Mutes are used to create different sounds on the horn. Straight mutes create a more distant, far-away sound. Stop mutes create a brassier, edgier sound.
Composers use different words to indicate whether they would like a straight or stop mute used. Con sord., short for con sordino, is Italian for “with mute” and indicates a straight mute.
The ” + ” sign or the markings “stopped, gestopf, or bouché” in music indicate a stop mute.
When you see senza sordino, this means “without mute.”
Frequent travelers may also have a practice mute which will muffle the sound coming from their instrument so they can practice in hotel rooms or other situations where loud noises would disrupt others. Use these sparingly, as they create a resistance that is radically different from open playing.
Cherry makes for a lighter mute. It produces a focused sound that projects well.
Ash is used to temper the brightness of cherry.
Rosewood is a dense wood that creates a dark, rich tone.
Black ash will create a richer sound.
Aluminum is often the metal of choice for practice mutes.
Brass is often the metal of choice for stop mutes.
The material used will produce more pronounced timbral differences in 12-sided mutes. With conical mutes, the difference is less pronounced.
Some wooden mutes have a tuning rod inside that allow you vary the tuning and timbre of the sound. Most mutes are adjustable in other ways so you can fine-tune your sound.