Getting my new cornetto has reinvigorated my practice routine, which was dormant for the last year or so. I've always been attracted to new things: a new trumpet, a new piece to play, a new group to play in, etc. So it has been great to have a very new thing to spark my performing interest again.
The frustrating thing is, I'm starting back at almost square one with this thing. While the chops, air, and tonguing are all analogous to the trumpet, the fingering and even the holding of the instrument are incredibly foreign. No valves to slam down, so I have to retrain my fingers to be more efficient and accurate in finding the holes. Six fingers and a thumb to use, as opposed to three fingers (and two slides). I was worried that my left hand would be the anchor holding me back, but it is the right hand that is causing me the most trouble. As the left hand has to be able to completely release the instrument to uncover the three fingers and thumb hole, the right hand has to take all the weight. But the right hand also has to be able to wiggle the first three fingers freely, so the weight is taken by the thumb, pinky, and the knuckle of the index finger. And the holes of the right hand are spread rather far apart, so the hand position is somewhat awkward. I find that my pinky gets incredibly tense, and I have difficulty keeping my ring finger in position.
Thus, I'm working on very basic scales and melodic patterns. And it isn't just my hands that need to relearn, but my brain as well. I think in trumpet fingerings, to the extent that I will subconsciously finger melodies that I'm only vaguely thinking about. I can play very fast passages in any key, and don't bother with basic scales and patterns anymore unless I'm working on a new sound. I just hope I get to the fun music before the novelty of the cornetto wears off.
One novel thing about the cornetto – something it shares with other 17th century instruments – is the interesting changes in timbre with different notes. Our 21st century ears are used to a basic consistency in timbre within an instrument, across dynamics, pitches, and registers. But Renaissance and Baroque performance practice did not emphasize this consistency. They used tuning schemes that make tonal key areas sound very different. The fortepiano sounds drastically different in the different registers, unlike the modern pianoforte. The natural horn has a very different sound with stopped notes, a requirement to play any interesting melodic passages. The cornetto has a change of timbre whenever cross fingerings are required. I'm not used to these changes, and it has made me think about the whole aesthetics of timbre from a different perspective.