Saturday, August 6, 2011
What is the difference between a trumpet and a cornet?
I recently measured three cornets and a trumpet to see how much of them was conical and cylindrical bore. You can see the results here. The differences were marginal. The main difference is the shape of the bell flare and how it flares out rather than the proportions of cylindrical to conical bores. Long model cornets have bells more similar to trumpets. Some trumpets (e.g. the Wild Thing) have bells which are more similar to cornets.
Modern cornets and trumpets are very similar and not really separate instruments at all. The main thing which makes them sound different is the mouthpieces used. Cornet mouthpieces are usually conical like a french horn mouthpiece and trumpet mouthpieces are cup or bowl shaped, giving a brighter sound.
Update: Someone has drawn my attention to this article and its accompanying measurement chart which seems to support my assertion that the proportion of cylindrical to conical is not significantly different between trumpets and cornets.