If your mellophone has a bell that was fashioned on a French horn mandrel, then you’ve got it made. All French horn mutes will automatically fit your instrument. If not, then you will have to do some looking around, and in some cases do a little modification. Alto trombone mutes can also be quite effective. Try them out first to see if they produce a tone to your liking.
Sadly, Trial and Error will become your friends.
Mutes are especially important if you’re doing session work, because the mellophone fills in the same range as the alto sax, but unlike the sax can be muted to blend with both trumpet and trombone. In using a set of matching mutes between these three instruments, you can do with a trio what many bands can only accomplish with full sections.
Many trumpet and trombone players acquainted with the sound of the mellophone will balk at the mere thought of trying to blend the sound of a mellophone with a trumpet and trombone, which by their bell and bore-profile are acoustically suited to each other. But their reservations (if not their prejudices) will evaporate the instant they hear the sound of the instrument when muted.
As stated, if your mellophone has a bell that was fashioned on a French horn mandrel, then all French horn mutes are available to you. If not, don’t despair! There’s no need to wince at the cost of specialty mutes and hunt for something that doesn’t seem to exist.
Depending on the throat-size of your instrument, the straight mute of a tenor or bass trombone will fit all mellophones. These mutes will also allow lots of volume to project from the instrument, unimpeded. It has been confirmed that the Denis Wick Alto Trombone straight mute will fit the Yamaha YMP-204, as well as the Dynasty horns (it sounds better in the Dynasty than the Yamaha).
(2) The Cup Mute: Generally speaking, there are two types of cup mutes. One has a cup with a scalloped edge, and the other has a straight edge that lies closer to the bell. The former has that classic “cup” sound, whilst the latter has a sound often described as “velvety”. Again, these mutes are made for the French horn, but the tenor and bass trombone variety will do.
(3) The Bubble/Harmon Mute: This mute is known by a variety of names, but without getting into its various incarnations, names and history, what I am referring to here is a wah-wah mute that comes with a removable plunger.
Greg just happens to own a very old version made specifically for French horn, but these seem to have gone out of production 20 years ago or more. This leaves mutes made for the tenor and bass trombone.
Al has a trombone harmon mute that works fine on the Yamaha YMP-204, but it's too small for the King 1120. Again, it'll take some trial and error to find the mute that accurately fits the throat of your horn.
(4) Practice Mutes: If you're like me (Al, not Greg) and live in The Big City, practice-time
Which problems am I talking about? Practice mutes can effect the horn's natural resonance, which effects your breathing and how much
Practice mutes, unlike others, totally seal the bell. The cork surrounds the mute evenly. The result is a total muting of the sound, with the desired effect being as inaudible as possible. I personally recommend trombone mutes in lieu of French Horn mutes as the seal occurs further up the bell.So, what mutes are good? Yamaha's Silent Brass works quite well. The alto trombone version should fit the average Mellophone. The down-side is that the Silent Brass mutes are quite heavy and won't stay in the bell. You have to literally prop the mute on your knee while practicing. They're also extremely pricey as they include all sorts of electronics that make for a great practice session, but are quite cumbersome. The Denis Wick trombone practice mute also works quite well (sans electronics), as does the Humes & Berg Mannie Klein "Sh! Sh! -- Quiet" (you gotta love the name!) Stone-lined practice mute for Trombone.
Granted, they are small and light. They also seal very well and it does quiet the horn more than most. Of course, the don't make a model for the Mellophone. The regular trombone mute is too small for the Mello. The Bass Trombone mute is better, but it doesn't fit flush inside the bell like they say, so you can't keep it in the case. The wind resistance is minimal, but what I dislike about this mute the most is that it flattens your pitch, and the higher you go, the worse it gets. They're also quite pricey.
The SshhhhMUTE (Trombone version)
- Help improve tonal quality,
- Develop & open the throat muscles to give better air supply
- Enable accurate tuning throughout the range
- Weigh 13% less than traditional metal practice mutes, making your practice sessions easier
- Is made from tough ABS plastic; it won't dent if you drop it*
- Enhance pitching and accuracy
Trumcor Trombone Lyric Stealth Mute
I've tried both the Trombone and Tenor Horn mute and found for the Mellophone the Trombone mute is the way to go (I've found that the only difference is the positioning of the rubber, with the Tenor Horn mute's being a bit lower). I've been using it for a while and am quite happy with it!
(*One note -- yes, the mute won't dent if you drop it, but if you drop it a LOT due to it sliding out of your bellfront horn every few minutes, it will eventually crack, causing an annoying buzzing whenever you use it.)
But wait -- there's more! Recently I've been working with the Trumcor Trombone Lyric Stealth Mute. Though a little long, these mutes are made of extremely lightweight wood and fiber material. As a result, they barely weigh your horn down at all, and they mute quite well! The trombone practice "stealth" mute fits well in my Yamaha YMP-204 as well as my traditional mellophone. Yes, it does flatten the pitch a little, but it blows quite freely, and the not weighing the horn down is a key point that deserves being mentioned again. On the downside, because of its size, it doesn't fit into your case. At all. Also, because if the lightweight wood material, it can't take much of a beating. But still, it's worth a definite try.
(5) Other Mutes: The aforementioned mutes are the biggies for all brasswinds, but there are others. A few are the: the French horn “stop” mute, the Wee-Zee, Bucket, Clear-Tone, Plunger, Mel-O-Wah, Buzz-Wow and Hat. There is also something “new” on the market called a “bell-absorber” and other names, depending upon the manufacturer. While this is not a new idea, this device, a ring that clamps on the bell, is intended to dampen nodes, especially in the upper range at high volume. This is especially important where the mellophone is concerned, because this is precisely the area where the mellophone has the most problems.
Making it fit: As stated, some of these mutes may not be a perfect fit. The thing to look for here is a close fit. If you need a little more cork to make the thing fit your bell, add a little more. Cork is dirt cheap. All you need is a razor blade or exacto-knife and some contact cement. If you need less cork, file it down or use sandpaper.
The main thing to watch out for is the point of contact. If it’s at a place where the bell-slope is too steep, then it’s not going to hold well. You’ve got to make contact in a place where the slope is not too pronounced.
Don’t be afraid to make a few mistakes. Neither your instrument nor a mute is made of glass. Neither can be hurt by a bit of cork. If you have to move a cork on your mute, do so, and if you’re concerned with the cosmetic appearance, then file the old ones right down and paint over them.
Humes & Berg
The lead pipe is still under development, but Patterson is converting a number of horns for different schools and so far the results have been very positive.
You can read a lot more about the new lead pipe on Patterson Hornworks' Facebook page.
Osmun Music carries one of these items. They write: An adjustable left-hand rest (sometimes called a "duck's foot") takes the weight off the wrist and little finger. Our handrest is easy to install and can be adjusted to fit any hand comfortably. When not in use it folds down against the body of the horn.
You can see (and order) their Palm Stop by clicking here.
ProTec Music Products offers their Mellophone Pro Pac Case PB321. It is designed for the bellfront Mellophone.
From ProTec's Web Site:
For over 25 years PRO TEC International has been supplying the music industry with cases and bags designed by musicians for musicians. In 1984, our designers came up with a true winner when they introduced the uniquely innovative PRO PAC case line. Since its introduction, these sturdy, lightweight, shock resistant cases have become the leading choice among musicians that demand the best in protection and convenience.
You can find a detailed review of the case at the Middle Horn Leader.
Don't get me wrong - it's a good case and I'm glad someone has finally made a case for the Mellophone. But, in my opinion, it could be a little better. First, it's only slightly smaller than a Yamaha case. Second, it's designed more for the King and Dynasty horns than a Yamaha. The Yamaha fits, but not squarely. It's well padded on the inside, so it shouldn't matter, but I'm afraid that since it's not sitting squarely, a good bump could dent the bell.
Still, it's light and VERY strong, which protects the horn well, and it gives you the option to use a shoulder strap or, for an extra charge, backpack straps.
Click here to find an authorized ProTec dealer near you.