This guide is intended to answer very basic questions that I get asked from time to time by beginner trumpet players or parents keen to see that their child is kitted out with all of the necessary extras.
What is a Trumpet Mute?
A trumpet mute is a device that fits into the bell flair of a trumpet to alter the sound. They come in various shapes and sizes and are not intended to make the volume quieter (although invariably they do), but to make the sound different (colour the sound); brighter, tinnier, warmer, piercing, duller or mellower.
There are mutes that are especially made for home practice that do make the sound almost dead but allows you to practice without annoying family or neighbours.
Do I need a Mute?
Probably not. Until you play with others in a group, orchestra or band it is pointless and a waste of money to pay out for something that won't be used. You see many used mutes on ebay that are in new condition, highlighting the fact that many are purchased but not used!
Basic Types of Mute
Practice Mute - It is necessary if you want to put the practice in but not want to annoy others. Yamaha do an electronic mute that is very expensive, I would recommend the Denis Wick practice mute 2nd hand off ebay for around £10.
Cup Mute - makes a mellow kind of sound. This and a straight mute are just about everything you will need as you advance. I would recommend either a Denis Wick or a Humes & Berg. You should pick a used Wick up for less than £20 or H&B for around £10.
Straight Mute - Gives a brighter tinnier sound. The most common cheap option is a Humes & Berg made from Fibre. These are just over £12 new so expect to get one for £5-8 off ebay. There are various straight mutes made from aluminium, copper or brass. Unless you want spot on intonation (Tom Crown is the best I have tried) some of the cheap unbranded mutes are as good as you get. A decent new unbranded or second hand Denis Wick can be picked up on ebay for around £10.
Wow wow ET Harmon Mute - various good brands all on ebay second hand for less than £20. Normally played with the tube out and gives a jazzy hollow tinny sound. You really should not need one of these until quite advanced.
There are dozens of other mutes such as bubble, bucket, plunger etc. But chances are if you don't know what they are you probably don't need one. You can usually get an idea of what is available by looking at music stores online. Please contact me directly if you need to know anything specific or if you feel something needs adding to this guide.