The Bugle Call

Mary Galime

The bugle is a very simple brass instrument. It has no valves or other mechanisms, the only way the player has to control the pitch is changing the shape of his lips. This means that only notes from the harmonic series can be played. (ref. Kiddle)

Though today's armies, militaries, navies, air forces, etc. use a variety of cutting edge technologies,  what did they all do when computers and satelites were not around? Bugles were the communication technology and time keepers of the armed forces! Have you spoken bugle before? Here's your first lesson.



Where do you see bugles?

The bugle is used mainly in the military where the bugle call is used to make announcements. A long time ago, the bugle was used in the cavalry to pass instructions from officers to soldiers during battle. In the Bible, 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.

In the drum and bugle corps the bugle has changed from its military origins, and now has 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.

Civilian drum corps were made using instruments sold off by the military in the early 1900s, and the last official change made to the military bugle (before it stopped being used because of the invention of the radio) was to make them all use the key of G. Bugles in other parts of the world used to be in B flat or E flat.

The bugle is also used in the Boy Scouts. They use some of the same calls as the military, but not all. (ref. Kiddle)

Did you know you can find music for all the bugle calls by visiting the US Army website? Click here to check out all the calls and their music. Pick one and perform it!