The words feared by every euphonium player. Are you trying to gather information about euphonium mutes with no success? Here’s my guide to the two most popular mutes out there.
Why Get a Euphonium Mute?
This is a good question. There is actually only a tiny amount of music that ever calls for a euphonium mute. I’ll address that in the individual reviews, but it is definitely good to ask whether it is worth purchasing one.
The answer depends.
If you are playing a piece of music in a band that requires a mute, but you don’t plan on long-term use in other bands or solo material, then I’d recommend trying to borrow one.
If you play baritone or euphonium in a brass band, this music has a slightly higher frequency of muted parts. For this, it might be worth the purchase, but it will still only come up every few years.
So, the decision is up to you.
If you plan on being a more serious player, it is probably worth getting a good mute. This is because some solo material requires a mute, for example, Gordon Jacob’s Fantasia.
It’s also very important to practice with a mute before playing in a public setting (for example, a rehearsal). You’ll want to experiment with sounds and figure out all the intonation issues.
You’ll also want to practice getting it in and out quietly in a reasonable amount of time.
Serious players don’t want to get stuck borrowing a mute that is essentially impossible to play with. This is why it is important to have your own.
Euphonium Mute Considerations
Mute physics is somewhat complicated, but here’s the gist of it. When you insert a mute into an instrument, the sound wave gets partially reflected back into the tubing.
This reflection is almost non-existent when the sound is allowed to come out of the bell freely.
These reflected sound waves create nodes that alter the pitch of the note. A general rule is that the higher the quality (and expense) of the mute, the less this pitch shift will happen.
A straight mute with no special shape, and a flat back, reflects unidirectionally and affects the pitch severely.
A euphonium mute that billows out, and is rounded on the back, reflects the wave in all directions. This disperses the wave and lessens the effect on pitch.
Humes and Berg 162 Straight Euphonium Mute
I got this as my first mute cheaply from my private teacher back when I wasn’t sure if I’d ever need a mute. I’ve used it successfully in both solo material and in ensembles.
It has very low resistance when playing, and has a bit more resonance than an aluminum mute.
This mute has made many long trips, and it survived moving several times. It was my teacher’s mute before me. So, don’t think the cheap price is that it is made cheaply. It will last you pretty much forever.
It also works well in both euphonium and (vertical bell) baritone.
I think this makes an excellent first mute. It’s cheap enough to be justified for a small number of uses, but good enough to serve any level player through all their needs.
It is small and light and easy to travel with.
It is long with nothing like a handle or grip to make getting it in and out easier. I played a piece that required a pretty quick change, and I had to miss some notes.
Unless you have seriously large arms, this thing will require you to tilt the instrument and grab onto a lower part if using one hand. It’s not hard or too slow, but it’s awkward to do quickly and quietly.
It is also a very simplistic mute in terms of shape. It alters pitch quite a bit and will take some getting used to in order to play in tune.
I’ve seen some complaints that it’s a “baritone mute” and is too small for their euphonium. I haven’t found this to be the case at all, but you may want to test it first.
Overall, I’d never say those cons are severe enough to justify getting a more expensive euphonium mute for most players.
Denis Wick DW5513 Straight Euphonium Mute
There aren’t that many mutes out there for the instrument, and so I consider this one to be the premiere one. Denis Wick is a big name in the low brass world, making quality products.
This mute is aluminum and produces a more characteristic metallic sound over the Humes and Berg.
This mute will work far better for solo material. It does not have the same intonation issues that many other cheaper mutes have. It has minimal resistance and you can play in all registers with ease.
It is, without a doubt, the highest quality mute I’ve come across.
It is more expensive, and is definitely not worth the price for someone who will only need a mute once or twice in their life.
Overall, if you think you’ll need a mute in a high-level ensemble, a solo with an ensemble, or more than a handful of times, it is worth splurging and getting this one.
You’ll thank me in the long for not having to deal with the several issues that come with a cheaper mute.
Get it on Amazon here.