In the last 10 years the quantity of mute options has exploded in a way few brass accessories have. This makes a simple Amazon or online search a little more interesting than it used to! Your next step might have been to read a couple product descriptions, but that is where it gets really strange! "Where did all these mutes come from, and what does it all mean?" We can help. Use these product description red flags to separate out the quality from the imposters.
Before we delve into some online product description red flags, it's important you understand what a trumpet straight mute is, and is its purpose.
Straight Mute Defined: A straight mute's job is to manipulate the sound of the instrument. Much like a painter might add a little white to a color to brighten it up, a straight mute changes the color of the trumpet sound, and affects how the sound will travel or project.
- A straight mute provides an extra edge and direction to sound production.
- These mutes can be made out of a variety of materials but the most common material used for band and orchestra mutes is aluminum.
- The mute is used by placing the mute inside the bell of the trumpet.
- The mute is constructed with 3 pieces of cork at the top which serve to hold the mute in place during performance.
- The mute resonates with the instrument to manipulate the sound.
Avoid mutes that include these qualities in the description:
- Mute Silencer / Silent Practice:
"Your family members, neighbors and pets will not be disturbed any more using this trumpet mute."
"Aluminum Alloy Universal Pocket Trumpet Practice Silencer for Beginners and Students to Experienced Players"
This is the #1 indicator you are dealing with an imposter. Straight mutes are not for silent practice, nor will they dull the sound enough to keep close neighbors happy, or sleeping babies peaceful. If you are looking for a mute to do that, you need a practice mute. These manufacturers obviously built something shaped like a straight mute, but never actually used it!
- Product design/material that doesn't make sense:
-"...has a flannel interface design and three cork strips made of rubber bark, allowing the breath to come out from the side."
-"Use Violin practice mute to lower the sound level but still keeping it's pitch while maintaining sound quality, that means it would not affect the tone but give the Trumpet a mellow sound."
Remember your mute facts - they are focused on sound, they resonate, you put them in the trumpet bell. The warning signs in these descriptions are terms like flannel interface, rubber bark, "use violin practice mute...". Flannel does not resonate, rubber bark does not exist in mute manufacturing, and violin mute? If the manufacturer understands how a mute is supposed to work, these are not the materials on which they will focus, nor do they generally exist in mute manufacturing!
- Extraneous information: "No-hassle warranty - If the instrument ever fails due to manufacturing defects, We promise, for as long as you own the instrument and have proof of purchase, we'll provide you with parts for free." When a description starts describing a benefit that has nothing to do with mutes, this might be an indictor that this mute is an imposter.
A quality straight mute description will include these descriptions:
- Consistently uses "straight mute" when describing mute:
"Whether you’re just starting your musical journey or are a seasoned player already, the straight mute works for all skill levels. With proper care, it will last your full career."
A true mute manufacturer who is selling a straight mute, will consistently refer to their mute as a straight mute. It's subtle, but imposter mute descriptions will use terms like trumpet mute, brass instrument mute, and rarely call their straight mute a straight mute.
- Simple Ingredients.
"Made of high-purity spun aluminum, each mute is given a Scotchbrite finish. Portuguese cork strips line the neck for easy insertion and removal."
Materials to look for in a quality mute description will include Aluminum (or synthetic) and Cork. As you read the materials in the description, they should read as simple as that. The more vague and verbose material description is, the more you should be concerned!
- Focused on what a mute does:
"Perfectly tuned in all registers, the mute has a pleasant feel when you use it that won’t affect the “blow” of the trumpet. It’s bigger and more open than mutes before it, providing a full, rich sound."
Using the above and previous listing example, these descriptions correctly align with how the mute is being used, and what job it needs to accomplish (great sound, even tuning)
It is always best to get the advice of a sales professional from a dedicated music store, or from your own band director or private teacher. To some degree, online listings will always be worded with an algorithm in mind so a human conversation with a brass instrument specialist is best. However when you are on your own and trying to determine quality, start with what you know to be true about mutes and keep and eye out for these red flags.
Learn more about what makes a quality mute in this short video from our factory in the UK,
hosted by Stephen Wick
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