Signal Arts was formed to make the art of drum & bugle corps more affordable and accessible to young people, to bring a great musical tradition back into communities and Scouting, and to preserve the thrilling outdoor sound of the G-bugle family of instruments.
Community Drum Corps
Modern drum & bugle corps is one of the most competitive and popular youth activities in the arts, but it has also become very expensive, with performances usually now limited to competitions in stadiums. But that has not always been the case. Drum corps were once much more common and could be seen in parades, community events, and holiday celebrations all across America. Drum corps were often formed as Scouting units chartered by churches, veteran and community organizations. During the past century there were more than 550 in Pennsylvania alone.
Over the years, however, their popularity led to a shift in focus away from community performance and towards highly produced competitive tours. Corps today travel the country in caravans of buses and trucks to perform in regional and national competitions, with very limited activity outside of competitions. Our goal at Signal Arts is to bring this great activity back into communities and back into Scouting, and to make it more affordable and accessible for young people again.
Most of the greatest drum corps performances of all time were performed on G-bugles, before a rules change in 1999 led most organizations to abandon their use for financial reasons. Bugles in the key of G were originally developed as signal instruments to allow combat units to communicate clearly on the battlefield over the din of canon fire and the chaos of war. Modern G-bugles descended from those instruments are designed to produce a sound with much higher volume and intensity compared with their symphonic cousins. They are highly optimized for outdoor performance and are not well-suited for indoor use. That is one of the reasons the G-bugle family of instruments represents a special and distinct category of brasswinds that are truly in a class of their own. In other words, a soprano G-bugle is not a kind of alto trumpet, it is a soprano bugle. A contrabass bugle is not a kind of tuba, it is a contrabass bugle.
Another distinguishing characteristic of G-bugles is that each voice is designed as part of a set. Each instrument is pitched in the same key and shares the same harmonic characteristics (known as fundamentals and partials) which allows a bugle ensemble to produce acoustic effects having more in common with a powerful pipe organ than an ordinary mixed-key brass band. G-bugles are special and unique. They represent the state-of-the-art for unamplified outdoor performance and can create thrilling aural phenomena that cannot be produced by any other means.