by Wayne Tanabe/The Brass Bow Music
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
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.
ABOUT WAYNE TANABE -
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.
101 North Hickory Avenue
Arlington Heights, IL 60004
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