What is the correct key for Taps?

I received a question from a member of our list: “What is the accepted pitch for Taps? Bb or G or ?”

The answer is: the key of whatever horn you have in your hand. Most certainly, there should be zero debate that Bb and G are both acceptable. The US Army was using both the M1894 Bugle in Bb and the M1892 Field Trumpet in G at the same time and buglers with either horn sounded the same music for calls. But there is no justification for restricting the sounding of Taps to these two keys either. Taps (originally titled Extinguish Lights) predates the adoption of these two keys. Bugles in C would be common at the time but buglers are known to have used pigtail crooks to adjust the pitch. From what I have heard, crooks to A were common and believed to be a better-sounding key, but others existed also.  Remember too that things were not as standardized as they are now. A=440 was not established until 1936. What buglers would have called a G or Bb for most of the time bugles were used extensively, is not the same pitch we call G or Bb today. Bottom line: use what you have and what allows you to sound the call the best for you.

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