According to our collective nightmares from the 2010 World Cup Wikipedia, the vuvuzela is a monotone instrument; it famously plays (roughly) the B♭ below middle C.

Why is the vuvuzela restricted to only this pitch, while non-valved bugles can play multiple pitches within the harmonic series?

My question is very similar to Physics behind why a bugle can play several notes, while a whistle only plays one note, but the answers there focus on the fact that a bugle player uses variations in their embouchure and air speed to create different pitches, and these variations are not possible on a whistle.

Yet a vuvuzela seems to have a mouthpiece much like a bugle, which would suggest the ability to have these embouchure and air speed variations and therefore the ability to create different pitches:

enter image description here

So there must be some other difference with the construction of the vuvuzela that prevents it from playing other pitches. What is this difference?

As a subsidiary question, brass players like to say that the instrument only amplifies what they do on their mouthpiece. So if we rigged a trumpet mouthpiece to attach to a vuvuzela, does that mean it could become a multi-pitch instrument?

(I know that this question might blur the line between physics and music. But since such gray-area questions are often allowed here, and since we've already allowed a similar question, I'm assuming this is safely on topic.)

  • It's entirely possible to attach a trumpet mouthpiece to one end of a hosepipe, a funnel to the other, and play it like a bugle.
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 8:51
  • 1
    I think the 'collective nightmare' had more to do with the quality of the English football team than the traditional horn played at the sports events.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 11:34
  • It isn't. I've hit at least 2 harmonics on this toy. Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 18:26

2 Answers 2


Apparently, it is possible to play some melodies on the Vuvuzela, although not in quite the same way as on a trumpet or horn (FAQ). The difference is probably that most football fans are football fans first, taxi drivers/fruit merchants/whatever second, and not professional musicians at all. They can no more use these methods than an ordinary person could get any tone out of a standard trumpet.

  • 1
    Yep. The shorter and fatter a tube is, the harder it is to play higher harmonics, and the vuvuzela is pretty short and fat. But like you, I'm sure any good horn or trumpet player could get at least a couple of higher harmonics out of one. Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 10:49
  • 1
    I remember a toy that was just a flexible tube. You held one end and spun the other end round to get a note. It was fairly easy to spin it faster and get the second harmonic. I could just about reliabley get the third harmonic briefly. I don't recall ever going above that.
    – badjohn
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 19:13
  • 2
    @badjohn I had a toy like that that I could reliably get the seventh harmonic from. I remember thinking how unusual it sounded, though I didn't appreciate at the time that this was because it was out of tune compared to the notes on the piano.
    – phoog
    Commented Jun 1, 2021 at 2:22

Oh, it is absolutely possible. I've heard an adventurous trumpet player play a simple melody on it. However, it's not easy and the other notes sound even worse than the one tone. So why bother…

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.