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The bugle is one of the simplest brass instruments; it is essentially a small natural horn with no valves. All pitch control is done by varying the player's embouchure, since the bugle has no other mechanism for controlling pitch. Consequently, the bugle is limited to notes within the harmonic series.
The bugle is used mainly in the military and in drum and bugle corps, where the bugle has evolved away from its military origins, growing valves. In American drum and bugle corps, G is considered the traditional key for bugles to be pitched in. Civilian drum corps were founded using equipment sold off by the military in the early 1900s, and the last official change made to the military bugle before its role as a signaling device was rendered obsolete by the radio was to standardize them in the key of G. Bugles in other parts of the world typically were pitched in B flat or E flat.
The cornet is sometimes erroneously considered to be the "valved version" of the bugle, although it was derived from the French cornet de poste (post horn).
19th century variants based on the standard bugle included keyed bugles and valved bugles. Keyed bugles were invented in England in the early 19th century, with a patent for one design, the Royal Kent bugle, taken out by Joseph Halliday in 1811. This bugle was highly popular and wide in use until c1850, so for example in works by Richard Willis, later bandmaster of the United States Military Academy Band at West Point. This variant of the bugle fell out of use with the invention of the valved cornet.