We have received quite a few enquiries about our choice of key for the pBugle so instrument inventor and educational expert Chris Fowers sat down to write a few words and share his thoughts on the subject.
I think that the first point we need to cover is not what is pBugle but why is pBugle.
What was the journey we took to make this instrument?
Well, one of our central drivers as a company is that “we believe everyone should have the opportunity to make music”.
And as brass players, we are constantly thinking about ways to remove barriers to brass learning, especially for parents and children.
Research shows us that cost and fear of making a purchasing mistake, along with difficulty in finding a teacher are all barriers to parents starting a brass instrument learning journey for their children, especially here in the UK.
We wanted to find a way for children to start their journey towards playing the trumpet easier and more accessible. This would need a product that is simple, great value for money, low cost and authentic. A Bb trumpet with no valves that blows and sounds great: pBugle!
Our practical drivers around the key of pBugle:
The best access point to learning the trumpet. I think we can all agree that the Bb trumpet (or cornet) is the most common starting point on trumpet, worldwide.
It's really affordable. To keep costs down we needed to raid our existing parts bin to build an instrument.
A product that can also help recruit and grow interest in existing bugling pathways. In the UK (our home market) the bugle is universally in Bb.
A product that is suitable for “bugling” on…i.e. playing calls and tunes based on the harmonic series.
Just like the tuba, the bugle exists in many forms around the world. Some are conical in bore, some parallel.
Keys vary: in the USA traditionally the bugle is a cylindrical bore instrument in G with a pull to F, although Bb bugles have been used in the past by the US Army.
In the UK and Europe conical, Bb is common for the bugle proper but this instrument was often in C or maybe D or even B, (although cylindrical cavalry trumpets and non-valve fanfare trumpets come in a variety of matching key sets).
As we can see, just like tubas, there is no international standard key or bore shape for a no-valve brass instrument used for military signalling and ceremonial duties.
In terms of physical design and the “double wrap” style of construction, I’m afraid that manufacturing constraints ruled this out early in the development process as it would have required a new suite of injection tools, with a huge impact on cost.
So…that's why the pBugle is in Bb: because we believe that that is the best way to begin your trumpet journey!
As an undergraduate Chris studied Jazz at Leeds College of Music and then became a member of the Advanced Studies, post-graduate performers course at the Royal Academy of Music and Principal Bass Trombone with the European Community Youth Orchestra under Claudio Abbado. He then spent 25 years as a busy freelance performer based in both London and the North of England working with a wide variety of ensembles and artists, including being a member of Grimethorpe Colliery Band, The British Philharmonic Orchestra, Dame Shirley Bassey’s Orchestra and the Creative Jazz Orchestra.
Alongside this Chris has worked extensively in all areas of music education, latterly as a leading deliverer and trainer in informal, large group practice. This included roles as Leader in Wider Opportunities at Hertfordshire Music Service, Leader of Instrumental Development for Derbyshire City and County Music Partnership and as a face to face trainer on the Trinity Guildhall/Open University “Whole Class Instrumental Learning” national training program.
He became a key member of the team that created pBone, the plastic trombone in 2011/12 and has been involved with Warwick Music Group in various roles since then. Chris is currently Director of Creativity and Innovation for the company, a role which includes overseeing product development and improvement, quality and education.