Bugle (instrument)

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The bugle is one of the simplest brass instruments, having no valves or other pitch-altering devices. All pitch control is done by varying the player's embouchure, since the bugle has no other mechanism for controlling pitch. Consequently, the bugle is limited to notes within the harmonic series. See bugle call for scores to standard bugle calls, which all consist of only five notes.



The bugle developed from early musical or communication instruments made of animal horns,[1] with the word "bugle" itself coming from "buculus", Latin for bullock (castrated bull).[2] The earliest bugles were shaped in a coil – typically a double coil, but also a single or triple coil – similar to the modern French horn, and were used to communicate during hunts and as announcing instruments for coaches (somewhat akin to today's automobile horn). Predecessors and relatives of the developing bugle included the post horn, the Pless horn (sometimes called the "Prince Pless horn"), and the bugle horn.

The first verifiable formal use of a brass horn as a military signal device was the Halbmondblaser – literally, "half moon blower" – used in Hanover in 1758. It was U-shaped (hence its name) and comfortably carried by a shoulder strap attached at the mouthpiece and bell. It first spread to England in 1764 where it was gradually accepted widely in foot regiments. Cavalry did not normally use a proper bugle, but rather an early trumpet that might be mistaken for a bugle today, as it lacked keys or valves, but had a more gradual taper and a smaller bell, producing a sound more easily audible at close range but with less carrying power over distance.


The bugle is used mainly in the military where the bugle call is used to indicate the daily routines of camp. Historically the bugle was used in the cavalry to relay instructions from officers to soldiers during battle. Biblically, bugles are found in the time of Moses, when God commanded Moses to 'make two bugles of hammered silver' in Numbers 10:1-3. They were used to assemble the leaders and to give marching orders to the camps.

The bugle is also used to play Taps in military rites at funerals.

In the drum and bugle corps the bugle has evolved away from its military origins, growing valves. In American drum and bugle corps, G is considered the traditional key for bugles to be pitched in. However, current rules in both Drum Corps International and Drum Corps Associates define a bugle as a brass instrument in any key, with 0 to 4 valves, and bell front. Typically, drum corps brass is in G or B flat, with mellophones in B flat brass lines being in the key of F because of the ease of tuning for that particular horn.

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