The bugle is an instrument originally made from animal horns, shaped like a coil, and now used as a brass instrument commonly used in the military.
The Bugle (with valves and/or keys) is an English instrument designed in the 19th century by Joseph Halliday when he patented it as the “Royal Kent Bugle”1.
Pronounced “Byoo.-gl”, from the Latin meaning “castrated bull” and called bugle in Spanish, clairon in french, and cornetim in Portuguese. A person that plays it’s called a bugler.
What’s the difference?
You may hear about it with other names like horn or post horn but they are not the same.
The difference with a horn is that horns are usually made of animal bones but modern bugles are made of brass.
The Brass family meaning it makes sound from a vibration on the metal when you blow air.
The types are determined by pitch:
- Soprano Bugle: Between C4 and C6.
- Alto Bugle: Between F3 to F5
- Baritone Bugle: Between A2 to A4.
- Contrabass Bugle: Between C2 to C4.
Remember bugles are by default keyless, versions with keys and valves exist, making them more similar to a trumpet and extending the range, so the list or ranges may not be true for those variants.
Another more advanced way to look for them is based on their history, here are some examples2:
- British Duty Bugle: Bb.
- Civil War Clairon: Bb / C.
- M1892 Bugle: G.
- M1894 Bugle: Bb.
The best for you
For a beginner we suggest a modern keyless brass Bb bugle since it is the most common and accessible version, you can do all military calls with them if that’s what you’re looking for.
For kids a civil war era keyless brass bugle in any pitch will do, because the size is smaller and is right for smaller hands, also for them is a plastic trumpet, not only do they cost less and are lighter, but they also have a bigger range of notes and once they master them, they can easily go for a regular bugle or a brass trumpet, flugelhorn or cornet.
Although there are no famous players the military uses models called regulation bugles or regiment bugles so if you want to be 100% sure you don’t have any excuse with one of those.
Lastly, for the disabled we need to mention that the bugle can be played with just one hand, it doesn’t matter if you use the right or left hand and you can buy plastic bugles to decrease the weight as well.
Don’t worry about brands and don’t worry too much about models and series. What matters is the store you buy them from, just be careful with old models especially in antique stores, because the correct sound may be lost with time and it increases the chances that the instrument or the mouthpiece is damaged or broken.
Now that you know, you can check on Ebay here.
Getting it another way
So far we have talked only about the physical instruments, but there are more options than that.
You can get an app for android or ios called virtual trumpet 2, if you want to play for free, right now, but of course, it’s no bugle and it doesn’t have all variants, but it will get you started.
If you are on a computer you can try “ecarddesignanimation trumpet online” on any browser, the website is old and the instrument is not that responsible, but it’s also free and it has preloaded songs that you can autoplay and then try to play yourself with your computer keyboard.
|Variant||Lowest price||Highest price|
|Brass||$25 USD||$110 USD|
|Plastic||$35 USD||$45 USD|
|Bb||$35 USD||$60 USD|
|G or F||$80 USD||$110 USD|
|Civil War Era||$40 USD||$60 USD|
For example, the cheapest brass we found was handmade with no specification on the pitch and the most expensive was a Regiment brass in G. G and F or even C bugles are rare and cost double compared to the Bb. Plastic starts at around the same price as brass so the savings in money is not that big.
|Brass / Plastic / Any pitch||6 x 5 x 5 In (15 x 13 x 13 Cm)||15 x 10 x 5 In (38 x 33 x 33 Cm)|
|Civil War Era||12 x 6 x 4.5 In (30 x 15 x 11 Cm)||13 x 6 x 5 In (33 x 15 x 12 Cm)|
|Brass||10 Oz (280 g)||2.5 Lbs (1.1 Kg)|
|Civil War Era Brass||14 Oz (400 g)||1.25 Lbs (560g)|
|Plastic||8.5 Oz (240g)||1.25 Lbs (560g)|
Brass (copper with zinc) and it might have a lacquer (layer) of gold, silver, or steel with some additional painted color on top of it, there are also plastic versions. Material has no effect on sound but it does in price and durability.
How to play – first lesson
The Bugle is easy and fast to learn. Once you have your instrument, you should start learning the notes, to learn the notes you need just a little of music theory, but once you have it, you can learn to play all the calls listed in the common questions section.
We recommend learning to read sheet music or any of the different notations, (options for learning). Don’t forget all the details that combined make a big difference like the way you hold it, efficient warmups.
Common questions & trivia
What is a bugle boy?
Bugle Boy Inc was a clothing company known for denim jeans during the 80s.
What is bugle remembrance day?
On November 11 people pay respects to members of the army from World War 1 with a moment of silence and songs like the Last Post call that is played before the silence.
What is a bugle call?
A song played on the bugle that announces events on the military, here’s a list of calls and when they are used
- First Call – Courtesy signal before reveille
- Reveille – Wake up and get up
- Assembly – Assemble at this place
- Mess Call – Mealtime
- Sick Call – Need of medical attention
- Drill Call – Prepare for a drill (exercise)
- First Sergeant’s Call – The first sergeant is going to form the company
- Officer’s Call – Assemble officer at this place
- Recall – End of drills
- Mail Call – Assemble to distribute mail
- Guard Mounting – The guard is assembled for guard mount
- Adjutant’s Call – Ford the guard or brigade
- Retreat – Play at the end of the day
- To the Color – Honor to the nation
- Tattoo – Switch of the lights
- Call to quarters – Return usually for the night
- Taps – Funerals
Here you can listen to the songs and see the partitures
What is the boogie-woogie bugle boy?
Is a song from The Andrews Sisters about a bugler from Chicago that plays better than anyone else.
What is a drum and bugle corps?
Is a marching band that uses brass instruments, percussion, and synthesizers. The size of a marching unit is about +150 people.
“Bring the good old bugle, boys! We’ll sing another song. Sing it with a spirit that will start the world along. Sing it as we used to sing it, fifty thousand strong, While we were marching through Georgia.”– Henry Clay Work