Practice mutes

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by jimortality, Jul 16, 2007.

  1. jimortality

    jimortality Member

    Castle Donington, Leics
    Yamaha don't do a silent brass system for Baritone, and the next best thing apparently is a practice mute! can someone tell me the difference in reduction of sound between a practice mute and a normal straight mute!
  2. Cantonian

    Cantonian Active Member

    It is substantially quieter......but not as quiet as my horn mute in a concert a few months ago. Our mutes have been recently spray painted in band colours and one of my fellow horn players decided to replace all the corks between practice and concert. I placed the mute in my horn ready to play a ff muted passage and nearly burst my eardrums as the corks were in the wrong place and sealed the sound totally!
  3. lynchie

    lynchie Active Member

    South London
    It's much quieter as the cork seals all the way around. Very good for developing breathing and stamina, not so good for general practice.
  4. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    Because of the shape of the Silent Brass trombone mute, it fits both tenor and bass trombones. I reckon that it will probably be fine for a baritone. I'm sure your local music shop would let you try one before shelling out.
  5. jimortality

    jimortality Member

    Castle Donington, Leics
    I've already enquired pal cheers! they say the trombone one won't work very well on a Bari.
  6. barrytone

    barrytone Member

    It's very, very quiet but not as quiet as the silent brass system obviously. It makes a tinny sound, similar to a metal mute but has two small holes in the bottom and sponge all the way round the middle of the mute to seal the sound completely. Fantastic to build stamina, try playing several hymn tunes at what you think is mf with a couple of crescendo's, then take the mute out and use the same effort, you'll be astounded how much of a big, quality sound you can make and how long you'll be able to sustain it.

    No good for intricate practise when you need to listen to things intently for tuning, intonation and dynamic contrast but it's fine to use it to blow through pieces to get the notes right. I have one, it was about £40 and enables me to practise later in the evening without annoying the neighbours. I live in a semi-detached house and middle aged neighbours and they say they can't hear me when I practise with the mute in so it certainly muffles the sound.

    Using a normal mute will quieten the sound but won't significantly build stamina, a practise mute does both. Can highly recommend one. Don't try the silent brass for bass or tenor trombone, someone told me that it works for baritone but the tenor is too small and the bass seems to sit too far out of the bell. Certainly doesn't make the baritone silent, just makes an annoying rattle, I have tried it in a Besson Sovereign baritone and two friends have tried it in a Yamaha and a Courtois; which I guess are the most popular professional instrument choices available, it doesn't work properly in any of them.

    Guess us baritone players just need to wait and wait and wait.... for the silent brass system to become available for us. Sorry, nearly went for a moan then about us baritone players being the cinderella of the brass band world! Was so chuffed when Gig bags decided to develop the moulded baritone case before the euph version, finally a company that values our business as much as every other brass players, rant over!
  7. jimortality

    jimortality Member

    Castle Donington, Leics
    Thanks for all the feedback! I haven't played properly for 2 years, and in that time I've moved into a block of 4 flats! Normally when I finish work, there is no one else in so practicing won't be a problem during that time, but on the odd occasion when they are in I'll need something to quieten the sound.
  8. cygnet

    cygnet New Member

    I play flugel and trumpet and have practice mutes for both. The only problem I have found is that, as I have to use it for all my home practice (I live in a block of flats with fairly thin walls), I find playing quietly more difficult when I go to rehearsals as I get used to blowing harder into the instrument. However, I would agree that it is good for stamina and breathing and not annoying the neighbours with repeated practices of fiddly phrases!
  9. Baritonedeaf

    Baritonedeaf Member

    Birmingham, West Midlands
    A Dennis Wick Practise Mute does a fine job for quite practise.

    I use a slightly adapted French Horn silent brass mute on my Sovereign Baritone - works fine, you just need a ring of neoprene/rubber a bit further up the mute. Sounds silent and the microphone works well etc.

    A bit of a pain, but did not take too long to sort out. You can pick up Silent Brass mutes cheap on Ebay, mine was £30.
  10. Veri

    Veri Member

    I borrowed a trombone silent brass before the areas - it didn't work great, but it worked well enough. Since then the neighbours (I lived in a block of 16 flats!) have just had to put up with it...I think baritone practice is ok, but now I've started learning the trombone....:eek:
  11. Highams

    Highams Member

    Slough, Berkshire, England
    I have used the Wick practice mutes for many years, as have my pupils. The problem is understanding how to use them correctly.

    Denis Wick writes;

    As every teacher knows, a good tone on any brass instrument needs a properly set-up embouchure; a good teacher will spare no effort to ensure that the student's embouchure is as efficient as possible. These days one may assume that the young player will have a reasonable instrument and a sensible mouthpiece. To this one must add what many teachers would regard as the most important of all - good breath control.

    One aspect of the brass-blowing body machine which is hardly ever emphasized enough is the throat. By opening the throat area - or closing it - the tone-quality can be varied enormously. Although the differences are not quite as much as in singing, they can easily be heard, on any brass instrument. It remains a problem, however, to put across to the young player the concept of "open your throat". Many ideas like "swallowing a football" - "yawning outwards" or "cooling a hot potato" work to a greater or lesser degree, as I found in my own teaching, but needed to be said so many times!

    Then, I made my discovery, more or less by accident. It happened when I had designed a practice mute. This was intended just to make near-silent practice possible, but also to maintain good intonation and a "feel" not too different from normal playing. Absolutely essential for an orchestra on tour! I discovered that by using my practice mute for loud practice, this tight throat problem could be eliminated in minutes. There was an additional bonus in that breathing became much more efficient when the throat was automatically opened by the resistance of the mute. The total result exceeded my wildest dreams!

    Here was a way of speeding up the teaching process, especially with young players. Even the smallest and weakest could sound almost professional in volume within a matter of weeks rather than years. I well remember a very little girl who suddenly produced an amazingly loud fortissimo. I began to realize that I had stumbled upon a teaching technique that could help young brass students in a very positive way.

    Often, the difficulty that youngsters have with breathing well stems from the fact that they are hardly ever allowed to play a maximum ff - and for good reason - nobody practises loudly! Trying to breathe well through a tight throat is fairly impossible anyway, so what one often hears is poor breath support and a rather choked sound.

    Try the following:
    (1) THE "BEFORE" TEST (Remember exactly how this sounds)
    Play mp the first 5 notes of the scale of C major starting below the treble clef. (Bb for concert-pitched instruments).
    (2) Play a loud low C (Bb) with the practice mute. Take a deep breath, holding shoulders down, play louder. The note becomes less controlled with increasing volume. Try again, much louder. You will notice, as the volume increases, a "buzz" or rattle from the end of the mute.

    This "buzz" wobbles and fluctuates. Keep trying to play even louder; make sure that the "wobbles" become more level. Breathe as deeply as possible. Push the air through in a controlled, natural way. Keep increasing the volume. If you begin to feel slightly dizzy - that is quite normal and only temporary. Now, with the same or more volume, play a semitone lower, gradually progressively descending a semitone at a time, until you are playing the loudest low F sharp (E natural) you have ever heard, continuing to breath as deeply as possible.

    (3) Take out the practice mute, take a really deep breath and play the "before" test again,(only mp, remember!)
    (4) Listen to the difference in sound - it should now be much more open and rich in tone, as the throat is automatically held open, thus creating a larger resonance chamber.

    After a few weeks, it should be possible to remember the "open throat" feeling when inhaling, so that it can easily be reproduced for loud playing, especially in the lower register; it can and should also be used for soft playing in middle and upper registers. Soft chorales and espressivo solos can have a whole new dimension. Awareness of closing as well as opening the throat also makes a near-inaudible pianissimo very easy.

    Of course, a metal practice mute is needed to make this happen. There are on the market fibre or cardboard mutes which function well in reducing volume. The electronic versions of practice mutes are fantastic (and expensive!) technology, but do not function like my simple metal practice mutes. Only metal practice mutes offer the "buzz" effect which is essential for real control of the throat spaces to be learned.

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