Every trumpet player knows a great mute is going to make your playing sound stellar. But how do you choose the best mute for your type of playing? Let’s look at what mutes are and the types that are available. Trumpet mutes are devices which are placed inside the instrument, or are hung or clipped on to the bell in order to alter the sound. They are made from copper, brass aluminum, plastic, wood and sometimes cardboard. There are three main types of trumpet mutes, the straight mute, the cup mute and the wa-wa branded as a Harmon mute. You will want to purchase one of each especially if you are going to be playing in a band or orchestra. But we will focus on the straight mute in this article.
Many different manufacturers offer some great straight mutes, they are Bach, Denis Wick, Jo Ral, Tom Crown, Leblanc Vacchiano and Yamaha. It is very important to try them and listen carefully to the sometimes subtle and other times very different sound which each one produces. Since the straight mute generally makes the trumpet sound more metallic and or nasally, especially when playing loud, you will want to find a quiet room in order to carefully listen for the differences. Each will have unique blowing resistance and tone color. If the ensemble you perform in prefers a specific manufacturer, then it’s best to go with that one. It might be a good idea to ask your trumpet teacher or band leader for their preference. Since mutes make distinct sounds, as a section all of the trumpets should be playing on the same brand for the ideal sound quality.
If I may make a few recommendations of straight mutes which I have played on for many years. The Jo Ral company offers a great straight mute. The 1C is made of spun aluminum and has a copper bottom. They also offer brass bottoms for a slightly warmer and darker sound. Both will give you excellent tonal quality resulting in a near-perfect intonation. But let me interject a word about intonation. Any mute usually will make the trumpet go sharp. You must adjust by pulling out the tuning slide enough to make yourself play in tune while using a mute. With that said Jo Ral offers many styles of straight mutes and a complete line of other types of mutes, all of which can make your trumpet playing and that of your section sound professional.
My second recommendation is the Denis Wick straight mute. Using high purity spun aluminum Scotchbrite finish for a silver brilliant look. This mute offers a bright sound and excellent intonation and projection. The Denis Wick company offers a complete line of straight mutes with variations on the shape with bottoms available in aluminum, copper, or brass designs. They also offer every type of mute for the trumpet.
I know investing in a high quality trumpet is important to sound good and help you play in tune. The same goes for a straight mute or any mute for that matter. Because you cannot perform well on a poor quality trumpet or mute. No one is going to the rehearsal having just ripped out the upstairs plumbing to save a few bucks and now will try to perform the Hummel Concerto. Although I bet Malcolm McNab could probably do it. What sounds good to you may sound awful to someone else. So make an informed decision and don’t be cheep. It is true that you get what you pay for. Challenge your ears to what sounds best. Listen to professional recordings of the top trumpeters in the world and train your ears to that sound. Try imitating that sound and settle for nothing less. You won’t go wrong doing that. When it comes to music, if you haven’t noticed yet, everyone is an authority, so they have told me. You decide what you like and let others make their choice.