The History of the Trumpet Mouthpiece Gap

The Early Years

Carroll Purviance, the custom mouthpiece maker that Bob Reeves apprenticed with in Hollywood, CA.

The first time I learned about the gap was on a visit to Elden Benge’s Burbank shop. He explained to me how he made his trumpet play better in combination with Bach mouthpieces, which were popular at the time. He moved the receiver on the horn back until it played the way he liked it. Benge’s goal was to find the gap that worked best, not find out what the gap was “supposed to be.” When I went to work for Carroll Purviance in 1961 he had two shank sizes for his mouthpieces, his standard, and a smaller B shank. Purviance discovered that for some setups, one shank would play better than the other. During that same period I was studying trumpet with John Clyman, who had his own theories about the gap. He believed that there should be at least some gap between the mouthpiece and leadpipe. This was contrary to another theory that suggested that very little, or no gap was best. Clyman would push me to work on mouthpiece projects for him in exchange for the lessons he gave me. He then bought my first lathe (which I still use today) and I opened  up my own shop in the back of my Mother’s house. Opening Up Shop In April of 1968 I opened my shop in Hollywood, California and was fortunate to attract the top brass players in the world. My shop was a sandbox where we would try all the ideas we had on our minds. Some turned out good, some bad, but it was fun and a unique learning experience. My experiences with Benge, Purviance, and Clyman, along with my day-to-day observations of players made me realize how crucial the gap really is.  Discovering the proper gap was a time consuming process, requiring a lot of salvage work on customers’ mouthpieces. I would think that the gap should be increased so I soldered a new shank on the mouthpiece, only to find out that it should be smaller and had to file down the shank, or vice-versa. The Bob Reeves Sleeve System It only took a few times of going through this painstaking process to figure out that there must be a better way. This planted the seed that grew into my adjustable sleeve system. Thanks to my friends Bill Cardwell and Don Macintosh,  in 1974 I was granted my first patent for the sleeve system.

The Experimenting Continued

Originally, I made six different sleeve sizes that allowed a player to adjust the gap within 1/16″. It quickly became obvious that players required further fine-tuning, so I divided the sizes into 1/2 and 1/4 sizes, allowing players to adjust the gap within 1/64″. Due to the limitations of the manual lathe I was using, I could not reliably adjust the gap in smaller increments. Frustrated by this limitation and wanting to make even smaller adjustments to the gap, I turned my attention from the mouthpiece to the trumpet receiver.

Adjustable Gap Receiver

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Ad for the B.R.A.S.S. adjustable-gap receiver designed by Bob Reeves – the first of its kind.

n 1979, I invented the first adjustable gap receiver for the trumpet. The gap could be adjusted within .001” by using a precision threaded bit.  Over the next few years, I tested the gap extensively compiling several journals full of notes, observations, and most importantly, players’ perceptions. I was surprised to discover that trumpet players can perceive a change in the gap as little as .006”! I also confirmed my belief that two different players playing on the same mouthpiece and same trumpet often will required a different gap. I converted many trumpets with my adjustable gap receiver (The B.R.A.S.S., which stands for Bob Reeves Adjustable Sleeves System), but there were practicality issues with this system that made me reevaluate making gap adjustments using the mouthpiece. Thanks to advances in machining technology, adjusting the gap by using a converted mouthpiece and removable sleeves became feasible.

The Bob Reeves Sleeve System

The system as it exists today requires a mouthpiece to be converted for sleeves, which is much easier and more economical than replacing the receiver on a trumpet. We can convert any trumpet mouthpiece to accept our sleeves, the process of which does not alter any other part of the mouthpiece — the backbore and overall length of the mouthpiece remain the same. Our removable sleeves come in half sizes, ranging from #1 to #7. We also have quarter sizes available from time to time. The #1 sleeve has the largest shank size, which will produce the largest gap, while the #7 sleeve has the smallest shank size, producing the smallest gap. Learn how to experiment adjusting your gap.

Trumpet Mouthpiece Gap & the Player-Mouthpiece-Trumpet System

On a regular basis, we receive a call or email at the shop that takes on the same basic form:
“Hi, I play on a ABC mouthpiece on a XYZ model trumpet. What sleeve would give me the best gap.”
Usually, our customers are shocked when our answer is a resounding, “I don’t know!” After all, Bob Reeves invented and patented the adjustable gap receiver and sleeve system 40 years ago. How the heck couldn’t we know? The answer is simple – we only know two of the three variables needed to determine the best gap and really, we don’t know any of the three variables unless we have your mouthpiece and trumpet here in the shop for analysis.

The Player-Trumpet-Mouthpiece System

It is critical to realize that there are three elements that must be analyzed in assessing your equipment – the trumpet, the mouthpiece, and you, the player. It seems silly, but most players forget the most important element – you!

How The Gap Relates to the Player-Trumpet-Mouthpiece System

Think of the gap as a fine tuning device. It is a way to dial in your trumpet, with your mouthpiece, to the way you like to play. Let’s say we know the exact size of your trumpet mouthpiece shank and the receiver on your trumpet. There is still no way we (or anyone else in the world, for that matter) can know what you like to feel in your trumpet equipment.

The Shoe Analogy

Think of it like shoes. Imagine you wear a size 9 shoe. Let’s go one step further and say you wear a 9 Wide shoe. I could send you 10 pairs of size 9W shoes and I would bet that some would feel more comfortable than others. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that there would be some shoes, despite being your measured size, will feel downright uncomfortable to walk around in. The best shoe salesman in the world cannot blindly tell you which brand will feel comfortable to you until you try them on.

Put Yourself First!

Just like the shoe analogy above, only you know what feels comfortable to you. Put another way, no one can tell you what will work for you (if they do quickly run the other way!). So how do you find what works for you? Experiment. Our paper trick is a great way to discover what role the gap plays in your unique Player-Trumpet-Mouthpiece System. Experiment with the gap using the Bob Reeves Paper Trick!

Bach Stradivarius Trumpet – 4 Ways Get the Most Out Of Your Bach Strad

Here at Bob Reeves Brass Mouthpieces we provide many services and products that can improve the playability of your trumpet, including the most popular professional trumpet model, the Bach Stradivarius. Over Bob’s forty-five plus years of experience, he has found that these methods create real and immediately perceptible results.

1) Clean your trumpet and keep it that way!

If yesterday’s tacos and last Monday’s cheeseburger are still in your trumpet, they’re not helping you play better. An acid wash, or chemical cleaning, like our Premium Service acid wash removes all the gunk built up inside your trumpet. Part of our service also includes brushing out the inside of the entire body and slides of your trumpet, and the exterior brass legs of your slides. When your horn is clean inside and outside, we then lubricate all the slides and valves, getting the instrument into ready to play condition. Once your instrument is cleaned out, you need to keep it that way to keep it playing consistently. For decades we have sold our Leadpipe Swabs to trumpet players, instructing them to swab out their horns at the end of each playing day. Our swabs remove the moisture and food particles from your leadpipe, stopping them from getting further into your horn, causing build up on the interior of your horn.

2) Bring your horn in for a Bob Reeves Valve Alignment!

Every horn manufactured today needs a valve alignment. Your 1960s Olds Ambassador, your early Elkhart Bach Strad, even your $30,000+ decorated Monette PRANA has misaligned valves. Not only will our valve alignment improve the way your horn plays, but it will keep it consistent from day to day. Bob first discovered the valve alignment working with top studio musicians after he opened his shop in Hollywood. These musicians would come into Bob’s shop complaining about consistency issues, and, knowing that the players weren’t changing, he looked to the instrument. When he aligned their valves, their equipment hunts would end. They no longer needed to play to how the trumpet was aligned each and every day, and had much more direction concerning improvements to their setup.

3) Find the gap that works for you!

Once you’ve had your valves aligned, you can really start making your equipment work for you. After a valve alignment, many players find it possible to play on a more efficient mouthpiece than previously. While a complete mouthpiece change may be deemed unnecessary, many players find it beneficial to “dial in the gap”. Our sleeve system allows the player to experiment with the gap, allowing them to find the correct gap that works for the trumpet, mouthpiece, and — most importantly — the player. Converting for sleeves also allows you to use one mouthpiece in two horns with the correct gap on both instruments. Not all trumpets are the same and not all mouthpiece receivers are the same; this is why the gap must be discovered on each individual instrument you play.

4) Accessorize!

Now that you have your horn cleaned, your valves aligned, and your gap dialed in, (or you just want a quick experiment) Bob Reeves Brass offers two products that improve the slotting of your trumpet. The Cylinder Reinforcer and Receiver Ring both work in similar ways. The receiver ring is a small silver plated ring that fit onto the hexagonal end of your Bach’s receiver, while the cylinder reinforcer, on a Bach trumpet, is a replacement bottom valve cap. Neither of these accessories cause a dampening affect to your trumpet, they instead solidify points on the instrument, preventing the loss of energy that you put into it. The junction between the mouthpiece and the receiver is a point where energy is commonly lost, but a receiver ring will solidify that junction, allowing the energy to continue through the horn. In the same way, the bottom of the third valve casing is a location where energy is lost, but the cylinder reinforcer prevents that dissipation.
Now that your trumpet is in it’s best playing condition, you can focus more on playing the music, so go and have fun!

Piccolo Trumpet Tips & Tricks: Two Ways To Improve Your Picc.

With the holidays right around the corner, baroque music gigs are starting to show up on musician’s calendars, and what that means for the trumpet player is that it’s time to dust off their piccolo and get ready to perform. The holiday season repertoire of Christmas Oratorio, Messiah, and Magnificat is no easy blow and having to play it on piccolo doesn’t help. But, Bob Reeves Brass has some options that will make tackling these pieces a little easier so you can focus more on the music — and have more fun playing!

Modern Developments for the Piccolo Trumpet

In 2012 trumpet equipment has come a long way from what existed when the piccolo trumpet was developed. As piccolo trumpets are half the size of a regular Bb trumpet and have unique issues that need to be addressed, Bob spent many years coming up with the designs of his standard piccolo mouthpieces. The main difference between a standard trumpet mouthpiece and one of our piccolo trumpet mouthpieces is the length. Our piccolo trumpet mouthpieces are shorter than a regular mouthpiece. The same is true for the piccolo mouthpieces we make with a cornet shank. One of our piccolo trumpet mouthpiece with a cornet shank is shorter than a standard cornet mouthpiece.

There Are More Piccolo Mouthpiece Options Than Just a Bach 7EW

Any of the standard Bob Reeves rim and cup combinations can be ordered with a piccolo-trumpet shank or a piccolo-cornet shank. These pieces come with a backbore that Bob developed to play more evenly, better in tune, and with a better balance than the 117 backbore and other common piccolo backbores. The most popular cups players use with their piccolos are the S, M, and C. As with all Bob Reeves pieces, these pieces for piccolo come in a screw-rim configuration and, because of that, if you know you love a certain rim, we can thread it and make a piccolo underpart to it.

Reeves A-Adapter for Cornet-Shank Piccolo Trumpets

Another tool that we offer for cornet-shank piccolo players is our A-Adapter. This adapter, when used on the Bb side of your piccolo, brings the tuning down to the key of A and keeps you from having to pull a Bb tuning bit out very far to play in tune. This prevents a large gap from existing in your horn at the end of the tuning bit before the leadpipe. When this gap is eliminated, the piccolo with play much more in tune, with better response, and much more evenly.

THE ULTIMATE FLUGELHORN MOUTHPIECE SHANK GUIDE

Does your flugelhorn mouthpiece wobble? Do you have problems with intonation, slotting or sound with your flugel?

If you’ve ever played a flugelhorn for more than five minutes you’ve undoubtedly run into a problem involving shanks and receivers. No mouthpiece seems to play or fit correctly and you keep hearing about a “taper” that isn’t a taper — what is going on?

Don’t worry, help is here to bring you your beloved flugelhorn sound!

Types of Flugelhorn Mouthpiece Shanks

Though there are many manufacturers of flugelhorns today, there are only three commonly used flugelhorn shanks and one more that is very rare.

1) The Couesnon Flugelhorn Mouthpiece Shank (French Shank)

The first shank is referred to commonly as the “French Shank” or the “Couesnon Shank.” As you may have guessed, it was used originally on Couesnon flugelhorns. This shank is not a taper, as is used on other trumpet, cornet, or flugelhorn mouthpieces. The bottom inch or so of the mouthpiece shank is cylindrical. At that point the shank flairs slightly into a shoulder which secures the mouthpiece into the receiver. Some folks call this type of flugelhorn mouthpiece shank a French Taper or a Couesnon Taper, which is a misnomer since there is no taper to the shank.

French Shank mouthpieces will not fit properly in other types of flugelhorn receivers.

2) The Standard Flugelhorn Mouthpiece Shank

The second kind of flugelhorn mouthpiece shank is referred to as the “Standard Shank” or “Large Morse Taper.” Unlike the French Shank, the Standard Shank is a traditional taper similar to what you find on trumpets, cornets, and other brass instruments. Many flugelhorns are manufactured today, including Yamaha flugelhorns, that accept this taper.

Standard shank mouthpieces generally do not fit in a French Shank or the smaller Bach Shank receiver.

3) The Bach Flugelhorn Mouthpiece Shank

The third flugelhorn mouthpiece shank that is commonly used is the “Bach Shank” or “Small Morse Taper.” It is also a taper, but at a smaller size than the Standard Shank flugelhorn mouthpiece. It has been used on Bach flugelhorns since they were first produced.

4) Trumpet Shanked Flugelhorns

The last shank that very few flugelhorns accept is actually the same size that is used on trumpet mouthpieces. This setup is used on some European flugelhorns, but it is exceedingly rare.

“What Flugelhorn Mouthpiece Do I Need?”

When you are considering a flugelhorn or a flugelhorn mouthpiece, always check and double check that the parts you will be using will work together. Having an incompatible setup of mouthpiece and receiver will result mouthpieces not fitting properly and poor intonation and playability.

The “American Shank” Flugelhorn Mouthpiece

Depending on where you live and who you talk to, you may run across mentions of an American Shank flugelhorn. In our research, we have found that manufacturers and players can be referring either to #2 or #3 above when referring to “American Shanks.” Bach is one of the most prominent U.S. manufacturers and so some people refer to the Bach Shank as the American Shank. Nowadays, more U.S. manufacturers use the Standard Shank size so that has caused some folks to label the larger Standard Shank as the “American Shank.” To avoid confusion, it would be best to use Standard and Bach, or Large and Small Taper.

The Double Standard

Unfortunately, some people refer to either the Large or Small Shanks as “Standard.” This is because many years ago, the Bach Shank was considered the standard size. Over the last 40-50 years, however, the Large Shank has become much more popular while the Bach Shank waned. There has been a resurgence in the Bach Shank in recent years, though the Large taper size is still much more common.

Looking To Improve Your Flugelhorn or Flugelhorn Mouthpiece?

Bob Reeves Brass has a complete line of flugelhorn mouthpieces for all shank sizes of you are looking for a mouthpiece.

You might also consider getting a valve alignment for your flugelhorn to improve sound, intonation, and projection.

Flugelhorns Manufacturers Grouped by Mouthpiece Shank Type

Couesnon (No Taper): French Besson, Couesnon, Flip Oakes, Kanstul, Miraphone

Bach (Small Morse Taper): B & S, Bach, R, S, Berkeley, Besson, Courtois, Eclipse, F. E. Olds, Holton, LeBlanc, James , Trevor, Kanstul, Miraphone , Phaeton, Reynolds, Schilke, Selmer, Shiller, Taylor, Van Laar

Standard (Large Morse Taper): Adams, Benge, Blessing, Callet, Conn, Eclipse, Gerd Dowids, Getzen, Josef Lidl,  Kanstul, King, Lawler, Miraphone , Orlando Wind Instruments, Stomvi, Thomas Inderbinen ,  Weril, Yamaha,

Trumpet Mouthpiece Taper: Gerd Dowids

Bud Brisbois Trumpet Story

Bob Reeves tells about making a custom mouthpiece for Bud Brisbois:
Bud was a long time friend and customer of mine. I had done some work for him before, including aligning his Holton Bb trumpet #516449, when in 1978 he visited my shop. When I asked Bud what I could do for him he said, “I want you to make a new and improved Bob Reeves’ version of my Herrick mouthpiece.” “You got it!” I replied. He was playing a custom Burt Herrick piece (pictured left) that I had altered the shank on before. It was a completely custom mouthpiece – hand carved rim and cup, short length and a complex backbore. It took me most of the morning and afternoon to get the piece done. I was able to modify the piece from the original to give him a little more sound for less work. I had barely taken it out of the silver-plating tank when he grabbed it out of my hand and started running for the door. “I have a session I have to get to. Thanks for the piece!” Bud said running out of the shop. “Hey, don’t you want to take the old one with you just in case?” I yelled out, chasing after him with his old Burt Herrick piece in my hand. I couldn’t believe he would show up to a studio session with a new, untested piece. “What the hell do I need that old thing for…yours is better isn’t it?” I stood there speechless. The session ended up being one of his best recordings with Henry Mancini. He never came back for his old piece, where it has been sitting in the same drawer for 30 years.

Mouthpiece Threading for Trumpet, Trombone, French Horn, & Tuba

We get quite a few calls about threading rims, cups, backbores and underparts. We’d like to take the time to answer some of the many questions we get.

Why Use Screw-Rim Mouthpieces?

The trumpet mouthpiece is the connecting point between the instrument and player. Due to the unique qualities of each player’s lips, teeth, and jaw structure, choosing a rim is as personal a decision as finding a soul mate…which is why we often tell customers to “marry” a rim if it feels comfortable. Once you find a rim that connects with you, put it on every mouthpiece you own: trumpet, cornet, flugelhorn, piccolo, lead mouthpiece. When you switch from horn to horn, the adjustments necessary to switch are minimized since the mouthpiece feels the same to you. Threading mouthpieces is a handy solution when you find a rim that feels good, but you are not satisfied with the sound or playability of the mouthpiece. This may be because the rim comes off of a piece that wasn’t designed to do what you want. For example, you like the feel of a rim off of a lead mouthpiece but you mostly play orchestral music. Instead of going on a mouthpiece safari trying rims with similar dimensions, cut it off and thread it and put it on a orchestral mouthpiece.

What We Can Do

We can thread any type of mouthpiece using any thread you would like (Reeves threads, Schilke threads, Bach threads, etc.). Most mouthpieces are threaded at the rim so that the rim can be used on different underparts – the underparts consisting of the cup, bore, backbore and shank. While not as popular, we can also thread cups and backbores similar to the Warburton style mouthpieces. It is important to note that when we thread parts and put them together, we are able to maintain the cup depth and other important dimensions of the mouthpiece so that are results are consistent.

Customer Story

An orchestral player was in the shop last week looking to improve his setup. All of his horns have been aligned and he was going back and forth between mouthpieces because he liked the feel of one (a Monette mouthpiece) and the sound of the other (an old Bach mouthpiece). This was the perfect case where putting the parts together would solve his problem.  He ended up with a Monette rim on an old Bach underpart and left sounding even better than when he arrived. If you have any questions about our threading or any other alterations that we do, feel free to send us an email or give us a call!

Carrol Purviance Mouthpiece Story

I received this email the other day and thought I would share. I worked with Carroll Purviance for the last 8 years of his life and this story shows how, despite his personal conflicts, he was a master craftsman and respected by the best players worldwide. I am proud to be able to make his mouthpieces using his original tooling and also integrate his ideas into my own line of pieces.
– Bob Reeves
“Dear Bob,
I happen to be surfin’ the net the other day, and came across your web-site. Having been once a student of trumpet years ago and my best friend’s Dad was a highly respected trumpet player in the Warner Bros. orchestra from the late fifties to early sixties..(Larry Sullivan), thought I would relay this message:
We, as 12 year old boys, would often accompany Larry on brief  trips to the studio in Hollywood or Glendale to have mouth pieces made. I have memories of Carroll Purviance, hunched over his lathe, maybe slightly intoxicated and weeping, talking to Larry about his life. Later, Larry would always compliment us for not laughing or acting up on the way home. He always made it clear though, that Mr. Purviance was the absolute master at what he does, no matter what his state of mind. Nice to know that his name still lingers and represents this.”