Mutes on a College Budget
by Marina Krol
As a horn performance major currently in college, it’s been a great opportunity to work at Siegfried's Call for the summer. Like a kid in a candy store, I had the opportunity to test a number of quality mutes. Finding the right mute is very important. Recently I tested eight straight mutes. As a college student on a budget, both quality and price were considered as I examined this sampling of great mutes.
After testing this selection of mutes I found recommending one over the rest wasn't adequate. Instead, I’ve highlighted three top contenders, across various price points, and subsequently detailed the other mutes. Each mute was rated by tone color, evenness throughout the range, and by price point. Please note that all of the mutes considered here are tunable.
The top three mutes, in order from one to three, are the original "Rittich" mute by Dr. Caswell, the Sylva Horn Crafts mute made from beechwood, and the RGC TPA 01 tunable straight mute in cherry wood. These three mutes scored my personal top rating for tone color throughout the range of the horn, consistency of resistance, and evenness throughout the range. I found the original Rittich mute's high consistency of evenness and free blowing resistance to be exceptional. This mute has a special black matte finish and an adjustable leather cord that makes it very easy to grip. Priced around $325.00 it is a great investment that lives up to its name. Understandably, such high quality comes at a price.
The second of the three was the Sylva mute by Horn Crafts. Clearly crafted with quality in mind and made of beechwood, the Sylva mute is priced at approximately $248.00. This mute has medium resistance plus a sturdy rope cord. Between the three Horn Craft mutes that I tested, I found the Sylva to be my personal favorite due to its medium resistance, the quality of tonal color and the consistency of the evenness throughout the range.
Both of the above mutes are great products. If you are on a budget though, the RGC TPA 01 tunable straight mute (in cherry wood) is a well-rounded and affordable option. The warm, easy to produce tone matches well with the light resistance and free play across the range of the horn. For a price of around $130.00 you can get a quality mute that works very well.
While testing these mutes, I found that it was very difficult to find a top three because of the numerous similar characteristics between all of them. The five other mutes tested were the Don Maslet straight mute, the Woodstop straight mute in walnut, the Betula Horn Crafts mute in beechwood, the Khaya Horn Crafts mute in mahogany and the RGC TPA 03 straight mute in cherry wood. All hand crafted and tunable, these mutes are comparable and each have their own positive characteristics.
The Don Maslet straight mute has a good sound with a black finish, and for the low price of $125.00, is great if you have a tight budget. When testing this mute, I found it to have a more condensed sound compared to others. In contrast the Khaya Horn Crafts mute has a more open sound.
When I tested the Woodstop straight mute in walnut, I found that it had an exceptional tone color and consistently even play across the register. There is also a sturdy leather cord attached for quick access. This handcrafted quality mute has a fair price of approximately $287.00.
After testing the Betula Horn Crafts mute in beechwood, I found there to be a heavier resistance, which works well for certain playing circumstances and personal preference. If you are looking for a mute with heavier resistance, I recommend the Betula. With the Rittich style characteristics, I found it similar in tonal color and is priced around $248.00.
I found the Khaya Horn Crafts mute in mahogany to be free playing more open sounding with a nice rich color than some others. This mute also has light resistance and goes for approximately $248.00. Similar to the other horn craft mutes it has a sturdy rope cord attached.
Finally, the RGC TPA 03 straight mute in cherry wood was similar in tonal color to the RGC TPA 01 mute mentioned earlier. It has a heavier resistance throughout the range and is a little less expensive than others with the same characteristics. A unique feature of this mute is its 12-sided panel construction. This mute is priced around $160.00.
Written by Marina Krol, Bachelor of Music in Horn Performance and Music History candidate (Hartt 2017)