Photo from the Archives: Salko, Fagerquist, Armstrong, Zarchy, Stevens

For many years we’ve had a signed photo of Zeke Zarchy standing with Louis Armstrong hanging on the shop wall. Bob loves telling the story of how Zeke had an artist paint in his left hand, which at close look, seems rather larger. Here’s the photo:

Louis Armstrong and Zeke Zarchy
Louis Armstrong and Zeke Zarchy photo signed by Zeke.

Well, we were doing some winter cleaning and came across the original photo that was used:

Trumpet players: Jimmy Salko, Don Fagerquist, Louis Armstrong, Zeke Zarchy, Manny Stevens
From L to R: Jimmy Salko, Don Fagerquist, Louis Armstrong, Zeke Zarchy, Manny Stevens

Apparently, Zeke had cropped out the rest of the trumpet section! On the left is Jimmy Salko who was a customer of Bob’s for years playing on his mouthpieces and getting valve alignments on all his trumpets. Next to him is Don Fagerquist, a fabulous trumpet player who Bob heard often around town.  In the middle is Louis Armstrong. While working for Purviance, Bob made Louis Armstrong’s last 6 trumpet mouthpieces. They were all Puviance 4*K4 mouthpieces or variations on them. Next to Louis is Zeke, who Bob knew for years and made several mouthpieces for and line up all his trumpets. Finally, on the far right is Manny Stevens. Manny was also a long-time customer of Bob’s, playing on Bob’s pieces and having alignments done whenever he picked up a new horn.

History of the Mouthpiece Gap & Bob Reeves Sleeve System, Part 2

Click here to read Part I of this series

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.

Bob Reeves' B.R.A.S.S. Advertisement
Early Advertisement for Bob’s Adjustable Receiver

Adjustable Gap Receiver

In 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.

Check back for Part III when we will discuss how you can find the optimal gap for your set up.

Click here to learn more about the Bob Reeves Sleeves System.

Click here to read Part I of this series

Valve Alignment Testimonial

We received this great note the other day from our customers:

“I recently sent my Kanstul Trumpet in for a valve alignment. It came back just before my performance at my induction into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The change in the instrument was remarkable!

The overall sound was intonation was an incredible improvement. The center of the notes was easier to “think and play”. The octave slots were more pronounced. I love the new pads!

Overall I said WOW! Thanks so very much for your great care and expertise.

Pat Vidas
Producer / Composer
Capitol / Motown recording Artist”

Pat Vidas Playing His Recently Aligned Kanstul Trumpet
Pat Vidas Playing His Recently Aligned Kanstul Trumpet

Thanks for the kind words Pat, and congratulations on your induction, what an achievement!

Snooky Young Video

We are very sad to hear of the passing of trumpet player Snooky Young. It is an understatement to say that Snooky set the standard for lead trumpet players. We are fortunate to have been able to hear him perform many times through the years. Bob started doing work for Snooky back in the 70’s, and has done several alignments for him through the years.

Here is a video of Snooky that we came across that really shows his sensitive side:

From The Archives – Rafael Mendez Photo

Here is a photo that used to hang in the shop that was sent from Rafael Mendez to Carroll Purviance. Purviance made him a 6C3 model that he refers to in the signed note. Mendez came by Bob’s shop in Hollywood and would bring his friends and students.

The writing in the lower left is hard to make out in the scan but reads:

“Para mi amigo Carroll, [To my friend Carroll]

Thanks for the big improvement that your wonderful mouthpiece made in my playing.

Sinceramenta, [Sincerely,]
Rafael A. Méndez

Rafael Mendez Photo to Carroll Purviance
Rafael Mendez signed photo to Carroll Purviance

Click on the photo to see a larger version.

3 Inherent Problems with Gap Formulas and Studies

A lot of great, in depth work has been done about the trumpet mouthpiece gap. Unfortunately, many of the frequently cited formulas and studies on the gap have inherent problems that create erroneous results, which when relied on, will deter trumpet players from achieving optimum results with their equipment. I’ll address three of these inherent problems here.

Problem #1 – Failure to Take The Player Into Consideration

As we have written about previously, a proper study on the gap must include all three essential elements of the system – the trumpet, the mouthpiece, and the player. Having helped thousands of players through the years to fine tune their gap, we have no doubt that the player is the most important variable of the Player-Trumpet-Mouthpiece System.

No gap formula or theory to date has been able to calculate what a player feels, and most importantly, what a player prefers to feel. Yes, there are certain generalizations about the gap and ranges of sizes that many players fall into.

Relying on these generalizations is as silly as blindly buying a men’s size 9 or 10 shoe because that’s the range of shoe sizes most commonly sold, even though you are a woman who wears a woman’s size 8.

Relating this back to the gap:

Find the gap that plays the best for you, not what someone else told you should feel the best for you.

Problem #2 – Failure to Take Changes in the Equipment Into Consideration

We know that a change in the gap changes the acoustical impedance in the Player-
Trumpet-Mouthpiece System. It is also well settled that there are thousands of other variables in the mouthpiece and trumpet that can change the acoustical impedance in the System.

Due to the nature and limitations of mouthpiece and instrument manufacturing, it is impossible to consider every variable that affects acoustical impedance. Put another way, it is impossible to isolate and therefore calculate, what the gap should be considering every variable.

The gap formulas and theories sometimes attempt, but do not succeed in addressing every variable in the equipment and therefore cannot predict anything with any consistency.

Problem #3 – Failure to Take The Environment Into Consideration

While the first two problems on this list are the most important inherent problems in any gap formula or theory, the third problem — considering the environment — is worthy of a mention.

For argument’s sake, let’s say that we can calculate an optimal gap considering the player, the mouthpiece, and the trumpet. We know that the acoustical properties of the environment you are playing in can affect the acoustic impedance you feel as a performer.

Playing outside in hot, humid weather and then moving inside a air-conditioned, dry, acoustically “stuffy” room can drastically change the acoustical impedance, and in turn, what you feel.

In today’s musical climate, you could easily find yourself in a stuffy recording study, then in a huge, open cathedral. While most players would not think to adjust the gap in these situations, a significant minority of players have fine-tuned the gap to their varying situations.

Learn More About the Gap

History of the Mouthpiece Gap & Bob Reeves Sleeve System: Part I

Carroll Purviance, Mouthpiece Maker
Mouthpiece maker Carroll Purviance.

The Early Years

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.

Bob Reeves Trumpet Mouthpiece with Sleeves
A Bob Reeves trumpet mouthpiece cut for sleeves with sleeves.

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.

Check back for Part II of this series!

Click here to learn more about the Bob Reeves Sleeves System.