The Long Model Cornet: Fish Nor Fowl?

Cornets commonly come in two types: the "shepherd's crook" and what I shall call the "standard" type. I have seen the "standard" type described as the "American Long", but I am not sure if that is a generally accepted name so to avoid confusion in the rest of this article I shall call it the "standard" type. However, Conn produced two other less common types of cornet. One I will call the "mini trumpet", and the other is the "Long model cornet".

Conn produced cornets of the shepherd's crook type through the 1910's, before Conn used model numbers. Shepherd's crook cornets can be recognized by the swoop of the bell curve. An example of this type is the Perfected Wonder. After the 1910's Conn stopped producing shepher's crook cornets. Midway the 1910's the "mini trumpet" type started coming out of the Conn factory, and in the 1920's it was the only type produced by Conn as far as I am aware. The classic example of the "mini trumpet" is of course the 80A New Wonder. The "mini trumpet" type instruments are basically shaped like a trumpet, only smaller and with the characteristic tuning device between the bell crook and the first valve. The "mini trumpet" type didn't disappear entirely for a long time: in 1963 the 2A Victor was introduced, and the 80A (later renamed "Victor") was around into the 1970's.

Starting in 1938 Conn introduced the 12A Coprion. This was the first time Conn used the (what I call) "standard" type. The "standard" type is perhaps the most common type of cornet among (U.S.) cornet manufacturers. The 12A certainly wasn't the last model of this type by Conn. Other examples are the 15A Director, and the 37A/38A Connstellation short model". The main outward difference between the shepherd's crook type and the "standard" type is the bell curve: on the standard model the bell comes out of the valves (either first of third) straight and doesn't first bend down before curving up. Another, perhaps more important, difference between the shepherd's crook type and the "standard" type is that in the shepherd's crook cornets a larger proportion of the tubing is in the bell, after the valves than is the case in the standard type. This makes that the tubing of the shepherd's crook type cornet is more conical than that of the standard type. The more conical the tubing is, the "mellower" or "more flugelhorn like" the sound will be.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the shepherd's crook and "standard" type cornets are cornets. Even with the "mini trumpet" type, which is configured similar to a trumpet and contains a larger portion of cylindrical tubing than either the shepherd's crook or standard types, there is little argument that it is a real cornet. However, starting in 1932 Conn started producing an entirely different type of cornet: the "Long Model", the first of which was the 40A Connqueror. This was a cornet that was virtually identical to its trumpet counterpart, the 40B Connqueror. The difference between the 40A and the 40B was the leadpipe and main tuning slide: the leadpipe on the 40A started narrower than on the 40B and only accepted a cornet mouthpiece. The main tuning slide expands through the curve of the slide, being narrower at the leadpipe end and wider at the valve end. The rest of the 40A, from the tuning slide through to the bell, is identical to the 40B (not counting details such as the third slide finger ring). Next came the 48A Connqueror Wide model which was produced from 1938 to 1951. In 1955 Conn resumed production of Long Model cornets with the introduction of the 6A Victor, 10A Victor and the 28A Connstellation long model. The 6A and 10A were both discontinued in 1963, the 28A lasted to around 1969.

In the 1950's Conn advertised the Long Model cornets as "the cornet that looks like a trumpet". Conn said that when played with a deep mouthpiece it sounds just like a cornet, with a shallower trumpet-like mouthpiece it sounds like a trumpet. The reason for this dual-use strategy might have been that at the time trumpets were very popular, and the cornet had fallen into disfavor. By creating a cornet that resembled a trumpet and could be used as either a trumpet or a cornet Conn perhaps hoped to stimulate sales of cornets? Although the 6A Victor and 10A Victor didn't last all that long (1955-1963, in two versions), the 28A Connstellation apparently enjoyed quite a bit more popularity since that model was produced from 1955 through 1969. Perhaps this can be attributed to the fact that the 28A was played by some better known players including Thad Jones. And of course the name "Connstellation" did and still does draw people to it.

One could argue there are a few "problems" with the Long Model cornet. One "problem" is that cornet players will say it is a trumpet that happens to take a cornet mouthpiece. Trumpet players on the other hand insist that it is a cornet, since it does require a cornet mouthpiece. Also, the sound the Long Model cornet produces is halfway between a trumpet and a cornet: it isn't as bright as a trumpet (although perhaps not that far off from a large bore trumpet played softly), but is brighter than other cornets (I don't know if this includes the 80A which I am told is on the bright side for a cornet). In these respects the Long Model cornet is neither fish nor fowl.

However I prefer to look at the Long Model cornet from the other side: since it isn't quite as bright as most trumpets it has a somewhat "more gentle" sound (which some of the "trumpet-sound averse" conductors might enjoy). At the same time it has much more carrying power than "normal" cornets. If you play a Long Model cornet in a group of trumpets, you won't be completely swamped by the trumpets (if you have ever played either a "standard" or "shepherd's crook" cornet in a group of trumpets you will probably know what I mean). If you are accustomed to playing either a 6B or 10B you will notice that the Long Model cornet versions don't weigh quite as much. So I prefer to call the Long Model cornet "the best of both worlds": it combines some of the finest aspects of both trumpets and cornets. And even if the Long Model is neither a cornet nor a trumpet but a mix of both (which would make it a "corpet" or a trumpnet"?), it is a really nice, versatile instrument to play and an interesting addition to the family of brass instruments. I must admit that not too long ago I came into possession of a 1959 6A Victor Long Model cornet and have fallen in love with it, so I am slightly prejudiced.