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Protocol for Taps

PROTOCOL FOR TAPS
INSTRUCTION FOR MILITARY AND CIVILIAN

One question I get often is what to do when Taps is sounded. What exactly is the protocol? In a nutshell, it’s the same protocol as when you hear the national anthem.

DEFINITION OF TAPS

Taps is sounded at funerals, memorial services and wreath laying ceremonies. It is also the last call played at US military bases in the evening. Performance consists of 24 notes sounded on a bugle or trumpet. Taps is performed by a solo bugler without accompaniment or embellishment. Although sometimes performed with an echo, Taps is really meant to be sounded by a single bugler.

For more information on the origin of Taps CLICK HERE

At funerals, military honors follow a certain sequence dictated by tradition and protocol. Three rifle volleys are fired, followed by the sounding of Taps. The flag is then folded and presented to the Next-of-Kin.

Sometimes there is not a firing party available and Taps will be sounded upon the signal from the military or funeral home director.

The sequence at Arlington National Cemetery can be found here.

At memorial services or special events Taps is usually sounded toward the end of the program, usually before the benediction or dismissal. At wreath laying ceremonies, Taps is usually sounded after the wreath (or last one if there are several) is presented.

CONDUCT DURING THE SOUNDING OF TAPS

During a rendition of Taps at a military funeral, memorial service or wreath laying ceremony,

– All present not in uniform should stand at attention with the right hand over the heart;

– Men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold the headdress at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart;

– Individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of Taps and maintain that position until the last note (note: if you are inside and uncovered, you stand at attention);

– Veterans and active-duty service-members not in uniform may render the hand salute;

– If you are inside and not in uniform it is proper to stand during Taps

– When Taps is sounded in the evening as the final call of the day at military bases, salutes are not required.

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97 Comments

  1. C/SSgt Dominic Pershin C/SSgt Dominic Pershin July 1, 2019

    Hello, I am a bugler for my Civil Air Patrol Squadron I play taps regularly to close out meetings and I’ve played at funerals as well. I have a question about when taps is extinguished. When the last note is played do I render a hand salute after the playing of taps every time is played.

    C/SSgt Pershin, Dominic CAP

  2. Tapsbugler Tapsbugler Post author | June 14, 2019

    Not understanding of your question

  3. Phyllis Kelly Phyllis Kelly June 13, 2019

    Why is the bugler out of sight

  4. Tapsbugler Tapsbugler Post author | May 18, 2019

    If you are on a tour and hear Taps sounded. It would be appropriate to cease talking and face toward the music in silence. Rending a salute (like placing your hand over your heart) is also appropriate.
    You would treat it in the same manner as if you heard the National anthem

    Thanks!

    Jari

  5. Shannon Scott Shannon Scott May 17, 2019

    I give tours in a cemetery and at times from a distance, will hear TAPS or gun salute, should I and my guests do anything special or symbolic or just remain silent? Thank you.

  6. Jonathan Jonathan May 15, 2019

    I’ve been asked to play for a retired USMC friend’s funeral. Is it appropriate for a non-veteran to play taps for a veteran’s church funeral? Is there anything else to be aware of in this situation? Thanks.

  7. Angel Bogart Angel Bogart March 22, 2019

    It’s the first time that I heard about military taps, those bugles sounding during a military ceremony, so I’m really surprised that even civilians are enjoined to stand at attention and hold their right hand over their heart when it gets sounded during a military funeral. I’d like to keep this in mind so if I happen to attend a funeral service for casualties of the war in Afghanistan, I’d be able to conduct myself properly. Not only would this show knowledge of military etiquette, but it would also show respect for the heroism of the American war heroes.

  8. Tapsbugler Tapsbugler Post author | March 20, 2019

    Thanks for this story!

  9. Gerald Lagos Gerald Lagos March 20, 2019

    LB is my Godson and his father Billy recently passed away. On Saturday I attended Billy’s Funeral and at the mass I learned Billy had served Four years in the Army. So as soon as the mass was over I rushed home (ten minutes away and in the opposite direction of the cemetery) to grab my trumpet… I raced over to Holy Cross Cemetery on the other side of town (A good twenty minutes from the church). I thought I had good chance to make there in time because the local sheriff’s office was too busy to provide a proper escort for the funeral procession. I was the last person to arrive at the graveside. I left the horn in my trunk. I walked briskly past some other late arrivals. I purposely positioned myself close to where I thought the military honor guard would be. I was immediately relieved to see what would appear to be a military bugler there to Sound Taps for Billy. I thought he was a real horn player. As time progressed I heard the words “PRESENT ARMS”. I was watching the dress uniformed bugler move the horn and flip what appeared to be a switch inside the bell of the bugle. He put the horn to his lips and nothing…He shook his head… he fiddled with the sound device for a few seconds… I was nearly panicking on the inside. He changed batteries but still nothing. Unfortunately I was parked almost a block away. As this was happening I made discrete contact with the funeral director I told him I have a trumpet and am willing and able. He expressed that they had it under control and told the gathered crowd that there would be a 30 second delay. At some point I didn’t wait for any instructions, I just sprinted to my car, grabbed my horn and sprinted back. I was trying to listen for taps as I was running back. The congregation had their backs to me at graveside. I waved my horn in the air to get the funeral directors attention. The director saw my horn and motioned me to come forward…I stopped ten yards short taking cover under a large Live Oak (Did I mention it was 53 degrees with a light drizzle) I took five seconds to catch my breath and then sounded taps the best I could. As I was playing, incidentally four Chinook Helicopters flew almost directly over the site. I almost choked when I saw them but I stayed focus on the mission. I have sounded Taps a couple of dozen times at Barrancas. It was decent but not my best. It was a lot better than a recording that wasn’t working. Actually it was a recording, a 1965 “Olds Recording” (same year as my birth) Trumpet. I guess I need to start keeping that Jupiter 416 Pocket Trumpet in my car. I thought I’d share this story with folks that might be able to relate. Thank you for taking the time to read this

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