Relearning to play the cornet after a 30 year break.


Towards the end of 2016 I visited Beamish, the open air museum (well worth a visit). In the Hetton silver band hall in the pit village a brass band had brought several sample instruments which you could have a go on. I was curious to see if I could get any sound out of the cornet they had brought. Although it had been thirty years since I last played I did manage to get a half decent tone out of the instrument.

I then tried to sit and read a piece of music that was available. I was surprised find that I could read it quite well and managed to perform a fairly respectable rendition of “Joy to the world”. One of the bad members said I should take it up again, as he’d had a gap of over 20 years before returning to playing.

Separated by 30 years

I spent a couple of months deciding if I should take it up again. It was important that I was honest with myself about dedicating several hours a week to practising and that the whole family was happy to endure my early practice sessions. I also wanted to set a couple of goals of what I wanted to achieve by the end of the year. The main goal was to join a band and be playing 1st cornet parts.

Week 00

Rather than going out and spending over £300 on a decent entry level cornet, I contacted a local brass band to see if they had any loan instruments. Luckily they did and in week one I joined the training band playing either 2nd or 3rd cornet parts depending on the difficulty of the music. After that first two hour practice session my lips were like rubber. It was clear I needed to concentrate on strengthening the lips and improving the tone/pitch by playing long notes.

I ordered “Tune a Day for Trumpet or Cornet: Book 1” which is used by beginners in schools and preceded to work through the exercises.

To be able to track my progress I needed to create a baseline recording so that I could compare results. Now bear in mind, this was recorded using my mobile phones mic (which isn’t great) and was recorded after just two hours practice.

It’s hideous I know!

In fact it’s that bad I had to add the piano accompaniment to hide all the sins. The timings not too bad, but I fluff the first note and the last note is way out of tune. You can hear the notes fluctuate as my air stream is not kept constant. But hey, it’s a starting point for improvement.

Week 02

So I’ve been working through the tune a day book and enjoying it. I’ve managed to practice most days for between ten and fifteen minutes. I figured it was better to be consistent than doing one long session at the weekend. I’ve also been practising a couple of pieces for the training band as the band is attending a music festival at the end of the month.

One of my friends has just got a boat, so I recorded “row row row your boat” for them. I can certainly hear an improvement in just two weeks.