A Bugle for you

The bugle is an instrument originally made from animal horns, shaped like a coil and now used as a brass instrument commonly used in the military.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.

Also named

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 difference with a post horn is the shape, post horns are circular like a french horn and bugles are oblong circles like a trumpet

So you can say bugles are just keyless trumpets or keyless cornets and keyed bugles are just trumpets and cornets with less range.


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 disable 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 specially on 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.  

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 auto play and then try to play yourself with your computer keyboard.

You can also replicate it using a synthesizer / midi keyboard and you can also get a plugin/vst for your music production software .

And don’t forget that you may have enough materials to make yourself one, here’s the tutorial.


VariantLowest priceHighest 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 pitch6 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 Era12 x 6 x 4.5 In (30 x 15 x 11 Cm)13 x 6 x 5 In (33 x 15 x 12 Cm)


Brass10 Oz (280 g)2.5 Lbs (1.1 Kg)
Civil War Era Brass14 Oz (400 g)1.25 Lbs (560g)
Plastic8.5 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 in 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.

Courses & Sheets

This section is in process. We are compiling music sheets of the best songs for this instrument and we are going to make a course too, stay tuned. If you want to help complete this section please email us at acroecommerce@gmail.com, thank you for your understanding. 

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 it’s 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

  1. First Call – Courtesy signal before reveille 
  2. Reveille – Wake up and get up 
  3. Assembly – Assemble at this place
  4. Mess Call – Meal time
  5. Sick Call – Need of medical attention
  6. Drill Call – Prepare for a drill (exercise)
  7. First Sergeant’s Call – The first sergeant is going to form the company
  8. Officer’s Call – Assemble officer at this place
  9. Recall – End of drills
  10. Mail Call – Assemble to distribute mail
  11. Guard Mounting – The guard is assembled for guard mount
  12. Adjutant’s Call – Ford the guard or brigade
  13. Retreat – Play at the end of the day
  14. To the Color – Honor to the nation
  15. Tattoo – Switch of the lights
  16. Call to quarters – Return usually for the night
  17. 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


  1. Wikipedia
  2. Taps Bugler
  3. Virtual Trumpet 2

Luis Gerardo

Musician as a hobby for +6 years, documenting every instrument in simple words for this website.

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