughout life - especially in education. He also played guitar in several bands with deeply embarrassing names that won't be revealed here.
With a degree in journalism from an NCTJ accredited university under his belt, Ewan uses everything he learned as a writer over the last decade to help answer any questions you might have about Warwick Music Group in an accessible (and hopefully entertaining) way. Because if you can write 1,000 words on SSDs and ray-tracing, you can explain why plastic instruments are accessible, sustainable, and fun.