Guide to the Bugle

The bugle is a wind instrument that played a prominent part in several great wars of history. Its martial notes had been heard in the battles along with the buglers that have stood ready to sound the bugle calls. During the revolutionary times, this instrument sounded the Spirit of 76′. As well as that, several drummers and buglers marched together with the civilian colonists or the Minutemen.

In addition, buglers during the Civil War were seen wearing both blue and gray. The bugles they used can be seen in any large museums. Aside from that, Colonel Roosevelt’s Rough Riders were seen having buglers alongside them. These buglers were the ones who sounded the ‘Charge’ at the battle of San Juan Hill.

Although the modern bugles we have today are not so different than the ones they used before, the earlier bugles were inarguable easy to blow than the modern ones we have today. 

There are two types of bugles that are commonly used today, and both of them are exactly played the same. However, the only difference between the two is their keys in which they were tuned and their appearance. The player’s choice of instrument will be entirely based upon their personal preference, although it doesn’t really matter which one they choose in the process. The good thing is, if you acquire mastery of one, then you will be able to play the other one. Through understanding your bugle, knowing their parts and purposes, you’ll be able to grasp how this instrument is played.  

A photo of an American naval buglerThe Cavalry model Bugle in G has a noticeable slide at the back, just under its mouthpiece. The F slide at the back can change or lowered the entire notes to the key of F, one tone lower than its normal range. With that, buglers may be able to play it in two different keys, the G key and the F key, by pulling out the slide. The F slide is useful when the bugler is playing two-part selections. 

Meanwhile, the Army type bugle has a fixed pitch, unlike the Cavalry model. This type of bugle can only be played in the note in which it is specifically made. Also, it is more compact and shorter than the Cavalry model. It is also the type used by the U.S. and British Marine forces and Infantry. 

In playing the bugle, making tones is the first thing you need to know. These tones are produced through the vibration of lips on the mouthpiece. The bell and the brass tubing amplify the vibrations and bring them out in a much greater volume. Interestingly, the mouthpiece is detachable and could be helpful in practicing or training the lip. This is just as effective as performing on the complete instrument. 

To make a tone, the player must sit or stand in an upright position. Afterward, tighten the lips by stretching over the teeth and place the mouthpiece against the lips.  When the mouthpiece is already on the lips, the player must open the teeth slightly, with the tongue forward at the back of the lips. When this is done, the next thing to do is to take a moderately deep breath, with the mouthpiece still in position. This is to be done while pronouncing the word ‘tu.’ One must also note to use a fair amount of air and prolong the tone as long as possible.

In making the higher notes, the performer’s lips should be tightened, while it should be relaxed on the lower notes. It is also not necessary to use a lot of air and get red in the face just to play the bugle. Remember that the tone or sound is made through the vibration of the player’s lips against the mouthpiece, in addition to a little air.

Moreover, note that you are using muscles that probably never worked before, so if your lips get tired, give it a rest. Do not attempt to force the tone or puff out the cheeks. It is much better to produce sounds with light pressure and a steady flow of air on the mouthpiece. Consistent practice is the key to develop these techniques in order to enable you to produce any tone on the bugle.