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The Gap

by Wayne Tanabe/The Brass Bow Music Co.

As trumpet players advance in their abilities to master this piece of metal called a trumpet, they make an effort to understand the finer nuances that make this instrument work. One aspect of what makes a trumpet play the way it does is the space that exist from the end of the mouthpiece to the beginning of the leadpipe known as "the gap."

The basic function or responsibility of the gap is to set up response, playing resistance, and to a certain degree centering/slotting the sound.

While there is the opinion of no gap being the perfect setup, it has been my experience from repairing and customizing brass instruments for many years that a gap is preferred and needed by most players.

Modern day trumpets being manufactured today all have a gap built into the design of each instrument. Manufacturers' do this to insure just about any trumpet mouthpiece will fit even if the shank is worn badly.

Most trumpet manufacturers have adopted approximately 1/8" gap, this appears to be an industry wide standard. A gap of 1/8" provides for most players a subtle amount of resistance, plays well centered but with flexibility, with a warm sound character. Gaps smaller than 1/8" have less resistance, less feel of slotting while playing (easier to slur), but with less security and warmth to the sound. Some players who blow with more effort may like this better as they create their own playing resistance because of the way they use their air. I have found adjusting the gap to zero (mouthpiece touches the leadpipe) makes most trumpets feel much less centered or slotted with the upper range feeling and sounding more resistant. Playing in the lower range however feels very free with little or no feel of resistance with the response being more spread and harder to control. There are some trumpets made with gaps larger than 1/8", which seems to provide a player more slot or centering while playing in the upper range, but for many this gives a feel of resistance. Some may feel the response to be slower and sound quality to be unfocused with using a larger gap. Different mouthpiece designs also add their own influences into the effect of the gap as well as the leadpipe opening dimension. It is difficult to generalize that a gap of a certain distance will give a player a certain result, but the effects of the gap written above are from using average mouthpiece and leadpipe designs.

Many factors need to be taken into account before you have the mouthpiece gap adjusted to better suit your playing needs.

The procedure itself is a simple repair for any experienced repair technician. It involves unsoldering the receiver and the rear bell brace and repositioning the receiver to the desired location.

Whenever I make this adjustment for a player I take into account the trumpet design, how the player plays or rather use their air, and how well the instrument centers or slots notes across its range. After discussing with the player the good and bad aspects of their trumpet, a decision can be made if altering the gap will make a difference for this player and the problems they are experiencing.

You can experiment with gap by adding small strips of cellophane tape on the shank. This will increase the gap slightly allowing you to see in there are any benefits playing a larger gap.

A device called an "Adjustable Gap Receiver" can be soldered on to any trumpet giving the player the ability to adjust any gap length and allowing you to find the sweet spot that makes your trumpet play just a little better.

Remember that the gap is only one small procedure that can be used to fine tune your trumpet to fit you better as a player.

Each mouthpiece will have its own gap where it will work better for a particular player and can help improve response and sound quality. I hope this helps to fill in the "gaps" about this most misunderstood subject.


Wayne owns and operates The Brass Bow Music Company. The Brass Bow was established in 1983 to serve musicians of all levels, from novice to professional. Located in the northwest Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights, Illinois, The Brass Bow is noted throughout the country for its knowledgeable and experienced craftsmen who provide dependable and honest technical service in a prompt and timely manner.

Phone: 847-253-7552
101 North Hickory Avenue
Arlington Heights, IL 60004

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