flugelhorn vs cornet


The world of brass instruments is vast and diverse, with each instrument offering its own unique qualities and characteristics. Two such instruments that often get compared are the flugelhorn and the cornet. In this article, we will explore the differences and similarities between these two popular brass instruments.


The flugelhorn is a brass instrument that belongs to the trumpet family. It is known for its mellow and warm sound, often described as rich and velvety. The flugelhorn features a conical bore, which means that the tubing gradually widens from the mouthpiece to the bell. This conical shape contributes to its unique sound quality.

Flugelhorns are typically pitched in B♭, and they are slightly larger and heavier than trumpets. They usually have three piston valves, although some models may have four. The flugelhorn is commonly used in jazz, brass bands, and orchestral settings, where its distinct sound adds depth and color to the ensemble.


The cornet is another brass instrument that is often compared to the flugelhorn. It is also a member of the trumpet family and shares many similarities with the trumpet. However, the cornet has a more compact and cylindrical shape compared to the flugelhorn.

Like the flugelhorn, the cornet is pitched in B♭ and features three piston valves. It produces a bright and focused sound, often described as having a more piercing quality than the flugelhorn. The cornet is commonly used in brass bands, concert bands, and orchestras, where its agile and expressive nature shines through.


While the flugelhorn and cornet have similarities, there are notable differences between the two instruments. One significant difference lies in their sound characteristics. The flugelhorn produces a mellower and warmer tone, whereas the cornet has a brighter and more focused sound.

Another difference is in their physical design. The flugelhorn has a conical bore, which results in a wider and more gradual tapering of the tubing. On the other hand, the cornet has a cylindrical bore, giving it a more compact and focused sound projection.

Additionally, the flugelhorn is larger and heavier than the cornet, making it slightly more challenging to handle. The cornet, with its compact size, is often considered more agile and easier to play in certain musical contexts.


Despite their differences, the flugelhorn and cornet share several similarities. Both instruments are members of the trumpet family, and they are both pitched in B♭. They also have a similar valve configuration, typically featuring three piston valves.

Furthermore, both the flugelhorn and cornet are versatile instruments that find their place in various musical genres. They are often used in jazz, brass bands, concert bands, and orchestras, showcasing their flexibility and adaptability.


Playing Techniques

When it comes to playing techniques, both the flugelhorn and cornet share many similarities with the trumpet. Players of these instruments utilize similar embouchure and fingerings. However, due to their different designs and sound characteristics, there are some distinctions in playing techniques.

The flugelhorn’s larger size and conical bore allow for a more relaxed and open playing style. Its mellow sound lends itself well to lyrical and expressive playing, making it a popular choice for jazz ballads and melodic solos. The flugelhorn’s wider bore also allows for a smoother airflow, resulting in a more legato and connected sound.

On the other hand, the cornet’s compact size and cylindrical bore contribute to a more focused and agile playing style. It is known for its ability to navigate technical passages with ease and produce a bright, crisp sound. The cornet’s smaller size also makes it more suitable for playing in smaller ensembles or in situations that require more agility and projection.

Usage in Different Musical Genres

Both the flugelhorn and cornet have found their place in various musical genres, showcasing their versatility and adaptability. Here’s a look at how these instruments are commonly used in different contexts:


– Jazz: The flugelhorn is often associated with jazz music, particularly in the realm of smooth jazz and ballads. Its warm and mellow sound adds depth and emotion to jazz ensembles.
– Brass Bands: In brass bands, the flugelhorn is an integral part of the ensemble, providing a distinct timbre that blends well with other brass instruments.
– Orchestras: While not as commonly used as the trumpet, the flugelhorn occasionally finds its place in orchestral settings, adding a unique color to certain pieces.


– Brass Bands: The cornet is a staple instrument in brass bands, playing a crucial role in both melody and harmony. Its bright and focused sound cuts through the ensemble, providing clarity and precision.
– Concert Bands: In concert band settings, the cornet often takes on solo and featured roles, showcasing its ability to deliver expressive and virtuosic performances.
– Orchestras: While less common than the trumpet, the cornet is occasionally used in orchestral compositions, particularly in British orchestras and certain repertoire where its distinctive sound is desired.

Choosing Between Flugelhorn and Cornet

Deciding between the flugelhorn and cornet ultimately depends on personal preference, musical style, and the specific demands of the repertoire or ensemble you’ll be playing with. If you’re drawn to a mellower and more lyrical sound, the flugelhorn may be the right choice. On the other hand, if you prefer a brighter and more agile sound, the cornet may be a better fit.

It’s worth noting that many brass players often own and play multiple instruments, including both the flugelhorn and cornet, to have a broader range of tonal options. Experimenting with different instruments can enhance your musical versatility and allow you to explore a wider range of musical styles.


The flugelhorn and cornet are both remarkable brass instruments with their own unique qualities and characteristics. While the flugelhorn offers a warm and mellow sound ideal for jazz and expressive playing, the cornet delivers a bright and focused tone suitable for technical passages and ensemble playing.

Notable Players and Influences

Throughout history, numerous talented musicians have showcased the beauty and versatility of both the flugelhorn and cornet. Here are a few notable players who have made a significant impact on these instruments:


– Art Farmer: Renowned for his lyrical and melodic playing, Art Farmer is often considered one of the greatest flugelhorn players in jazz history. His warm sound and expressive style have influenced generations of musicians.
– Chuck Mangione: A popular figure in the smooth jazz genre, Chuck Mangione is known for his soulful flugelhorn playing. His hit song “Feels So Good” helped popularize the instrument and brought it into the mainstream.
– Dmitri Matheny: An accomplished jazz flugelhornist, Dmitri Matheny has been praised for his beautiful tone and thoughtful improvisations. He has released numerous albums showcasing the expressive capabilities of the instrument.


– Herbert L. Clarke: Regarded as one of the greatest cornet players of all time, Herbert L. Clarke was a virtuoso performer and composer. His technical prowess and musicality set the standard for cornet playing in the early 20th century.
– James Shepherd: Known for his work in the brass band tradition, James Shepherd was a legendary cornet player and conductor. He played a crucial role in popularizing the cornet as a solo instrument within the brass band genre.
– Philip McCann: A prominent British cornet player, Philip McCann has been recognized for his exceptional musicianship and technical brilliance. He has performed as a soloist with major orchestras and has won numerous awards for his contributions to cornet playing.


The flugelhorn and cornet are two distinct brass instruments that have captivated musicians and audiences alike. While the flugelhorn offers a warm and mellow sound ideal for jazz and expressive playing, the cornet delivers a bright and focused tone suitable for technical passages and ensemble playing.

The choice between the flugelhorn and cornet ultimately depends on personal preference, musical style, and the specific demands of the repertoire or ensemble. Both instruments have a rich history and have been played by influential musicians who have left a lasting impact on their respective genres.

Maintenance and Care

Proper maintenance and care are essential for keeping your flugelhorn or cornet in optimal condition. Here are some tips to help you take care of your instrument:

1. Cleaning: Regularly clean your instrument to remove dirt, grime, and moisture. Use a cleaning snake or brush to clean the tubing, valves, and slides. Remember to remove the valves carefully and clean them separately. Wipe the instrument with a soft cloth to keep it shiny and free from fingerprints.

2. Valve Maintenance: Keep the valves well-lubricated for smooth and efficient operation. Use valve oil specifically designed for brass instruments and apply a few drops to each valve as needed. Avoid using excessive oil, as it can cause valve sluggishness.

3. Slide Maintenance: Grease the slides with slide grease to ensure they move smoothly. Be cautious not to use too much grease, as it can cause the slides to become sticky. If the slides become stuck, do not force them; instead, take your instrument to a professional repair technician.

4. Storage: Store your instrument in a proper case when not in use. A hard-shell case with padding provides the best protection against damage. Avoid exposing your instrument to extreme temperatures and humidity, as it can affect its performance and durability.

5. Regular Check-ups: Schedule regular check-ups with a qualified repair technician to ensure your instrument is in good condition. They can inspect for any potential issues, perform necessary repairs or adjustments, and provide guidance on proper maintenance.

6. Mouthpiece Care: Clean your mouthpiece regularly with warm water and mild soap. Use a mouthpiece brush to remove any debris or buildup. Rinse thoroughly and allow it to air dry before storing.

Remember, proper maintenance and care not only extend the lifespan of your instrument but also contribute to its optimal performance and sound quality.


The flugelhorn and cornet are remarkable brass instruments that have their own unique characteristics and qualities. Whether you choose the mellow and warm sound of the flugelhorn or the bright and focused tone of the cornet, both instruments offer a wide range of musical possibilities.

Understanding the differences and similarities between these instruments, as well as their applications in various musical genres, allows you to make an informed decision based on your personal preferences and musical aspirations.

Remember to take good care of your instrument by regularly cleaning, lubricating, and storing it properly. Regular maintenance check-ups with a qualified technician will help keep your instrument in optimal playing condition.


In the debate of flugelhorn vs cornet, it ultimately comes down to personal preference and the musical context in which the instrument will be used. The flugelhorn offers a mellow and velvety sound, while the cornet delivers a brighter and more focused tone. Both instruments have their own unique qualities and contribute to the rich tapestry of brass music. Whichever you choose, exploring the world of brass instruments is a rewarding journey filled with beautiful sounds and endless possibilities.

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