G Trumpet a.k.a. The Soprano “Bugle”

I’d like to highlight yet another member of the trumpet family that so often goes over looked by composers and orchestrators.  Namely, the G Trumpet.  The reason it is often overlooked is that most people call it a “Soprano Bugle.”  However, the instrument has nothing at all to do with the bugle/tuba family and is a true trumpet due to its narrow cylindrical bore.

This instrument has only ever been used in Drum Corps International (DCI) Drum and Bugle Corps.  Thus, a bias is introduced to its usage.  Concert composers don’t want to touch marching instruments. In general, I hold to this adage as well (with the sole exception of the Mellophone).  The reason for this bias is that the majority of marching brass instruments are redundant.  They are simply reconfigurations of concert instruments into a shape conducive for playing while marching.  For example, there is no fundamental difference between a B-flat Tuba and a Sousaphone save for the shape.  Same goes for marching Baritones/Euphoniums.

With the G Trumpet, we have something a little different.  Being pitched in G, it is a minor third lower the the B-flat Trumpet and a perfect fourth lower than the C Trumpet.  This means we now have an instrument that can play slightly lower parts.  It can be used to cover some of the low trumpet parts of the 19th Century that are simply unplayable on the modern instruments.  This would be a perfect instrument for 3rd or 4th trumpet parts.

On other interesting aspect is the high range.  Because of the longer tubing, the high range will be naturally more “strained.”  What I mean, is that the uppermost notes (including many above the 8th partial considered the standard limit of normal trumpet playing) will have a more forced quality that is more akin to the older F Tromba.  This is a perfect sound for a marching field where volume is king.  In a concert hall it can be used for curious effects.

Why is it a trumpet and not a bugle?   A bugle has a largely conical bore.  The instruments produced nowadays do not possess this trait.  The modern instrument has a bore size of .470″, which is slightly larger than most trumpets whose bore size ranges about .460″.  This is the same size as a normal B-flat Cornet bore though.  The difference comes in that the G Trumpet accepts a trumpet mouthpiece and not a cornet one (which has a considerably smaller shank).  Thus, we can exclude the instrument from being a G Cornet.

In all other aspects, we can treat this instrument exactly as we would a B-flat or C Trumpet that is simply transposed down a fourth.

The only current manufacturer is Kanstul who produces a whole line of G “Bugles.”  None but the lowest of these instrument are true bugles though.

What adventurous composer will dare to use this beast in their work?

No concert hall examples exist.

6 thoughts on “G Trumpet a.k.a. The Soprano “Bugle”

  1. Matthew Banks

    Do you think you could expand this article (in different permutations per sub0species of brass) to the other G “Bugles” generally associated with Drum Corp? In particular the G Baritone and G contra-bass I believe could be interesting additions to an ensemble

    1. My initial answer is no. If I did anything, they would be in their respective families (the Baritone, Euphonium, and Contrabass Bugles are all tubas). However, unlike the range extension that the G “Bugle” provides to the trumpet family, these instruments do not provide any advantages in a concert setting. Their low concert C#, while seemingly lower, is actually fully in range of a normal 4-valved Euphonium or Contrabass Tuba. The bell-front design is the only difference, and in a concert hall, this wouldn’t be needed.

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  3. Geoffrey Whiting

    It should be noted that the Phantom Regiment soloist is playing a two valve soprano bugle since the three valve instruments were not approved for DCI use until 1990. Those instruments had incomplete chromatics below middle C.

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