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Cornet lesson

Learn about the cornet from an expert musician with the U.S. Marine Band. Includes a warm-up for flexibility, and also a daily routine with exercises for articulation, high and low registers, long-tones and more.

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Video transcript

("New England Triptych When Jesus Wept" by William Schuman) - The role of the solo cornet is really the lead voice of the brass section. We have our, may as well call it, the master in a band. We have a principle clarinet who sort of functions as the leader of the woodwinds and the principle cornet and solo cornetist functions as the lead voice in the brass sections so essentially that's my role. ("Masquerade" by Vincent Persichetti) A cornet is similar to a trumpet but it's slightly different in design. A trumpet is cylindrical throughout the piping and it flares at the bell. A cornet is conical in design verses cylindrical and it gets gradually larger and larger as it goes through the instrument. It gives it a little more mellow sound, it blends better with the woodwinds. ("New England Triptych Be Glad Then, America") Playing a solo in front of the band is one of the most satisfying and terrifying at the same time experiences. It's stressful but it's always incredibly satisfying when it's all said and done. ("First Suite in E-Flat for Military Band" by Gustav Holst) In the whole Suite my favorite solo is in the second movement. It's something I'll warm up on some days 'cause it's the kinda tune that'll get in your head. You'll just be humming it all day long, it's very beautiful. For me, getting warmed up is just a matter of getting a little bit of flexibility in my lips. So the things I'll do, right off the bat, is just sort of start off in the middle register of the horn and maybe do some slurs, just to kind of get some vibrations happening in the instrument. (bright cornet music) And I'll often start in that middle register, and sort of stay in there for a few minutes and then go down into the lower register of the instrument and then sort of, work my way up. I don't do a long warm up where it takes me half an hour, it takes me usually two minutes to get where I'm feeling where I can start my daily routine, which is very different than a warm up. Maybe some people think of them in the same way but for me they're different things. Warming up is just getting where I can produce sound from the instrument. Now my routine would be the next thing that I would talk about. There are certain building blocks that you wanna work on: sound, articulation, flexibility, agility on the horn. So each day after I get a little bit warmed up I'll do some articulation studies usually. (bright cornet music) I'm just looking for a nice pop on the note where it's responding quickly and has a little bit of life to it. ("Symphony in B-Flat for Concert Band" by Paul Hindemith) Improving my high register, one of the big things that I do, and I'm not exactly sure why it works, I've talked to other teachers and professionals about it and they all kind of agree that the better my low register is the easier my high register is. And I think it's something about just the ease of how I'm getting up into the upper register. So each day I do touch the low register a little bit before I start getting up high. And I'll even work into the pedal register which is below the actual instrument. It's not the prettiest sound but it is something that's helpful for me. (somber cornet music) Again, not the prettiest sound and I would never do in a performance. (somber cornet music) But when I have those notes vibrating and being able to kind of force the sound down there, when I go up the high register. (bright cornet music) it feels good and easy. And I'm sort of trying to keep that same air flow that I was using in the low and just apply it to the high. I'm not really changing too much, I'm not pushing or tightening up. That's one thing I think most young players struggle with and I did for years, and I do still from time to time, is tension in the body and as much as you can be at ease doing what you're doing, even though it's not easy and the natural thing when you're going high and you get nervous, is to tighten up everything but it just sort of closes everything down so it makes it harder to actually achieve what you're going for. So as much as you can stay loose and down, I think about having my shoulders relaxed and my body sort of settled. (bright cornet music) I'm doing my best through all those registers to kinda have it be the same. That's something I've found has been very helpful for me is just keeping the low even with the high and it makes the high seem a little less daunting if you're thinking low while you're playing high. ("New England Triptych When Jesus Wept" by William Schuman) One of the things I've found working with students is a lot of them, even in a collegiate settings, good schools, have an underdeveloped sound. They can play difficult concertos and excerpts and things and that's all well and good but it doesn't sound good. So you're hitting all the right notes but the sound is not pleasing. So, for me, one of the most basic things I do still is just play a note. (light cornet music) And I'll manipulate the note in different ways to try and get it to be the most beautiful note. At least how I hear a beautiful note. (light cornet music) Just there, right at the end I felt like it was starting to ring a little bit and have a little bit more body. It's a matter of finding that sort of sweet spot in the sound. 'Cause you can play the same note with the same fingering and have it sound wildly different. (bright cornet music) So there's a pretty big target for each note to where you hit it, so the better you can get at centering that target right off the bat, the more success you're gonna have in creating just a pleasing sound. ("Symphony in B-Flat for Concert Band" by Paul Hindemith) And one other thing that's really gonna help create a pleasing sound, or help and assisting a student have a good sound, is listening to good trumpet players. That's another thing I see neglected a lot, unfortunately. And it's sort of baffling in this day of YouTube and iTunes and it's all at our fingertips, the music. But people don't listen to great trumpet players. If you wanna be a good orchestral trumpet player, listen to Dave Bilger, listen to Chris Martin, listen to Phil Smith. If you wanna be a great jazz player listen to Clifford Brown, listen to Louis Armstrong. You have to get those sounds in your head. If you can't do that, if you don't know what you're trying to sound like, you're not going to be able to produce that sound. I think that's a real pivotal thing for students to do. ("New England Triptych Chester" by William Schuman)