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Echo Taps

ECHO TAPS
Echo Taps is a custom of sounding the call with two buglers standing at some distance apart to achieve an echo effect. Although a popular way of sounding Taps, it is not correct protocol to have two players sound Taps. Arlington National Cemetery does not permit Echo Taps to be performed during services in the cemetery. The Defense Department does not authorize the use of 
Echo Taps at military funerals.

DOD INSTRUCTION 1300.15
MILITARY FUNERAL SUPPORT DECEMBER 2017

3.2. FUNERAL HONORS CEREMONIES.
c. In general, when a bugler sounds Taps (including a Service member using the ceremonial
bugle), he or she will be placed in a prominent position. Portable stereo players should be used
as a last resort and, if used, will be out of sight of the funeral party. The official version of Taps
is played by a single bugle, and therefore, Echo Taps are not authorized.

ARMY REGULATION 600–25
Salutes, Honors, and Courtesy

Taps
The traditional “lights out” musical composition played at military funerals and memorials. The official version of“Taps” is played by a single bugle. In accordance with AR 220–90, “Echo or Silver Taps,” which is performed by 2 buglers, is not authorized.

Echo TapsDownload Echo Taps

ORIGINS

This idea of sounding Echo Taps may have started right at the creation of the new call, when Union buglers sounded it for the first time at Harrison’s Landing (now Berkeley Plantation). Confederates across the James River repeated the new sound, thus introducing it into both armies. As the call grew in popularity, it was not uncommon to hear the sound of Taps being sounded at the same time each evening by buglers in other companies, thereby giving an echo effect. The playing of the echo has been around for some time. I have found references to it in some newspaper articles in the first part of the 20th century. It was written into one one manual-the U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps Manual of 1959. Notice that it has the incorrect rhythms in the third and fourth measures. This version was dropped from later editions of the manual. One of the USAF field bands had it on their website for a while until it was removed. Unfortunately, their recorded version is still available on some CDs.
Plus, it use in Hollywood movies has contributed to the practice.

However, the call is meant to be sounded by a solo bugler and really should be that way. I personally have nothing against the playing of Echo Taps at Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies but don’t think it should be performed as part of Military Funeral Honors.

ONCE IS ENOUGH, THANK-YOU

I heard a solo bugler play a version of the echo at a Memorial Day ceremony a few years back. He finished a phrase then turned in another direction and played the echo. Not only did it sound funny, it looked ridiculous with the choreography. The idea of sounding two complete (sounding it once, then walking a distance to sound it again) Taps seems to be bad form. Not only does it prolong the ceremony it is not part of tradition.

If you are going to perform Echo Taps, For Goodness sake, REHEARSE IT before you do it. That way you will find out:

1. How far you need to stand apart (it defeats the purpose of Echo Taps if you have the players standing next to each other)
2. If you are in tune with each other (good luck on that!)
3. How you are going to phrase the piece.
4. If you have matching instruments (ever hear a Bb and a G bugle try to do the echo? yikes!)

AT FUNERALS

Think about the message you are sending when you do the Echo Taps at a funeral. Many organizations that provide volunteer buglers are based on the premise that there are not enough live buglers to perform at veteran funerals, yet there are those who would use two buglers at a service? Is there then a funeral that has to settle for a recording because of the manpower requirements needed for TWO buglers?

My concern is that Echo Taps is not appropriate for funerals. That’s my personal feeling based on tradition.

Tradition is something that I feel strongly about. Using live buglers at funerals is something that is dying thanks to recordings, lack of good players and a strong system to support the use of live players. Musicians seem to have the knack for shooting themselves in the foot. Look at the professional world today and you will see live music being used less and less. From Broadway shows to club dates to wedding bands live music is being replaced by virtual musicians.

Want an example that relates to bugling? Look at the use of buglers at racetracks today. Very few tracks still use a live bugler. And what have buglers done? Trying to jazz up the First Call (Call To The Post if you will) has made the First Call a joke. Trying to “improve” on traditional call makes it become a rather poor shadow of its great past.

When was the last time you saw a racetrack bugler use the correct instrument (a posthorn) and wear the correct outfit?

However I know that stopping performances of Echo Taps is like trying to stop the darn Taps Myth. If it is going to performed, at least practice it!

I along with several other buglers were at a Civil War reenactment and decided that at the time for lights out we would recreate how it probably sounded like echoing in camps. We were spread out over a large area in various camps and after the Brigade Bugler (me) started the call the closest bugler would wait till it was halfway done then started the call without trying to echo phrase for phrase. This went down the line with 5 buglers each sounding the call on his own and the effect was chilling!

THE FUTURE?

Live bugling is happening around the country thanks to organizations like Taps For Veterans and websites like Tapsbugler. Every time you hear Taps, you are listening to a great tradition.

© Copyright 2016, Tapsbugler.com

24 Comments

  1. Chris W Spencer Chris W Spencer May 28, 2017

    I first heard Echo Taps the first time I ever heard Taps. It was 1961 and I was not quite 7 years old. I had an uncle who was a career soldier who had died of cancer. Echo Taps was played at his funeral by two buglers and since that day it has been my preferred version.

    I never knew until reading this article that it was not correct protocol to play Echo Taps and that Arlington would not allow it to be played there.

    When I was 18 I enlisted in the Marine Corps and served for four years, 1972 – 1976. I was honored to get to take part in a few military funerals while on active duty. Each time I heard the beautiful melody of Taps I was taken back to that 6 year old boy and how the music had touched me.

    Back in those days I am pretty sure there was no shortage of buglers/trumpeters, and to be honest, I don’t think there is a shortage today.
    There is only a shortage of buglers/trumpeters who are willing to play it for funerals.

    It seems that like many other things, Taps has become one more thing added to the list of things that don’t mean as much to Americans as they once did.
    Our military is now all volunteer and less than 1% of the eligible citizens fill the ranks today. If a family doesn’t have direct connection to the military today, the sacrifices of our troops means little to them, unfortunately.

    Thank you to all who do step up and perform this timeless song for our fallen troops.
    May God bless, comfort and strengthen our troops and their families.

    Echo Taps Forever.

    Respectfully,
    Chris W. Spencer
    Tuscaloosa, Alabama

    Lyrics to Taps

    There is one original set of lyrics meant to accompany the music, written by Horace Lorenzo Trim:

    Day is done, gone the sun,
    From the lake, from the hills, from the sky;
    All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.

    Fading light, dims the sight,
    And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright.
    From afar, drawing nigh, falls the night.

    Thanks and praise, for our days,
    ‘Neath the sun, ‘neath the stars, neath the sky;
    As we go, this we know, God is nigh.

    Sun has set, shadows come,
    Time has fled, Scouts must go to their beds
    Always true to the promise that they made.

    While the light fades from sight,
    And the stars gleaming rays softly send,
    To thy hands we our souls, Lord, commend.

  2. Rick Pasciuto Rick Pasciuto June 3, 2016

    Excellent article. Unfortunately, ending Echo Taps, is as you stated, like ending the “Taps Myth.” I have learned that even when you have the retired Drum Major of Pershing’s Own who led them at Preident Kennedy’s funeral tell people if is not proper some still demand that it be done.

  3. Tapsbugler Tapsbugler Post author | April 23, 2016

    Thank-you Sir!

  4. Ray Whitney Ray Whitney April 21, 2016

    I’m a 73 year old Marine. I belong to the Texarkana Marine Corps League. I went back into uniform (Blues B, E4) specifically to do “Taps” at funerals after reading about the shortage online in a DOD report. I’ve made it clear, I will NOT participate in (echo taps)! I couldn’t agree more with you!

  5. Tapsbugler Tapsbugler Post author | January 27, 2015

    Thanks

  6. David Paxton David Paxton January 26, 2015

    Hi Jari,

    Now tell me what you really think about echo TAPS.

    I could not agree more. An army veteran friend of mine said It really sounds more like REPEAT then echo and I only do it if the family insists on it. So far I only had to do it once.

  7. Trumfart Trumfart May 7, 2014

    Has anyone tried this with the flatutron digital trumpet?

  8. Cindy Cindy June 20, 2013

    I have been sounding TAPS for almost 30 years. I have only ever done Echo TAPS, but I always played it in its entirety and then the echo was sounded. I am interested in trying it the way mentioned here, since my son and I often sound together.

  9. kevin kevin March 9, 2013

    i am a trumpet and in Navy JROTC. I can play taps well but the echo taps is beautiful but should not be played at a funeral it should just be a single player or if mulipulble player play regular taps.
    MAY GOD BLESS AMERICA AND ALL THOSE WHO DEFEND HER
    MAY THE SOLDIERS WHO DIED FOR US REST IN PEACE KNOWING THEY DEFENDED THIS COUNTRY WELL

  10. Wayne White Wayne White October 28, 2012

    I just want to add my two cents as both an active duty Army bugler and an operations NCO: we simply do not have enough active duty buglers to go around, and when we are already turning down funeral support requests because we do not have the assets to support them, it is completely irresponsible to commit two buglers to one event when Echo Taps is not a part of military tradition. To LTC O’Neal: the sad reality is that the Army is now down to about 30 active duty bands (and the other 4 services probably have that many bands COMBINED), with each band having an average of 6 to 10 buglers assigned. So that means we might have 250 or so buglers on active duty (on a good day), and at any given time, something on the order of 25 to 50 of them are serving overseas (this number is way down since we left Iraq–at one time, we generally had 3 or 4 bands deployed at the same time). So we are left with 200 or a few more in the 50 states to cover military funerals. And it must be remembered that these buglers are not just standing by to cover funerals; they are trumpet players in an Army band, and are called on to perform any number of ceremonies and performances with that band. Military bands in general have been and continue to be a target for draconian budget cuts, since some assume that our role is superfluous. What the bean counters don’t realize or understand is that when we cut Army bands, we cut Army buglers. When we are already tragically understaffed and under-resourced, further cuts will just mean that fewer veterans get a live bugler at their funeral.

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