How To Make And Use Your Own Trumpet Mute

Posted on: 3 September 2015

If you want to replicate the classic 'wah wah' sound of a great traditional jazz trumpet, you'll need to learn how to use a mute.  Here's how to make your own mute for your trumpet and how to use it. 

How to make a trumpet mute

Although you can buy fancy trumpet mutes from good music stores, the most popular and widely-used trumpet mute for beginners is adapted simply and cheaply from a common sink plunger.

  1. Begin by taking a trip to your local DIY or hardware store and buying a plunger that fits comfortably inside the bell of your trumpet.   
  2. Cut the handle off the plunger and turn the rubber cap inside-out.  
  3. Now you need to cut or drill a hole through the centre of the plunger to approximately the diameter of the handle you've discarded.  It's important to have a good flow of air through the mute.  If the mute is sealed inside the trumpet bell, the notes you play will fragment and you won't be able to control the intonation.

How to use your new trumpet mute

Now that you've made your very own trumpet mute, you'll want to learn how to use it! Place the mute inside the trumpet bell and close it tightly against the edge.  Play a note and as you do so, use your left hand to open one side of the mute whilst keeping the other side tightly closed.  Remember to keep the opening at the end of the mute free from obstruction. 

This should produce a glorious 'wah' sound, beginning with one-half step flat and finishing in tune.  By keeping the left side of the mute in continual contact with the bell, you'll limit any tonal inconsistencies as you play.  As you become more practised and proficient, you'll be able to produce a very subtle, soft 'wah wah' by simply covering and uncovering the hole in your mute.

Other ways of using your mute

Once you've mastered the basic soft 'wah' sound, you can experiment with your mute to produce different sounds.  For example, try placing the mute a few centimetres straight out from the trumpet bell.  This will produce a louder cup mute sound. 

If you keep the mute held tight against the bell while blowing hard, you'll achieve a much louder straight mute note.  By keeping the mute tight, you'll raise the instrument's pitch slightly.  This technique also makes it very easy for you to bend notes and achieve a really jazzy sound.

In conclusion

You can have fun and expand your trumpet repertoire by experimenting with a mute.  Begin by making your own sink plunger mute and, once you've honed your playing technique, you might like to invest in a more sophisticated version from your local music store.  Have fun!

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