Understanding The Spectrum, The Many Ways to Play It Straight
“When it comes to straight mutes, one sound does not fit all. When you look at the context of your music, are you trying to blend with the strings, woodwinds, or percussion? Is it a warm lyrical section, or bright and rhythmic? Thankfully, when it comes to straight mutes, there is a wide variety of materials and shapes available that will manipulate the straight mute sound for every context in which you find yourself. A diverse amount of materials like wood, copper, aluminum, and brass, provide a variety of tone color options for any situation or style of playing. Finding a mute with the correct immediate response and tone for the context is not only your responsibility as a performer, but will save you energy and embarrassment in a performance.”
- Denis Wick Product and Performance Journal 2017
My personal experiences with various Denis Wick Straight Mutes dates all the way back to sixth grade when I first purchased an Aluminum Straight Mute required for band at the time. Almost 12 years later I am happy to say that I still have that same mute, and it plays great! To me, the all aluminum straight is like the swiss army knife of mutes and with a bright and projecting sound, it’s useful in a variety of musical styles.
The Copper Bottom Straight Mute is an absolute gem. I found great use with this mute while playing in a local youth orchestra during my high school days. The added warmth of the copper allows for an easier blend with less projecting instruments.
The Brass Bottom Straight Mute is the bright equivalent to its copper bottom counterpart. I used this mute quite a bit later in my high school days whether it was playing at the varsity football games or as lead trumpet in my school’s big band. With a bright attack, this mute always ensured I could project, no matter what the situation was.
The Synthetic Straight Mute is great for beginners that aren’t quite ready to purchase the Aluminum Straight Mute just yet. With a very fair price, I’ve noticed that this mute is less “edgy” than a conventional straight but still allows an ample amount of projection for the player.
The Wooden Straight Mute is similar to the Synthetic Straight Mute but offers a wider array of tone colors and is slightly warmer than its counterpart. I found this mute to be particularly useful in my playing while performing solo or doing any type of work with voice, your mute collection is incomplete without one!
The Adjustable Cup: Adjust Your Mute, Adjust Your Sound
Some player’s might think, “Why would I ever need a cup mute that adjusts, what’s the point?” It’s simple, you’re getting more with what you have. In some situations, the literature may call for a cup mute, and in others, it may do the same exact thing. However, just because the same type of mute is desired for the given piece of music does not mean the same exact sound is also desired. This is where the ability of a mute with an adjustable cup comes into play.
With the ability to choose how far or close the cup of the mute sits in relation to your bell, you’re able to produce a multitude of tone colors rather than just one. If the player is looking for more of a warm, quiet tone; the mute works best with the cup closer to the bell. However with the cup pushed all the way out, farthest from the bell; the opposite stands true with a brilliant, louder tone. Now if you’re really in a pickle and need a straight mute when you don’t have one, simply take the cup completely off and you’re left with a pianissimo mute that will get the job done in an emergency situation. If you push the cup all the way in and form a seal around the bell, you’ll have a makeshift practice mute that will get you by when the going gets tough (like if you forgot your dedicated practice mute).
In the grand scheme of things, knowing how and why we use specific mutes for the job is all part of knowing the literature and therefore being a prepared performer. In short, make sure you have the right mute for the job!
Growing up and living in the Western New York/Buffalo area, John R. Hylkema is currently pursuing his Bachelors of Music degree in Music Business from the Crane Institute for Music Business and Entrepreneurship at SUNY Potsdam and is anticipating graduating Magna Cum Laude at the end of this Spring, 2017. As a trumpet player since the age of 10, he is extremely excited to be the Dansr Inc. intern for the Spring of 2017, working on Vandoren and Denis Wick projects.
John, 22, has traveled with the American Music Abroad Empire Tour band and performed concerts in Austria, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and France and has had the honor of performing taps during the D-Day memorial site’s flag lowering ceremony at Omaha Beach in Normandy, France.
Watching Buffalo Bills football and Buffalo Sabres hockey games are among some of John’s favorite things to do, along with traveling, camping, and hiking.