Jump to content

Recommended Posts

My son is a First Class scout working on Star.  He took the position of responsibility of Bugler and has been practicing for a couple of months once every few days.  As of this point, he can play one (maybe two) notes only.  

 

So my questions:

1) Any advice on getting him to the point of being able to play?  He has looked at Youtube videos and online advice.  His father, a brass player, has tried to help as well.  My son does play the clarinet quite competently but this seems to be a whole other animal...

 

2) At what point should he say to the Scoutmaster that this isn't working out?  

 

3) If he gives back the Bugler role, I argue that he starts over in his position of responsibility for Star.  Is that correct or should he be able to count his time as a non-bugling Bugler?  

 

Thanks!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some thoughts:

 

You say your son plays the clarinet quite competently - and yes, a clarinet, as a reeded instrument, is going to play differently than a bugle, but my first question - perhaps something to ask your son, is "Did you (he) gain competency in playing the clarinet by practicing just once every few days?"    Maybe he needs to up his practice time - even 15 or 20 minutes a day would be better than once every few days. 

 

His dad is a brass player and should be able to at least help out on the basics of how to play a brass instrument - but, sometimes sons have a hard time taking instruction from dad - I'm not saying that's true here, but it's much easier for both dad and son to get frustrated at each other when working on something like this.  If your son is playing the clarinet, then it's sounds like he might be in a band - maybe he can ask his band leader for guidance.  Maybe he can ask one of his trumpet playing buddies in the band for help learning how to play the bugle.  Maybe you can hook him up with a bugle tutor.

 

One of the most important parts of playing the bugle isn't learning how to play the bugle - it's learning how to play the bugle calls and that's something he can learn to do by playing on his clarinet - that way he can get the calls down and gain an understanding of how they should go.  Challenge him to learn the big two by the end of the month - Taps and Reveille.  Taps can sound beautiful on a clarinet.  Once he's got those down, start plugging away at the rest.

 

I'm going to answer #3 here before answering #2 because I have a proposal that folks might find radical in regards to #2 and want to end with it.  As for #3 - as long as he's trying his best and hasn't been removed from the position, the time served counts - if he gives it up on his own 3 months in, he doesn't start over in a new POR.  Heck, if he's removed from the position, the time he's already served still counts as POR time.

 

So now for the radical suggestion - first, anyone in any POR should tell the SPL (not the Scoutmaster - the SPL appoints them, they report to the SPL) that a POR isn't working out for them as soon as they feel that they aren't benefitting the Troop.  BUT in all cases, I would want to make sure that there is a way to create success out of perceived failure - I'd want to make sure the PL or Scribe or QM is getting the proper mentoring before accepting a Scout's resignation from a POR - but what to do about Bugler - the job seems simple - play the bugle calls at the appropriate times.

 

Now here's the rub - for Bugling Merit Badge, it is required that the Scout play a Bugle in order to get the merit badge.  For the POR, a Scout doesn't neccessarily have to play the Bugle in order to meet the requirements of the position - the BSA actually suggests that similar instruments can be used instead - so what's similar?  I knew a lot of Troop Buglars who used their trumpets and cornets.  I know of a Summer Camp bugler who used a tuba.  I've heard of other Troop Buglars who have used trombones and french horns.  In other words, similar instruments.  Now we've just established that a clarinet is a reed instrument and therefore different than a bugle, but I also knew a person in high school who used his nice, shiny, brass saxaphone as his unit's bugler - and a saxaphone is also a reed instrument like a clarinet so if a saxaphone is similar enough to be used, then my opinion is so is a clarinet.  So my suggestion?  Approach the SPL (SM) with a proposal - to continue to try to learn how to use a bugle but to use his clarinet to perform the duties of the position.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Learning to play a brass instrument is hard.  It's not like clarinet, where you just have to figure out the embouchure and then you can play- at least the basic set of notes.  (I'm not a clarinetist- my husband is.  He claims the instrument is hard, but his brand new students can play Mary had a little lamb right off the bat- it just sounds airy.)  With a brass instrument, you have to build muscles in the face to play the notes.  Most of the bugle calls have at least one high "g" in them and that requires quite a bit of muscle building.  I encouraged my son to join band as a cornet player.  He did and practiced daily.  He was able to pass off all the bugle calls after a year.  Playing bugle is not like playing a recorder or a piano.  It requires time and daily practice.  

 

Using a bugle in the key of G will help, since the notes are lower than a bugle in b-flat.  One caution is that the Rexcraft bugle in G cannot play the lowest note, required in "Call to Quarters"

Edited by christineka

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What sort of bugle is he using?

What sort of mouthpiece?

 

I played trumpet as a kid for 7 years, and now my son started beginner band at school last year.  I have been practicing with him, and even bought myself a second horn to do it.  I say this only to mention that while I am not at all a bugler, I know a little something about it.

 

I suggest that it "might", just maybe be a bad instrument or bad mouthpiece.  Some are just toys.

I have tried to blow a few bugles that had trash mouthpieces, and couldn't play a note!

 

Mouthpieces come in many sizes and shapes, each suited for a different thing.  A young embouchure just wouldn't be able to handle some.  

 

It might be worth a trip to the local music store, where he might see if some trumpet or cornet mouthpieces might fit the lead pipe.... and that he could try.  Might make a difference.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for bringing up the mouthpiece!  I bought a rexcraft bugle and tried playing it.  I wondered what was wrong with me, because the tone sounded awful.  Then, I tried a regular trumpet mouthpiece and it was pretty good.  (The rexcraft bugle still has some intonation issues.)  I later bought a Mogul replica bugle.  Again, the mouthpiece that came with it was garbage and made playing difficult.  A standard trumpet mouthpiece makes it a nice instrument.  (It can play the lowest bugle ton for "Call to Quarters", but is pitched at b-flat, so harder for a beginner to play.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If the boy is serious about the musical part of the instrument, he will get into it.  I Counsel Bugling MB, and have met a couple of Scouts that can do "double duty":  A woodwind and a brass instrument. They see the music better than a "single" duty fellow.

That said, he needs to "buzz" more.  A lot more.   The embouchure for the clarinet will do him no good in a brass mouthpiece.  He has to "buzz" and buzz and buzz, to develop those facial muscles mentioned above.

And the mention of a quality mouthpiece can not be stressed too much.  If he is serious, get him a trumpet Bach12C, it's expensive, in nickel silver, but it makes a world of difference in tone and comfort.  The cheap original mouthpiece is , as has been said, trash in comparison.   Take the Bach 12C and TIE it on the bugle so it can't fall off.

The range of the bugle is limited, a good player can do 5 notes, a competent one can get 6.   Treble clef was not my original thing, I started with trombone (bass clef) and learned bugle  with the bugle my uncle gave me from his days in Scouts, so it is at least 85 years old at this point, and still sounds good on a parade  ground. Get him some Dizzy Gillespie recordings, and let him hear some GOOD "bugling".

 

When the tourist in New York stopped the old man and asked him how to get to Carnegie Hall, his reply was "Practice, practice, PRACTICE!!"  So too here.   Your Scout can serve as bugler two ways:  As has been mentioned, he can do yeoman service with his clarinet, and learn the calls "by ear". And, as he gets his lip, he can switch over.  With effort, ( and understanding from the family!) he should get some proficiency in two or three months.  

The Bugling MB is not that onerous, but it does take effort and practice.   I point out that the requirements list 8 (?) calls to play, but it does not say "from memory".  It is allowable to read the chart.  The memory comes with repetition, yes?    

 

And tell him that if he is good at it, he will be in demand for ceremonies at camp, at official Scout things, and he can even earn some money at it.  It is  entre to many events....

 

And when he can rip off "First Call"  for his Troop  to call them to a competition, it will be all worth it.  

 

Good Scouting to you!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And tell him that if he is good at it, he will be in demand for ceremonies at camp, at official Scout things, and he can even earn some money at it.  It is  entre to many events....

Plus if he learns to play taps well, he can volunteer with Bugles Across America. Talk about a great way to be of service to your community!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can play reed instruments as well as brass, guitar, piano and fife. I know what it means to practice.

 

With that being said, I wouldn't put a scout in the bulging POR unless he can do a fair job to begin with. At the minimum he needs to have the bulging MB. PORs expect some level of proficiency to begin with. One does not give webmaster responsibility to someone who can't turn a computer on. Same for bulging.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can play reed instruments as well as brass, guitar, piano and fife. I know what it means to practice.

 

With that being said, I wouldn't put a scout in the bulging POR unless he can do a fair job to begin with. At the minimum he needs to have the bulging MB. PORs expect some level of proficiency to begin with. One does not give webmaster responsibility to someone who can't turn a computer on. Same for bulging.

 

One of the requirements to earn the bugling merit badge is to be the troop bugler for 3 months.  I recommend appointing kid to troop bugler after he is somewhat proficient on the instrument, not when he begins work on the badge, if he has never played a brass instrument before.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can play reed instruments as well as brass, guitar, piano and fife. I know what it means to practice.

With that being said, I wouldn't put a scout in the bulging POR unless he can do a fair job to begin with. At the minimum he needs to have the bulging MB. PORs expect some level of proficiency to begin with. One does not give webmaster responsibility to someone who can't turn a computer on. Same for bulging.

Just for argument, shouldn't PORs be just as much about learning on the job as being proficient? Do you require PLs to,hold a certain number of PORs before being PL? What if the kid has amazing aptitude?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Stosh:  I know not a few adults who appear to be working on their "bulging" MB  :p

 

Ain't auto-fill a wonderful addition to Smartphones and Kindles?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you all for your advice.  My son is currently transcribing the calls lower for the clarinet and practicing them in turn.  He also has located an adult who is willing to give him some lessons on the bugle.  The current troop merit badge counselor cannot actually play the instrument as far as I know.  Great idea on the clarinet because it is giving him some confidence!  

 

I think he will persevere a while longer now.  He was only practicing every couple of days because barely making a note was so discouraging.  Now he can flip between learning the music and trying to get the notes going on the bugle - practicing it every day for a while longer each time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The current troop merit badge counselor cannot actually play the instrument as far as I know. 

 

Uh, how the heck?  I thought merit badge counselors were supposed to be "experts".  If the counselor can't play, how does he know if the scout has played correctly?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

3) If he gives back the Bugler role, I argue that he starts over in his position of responsibility for Star.  Is that correct or should he be able to count his time as a non-bugling Bugler?

 

This is between him & the Scoutmaster.

 

If the Scoutmaster or SPL didn't communicate that his performance in the position was unsatisfactory, the time should count.

 

A Scout can have more than 1 position of responsibility to count for the time.  Example: QM for 2 months & PL for 2 months.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×