CornettoEs: Corneta muda, corneta renacentista, corneta
negra, corneta curva , Fr: Cornet à bouquin, It: Cornetto,
Cornetto curvo, De: Zink, Krumme Zink, Lituus, Ca:
Cornetto, Corneta, Cs: Cink, Da: Zink, Zinke, Sink, Eo:
Klariono, Korneto, Fi: Sinkki, Fr: Cornet à bouquin, Hu:
Cink, Nl: Zink, Cornetto, Pt: Corneta de madeira, Sv:
Lysarden and Cornetti
The word ‘cornet’, literally ‘little horn’, suggests an animal-horn
ancestry for the instrument.
The most versatile Renaissance wind instrument was the cornett or zink.
Between 1500 and 1650 the zink was used indoors and out, in serious music,
dance music, town bands, rural households, at church, and court. Its
uniqueness is due to its hybrid construction: a very small acorn cup
mouthpiece (played on the side of the mouth where the lips are thinner) is
attached to a hollowed out piece of curved wood or ivory. Six finger holes
and a thumb hole are drilled in the body of the zink and it is fingered in
much the same manner as a recorder. A competent performer can make the zink
sound as loud as a trumpet or softly enough to blend with recorders. No
other instrument came so close to the sound of the human voice.
Very little breath is used in playing the zink. Mersenne mentions a
French court musician, M. Sourin of Avignon, who could play one hundred
measures in one breath!!
The cornetto, also known as a zink, is a lip-vibrated instrument made by
adding finger holes and a thumbhole to a signal horn. Its small cup-shaped
mouthpiece is like that of a trumpet, but it is usually played on the side
of the mouth, where the lips are narrower. Cornetti have a narrow bore, with
a straight or curved body shape. They were made in several sizes, with the
cornetto in A being the principal size.
It is not to be confused with the trumpet-like cornet.
The cornetto was a difficult instrument to master, but skilled players
could excel in virtuosity and compete with the violin. Cornetti were widely
used in polyphonic music of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (see
Odhecaton), to accompany choral singing in churches, to play the soprano
part in trombone ensembles, and for both secular and religious music.
This cornetto has an octagonal body, slightly curved, and narrower at the
top, where it is carved with a pattern of diamond facets. A gilt and
engraved ferrule encircles the top of the body.
The cornettino is the descant instrument of the cornetto family.
The tenor cornett was also known as the lyzard, lizarden, lysarden
or lyzarden, on account of the "S" shape of the instrument. The instrument
was also known as the cornetto tenore, cornetto grosso, cornetto storto or
cornone, in Italian, and Corno, Tenor-Zink or Groß Tenor-Zink in German.
Tenor cornetts seem to have come in two varieties - small bore and large
bore. The smaller bored instruments seem to have been "scaled up" cornetts,
true alto or tenor cornetts. However, a number of instruments with a larger
bore have survived and these instruments seem to have had a sound somewhat
reminiscent of the serpent.
The mute cornett was an important variant of the treble cornett.
Unlike the regular curved cornett, cornettino and tenor cornett, the mute
cornett is made from a single piece of wood, bored out and given finger
holes. The mouthpiece is integral with the instrument and forms a smooth cup
shape at the top of the instrument. The cross section of the mouthpiece
shows that is closer in structure to the mouthpiece of a French horn, this
fixture eliminates the slight "brassiness" of the regular cornett and
imparts the characteristic timbre associated with this instrument. Mute
cornetts were not covered in leather, like the other forms of cornett.
There are three basic types of treble cornett: curved, straight
and mute. The curved (Ger. krummer Zink, schwarzer Zink; It. cornetto curvo,
cornetto alto (i.e. high), cornetto nero) is the most common type.
The serpent is a bass wind instrument, descended from the cornett,
and a distant ancestor of the tuba, with a mouthpiece like a brass
instrument but side holes like a woodwind. It is usually a long cone bent
into a snakelike shape, hence the name. The serpent is closely related to
the cornett, although it is not part of the cornett family, due to the
absence of a thumb hole.
Forerunner of the brass family, the cornett was a conical bored
instrument carved from two halves of wood which were then glued and bound
The cornetto curvo or krumme zink has a bore made from a curved piece of
wood which has been cut in half, hollowed out, and glued back together. The
outside is then planed to an octagonal shape and a leather covering is glued
around it to seal any weak portion of the wood against the wind pressure
built up inside.
Tipically, the cornetti are leather covered.
It remained the most versatile wind instrument from the 15th to the 17th
centuries and it was and still is capable of an amazingly beautiful trumpet
This instrument is not to be confused with the modern brass "cornet"
which is a small trumpet. The history of the earlier cornett stretches right
back to the 10th Century, when it is first mentioned in English writings. It
was very popular in Elizabethan times, with references to it in some of
Shakespeare's stage directions. The cornett is a wooden instrument with a
distinctive slightly curved shape. Unusually, it is made in two separate
halves which are then glued together and covered with leather.
It has a mouthpiece similar to a modern brass instrument and is played in
the same way, though some precision is required to sound the notes
accurately. It was considered in the 17th century to be the only instrument
to have the same expressive qualities as the human voice, and Bach used it
in some of his cantatas. The unusually shaped 16th Century "serpent" was a
larger version of the cornett which remained in use in orchestras right up
to the 1930s.