Bugler's Holiday (Anderson) was apparently written for a trumpet trio (according to various internet-accessible sites that seem to know).

My question is: Can it be performed by a bugle trio? (I know really nothing about bugles ... or trumpets ... except that bugles are said to be more "limited" (according to various internet-accessible sites that seem to know). For example: no valves, right? So maybe this piece can't actually be played on a bugle, or at least one of the three parts can't be ...?)

Searches of the web and youtube in particular for "Bugler's Holiday" -trumpet turned up ... lots of hits for trumpet (I thought the - syntax was supposed to fix that) and nothing performed by bugles or discussing it being performed by bugles. AFAICT.

(No tag here for [bugle]?) (Question doesn't seem to fit "Music Fans" stack according to their topic list.)

  • 4
    Maybe the title refers to the bugle player(s) getting the day off since it’s not playable on bugle. Oct 9, 2022 at 1:09
  • The very fact that the title contains 'holiday' is a good clue!!!
    – Tim
    Oct 9, 2022 at 7:19
  • 5
    @ToddWilcox - "I've often thought, what would 3 buglers do on their day off? They would probably kick up their heels and just have a good time all to themselves, so in the next piece, "Bugler's Holiday", you'll hear some bugle calls that may sound familiar, but you'll also probably realize that they are not played regulation and they wouldn't get away with it on the post."" ~ Leroy Anderson; pbs.org/sleighride/Biography/Evening_at_Pops.htm
    – Valorum
    Oct 9, 2022 at 7:59
  • 2
    Since there are three of them, shouldn't it be Buglers' Holiday?
    – Tim
    Oct 9, 2022 at 8:31

2 Answers 2


"Bugler's Holiday" was indeed composed for three trumpet soloists, and it cannot be performed on bugle.

The reason for this is that bugles can only play notes within the overtone series of the fundamental pitch the instrument was designed around. The valves on the trumpet are the mechanism by which the instrument can play the notes in between those in the overtone series.

Put another way: trumpets can play scales, while bugles cannot.

"Bugler's Holiday" requires those "in between" notes, so is not playable by the bugle.

As the overtone series progresses, the pitches themselves get closer and closer together. In theory, a bugle, played high enough, could achieve the pitches necessary for "Bugler's Holiday"; however, it would be impractical if not impossible to play that high up in the bugle's range.

  • This answer also goes part way to explaining "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" too, I'm sure. (I'll ask on a separate question why it needs not only trumpets but also the Andrews Sisters in order to sound right.)
    – davidbak
    Oct 9, 2022 at 21:50
  • This answer is correct on the condition, that a bugle has no valves. While this may be true for the ancestor of the family, wikipedia states: Since the mid 19th century, bugles have been made with piston valves. Anderson being born 1908 surely falls into the valved-bugle era. This instrument are frequently known as flugelhorn today.
    – guidot
    Oct 10, 2022 at 8:58
  • @guidot I can't tell if you're saying the answer needs to be updated, or if you're just added a bit of interesting history.
    – Aaron
    Oct 10, 2022 at 14:50
  • @Aaron: I consider it as addition to your answer; if you don't agree with it I have no pain, if it stays as a comment. I have to admit, that instrument families (just to mention cornets and saxhorns) became quite blurry since, and the question is x a predecessor of y? may not be answerable definitely.
    – guidot
    Oct 10, 2022 at 21:16

As Aaron states, bugles cannot play scales, only the harmonic series notes. That's why there are not a huge amount of bugle calls used, in comparison to trumpet tunes. I'd go further and say not only scales on a trumpet, but the notes in between, too. In other words, all chromatic notes available in the trumpet's range. (Plus notes in between those from a good trumpeter!)

I daresay an excellent bugler could play a whole scale further up the harmonic sequence, but that's not so easy, and some of those notes start to sound out of tune anyway.

So, for trumpet, any key, basically. Compared with just one key available from a bugle. Bugles are far less complex than trumpets due to this feature, having 7 or 8 notes only to play with, the 1st 3 some distance apart.

The clue's in the title - holiday. While trumpets are sweating it out playing the piece, the bugles are taking a holiday! Simple!

Or, as occurred to me in the middle of the night (!) buglers who also play trumpet: suddenly being able to play lots more notes, more freedom, more like the other instruments, bit like being on holiday!

  • The quote from the composer shows that this is the music that the buglers would themselves play, if they were on holiday
    – Valorum
    Oct 9, 2022 at 21:19
  • Two good answers, but Aaron's got there first with an explanation even I can understand - you only get the fundamental note and its overtones on the bugle - which reminded me of distant memories of physics classes discussing pipes and waves and such ... so I understood. Thank you!
    – davidbak
    Oct 9, 2022 at 21:49
  • @Valorum - Those buglers better borrow trumpets in order to play that music, then. (Granted, them being buglers on holiday, they'll probably go ham on the trumpets.)
    – Dekkadeci
    Oct 10, 2022 at 7:10
  • 1
    @Dekkadeci - I believe the implication is that they're also taking a holiday from being buglers
    – Valorum
    Oct 10, 2022 at 7:37
  • @Valorum - my thoughts also. Like a dog being let off the lead. Freedom to play whatever, without restrictions, maybe?
    – Tim
    Oct 10, 2022 at 7:39

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