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by Scooter Pirtle (email)



When one thinks of the evolution of the bugle used by drum and bugle corps, a timeline beginning in the early twentieth century might come to mind. While the American competitive drum corps activity technically began with the American Legion following the First World War (1914-1918), many innovations had already occurred that would guide the evolution of the bugle to the present day and beyond.


Presented to the right is a series of narratives highlighting important events in the evolution of the bugle. As these articles are read, a recurring theme may be noticed. During the nineteenth century there are several occurrences of bugle ensembles applying radical design and voicing configurations that resemble, on a smaller scale the methodical evolution of the competition drum and bugle corps in North America. As the present-day drum corps activity continues to ponder how it will adapt itself to the future, it may prove beneficial to review the manner by which similar ensembles addressed their futures over a century ago.




A very brief history of the trumpet and bugle through the 18th Century

Ancient rituals

Early application of the trumpet
The trumpet's use in the Bible
Military music from the Middle Ages through the 18th Century
The trumpet and the buglehorn




Evolution of the military bugle in the 19th Century

Trumpet and buglehorn's use in the American Revolutionary War (1775-83)

The War of 1812

American fife, drum and bugle corps

Keys versus valves

The Royal Artillery Bugle Band

Pelitti and the Bersaglieri horn

Bugle's use in the American Civil War (1861-65)

The demise of the fife in the Army and Marine Corps

The Queen's Own Bugles

Trumpet and drum corps

Bugles for every need

Standardization of the "G" bugle





Evolution of the American competition bugle 1900 through 1967

Boy Scouts of America

American Legion

"Two pitch" music in the United States

Introduction of the "G-D" piston valve

Introduction of the baritone and French horn bugles

Slip-slide techniques and the re-introduction of the rotor

Introduction of the contrabass, mellophone, and euphonium bugles





Evolution of the American competition bugle 1968 through Present 

Legalization of the "G-F" piston valve

The two piston and three piston bugle

Drum corps' impact on the marching brasswinds

Drum corps' evolving mid-voice

Interchangeable instrumentation





North American bugle manufacturers/distributors active in the 20th Century





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