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