What Key Is a Bugle & How Do I Do It on a Trumpet?

by Allison Horky
Bugles were initially made without keys but today are found in two- and three-keyed models.

Bugles were initially made without keys but today are found in two- and three-keyed models.

Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

Bugles were used by the military to communicate before radios rendered them obsolete. The common bugle is in the key of G, while trumpets are typically made in the keys of B-flat or C; the key of the instrument depends on the length of the tubing. Matching the key of your trumpet to the key of G for a bugle produces a similar scale and range of notes.

Identifying your Trumpet

To play your trumpet in the same key as a bugle, you must first know the key of your trumpet. There are two major types of trumpets: B-flat and C; trumpets in other keys used for special purposes are far less common. The B-flat version is the most popular trumpet; it produces a warm sound and is recommended for beginners, as the longer tube makes it easier to produce pitches that are in tune. The C trumpet, which is slightly smaller and produces a brighter sound, is more often seen in the hands of advanced players, for example in college bands and orchestras.

Transposition

In order to play in the key of G, you must transpose the notes of your trumpet, moving them up or down in the appropriate interval to match the key of the bugle. Transposing a scale or entire piece of music ensures that the the same notes are natural, flat or sharp in relation to the starting pitch. For example, if you want to play a B-flat trumpet as scale in the key of B-flat, you have to transpose (move) the notes to the key of the trumpet. For a trumpet in a concert key of C, the scale is B-flat, C, D, E-flat, F, G, A, and B-flat. The notes for the same scale on a B-flat trumpet would be C, D, E, F, G, A, B and C.

Bugles in the Key of G

The G bugle was mainly used in the military; many Drum and Bugle Corps as well as the Boy Scouts still use G bugles. To play like a bugle in the key of G, you must play your trumpet in the key of G. To play a B-flat trumpet as a G bugle, you must transpose each note down a minor third; to play a C trumpet in as a G bugle, you must transpose the music down a perfect fourth.

Transposition to G Major

Your trumpet must be transposed to the key of G to match the pitch and notes of a bugle in the key of G; this ensures the notes sound the same when played on the bugle and on the trumpet. For example, when a bugle in G plays a C major scale, it sounds as if it were playing a G major scale in concert pitch -- the pitch of a C trumpet. Therefore, playing a G major scale on a C trumpet sounds the same as playing a C major scale on a G bugle. Similarly, playing a B-flat major scale on a B-flat trumpet produces the same notes; that is, a concert C major scale.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images