By Kevin KrejcarekMarch 1, 2013
CAMP ZAMA, Japan (March 1, 2013) -- Bugle calls have been part of the military for many years. Certain calls are played for reveille, mail call, and taps which officially signals the end of the duty day and lights out.
Though bugle calls are used far less today, not so for the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, or JGSDF. Senior military officers and civilian officials are oftentimes given a bugle salute when visiting military facilities as a sign of respect and honor.
For many buglers in the JGSDF, this task is in addition to their routine military duties. Most are untrained, but were willing to volunteer for the additional duty.
About every two years, new bugle trainees from engineer units within the JGSDF come to Camp Zama for two months to learn how to play. Though the bugle may look less complicated, it's not because there are no valves or other pitch-altering devices. All pitch control is done by the player after much training with this instrument and perfecting their sound.
This year, seven new junior enlisted men from five different JGSDF installations came to study under the guidance of three Japanese noncommissioned officer instructors.
While cold January winds blew in from the nearby Tanzawa Mountains on the southwestern edge of the Kanto Plain, varying forms of the five basic notes were carried downwind. Standing on nearby ball field bleachers, these perspective buglers practiced their harmonic scale series daily.
Standard bugle calls consist of only five notes and hitting them with the right pitch takes continuous flexibility and control of the lips.
An additional benefit of the JGSDF military facility is that they are collocated on Camp Zama home to the U.S. Army Japan Band. Twice a week throughout February the buglers received more pointers and practice from trained band members.
One of the band trainers, Sgt. Joshua Tetreault, a trumpeter by trade, imparted tips to the group as a whole and individually to improve their skills and techniques.
"We've been teaching the basics about playing a brass instrument and a big part is breathing," said Tetreault. "Taking a full breath and then keeping it going."
According to Tetreault, it's all about what professionals call embouchure or the positioning and use of the lips, tongue and teeth to play the bugle.
Though music may be considered an international language, there still was a need for translation from English to Japanese, and sometimes that was done by Sgt. Sean Kagawa another Soldier musician.
When the group was asked how well the Soldier musicians helped with their training, they all agreed that it was very beneficially and helpful and the Soldier bandsmen also noticed marked improvement through the month.
When they finally are ready to render the various bugle calls from their manual, they will face it with the training and experience they received at Camp Zama from the combined JGSDF and U.S. military team.
There is definitely more training ahead for them which they all recognized as they headed back to the bleachers following their last band training session.