Cornets Part 2 – Cornets in the Band

Cornets in the Band

            Look at any old band score and you will see how to traditionally write for B-flat Cornets.  They are the main melody section of the brass section (and more often than not, of the whole band).  I’m not going to go down that route for this section, as it has been thoroughly covered.  Since the cornets have become extinct in our bands, I am going to resurrect them, and christen them anew.  Think of the possibilities of adding a whole new brass section to our bands!

First, I will start with a simple four-person section.  Were I to only have four players, my first choice would be two B-flat Cornets, and one each of Alto and Baritone Horns.  We have a nice and well-balanced quartet, capable of most SATB arrangements.

Going to six players, I see two interesting ways of expanding.  We could have a group of two, two, and two.  That is two B-flat Cornets, two Alto Horns, and two Baritone Horns.  Or we could have one E-flat Cornet, three B-flat Cornets, one Alto Horn, and one Baritone Horn.

If we fully expand out to eight instruments, then we can combine the two groups of six players and come up with one E-flat Cornet, three B-flat Cornets, two Alto Horns, and two Baritone Horns.  This section looks almost identical to that of a British brass band (less one Alto Horn part).

Note, no doubling can take place except between the E-flat and B-flat Cornets.  Brass doubling, if we remember, takes place between pitch-classes and not between members of the same family.

As this is the technically most flexible family of brass, it is the one section that can keep up with woodwind flourishes and runs.  Here alone is a solid reason for their inclusion.  Unlike the other heave brass, they can blend more seamlessly into the woodwinds.

Their uniform warm sound is perfect for chorales and sustained harmonies.  I can just imagine a chorale from the Alto and Baritone Horns soaring above the rest of the band.

For examples, I look no further than traditional British brass bands.  Roughly 60% of a British brass band are cornets.  The rest of the band is 1 Flügelhorn, 2 Euphoniums, 2 Bass Tubas, 2 Contrabass Tubas, and 3 trombones.

This piece has some fantastic bandestration.  Look and listen for all the different muting possibilities.  This is the first time I’ve ever heard cup mutes for tubas of any size.

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