So, here is a really interesting new product that I have been sent through for review… The Vhizzper mute is the brainchild of Christoph Baerwind, trumpeter in ‘German Brass’ and ‘Der Orchester der Hamburgischen Staatsoper’. The essential concept is a practice mute that can also be used as a mouthpiece mute. This is not something that I have encountered before so was fascinated to give it a try.
This mute is adjustable so that you can alter the resistance level and volume. It also comes in 3 colours as pictured above! To start with I used it as a traditional mute. I spent a minute or so trying the different resistance/volume settings and found that I was most comfortable playing at the halfway point between closed and open. This seems to give the best balance for me, but even with the adjuster completely open, the volume is still nice and soft.
I have to confess that it took a little while to get to grips with this mute. Notes were not really where I was expecting them, and I did not really feel in control. However, what I found after a short while was that as soon as I backed off a bit and tried to imagine that there was no mute in, it became easy! I had been over-blowing, which I can only assume is the way that I have always subconsciously approached practice mutes in the past.
It is such a breath of fresh air, being able to blow naturally and keep the centre of the notes exactly where I want them. Once I got used to playing with less effort, even my low C was in tune – this has been sharp to varying degrees on every practice mute that I have ever played. Intonation and response across the range is also very even.
Not only is this a good tool for doing that essential practice when noisemaking is not convenient, I can also see it as a great training tool. Sometimes when faced with a student who just needs to get used to blowing more and keeping the throat open, I have prescribed short bursts of playing with a more traditional practice mute such as a Denis Wick, to add resistance to help with that. In contrast, I can see the Vhizzper being a really useful tool for helping students to develop their lower breathing muscles, and keeping really natural airflow and support.
Next I set the adjuster to the closed position which seems to give the best response for me when using just with the mouthpiece (as pictured above). I have always liked to incorporate lots of free and mouthpiece buzzing into my practice and teaching. It can be a great way of really forcing you to concentrate on the absolute basics of breathing, control and blowing, without getting hung up on the sound. I have tried lots of buzzing aids including the Berp and the Buzzard and found them to have a really positive impact. The Vhizzper is another good product to add to this category.
It adds a little more resistance to your natural mouthpiece buzz so that it comes slightly closer to the feeling that you get when playing the trumpet. It also adds a little more resonance, which is surprising seeing as it is also muting the sound! This helped my general range for buzzing (I have always struggled to get a good natural buzz when playing in both extremes of high and low) and also naturally encourages you to support the airflow in the same way that you would want to play the trumpet.
In summary, I am very impressed! The very nature of a practice mute is that there is a large element of compromise. You are going to lose a level of response, intonation and natural vibration in return for a quieter sound. However, the Vhizzper keeps these compromises to a minimum, stacks up well against the alternatives on the market, and also gives you a valuable mouthpiece buzzing tool. It is certainly worthy of place in any trumpeter’s mute armoury!