Choosing the right practice mute can be a tricky decision. Weighing up characteristics such as volume, resistance, sound and of course price, with so many mutes currently available is a minefield. I have done some side-by-side testing on 6 different models here. Practicing or warming up with a practice mute is always going to have a large element of compromise, and is not generally recommended as part of a long-term practice plan. However, most people in the real world find that they need to use one either occasionally or regularly – it is about deciding what you are going to compromise on!
Over the years, the Denis Wick practice mutes have been the most popular, offering great value for money, decent intonation and a high level of resistance, perfect for opening out the throat especially in the low register. There is a tendency for most practice mutes to blow sharp in the low register, and this one is not too bad. Response is a bit sluggish, but this is to be expected from such a high level of resistance.
VERDICT: Good value basic practice mute *** (out of 5)
The UK best-seller over the past 10 years has been the Don Maslet mute. It is a really good all-rounder providing an even response across the range and options to change the level of resistance and volume. I found this to be comfortable for practice however it does not get quite as quiet as some of the others on the market, so not really one for an on-stage discreet warm-up! You pay more for this model, but what you lose in your pocket, you gain in all-round usability! Not reviewed here, but very similar to the Don Maslet mute in style and price is the Wallace Collection practice mute.
VERDICT: Good all-rounder ****
Relatively new to the UK market are the Bremner sshh Mutes. They are incredibly lightweight and pretty much dentproof with their moulded plastic design. They give good intonation, medium resistance and are great for a pre-gig warm up. They priced about the same as the Don Maslet.
VERDICT: Durable, responsive and good value ****
Yamaha’s Silent Brass system has been around for over 20 years and has had numerous improvements and additions over the years. The mute itself is compact and can be stored easily in the bell. The high quality pickup, amp and effects give as close to a ‘natural’ sound as is possible. They are also great for playing along with CDs, mp3 players, iPods etc. I have spoken to people who love this and use the full system a lot. I have spoken to even more people who have bought the full system and only ever use the mute! The mute itself is OK, intonation is fine and it is certainly quiet. Perhaps a bit too resistant for my taste, and definitely too pricey for my budget!
VERDICT: Packed with features and great tech, a bit expensive though ***
The Vincent Bach 1857 Practice Mute is just horrible. It is inexpensive and compact, but I am struggling to find anything else positive to say! It is extremely resistant without being quiet enough, and intonation is a huge battle. If you are looking at the lower price range, then I would recommend the Denis Wick over this in every respect.
VERDICT: Erm, possibly consider not practising rather than use this! *
The ‘Warm-Up’ from Best Brass looks great. It is really compact and quiet too. The response and intonation were not quite as good on this model as some of the others; however it is excellent value for money and will find a place in many players’ cases for a quick pre-gig warm up.
VERDICT: Very portable and convenient for gigs ****
I have come across many others over the years including mutes from Jo-Ral, Wallace Collection, Humes & Berg, Tom Crown and the eBrass (from Best Brass). I did not have these available to me for a side-by-side testing but your comments on any of these or the ones that I have reviewed above are welcomed!