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.