Exercises With Bugle Chops

by Steven J. Miller
The bugle has a long military history for alerting soldiers.

The bugle has a long military history for alerting soldiers.

Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images

The bugle is not capable of playing chromatic pitches since it does not have a mechanism, such as valves, for creating individual pitches. To play bugle successfully, you must have strong bugle chops, which requires a complete command of tonguing, slurring and the ability to play in the extreme high range of the instrument. To do this, you must practice several bugle exercises on a daily basis to improve your technique and ability to play at a high level. Chops refer not just to your physical strength, but your ability to play quick and technical music.


One of the first exercises to attempt is playing arpeggios. Bugle music requires significant jumping around and playing of musical scales. To learn to play these well, start on the lowest note possible on your bugle and increase the tension in your lips, along with an increased level of airflow, until you can play the next pitch in the series. The bugle makes its sound through the degree of vibration in the lips and airflow. As you tighten your lips and muscles that create the embouchure, you can increase the highness and lowness of the pitch.


Playing octaves is the next step; octaves require more effort than arpeggios. When playing them, keep your stomach firm and use the diaphragm to push air out of the instrument. Begin on a B-flat concert and then jump up an octave by pushing extra air through the instrument and tightening your lips. The tighter your lips become, the more air is required to push through the folds of your lips. With practice, you will be able to play octaves with ease. Avoid using the tongue to play octaves, as the tongue makes it easier to change pitch. Aim for a clean and flawless octave change.


Tonguing technique requires excellent bugle chops. Begin by mimicking the sound "tu" without actually saying the word. Notice that the tip of the tongue hits the place where the roof of your mouth hits your top teeth. The tip of the tongue is required for creating a clean and clear articulation. Practice with a metronome playing quarter notes at 72 beats per minute to learn to articulate properly. Gradually increase the speed two beats per minute for a maximum of 10 beats per minute per day. Each day, start two beats per minute faster than your previous day. For instance, on Monday, you can start with 72 beats per minute, Tuesday start with 74 and so on through the week.

High Range

The high range can be developed by starting on a high B-flat above the staff. Play this note for four beats and then increase the tension in your lips and airflow to play the next highest pitch for four beats. Descend back to the original pitch, take a brief 30-second break and attempt to extend your range one step higher. Continue doing this until you can no longer play any higher. Make sure to take a 15-minute break if you plan to play additional music after this exercise.


  • "Teach Yourself to Play the Bugle"; George Rabbai; 2000

About the Author

Steven Miller graduated with a master's degree in 2010. He writes for several companies including Lowe's and IBM. He also works with local schools to create community gardens and learn environmentally responsible gardening. An avid gardener for 15 years, his experience includes organic gardening, ornamental plants and do-it-yourself home projects.

Photo Credits

  • Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images