Gap Or No gap? That Is The Distance.

To most players, the depth that the trumpet mouthpiece extends into the mouthpiece receiver means nothing. To some, it is imperative that the distance be calculated and established. To some, the controversy has never come up. We will try to first explain what is meant by the gap, then how it affects the trumpets playing characteristics and finally show how you can make the necessary adjustment in order to possibly change your instruments playing characteristics.

What is meant by the term gap?

The term gap refers to the distance from the end of the trumpet mouthpiece to the beginning of the lead pipe when inserted into the trumpet. If there is a great distance from the end of the mouthpiece to the beginning of the leadpipe, this distance will affect the tone and response of the instrument.

How the gap affects the trumpet’s playing characteristics?

Usually an extended gap will increase the brightness of the instrument as well as affect the smoothness between notes. As the gap decreases, the instrument tends to play with a darker sound and notes tend to be more flexible in pitch and response.

For years the debate went on between the Bach followers and the Schilke followers for both men felt that their mouthpiece depth was the only correct choice. Mr. Bach insisted that there should be a gap and Mr. Schilke believed that there should be a smooth transition from the mouthpiece into the leadpipe. That was one of the reasons that the earlier instruments had the sound and playing style appreciated by the two camps.

How you can make adjustments to the length of the gap.

Ways to increase the gap

1. Cut off the end of your mouthpiece. (Ouch! Not recommended)

2. Rap Scotch tape around the shank (the part that goes into your mouthpiece receiver). (Much better way.)

By cutting the end of the shank off, you will increase the gap but also you will probably ruin your mouthpiece. If on the other hand you rap a single piece of Scotch tape around your mouthpiece, you will increase the gap. Additional tape will again increase the gap and you still have a workable mouthpiece.

Ways to decrease the gap

1. Drive a Morris tapered instrument into the mouthpiece receiver. (Not recommended unless done by a professional instrument repairperson).

2. Sand down the silver plating on the outside of the shank of your mouthpiece. (Realize that what you take off cannot be replaced.)

If you do decide to sand down your mouthpiece, you can always start putting Scotch tape on it again. (This is a solution for your first mistake but can save an otherwise ruined mouthpiece).

The debate as to which would be the best continues to go on today- Gap or No Gap. I am not recommending either but I thought that some of you might want to know what all the shouting was about.

If you are interested in experimenting on gaps, I would recommend that you first play your instrument for about thirty minutes while listening to the sound and evaluating the response. Then wrap a small section of Scotch tape around your mouthpiece shank; just enough to extend your mouthpiece out the smallest amount. Play your horn again for a couple of minutes and continue adding tape to see what changes are made on your playing. This will only cost you the time spent and you will then be able to voice your opinion on which is best- Gap or No Gap?

This was sent in today from a reader who has suggested this video.

From Kris……….
Here is a video in which Jason Harrelson, trumpet innovator, explains mouthpiece gap. Perhaps some would find a visual/audio companion to your article helpful. Cheers.

Thanks Kris for the information.

Mouthpiece Gap with Jason Harrelson

Bruce was a member of the faculty at the University of Northern Iowa, School of Music in Cedar Falls from 1969 until his retirement in 1999. He has performed with many well-known entertainers such as Bob Hope, Jim Nabors, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Anita Bryant, Carman Cavalara, Victor Borgie, the Four Freshman, Blackstone the Magician, Bobby Vinton and John Davidson.

6 thoughts on “Gap Or No gap? That Is The Distance.

  1. Kris

    Here is a video in which Jason Harrelson, trumpet innovator, explains mouth gap. Perhaps some would find a visual/audio companion to your article helpful. Cheers.

    • Bruce Chidester

      Great video and thanks for the information.

      I’m adding it this evening.

  2. Scott

    Tried increasing the gap on my Schilke 6a4a in my Getzen last night using the 1/4 inch paper strip technique. Instantly heard an improvement in a horn I’ve been playing for over 25 years. Wish I’d known about this years ago!
    If you haven’t experimented with this, you have nothing to lose by trying it!

  3. John Vassar

    My ’56 Olds Ambassador does not have a gap for some reason. Smoother inside from where the mouthpiece goes in and where the lead pipe joins . Any reason for this?

    • Bruce Chidester

      Cornets seem to have less gap than trumpets in order to make them more mellow in tone.

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