Renaissance and Baroque musical instruments
by Grzegorz Tomaszewicz

Renaissance and Baroque Cornetto/Cornett and Cornettino

The fingering is very similar to the recorder and the blowing to the trumpet; very small mouthpieces were used, similar in size to the ones used in horns /French horns/.

One of the most beautiful wind instrument ever made (in my opinion), its sound encloses a human voice, an oboe and a trombone. Modern masters playing this instrument, for example William Dongois or Bruce Dickey, perform the most unbelievable, masterly pieces. Its biggest development was noticed in the 16th and 17th century, unfortunatelly due to a plague in Europe in the 17th century the biggest masters of this instrument died and it started to be forgotten. It was rarely used in later centuries for example by J.S. Bach and in the 19th century by Mendelsohnn-Bartholody.

It was produced in foursizes: soprano, alto, tenor, bass called serpent.

It was available in two versions: straight and curved. The curved type was most often covered with leather, in the exclusive version it was sometimes made entirely of ivory.

The GT cornets is made of sycamore, plum or pear wood.

Fingering Chart



Cornetto must be regularly lubricated olive for wind instruments, such as: almond oil, linseed oil, etc…


Cornetto in G

Cornetto for small hands

Cornetto in 3 parts

Baroque cornetto in G, copy after W. Thoma

Renaissance Cornetto in G (Berlin Musical Instrument Museum)

Cornettino muto in d, Cornettino in d

Mouthpieces to Cornettino

Cornetto Curvo g-d", sycamore wood, leather covered Accademia Filharmonica di Verona 16th century

A few words about using Cornetto

Cornetto must be regularly lubricated olive for wind instruments, such as: almond oil, linseed oil, etc. If your instrument will not be oiled, then after some time you may find it has an inferior sound, with more noise, lower notes are played with more difficult.

You must cornetto after intense play, naturally dry but away from stoves, radiators etc .. Avoid keeping it in extreme negative temperatures and positive temperatures.

The bony mouthpiece must also be cleaned (especially in the middle) also oiled

Like any wooden detective instrument, you have to play it very slowly. In the first week we play – 15 minutes, in the next – 20 minutes, etc.

In this instrument to play well, it is very important to choose a good mouthpiece for your mouth. Each of us is differently built, has a different teeth bite, mouth and therefore we have to find a “mouthpiece”. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a lot of time.

There is a lot of opinion that the cornetto is a difficult instrument to play due to the small mouthpiece and a big mouth effort. I will not agree with this opinion. Just as there are many schools playing the trumpet from very strong to light, the same is on cornetto. I rather use the method I once talked with W. Dongoise not to press the mouthpiece tightly to my mouth and allow them to vibrate freely. This topic is definitely not simple and requires some time to master it. Undoubtedly, strength playing, on a very tense mouth, causes them to get tired quickly, flat sound, trouble sometimes with intonation. I suggest that you start with a short warm-up of your lips for a few minutes. Put the instrument on for 10-15 minutes and start playing again. In the initial period, do not force lips, play with frequent breaks.

As most of old instruments, also in the case of cornetto we can use interchangeable grips for the same sound. To understand this, it is enough to know additional tricks eg on recorder, because in cornetto we can play very similarly Np sound: c # we can play in the first octave with two closed holes in the right hand but sometimes you also have to close half a third of the hole. Sound: g # in the first octave is sometimes difficult to intonate, to make it more stable we can close some holes in the right hand.

Sometimes musicians who play on a one-piece cornetto have a problem with closing the lowest holes in their right hands, especially when they have small hands. To solve this problem, it may be a cornetto order with shifted holes that will fit into the hand of the musician, cornetto curvo or cornetto 3-part, the lowest part can be turned so that it matches the right hand.

Good luck

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