A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Bugle

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BUGLE[1] (Eng. and Fr.; Germ. Flügelhorn, Ital. Tromba). A treble instrument of brass or copper, differing from the trumpet in having a shorter and more conical tube, with a less expanded bell. It is played with a cupped mouthpiece. In its original form the bugle is the signal horn for the infantry, as the trumpet is for the cavalry, and it is usually tuned in C, with an extra B♭ crook, or in E♭. Only five sounds are required for the various calls and signals. These are the intermediate open notes of the tube, from C below the treble stave to G above it. Eight sounds however can in all be obtained, by the addition of the B♭ and C above high G, and the octave of the lowest C, which though feeble and of poor tone is the real fundamental note. With these additions the entire compass is as follows:—

{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \clef bass \relative c { \cadenzaOn c2 \clef treble c' g' c e g bes c \bar "|" } }


Two methods have been adopted for bridging over the gaps between the open notes of this instrument, viz. keys and valves. The key-bugle, called also the 'Kent bugle' and 'Regent's bugle,' which was extremely popular some forty years ago, has been entirely superseded by the valve system. No doubt the latter, as in the cornet and euphonium, preserves the whole length of tube for the higher notes, and thus gains power and fulness; but it is a question whether the keyed instrument does not produce more accurate intonation and a tenderer quality of tone. This however is a matter to which English bandmasters seem perfectly indifferent, although the Flügelhorn and the key-bugle are still to be heard with effect in the superb bands of Austria.

In the ordinary bugle valves are often added as an attachment, of which the bugle itself becomes the bell.

[ W. H. S. ]

  1. Mr. Tennyson has immortalised it by his Song in The Princes.