Woodwind & Brasswind Contributing Writer - Tony Guerrero
are used to great effect in the trumpet world. They offer complex textures to
the player and the composer, whether in a section or in the hands of a soloist.
While the average listener may not be able to distinguish between several
models, a consummate player will look for several things in each one –
primarily the range of tonal colors a mute is capable of and its general
intonation (mutes can be notoriously out of tune!).
have long been a fan of Denis Wick mutes, and there is no question that these
mutes are among the most respected in the industry for both their sound and
construction quality. However, until this article, I have not had the
opportunity to sit in a quiet space with my horn and try each of the several
mute models they offer. What a treat!
offer my thoughts below on each one:
DW5531 Cup Mute
mute has been in my bag for a couple decades now. I love it! Most cup mutes are
static, meaning they have one position. This one attracted my attention years
ago because its moveable cup allows a variety of tonal colors. Keep it out its
full length and it fits right in with a more standard cup mute. However, the
closer you push the cup to the bell, the darker and more muted the sound
becomes. I’ve recorded several jazz CDs relying on this close-cup setting for a
dark, personal and mellow sound. In a pinch, you can also remove the cup
entirely and use this as a straight mute!
is no doubt you can find a sweet spot with this mute, and if I were to recommend
just one Denis Wick mute, it would be this
one. (Thankfully, I don’t have to limit my recommendations!)
DW5504 Straight Mute
Wick offers several variations of this mute, and I was, frankly, a little
surprised at how much of a marked difference there was between models.
– Fiber is being used to great effect these days, even in the production of
trumpets. Denis Wick’s fiber straight mute offers a nice warm tone (for a
straight mute!) and is probably the model that will get you closest to a
traditional straight mute sound.
are three different metal versions. The bodies are the same (aluminum) but the
end cap comes in three varieties.
– This one definitely gave me a mellower sound, and I could see using this in
several solo contexts.
Copper – These two were both quite a
bit brighter and had a little more “bite” than the aluminum or fiber versions.
To be honest, I waffled a bit on which one I thought was brighter, but for me I
believe the copper version had a slight edge. Either of these would be ideal
when your straight mute needs to cut through a large ensemble.
DW5510 Plunger Mute
the metal body probably eliminates its actual use in unclogging toilets, you
should find yourself very happy with its use on your horn! I particularly liked
the sound as I moved it in close to the bell - far more of a traditional jazz
sound than I expected.
DW5506 Harmon Style Mute with Stem
this model mute has become known as a “Wah-Wah Mute” or a “Harmon Mute”
(Although “Harmon” is actually a particular manufacturer, every mute company
makes a version.)
this particular mute model (# 5506) did not fit in the bell of my horn well (I
play a Yamaha Xeno) and I believe may have been intended for a smaller cornet
(which I didn’t have available on the day I was testing). I could get it to
stay in, but I know it wasn’t an ideal fit. Its circumference was quite a bit
smaller than my bell also.
I wanted to give it a try. Even with the bad fit, this mute sounded great!
Keeping the stem in (at varying in/out settings) gave quite a range of sound
and gives you just the right amount of the “cartoonish” quality that it is
intended for. With the stem out it offers more of the traditional jazz sound
(think: Miles Davis) and played nicely in tune (this style of mute, from any
manufacturer, is notoriously out of tune and requires much adjustment as you
DW5526 Practice Mute
practice mutes require a little extra push since they essentially block air
coming from the bell. However, this mute offered quite a bit less resistance
than many of its competitors. And it actually offers a pretty nice tone,
although that isn’t the intention for this kind of mute. I would highly
recommend this for those of you who may need to practice or warm up quietly on