The most common small brass mutes
This guide covers mutes for the high brass family – trumpets, cornets and flugels.
Horn players have a small universe of mutes available to explore. Mutes don’t simply ‘mute’ the sound – they can add various tonal differences and beautiful characteristics while keeping the upstairs neighbours happy.
The is the most common mute used by both classical and jazz players. The straight mute produces a somewhat nasal sound that differs depending on the material used in its construction. Most of the straight mutes we stock at Vanguard are aluminuim. They are also commonly found with copper ends or made from fibres or cardboard.
This is the second most common mute on our list. The cup mute is essentially a straight mute with cup (almost bowl) looking part on the end. This gives the mute a more closed, softer sound. It’s less nasal but with similar tonal qualities than the cup mute. The cup section can often be removed and adjusted on these.
Wah-Wah / Harmon mute
The sound of the wah-wah mute is starkly different from the cup or straight mute. The end that goes into your horn has an airtight cork which forces all the air through a small hole in the front. A removable plunger in the end can be adjusted to produce different tones, and the player can use their off hand to create a ‘wah-wah’ sound by blocking and releasing the opening. Remove the plunger and you get the smoky, jazz sound popularised by Miles Davis.
An extreme version of the wah-wah mute, the plunger, combined with a tongue flicking technique, gives a unique sound that has long been a favourite in big bands. Metal versions are available, but a toilet plunger without a stick is perfectly viable for those on a budget.
Practice mutes simply reduce the volume of your horn. The kiwi-owned Sshhumte mutes are lightweight and don’t seem to create as much resistance for the player as other brands. We also stock a little plug called a ‘Silencer’ which goes into the end of harmon mute and reduces the volume while still getting those sweet jazzy tones.