Brass Instruments

The Best Brass Mutes

Unlike electronic instruments, brass instruments are inevitably loud and they may need to be muffled to produce certain sounds while you are playing. You also don’t have the option of being able to plug in some earbuds when you want to practice, so a mute is necessary to have to muffle the sound.

There are many types of mutes on the market today that can either help you change or muffle your sound while performing, or help you muffle your sound to allow you to practice. Many now have the ability to plug in, so it is no longer a problem to practice late at night or in an apartment building.

Not only are musicians no longer annoying their family and neighbors, but they are listening to a natural sound coming from their instrument as if they weren’t using a brass mute at all.

Here are a few tips on what to look for in a great bass mute, and a few reviews to help you start shopping.

Why Trust Me?

As a musician for over thirty years, I understand the need for quality accessories, and I also understand the need for being able to practice when I can. That doesn’t mean that the time I can find to practice is always a good time for other people, mainly my family and neighbors.

It is really hard to have a good practice session while you are trying to be quiet and are always worried someone is going to complain. That’s what makes some of the brass mutes that are on the market today so awesome.

Not only do they allow you to practice without worry, but they can provide you with great sound that only you can hear to practice to. And, some of them can plug into recorders and mixers that let you have a little more fun with your practice session.

Top Pick: Yamaha Silent Brass System for Trombone

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Made up of a mute, cable, AC power adaptor, headphones,  a personal studio to adjust sound preference, and LINE OUT output jack to record, it has just about everything.

Brass Mute Types

One would normally think that the word mute would mean silent and, in this case, the brass mute doesn’t always silence the instrument, but changes the way the instrument sounds. Most commonly a brass mute just brings down the volume and changes the timbre or tonal quality of the brass instrument.

When musicians use a mute, it can help their instruments blend in better with the other players, especially if they are in a small jazz ensemble setting. Players often use mutes to lower the volume of their instrument when they are playing with a vocalist.

You will find that most mutes fit inside the bell of the brass instrument and uses cork that is pressed up against the inside of the bell to hold the mute in place. Brass instruments are often used in classical music, but are most often heard in Jazz music.

Straight Mute

Straight mutes are often made of aluminum, wood, or cardboard, and they are shaped like a cone.

They have a small opening at one end that goes inside the bell of the instrument with the larger, closed end facing the outside, and they have three pieces of cork that hold the mute in place. A cardboard mute sound stuffy while an aluminum mute has a brighter and piercing sound.

Cup Mute

Cup mutes are made of cardboard and are similar to a straight mute, but have a cup on one end. These types of mutes are always made of cardboard and they are also held in place with three pieces of cork.

You’ll find there is a softer and more muffled sound that comes from a cup mute in comparison to a straight mute.

Harmon Mute

A Harmon Mute is also known as a Wah-Wah mute. It is made with Aluminum and comes with two parts. The larger is bell shaped and one continuous piece of cork that is wrapped around the mute holds it inside the instrument while the second piece, also called the stem, fits inside the first piece.

You can play the mute without the stem or with the stem all the way in or part way in. When a musician is reading a jazz chart that requires a Harmon mute, it will note how the stem should be used.

A Harmon mute is usually used with jazz and famous trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis used it a lot. Miles Davis usually preferred to play his trumpet with the stem removed from the Harmon mute.

Also known as the wah-wah mute, the Harmon mute will make a wah-wah sound when the trumpet player uses his hand to open and close the end of it.

Plunger Mute

An easy and inexpensive mute is the plunger mute which is quite literally a bathroom plunger. It is not attached to the instrument, but just held in the left hand of the player.

The way it is used musically is that the musician covers and then uncovers the bell of the instrument with the plunger mute, similar to the wah-wah sound. This mute has a different sound than the Harmon mute with none of its metal sounds qualities.

In days past, plunger mutes were often made of cardboard and painted a white and red pattern. This made it a better looking device than a plain bathroom plunger, particularly if the musician was playing in a big ballroom.

Bucket Mute

Unlike some of the previous mutes, a bucket mute is not attached to the instrument with cork, but with three large clips that attach to the outside of the bell. It is made with cardboard and also has cotton on the inside to help muffle the sound.

Other Brass Mutes

Other brass mutes include a Stop mute that is used by a French horn, the Derby Hat mute that looks like a derby hat, and a Practice mute.

The Practice mute is usually used during practice to muffle the sound of the instrument, and it is also good for warming up prior to performing. The Practice mute is always used just for practice and never in a performance.

The Competition

After hours of testing and research, here's the final competition.

InstrumentRatingCurrent Pricing
Yamaha Silent Brass System for Trombone
conventional, straight mute that is sealed at the top end with a rubber stripOut of stock
E-Brass Whisper System
very lightweight and blows freely in all ranges
Yamaha PM7 Brass Mute
unique rubber seal that holds the bell in securelyOut of stock
Yamaha SB79C Silent Brass System
easy to pack and transport, sound amplification technology has been totally reinventedCheck on Amazon
Denis Wick DW5527 Trombone Practice
great tonal quality improvements, uses the entire vital capacity$51.40
Yamaha SB5X2 Trombone Mute
superb muting performance with excellent intonation over a large pitch range Out of stock
Pro Tec ML203
compact mute fits inside the bell,almost free-blowing, perfect to use as a warm-up before performing$29.99
Yamaha SB5XC
compact and lightweight design with great sound reduction for stable pitch$200.38
Humes & Berg 113 Trumpet Mute
durable rubber construction that gives you a lot of flexibility$27.98
Bremner (SshhMute) Trombone Practice Mute
very little back pressure and gives you a better air supply$69.49
Soulo SM5105 Bass Trombone Bucket Mute
accommodates all bell sizes with the unbreakable, coated brass clips, flexible enough to allow quick on and off$99.95

Our Recommendation: Yamaha Silent Brass System for Trombone

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The Yamaha Silent Brass System has five different pieces including the mute, cable, control unit, AC power adaptor, and headphones. This is a very conventional, straight mute that is sealed at the top end with a rubber strip.

A set of baffles allow all the air to pass through the mute that quiets any of the trombone’s normal sound giving it the same effect as a practice mute, but with many more features.

It includes a control unit that is called a “Personal Studio,” around the size of a zip drive.

The Personal Studio includes more inputs and outputs with two different jacks that let you connect two mutes to the studio at the same time, as well as two headphone jacks. It also allows you to make adjusts for each of the mute separately, so they can play together.

Inside the mute is a microphone that connects to the studio through electronics that then feeds the sound to you through the headphones. Through the studio, you can adjust the sound to your preferences.  This makes it easier for you to concentrate and reduces outside distractions.

The SBS mute is able to lessen sound levels so well people in the next room will barely be able to hear it. You will notice more resistance from the instrument, but it able to control pretty much a full dynamic range. If you want to use the SBS while walking around, there is a convenient belt clip.

There is an additional jack that lets you attach external source like a CD for those that want to practice with a recorded accompaniment. You can balance the volumes and play the recording through the headphones, so you can practice without anyone else hearing.

You can also record what you are playing without anyone hearing. A LINE OUT output jack allows you send your sound out to a tape recorder or sound system. You have unlimited possibilities with the Yamaha Silent Brass System for Trombone for around $250.

Pros

personal studio
output jack

Cons

Heavier than you expect
On the expensive side

Runner Up: E-Brass Whisper System

The E-Brass Whisper System was created by Shinji Hamanaga, a former Yamaha employee, who built his own company called Best Brass. As Hamanaga helped to design the Yahama Silent Brass system, he has continued to improve upon it under the Best Brass brand and created the E-Brass Whisper System.

It is very lightweight and blows freely in all ranges. It has open slots that help you grip the mute in the bell. It also has a built-in power unit, so you do not need to use a bulky external to attach earphones.

One additional feature that is always nice is a built-in metronome that unfortunately has an unattractive beep sound. Some may find the upper register intonation a little flat, which is not terrible, just noticeable.

If you use the mute a lot, you will have to get used to the high range sounds lower. If you have the temptation to over blow, use the earphone to counteract it. The E-Brass Whisper System can be found for around $250.

Pros

Compact and free blowing feel
Worth the price for the built-in technology
Built-in metronome is a great feature

Cons

On the expensive side

Other Products to Consider: Yamaha PM7 Brass Mute

Produced by their exclusive wind instrument design team, Yamaha’s PM7 Brass Mute is lightweight without the restrictions you get from conventional practice mutes. It has a unique rubber seal that holds the bell in securely.

When you use the mute with the Silent Brass system, you blow as close to a natural open horn as possible. You pitch will stay true and centered whether you play low, high, soft, or loud. You sound is transmitted to the Personal Studio with the special microphone that is inside the mute.

You get a quick and easy connection to the Yamaha pickup mute with the input jack for either practice or to perform. It is easy to have fun during practice session by playing along with your favorite music or adjusting your performance setting.

The new and improved Silent Brass System is all inclusive with everything you need and nothing you don’t. Its compact and quiet design has the pitch accuracy that Silent Brass has become known for while weighting about as much as a cassette tape.

This portable system fits right into your shirt pocket making it easy to attach to yourself while you are moving around. This is a great brass mute for only $125.

Pros

Included headphones are a great feature and work better than ear buds
Upper registrar is improved when playing with the mute
The sound of the valves is as loud as the notes

Cons

A little on the heavy side, makes the instrument pivot

Yamaha SB79C Silent Brass System for Trumpet

Credit: amazon.com

The Yamaha SB79C Silent Brass System includes the Yamaha PM7X mute with the STX-2 receiver and a set of earbuds and a ton of cables. Previously, brass mutes were hard to play with and sounded bad.

The Yamaha SB79C allows only you to hear what you are playing which is great for those that live in apartments, have small children, or need to warm-up backstage.

You’ll see several upgrades from the original design including a compact and lightweight mute that fits right inside of your bell. This makes it easy to pack and transport, plus the sound amplification technology has been totally reinvented with the “Brass Resonance Modeling” that gives you a full, open sound like you weren’t using a mute at all.

When you listen to this mute through the headphones, it doesn’t sound like a practice mute. You only hear the satisfying and rich sound of your instrument. It allows you to experience the full sound of your trumpet without bothering anyone.

You also have an aux in to play along with music, and it has an echo-enhanced sound that gives you large room ambience with a reduced hiss. The sleeker look and simplified controls let you practice wherever you want and when you want.

You have the option of mixing in the sounds of a silent piano, a CD, an electronic keyboard, or any other instrument by using the Silent Brass System.

You can even output what you are playing to an amp with speaker or to a recorder. This will stop that ridiculous search for a practice room or have to stop because it is too late at night to play, plus you get all of these features for only $175.

Pros

Let’s you practice wherever you want without bothering anyone
Great product, worth the money
Perfect practice mute

Cons

Has back pressure which keeps you from playing delicate pieces
Intonation is not very good
Heavy and restrictive

Denis Wick DW5527 Trombone Practice Mute

If you are looking for a brass mute that is designed for superb intonation, the Denis Wick DW5527 Trombone Practice Mute is well-known for their sound quality, superb workmanship, and fabulous intonation in all of the dynamic ranges. The Denis Wick practice mutes are known as one of the best teaching aids available.

The Denis Wick takes care of the need for the in-tune painless practice that is important for any young player, but it also has that all important “hotel mute” for your professionals.

They have made great tonal quality improvements and use the entire vital capacity when opening the throat spaces by playing loudly when you are in the low register.

This practice mute does not have the typical deficiencies in intonation, pitch, and excessive resistance. The Denis Wick gives you the brilliance and carrying power that makes them popular with professionals the world over. The Denis Wick brass mute is available for the very affordable price of $45.

Pros

Perfect for rehearsing and for warm ups
Easy to use mute with great sound reduction
Very silent mute, you can hear the notes but not the tone

Cons

Cork starts to break off and you need to super glue it
Volume on this mute is higher than with the original Wick mute

Yamaha SB5X2 Trombone Mute

When you want to play when and where you want, reach for the Yamaha SB5X2 brass mute when you don’t want to feel confined to just one practice space.

This is a compact, lightweight mute that has an easy to blow pickup with a personal studio that has Yamaha’s exclusive brass resonance modeling. When you use these both together, you will get an incredible natural acoustic tone that makes you feel like you are playing without a mute.

This is a compact, lightweight mute that has an easy to blow pickup with a personal studio that has Yamaha’s exclusive brass resonance modeling. When you use these both together, you will get an incredible natural acoustic tone that makes you feel like you are playing without a mute.

The high-performance pickup mute has an internal microphone that captures the sound. Superb muting performance with excellent intonation over a large pitch range gives you natural playability.

The silent brass mute has the unique Yamaha Technology that utilizes modeling of non-muted brass instruments to give you the precise tone when you are using your pickup mute.

When you connect your mute to a smart phone or portable audio unit, you have the capability of audio playback so you can practice along with your favorite songs and to your accompaniment music. The Yamaha SB5X2 is available for $200.

Pros

 

Cons

A little on the expensive side

Pro Tec ML203 Liberty Trumpet Compact Aluminum Practice Mute

For high-quality materials and craftsmanship, the Protec’s Liberty aluminum mute is known for its excellent playability at a great price.

This compact mute fits inside the bell and is almost free-blowing and is perfect to use as a warm-up before performing. It comes with a long-lasting cork and can be purchased for only $30.

Pros

Good tone and good quality
Very quiet with good intonation
Good sound for an aluminum mute and doesn’t distort pitch

Cons

Tone is restricted with stem in

Yamaha SB5XC Silent Brass System for Trombone

Everyone knows that brass instruments can be loud, so it is often difficult to find a good place to practice so you aren’t bothering anyone. Yamaha has created the SB5XC to allow you to practice to hi-fidelity sound that only you can hear. This award-winning system is not only innovative, but it is an ideal practice or warm-up tool.

Its innovative system has made the Silent Brass System extremely popular giving players a realistic and comfortable experience with its inventive construction and sound technology.

It has a compact and lightweight design with great sound reduction that gives you stable pitch, a natural playing feel, and total retention of the characteristics of basic playing.

The Brass Resonance Modeling is a leading-edge technology that gives realistic brass instrument sound. Plus, the compact Personal Studio has an easy attachment for an external audio to allow you to practice with prerecorded music. The Silent Brass System also improves your recordings and gives you live sound reinforcement.

The Silent Brass System also improves your recordings and gives you live sound reinforcement.

Brass Resonance Modeling gives you the most realistic sound you will hear an electronic mute. When you mix this technology with the practice mute, you have great balanced resistance and perfect intonation making it a great mobile or home practice studio.

This is a very versatile brass mute that produces engaging sound, with a natural playing feel and dramatic sound reduction. You get all these features for only $200.

Pros

Great practice tool for living in an apartment
Amazing sound, worth the investment
Compact and light

Cons

A little on the expensive side

Humes & Berg 113 Trumpet Mute

The Humes & Berg 113 Trumpet has a durable rubber construction that gives you a lot of flexibility and it does become hard from drying out. It also features convenient front finger holders that make it easy to control.

The 113 comes in a fun red and white rubber plunger design, and it has a special front-end holder that let you create those awesome “Doo-Wahl” plunger effects. You can definitely make your horn talk and wail out those jazz sounds with the Humes & Berg 113. This mute is available for only $30.

Pros

Fun color with a great design and shape
Nice sturdy material
Top notch mute with a cool looking design

Cons

Has a hardware store smell

Bremner (SshhMute) Trombone Practice Mute

Credit: Amazon.com

The Sshhmute was born from the need to practice in weird places at odd times. Trevor Bremner was unable to find a suitable musical mute and developed the Sshhmute over many years work in his New Plymouth workshop.

The Sshhmute is finally available on the market and it is an effective mute that is available at a comfortable price point.

If you are just a beginner or have been playing awhile, the Sshhmute is a lightweight, yet durable, mute made of ABS plastic that does not come with parts that will break or fall off. It has a great advantage with the very little back pressure you will feel from it that also gives you a better air supply.

If comes with a soft fabric carry bag, so you can literally practice anywhere. It always remains in tune and it also stays faithfully accurate throughout the complete range. This is a great mute for warming up before going on stage and it is available for the great price of $70.

Pros

Less back pressure than its competitors
Sturdy cork and it holds well onto the horn
Very quiet and blows freely

Cons

Bigger than you expect

Soulo SM5105 Bass Trombone Bucket Mute

If you are looking for a new bucket mute for your trumpet, tenor, and bass trombone, the Soulo SM5105 is completely in tune in all of the registers, plus the pedal tones. It also has no weird notes or back pressure.

It can accommodate all bell sizes with the unbreakable, coated brass clips and are flexible enough to allow quick on and off. It also a lot lighter than its competitor making it easier to work with.

The Soulo Mute has two adjustable positions that let you have different color sounds. These options let your instrument blend in perfectly and it is ideal for sound recording and performance with its perfect pitch and nob back pressure. You can find it for around $110.

Pros

Well designed and well built
Solid construction and no rattling
Adjustable and comes with a carrying bag

Cons

A little on the expensive side

Sources:

http://www.tomcrownmutes.com/learn_history.html
http://www.harmonmutecompany.com/
http://trombone.org/articles/library/viewarticles.asp?ArtID=166

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