Saxophone mutes are specific musical tools, usually made of light materials, that fit into the bell of a saxophone. The saxophone is a horn in the woodwind family, and like many similar instruments, musicians sometimes utilize a mute to alter the sound that comes out of the bell of the horn, which is its open rounded end. Although they are similar to other kinds of mutes, saxophone mutes are also unique to the instrument.
Many experienced musicians and others point out that saxophone mutes are not quite like trumpet mutes that muffle the overall sound of the horn. Rather, according to some experts, the saxophone mute diminishes a “rattling” or vibration in the horn, which can make notes sound more smooth. Many of those who have used saxophone mutes in the past contend that on this instrument, the mute doesn’t really muffle the sound, since much of the sound comes out of various other points in the horn’s infrastructure.
Although the saxophone mute may not effectively muffle the horn’s sound, or lower its volume by decibels, professional musicians understande the benefits of these musical tools. Some claim that a saxophone mute can make lower or higher sounds in the register sound better, by “darkening” the sound or altering the tone. Others note that using a saxophone mute can help correct some pitch issues with certain notes on the horn. It’s important to note that, if not placed properly, saxophone mutes can actually cause other notes to be off key.
In talking about the saxophone mute and its use, many sax players make disclaimers about how these simple items might help with issues around the sound of the horn. Some players suggest that a mute might benefit a certain range of saxophone better, for example, a tenor saxophone. Others suggest that the mute can help dampen specific lower notes, such as B flat. Also, some saxophone players claim that using available mutes can stifle the sounds of specific notes, making the mute impractical for actual performance play.
Saxophone mutes are most commonly made of foam or some other similar light material. Many musicians who play the saxophone frequently recommend making your own mutes out of cloth or any other light material. Others claim that the use of these tools is not necessary at all, particularly since they may not be effective in reducing sound. It is really a question of personal taste.