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Is Trumpet Or Cornet Harder To Learn? (Explained)

The Trumpet and the cornet have more similarities than differences.

However, many players share varying opinions when asked which of the two is harder to learn. Some claim it’s the Cornet, while others say it’s the Trumpet.

In this article, we have an in-depth look at the two brass instruments to find out exactly which among them is harder to learn:

Differences Between Trumpet and Cornet:

Regular trumpets are better used when playing at a higher register due to their bore shape, so playing at a higher register is challenging and requires more skill. Cornets are lighter and smaller with valves closer to the mouthpiece and require less complicated registers or musical pieces.

Differences Between the Cornet and the Trumpet:


The trumpet is generally longer than the cornet.

In terms of measurements, a trumpet’s length usually is about 19inches, but on the other hand, a cornets length may range between 13 and 15 inches.

Why does the cornet have a varying range when it comes to sizes, you ask?

Well, it’s because a cornets length is directly affected by its bell size. Cornets with longer bells are larger in comparison to those with shepherd bell sizes.


If there is an overbearing difference between the cornet and the trumpet, it’s in the sound that they each produce.

The trumpet has a more direct, energetic, and sharper sound, while on the other hand, the cornet produces a warmer, rounder, and softer sound.

The Shape of the Bore:

A cornet’s bore is conical in shape, and thus as it goes down the tubing, it increases in size.

However, the trumpet’s bore is cylindrical. Meaning that apart from the bell flare part, it will have the same diameter throughout the instrument.

It is these differences in bore shapes that invariably affect the sounds produced by the two instruments.

Similarities Between the Cornet and the Trumpet:

The trumpet and the cornet share more similarities than they make differences.

To begin with, for you to play the cornet, you will need to follow the same procedure as that of the trumpet. In addition, both the regular trumpet and the cornet have three valves.

Which work similarly, and the two instruments also have the same fingerings when playing similar notes.

Remember earlier in the article; we stated that the answer to which of the two instruments is easier to learn was their similarities and differences?


As earlier outlined, a cornet is smaller in size compared to the ordinary trumpet.

This, in turn, means that the valve case is closer to the mouthpiece than on the regular trumpet. Due to this feature, when playing the cornet, your hands will be closer to your body compared to when playing the trumpet.

Hence, the cornet will feel lighter than the trumpet when playing. This is highly important, as many new learners aren’t used to holding instruments, especially during long practice sessions.

When learning to play brass instruments, experts recommend starting with notes that are low and slow.

Which are better played on the cornet, as many professional players have stated. Most of the top-rated trumpet players, such as Maynard Ferguson and Richard marshal, first begun training on a cornet.

Nevertheless, regular trumpets are better used when playing at a higher register due to their bore shape, so playing at a higher register is challenging and requires more skill.

Therefore, we can conclude that the cornet is easier to play for beginners, while the regular trumpet is better suited for players with some experience.

Which of the Two Instruments is More Popular?

A 2009 study was done by Heathen Marlow, a professor at Cambridge University and Lead Piccolo of the Genovese Symphony orchestra.

Heathen’s research compared how often the cornet and the trumpet are played in various musical settings.

The results of her study were as outlined below:

  • In Traditional brass bands, trumpet 0% cornet 100%
  • In wind Ensembles trumpet 70% cornet 30%%
  • In Solos, such as funerals and weddings trumpet 80% cornet 20%
  • In brass chamber music, trumpet 85% cornet 15%
  • In top-rated bands, trumpet 90% cornet 10%
  • In Jazz groups, trumpet 80% cornet 20%

From the results above, the trumpet is primarily used in many musical settings more than the cornet.

Steve Boneng did a similar study in 2012, though he based his comparison on local school bands in his area.

He noted that out of the thirty school bands he visited, the trumpet appeared twenty-six times compared to a paltry four times that the cornet appeared.

The cornet commands a sizeable following, though it is nowhere compared to that of the regular trumpet.

How Long Does it Take to Learn Each Instrument?

There is no clear answer to how long it would take to learn either the cornet or the trumpet.

Numerous factors affect how long it would take one to learn an instrument:

Age of the Player:

When you start practicing to play either the cornet or the trumpet, from about the age of five to twelve, you are more likely to reach pro status by the time you are fifteen.

The long hours of practice will build up as the years go by, enabling you to gain more mastery of the instrument.

Also, younger players have a quicker learning rate as their brains are still developing. Hence if they practice consistently, it tends to stick with them.

One advantage that an older person between the ages of thirty-five to fifty may have over a young one is the concentration span.

Since children are easily distracted, they may take longer to learn if proper guidance is not provided.

Number of Hours Practiced:

Malcolm Gladwell popularized the 10,000-hour rule.

He stated that for you to become perfect at anything, be it sports, cooking, or playing an instrument, and you need to accumulate 10,000 hours of practice.

Some people hold reservations about this rule, while others have embraced it.

Whether or not Malcolm’s rule is valid isn’t a factor. Nevertheless, he was right that practice is required to become an expert or near expert level at anything.

Practice Makes Permanent:

So how many hours should you practice playing the cornet or the Trumpet?

That would depend on what level of skill you want to attain.

Practicing for an hour a week will see you get nowhere. The reason being the brain tends to forget new information quickly.

Thus scientists advise shorter but more frequent sessions, which will allow your brain breaks to absorb the new information.

Practicing three hours a week will make you a decent player. Putting up ten hours a week will see you become a good player, but still not near the pro level.

To reach the professional level, where you stand out from the rest of the crowd, will require no less than fourteen hours a week of practice.

Please note that the above-stated figures are estimates, and they don’t consider factors such as quick learners and people who may have lots of trouble learning to play an instrument.

Outlined below are the number of hours professional Cornet and trumpet players practice a day.

The information should encourage you to practice more often while also showing you how much work is needed to master an instrument.

  • Rafael Mendez – 45 hours a week
  • Doc Severinsen – 35hours a week
  • Maurice Andre – 40 hours a week

Help from a Trainer:

Almost every top athlete has a personal trainer; the same holds for professional brass instrument players.

A trainer offers direction and guidance that is vital when learning to play an instrument. Studies have shown that people who practice while under a tutor’s instruction tend to learn faster.

For they practice more often, as the trainer will push them.

This is not to say that you can’t learn to play an instrument on your own.

You can, as long as you are determined and committed.

Player’s Motivation Level:

One of the essential components one needs when learning to play an instrument.

Highly motivated individuals will practice more and are more determined and committed to the process. They aren’t easily distracted and are more likely to follow instructions.

Whether you choose to play the trumpet or the cornet, the time you will take to learn either will be influenced more by you than by the brass instrument.

What About the Price Differences?

On average, a beginner level trumpet costs between $300 and $1,000, intermediate level trumpets range between $1300 and $2,300.Professional level trumpets cost upwards of $2,500

Meanwhile, a beginner cornet ranges between $50 and $250, intermediate level cornets range from$350, and $1,000 professional-level cornets range from $1,200, going upwards.

Experts advise against buying overly cheap instruments as they are of low quality, making them harder to play.

Also, as a beginner, buying the most expensive trumpet or cornet isn’t advisable. Starting with the averagely priced ones then growing from there is the best way.

5 Tips to Help you Choose Between Trumpet and Cornet:

1. Your Preference:

What instrument do you fancy most? Is it the cornet or the trumpet?

Picking the one that most excites you is preferable, for you will be more willing to put in the work and time needed to learn.

2. The Type of Music you Want to Play:

Are you more of a jazz fan?

Well, then the trumpet is what you need.

If you aim to play in military bands or traditional brass bands, the suitable choice will be the cornet.

3. Why Are You Playing?

Most people often pick up an instrument, with their sights set on joining a particular band.

It may be a school band, church band, or neighborhood band.

Take some time to consider whether that band plays the trumpet or the cornet. That would offer you a basis for your decision.

4. Your Age:

As earlier stated, the cornet is easier to hold and easier to learn. Making it a better choice for younger players.

The trumpet may be somewhat challenging, which may diminish a younger player’s passion and enthusiasm.

5. Renting:

If you are still undecided, you can always rent an instrument to see if you like it.

Which is renting an instrument, an option provided by many of the shops selling musical instruments. Some will allow you to rent an instrument for a month, more than enough time for you to make up your mind.

Considering all the above-stated points will surely empower you to choose an instrument that will make you want to practice every day.