Cornet French
Corneta Spanish
Cornett German

In its quintessential form, the Cornet is a wide-scaled compound stop without breaks, containing a third-sounding rank, often of short (treble) compass. Like so many other organ stops, it has its origins in attempts to imitate another instrument, in this case the Renaissance instrument known as cornet or zink, which was blown in the manner of a brass instrument, but made of wood, and furnished with finger-holes. Early organ-builders used both reed stops and compound flue stops in their attempts to imitate the instrument. The classical stop is not related to the modern orchestral instrument called cornet (see Orchestral Cornet), although the Cornet of the theatre organ is a 4' Tuba or Trumpet. Here we will deal only with the compound flue stop. For reed forms, see Zink.

There are alternate meanings for the word Corneta. The name Cornett, as a synonym for Cornet, appears only in passing in Audsley's entry for Echoflöte. It is otherwise described as a synonym for Zink.


The organ stop named Cornet seems to have first appeared in Germany in the early 1500's, though it is not clear whether it was a reed stop or a mixture. In this form it was known in the Netherlands from around 1560. It appears in France from the late 1500's; early examples may have been progressive. In the late 1500's, names such as Cornetz a Boucquin and Cornet d'Allemagne were common.

The Classical French Cornet

The most famous and most important Cornet stop occurred in the highly stylized classical French organ, which always contained at least one Cornet, and sometimes several. It was a solo stop, almost invariably composed of the following five ranks:

  1. Bourdon or Bourdon a Cheminée 8'
  2. Prestant 4'
  3. Nasard 2-2/3'
  4. Quarte de Nasard 2'
  5. Tierce 1-3/5'
The ranks were all of wide scale, and all open except for the 8'. It occasionally appeared with IV ranks (minus the 8') or III ranks (minus the 8' and 4'). It was invariably of short compass, usually from middle C upwards. Its tone was strong and penetrating. It was often mounted on its own windchest, above the rest of its division (see Mounted Cornet).

According to Dom Bedos, the scales of the ranks of the Cornet were wider than the individual stops of the same names. He describes its tone as “brilliant and vigorous”. He describes five different variations, according to the manual on which the stop appears:

Grand Orgue
Sometimes called Grand Cornet, this Cornet had a compass of two octaves, starting at middle C. It was intended to compensate for the weakness of the trebles of the Trompette and Clairon, and as such it was scaled wider in the treble and narrower at the bottom of its range.
This Cornet was similar in function, but of somewhat narrower scale than the Grand Cornet.
Sometimes called Cornet des Bombardes, this Cornet was similar to the Grand Cornet.
Sometimes called Cornet de Récit, this Cornet was a solo stop, and had a compass of 2 1/2 octaves, starting at tenor F or G. Bedos contrasts it to the Grand Cornet in that it is narrower in the treble, and wider in its lower range.
Sometimes called Cornet d'Écho, this Cornet was similar to the Cornet de Récit, though it might be slightly narrower in scale, and its compass might be as much as 3 octaves.

Williams provides the following scaling information. The scales are in millimeters at middle C.

OrganDivision 8' 4' 2-2/3'2'1-3/5'
Le Petit Andely, Ingout 1674Grand Orgue 45 35.5 27 22 21
Echo 43 28 26.5 22.5 21
St. Jean-de-Losne, Boillot 1768 Grand Orgue 41 43 34.5 31.5 28
Positif 43 30 31.2 17.5 17
Souvigny, Clicquot 1782 Grand Orgue 45 38 31.5 26 24
Récit 38 35 29.3 24 22.5
Marmoutier, Silbermann 1709-10 Grand Orgue 40 39 30 25 21
Récit 38 36 28 25 22
Ebersmünster, Silbermann 1728-32 Grand Orgue 45 40 31 25 21
Récit -- -- 28.5 23 20
Dresden Hofkirche, Silbermann 1754 Hauptwerk ? 37 29 23 21
Ochsenhausen, Gabler 1733 Hauptwerk 45 24 18 13 12
Weingarten, Gabler 1750 Unterwerk (Echo) -- 21.5 15.5 13 12
Rot-an-der-Rot, Holzhay 1792 Hauptwerk -- 32 23 20 16
Echo -- 32 23 18 15


The early English Cornet, like the French Cornet de Récit, was a large-scale solo mixture of IV or V ranks and short compass. Its tone was prominent but not loud, and was not used with the reeds. It was much in favor from the late 1600's through the early 1800's, after which it fell into disfavor along with the cornet voluntaries which were widely written for it.


The Spanish Corneta, according to Williams, was “usually of more ranks than V in the larger organs; gentler in tone than the French Cornet, being necessary neither for frequent solos nor for boosting the reed trebles”. Williams provides the following additional description:

Although sometimes called Tolosana because they came to Spain from Toulouse [France] in about 1620, Spanish Cornets have little in common with the French classical stop of that name. Cornets with III-V ranks of wide-scaled, highly leaded pipes pervaded France, England and parts of Germany by 1700; but the Spanish cornets were quite different, having up to 12 ranks of relatively narrow scale, sometimes conical pipes, often in a Swell-box, occasionally of full-compass, always with a Tierce, Sub-Tierce or Octave Tierce and sometimes with 19th and 22nd ranks also (Corneta Clara, ‘clear Cornet’). The tone was light, rather delicate, with very little of the French élan. Mouths were narrow - Octave ranks one quarter, Quints one-sixth, Tierces one-fifth. Though adequate solo stops, they could play chords; they also demonstrate the Spanish builders' reluctance to keep to one particular design.
The Spanish stop names often had qualifiers; e.g. Corneta Clara, Corneta Reale. Here are some examples of Spanish Corneta compositions:

III: 8, 12, 17 (Cadireta, Granada Cathedral; 1745)
III: 12, 15, 17 (Cadireta, Palacio Real, Madrid; 1778)
III: 22, 24, 26 (Manual II (left), Lisbon, Portugal; de Fora c 1770)
IV: 8, 12, 15, 17 (New Cathedral, Salamanca; 1700)
V: 8, 12, 15, 17, 19 (Cadireta, New Cathedral, Salamanca; 1744)
VI: 1, 8, 10, 12, 15 (Organo Grande, Granada Cathedral; 1745)
VI: 1, 8, 12, 17, 19, 22 (Choir Organ, Toledo; 1796-97)
VII: 1, 8, 12, 15, 17, 19, 22 (Organo Grande; New Cathedral, Salamanca; 1744)


During the Romantic period, much was forgotten about earlier styles of organ music and organ-building, including the construction and use of the Cornet. Critics of the period mistakenly believed that the classical Cornet was extremely loud. The name came to be used for mixtures of widely different types, often for large high-pitched mixtures of narrow scale, even string scale. Bonavia-Hunt goes so far as to call it obsolete.


With the neo-classic "revolution" of the 20th century attempting to return to earlier practices, mutations were given smaller scales, narrow mouths, or tapered pipes, resulting in an "oo" sound rather than the broad "aa" sound (as in "share"). The true Cornet is composed not of flutes, but of principals of large scale and dull tone, except for the 8' rank which is usually a stopped or chimney flute.


Cornet d'Allemagne
Cornet de Récit
Cornet des Bombardes
Cornet des Violes
Corneta Clara
Corneta Reale
Corneta Tolosana
Cornetz a Boucquin
Dolce Cornet
Dolce Grand Cornet
Dulciana Cornet
Echo Cornet
Gemshorn Cornet
Grand Cornet
Gross Cornet
Halber Cornet
Harmonic Cornet
Mounted Cornet
Petit Cornet
Solo Cornet
Stentor Cornet
Treizième Cornet
Ung Cornet
Viol Cornet
Zwercke Stärcke


Osiris contains about 600 examples of Cornet as a mixture, over a third of which have V ranks; about 120 examples of Cornett as a mixture, over a third of which have V ranks; and about 90 examples of Corneta as a mixture.

Cornet D [sic], Hoofdwerk; Vrouwkerk, Antwerpen, Belgium; Brebos 1565-67. This is the earliest known example of Cornet as a mixture.

Cornet D [sic], Hoofdwerk; St. Jacobskerk, Antwerpen, Belgium; Willem 1589.

Corneta IV (8, 12, 15, 17), manual; Evora Cathedral, unknown 1562.

Corneta V, Organo Mayor (right); Santa María, Montblanc, Barcelona, Spain; unknown c1700.

Cornett VI, Pedal; St. Michael, Vienna, Austria; Sieber 1714. This is the earliest known example of Cornett as a mixture.

Cornett III, Manual, small organ; Dom, Freiberg, Germany; Silbermann 1718-19.

Sound Clips

Cornet III (c1), Hauptwerk Reinhardtsgrimma, Sachsen, Germany Silbermann, 1731 arpeggio


Audsley[1]: Cornet. Audsley[2]: I.XIII Cornet. Bedos[1]: § 150, 152, 157, 179-180, 251, 953. Bonavia-Hunt[1]: Cornet. Douglass[1]: 82, 84, 86, 91-92, 97, 108, 110-111. Grove[1]: Cornet; Horn. Hopkins & Rimbault[1]: § 632-637, 1139. Irwin[1]: Cornet. Locher[1]: Cornet. Maclean[1]: Cornet. Skinner[1]: 25, 45, 48; XII Cornet. Strony[1]: Cornet. Sumner[1]: Cornet. Wedgwood[1]: Cornet. Williams[1]: Glossary: Cornet. PIPORG-L archives.
Copyright © 1999 Edward L. Stauff, all rights reserved.
Cornet.html - Last updated 4 December 2004.
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