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Mutes

Mutes?  For the tenor horn?  Yes, once in a while you might need one.

We've never actually seen written parts calling for a straight mute or otherwise.  If need be, experiment with trombone mutes.

However, every conscientious brass player needs a PRACTICE MUTE.

Yamaha silent Brass

If you're like me (Al, not Greg) and live in The Big City, practice-time can be very disturbing to those who live above/below/beside you.  This is where practice mutes come in.  Granted, they do pose their share of problems, but if it's between using one and not practicing at all ... well, you get the picture.

L: Mannie Klien "Sh! Sh! -- Quiet"
R: Denis Wick Trombone mute

Which problems am I talking about?  Practice mutes can effect the horn's natural resonance, which effects your breathing and how much you "push" when you play.  On the upside, it's not unlike running with ankle weights.  Take the mute out and you're suddenly very, very powerful.  Another problem with them is that it effects the weight of your horn, as well as your intonation.  But, again, if it's between using a practice mute and not practicing at all, I'd grab that puppy.

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 Tenor Horn.  The down-side is that the Silent Brass mutes are quite heavy.  They're also extremely pricey as they include all sorts of electronics that make for a great practice session, but are quite cumbersome.  Besson recommends the Denis Wick trombone practice mute, which 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.

But don't rule out Denis Wick.  They now have a whole LINE of Tenor Horn mutes -- both practice mutes and straight mutes!  Wick is always VERY Tenor Horn-friendly, so their mutes will be top-notch.

The SshhhhMUTE (Trombone version)

And then there's the SshhhhMUTE, available online from Bremner Music. As per their website, these little beauties:

- 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

I've been using it for a while and am quite happy with it!

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 itís at a place where the bell-slope is too steep, then itís not going to hold well. Youíve got to make contact in a place where the slope is not too pronounced.

Donít 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 youíre concerned with the cosmetic appearance, then file the old ones right down and paint over them.

Links for Mutes

Humes & Berg
Denis Wick
Jo-Ral
Bremner Music
Bell Absorbers