Did you know that quiet practice was only a side benefit, but not the main purpose of the Denis Wick Practice Mute? Denis actually created it to be a practice tool that could be used for opening up a player’s throat for breathing, broadening the tone, and helps fix a host of other playing issues as well. Here are 5 ways you can use the mute to improve your playing this week.
1. Open your Sound.
Do you have a student who has an anemic sound? This can be caused by an overly tight embouchure, poor breathing, or poor blowing to name a few culprits. You cannot explain the solution to your student always. Use this exercise with your student, or yourself, and hear the immediate improvement:
a. Have the student play an easy scale or small section of music.
b. Have them do the same section again, but this time using the practice mute and have them blow so much air for this section, that they make the sound with the mute “wobbly”.
c. Take the mute out and have them play the same section with “normal” air, and the sound will be miraculously more open. Denis Wick developed this exercise to “open the throat” spaces and allow the student to play with better air and a relaxed throat.
2. Solidify those inconsistent notes.
Are you working on recital material that visits a part of the range that inconsistently speaks? Tension and air are 99.9% of the time the culprit to your failure. Take that section and use the above exercise daily, to help train your body to approach these sections with relaxed and “open throat spaces.”
3. Get back in shape.
Did you take the summer off? Getting back in shape can take a long time if approached in an unhealthy manner. Use the DW Practice Mute! Follow this schedule for your first week and you will save yourself a lot of time and frustration. Use this 7 day warm up routine to get back in shape while avoiding injury and inviting bad habits.
4. Sooth those weary chops.
If you are playing in a salsa band for a week straight, and then need to go straight into an orchestral gig the following week, you may find it is difficult to adjust as you have been blowing your face off for the whole week. Spend a day doing light “calisthenics” on your horn (i.e. long tones, light lip slurs, articulation exercises), using the mute. The mute will bring your lips and focus back into balance so you are ready for the next gig.
5. Practice makes perfect.
Go on vacation and bring the practice mute. Just getting a warm up in every day will keep you in shape enough to quickly pull your face back together when you get home. While the mute will not literally silence your sound, it will drastically “mute” it so it does not travel past your hotel walls, or bother anybody in the corner of the airport you are waiting in.
If you've never seen the Denis Wick practice mute in action, check out this video"