About the cornetto

The cornetto is a renaissance and baroque wind instrument. This instrument is usually built of wood but it belongs to the brass family because it is played using a mouthpiece similar to the trumpet (but smaller).

The cornetto started to develop in the late medieval period following the tradition of the musical animal horns with holes, which are still in use in many folk traditions. The main member of the cornetto family, the soprano cornetto, became a standard instrument by the 16th century, built of two pieces of wood glued together and covered with leather, with 6 holes in the front and one thumb hole in the back. Its curved shape served to remind the animal horns from which it developed but it also provides a more comfortable way to hold the instrument to most players.The range of the cornetto is very similar to the soprano voice and the violin and during its golden age it was famous both for being the best instrument in imitating the human voice and being able to play the most virtuosic ornaments and diminutions. Nevertheless, these virtues came at a price. The cornetto was famous for being difficult to play already in the renaissance time.

During the baroque period a combination of factors including the change in musical taste, the development of new instruments, a plague which decimated the musicians’ population and its difficulty to be played lead to the decay of the cornetto, which by the 19th century was either a museum object or an old-fashioned rarity.

The cornetto came back to life together with the rediscovery of early music in the 20th century. 3D-printing technology is now allowing the cornetto to have a second renaissance, to reach more players and to develop into new instruments for the 21st century.

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