This One Simple Trick Can Make Trumpet Easier

Let’s face it, the trumpet can be a beast sometimes — stuffy low notes, tight high notes, quirky notes that just don’t settle or play in tune. While there is no substitute for diligent practice, there are always ways to make the trumpet easier. Maybe even a lot easier!

What if we told you that with this one simple trick, you could make one or more of the following improvements to your trumpet playing immediately:

  • better intonation
  • more open feel
  • better projection
  • cleaner articulation
  • more secure slotting


This may sound too good to be true, but we see these results with our customers every day and have for the past 40 years!

So what is this magic trumpet trick?

The Bob Reeves Brass Paper Trick

Here’s how to do the Bob Reeves Paper Trick yourself:

  1. Take a sheet of paper and cut off a small piece. It should be about 3/4″ long and only about 1/8″ wide. Set the piece of paper aside.IMG_4075
  2. Play an exercise that covers your comfortable range. It should include some articulation.
  3. Remove your mouthpiece and place the paper length-wise on the side of the shank of the mouthpiece.IMG_4084
  4. Put the mouthpiece and the piece of paper into your trumpet receiver.IMG_4085
  5. Play the exercise again.
  6. Note what changes you hear in your sound, articulation, slotting, and feel.

“I’ve Done The Paper Trick – Now What?”

One of three things will happen:

  1. It will play better with the paper.
  2. It will play worse with the paper.
  3. You won’t notice a difference.

If it plays better (#1), then you need a larger gap on your mouthpiece. This can be achieved by altering your mouthpiece and getting a removable sleeve at the larger size. If you don’t want a removable sleeve, we can re-shank your mouthpiece to that larger size while keeping the shank solid.

If it plays worse (#2), you might need a smaller gap. This can be achieved by machining down your shank, or by converting your mouthpieces for Reeves Sleeves and experimenting with smaller sleeve sizes.

If you don’t notice a difference (#3), try the experiment again, this time adding a second piece of paper on top of the first. Keep repeating until it plays better or worse.

How Does the Gap Work?

How can this simple trick improve your trumpet playing? The short answer is that it allows you to experiment by changing the gap between your mouthpiece and the leadpipe, which is an often neglected, yet crucial element of your playing setup.
Some tips on doing The Paper Trick:

  • record yourself and listen back
  • have someone else listen to you in front of the bell
  • use the paper trick on all your mouthpiece and trumpet combinations

Exploring Deeper into the Trumpet Gap

If you would like to learn more about the gap, here are some additional blog posts you can read:

You can also read about the Gap and our interchangeable sleeve system on our website here: Bob Reeves Brass Sleeves

  • Ray J Cardenas

    It broke my trumpet