The bugle is the simplest among brass instruments because it has no valves, slides, or other pitch-modifying devices. It is a wind instrument and controlling of the pitch is up to the player’s varying embouchure. Adjusting the mouth’s position and controlling how much wind goes through the bugle produces the tones.

It is the foundation for various other wind instruments and is groundwork for learning mouth control for playing instruments other than the bugle. Unfortunately, it can only play notes in the harmonic series.

Modern bugles are made of copper or brass and are nearly exclusive to the military. These are pitched in B flat just like the trumpet. The difference is that bugles have a wider conical bore and makes a large sound fit for the outdoors.

Introduction to the military

It was first used as a military signaling agent on the 1750’s. The Hanoverian light infantry or Jäger battalions utilized a half-circle copper horn with a flaring bore which was used by the leader called the Flügelmeiste. The bugle was then called the halbmondblaster, literally half moon blower.

The English light infantry also adopted this and they used the German flugelhorn which too the name of bugle horn. This is based on the Old French bugle which was derived from the Latin word buculus meaning bullock or castrated bull. It was pitches in D or C but could have been lowered to be using a curved crook.


The bugle first made its appearance in the medieval period. It was primarily constructed from a horn of a young bull and was played for military functions or for hunting. It is also considered as a predecessor of the contemporary flugelhorn. Some ancestors of the bugle are the Pless horn or Prince Pless horn, the bugle horn, and the post horn.

Originally, bugles had a coil-shape alike with the French horn and were for communication in hunts and for announcements. Based on its use, it is considered to be like the horn of modern automobiles.

Based on recorded history, bugles were used by officers in the cavalry to instruct soldiers when in battle. It was also mentioned in the bible when Moses was commanded by God to “make two bugles of hammered silver”.

As stated, the very first proven use of the bugle as a signaling device in the military was as the halbmondblaser in Hanover. Its shape was that of the letter U. Due to its shape, it was easily brought using a shoulder strap fastened to the bell and the mouthpiece.

In 1764, it spread to England and was increasingly acknowledged.

Bugles in the 19th century

Modifications on the standard bugle in the 19th century included valved bugles and keyed bugles. It was in England in the early 1800’s that the keyed bugles were invented with the copyright for the Royal Kent bugle by Joseph Halliday. It was very popular until the 1850’s and was played in compositions by a bandmaster of West Point’s the United States Military Academy Band, Richard Willis.

Uses of the bugle

Bugles are used for bugle calls which indicate the start of camp daily routines. These were also for assembling leaders and for announcing marching commands in camp.

The bugle developed further from its military foundation in the bugle and drum corps. Typically, it is pitched in G or B flat. There are usually mellophones placed in B flat brass lines which make tuning easy.

Boy Scout troops also use the bugle. Although not as many, Boy Scout calls are similar to many military calls.