The bugle is played by standing in a comfortable posture with the chest out, shoulders up and the head held erect, then vibrating the lips whilst blowing through them inside the mouthpiece. It is important for the lips to be moist in order to achieve the right kind of vibration.

It is also important to strengthen the lips in order to play the bugle properly. Many beginning buglers find this the most frustrating part of starting out on the instrument.

Learning the correct breathing technique is also crucial to success. The technique involves drawing air into the lungs through the corners of the mouth, which should not be covered by the mouthpiece. Mouth breathing is important because it is not possible to draw air in through the nose rapidly enough. According to the British Army's guide to bugling, it takes 4 months to train a person to play the bugle competently without accompaniment. The process of training starts with theory and proceeds with basic written music.

The notes or tones used in military bugle calls and most sheet music for the instrument are: middle C, E, G, C, E and G. After learning these basic tones, most buglers should be able to handle any composition for the instrument.