The cornet is a brass instrument that is similar to the trumpet but has a more compact shape and a slightly mellower tone. Cornets, like other brass instruments, are used to perform a variety of musical styles, so there are many different types of cornet music. In brass bands, cornets frequently play the melodies and, in some cases, solos in songs performed brass ensembles. Jazz bands and fanfare orchestras or “pep bands” also use cornets, though not always to the same extent. Because cornets and trumpets are so similar, their roles in solo and ensemble performances are frequently, but not always, interchangeable.
Brass bands are where cornet music is most frequently heard. Cornets frequently provide the main melody as well as several important harmonies in such bands. Cornet music is appropriate for such occasions because of its clear, piercing sound and dynamic range. Brass bands use other instruments to add harmonies and rhythm. Some brass bands use trumpets instead of cornets for this purpose, but cornets are more common, especially in British brass bands, where trumpets are almost never used.
In concert bands, particularly in British concert bands, cornet music plays an important role. In concert bands and orchestras in the United States, trumpets have largely replaced cornets, but cornets are still widely used in other countries. Although cornet music in concert bands is more varied than in brass bands, it still plays an important role in many melodies and major harmonies. Because woodwind instruments are prominent in such bands, cornets are frequently used to provide harmony and rhythm for them. In concert arrangements, cornet solos are still quite common.
Many other musical styles include cornet music in their regular arrangements or heavily feature it. Jazz musicians, for example, frequently use cornets, and many well-known jazz musicians are known for their use of the instrument. The trumpet is used more frequently in modern jazz than the cornet because the trumpet has a clearer tone and more volume, but the cornet is still widely used in jazz. The cornet has also been adapted for use in some forms of modern music. Some forms of rock, particularly those with orchestral sections, and some forms of punk music that feature brass instruments such as the trombone, trumpet, and cornet, for example, feature cornet music.