The Saxophone Mute allows for new timbre possibilities while playing a saxophone, or can assist in lowering the overall volume of the instrument. Saxophone mutes are a unique way to experiment with the sound of your instrument.
In a similar way to brass instruments, a saxophone can use a mute to alter the timbre of its sound, but may also experience a reduction in volume because the air cannot resonate as freely through the bell of the saxophone (depending on the size of the mute). For this reason, some players also experiment with placing various household objects, such as towels, socks, stuffed animals, and other soft materials into and around the bell of a saxophone to dampen the sound of a saxophone for quieter practice sessions.
Unlike a brass instrument, the effects of a mute are usually nuanced throughout the midrange and upper range of the saxophone because pitches that use open tone holes are not pushing the full volume of air through the bell where the mute is placed. Before purchasing a mute, it is best to try it to see what the effects are for your saxophone and style of playing to be sure that timbre changes are noticeable and worthwhile.
When muting a saxophone to produce a new timbre aesthetic, consider the situation in which you would use the mute. A larger mute may be quicker to insert and remove if playing a live gig or a song with quick mood changes, whereas a smaller mute may require too much adjusting to be a practical option.
Commercial mutes in varying sizes, such as rings and cones, are available for aspiring saxophonists to try. If you are experimenting with homemade options, such as a towel or other cloth, be sure to check that the material is not too abrasive, as it can scratch the inside of the saxophone bell, or that it is placed too far into the saxophone where it could impede tone holes from closing properly.
If you are muting a saxophone to reduce the volume output for a practice session, you may want to consider a solution that encases as much of the body of the saxophone as possible, rather than just stopping the inside of the bell. Practice bags and cases for saxophones are a new commodity that allow a player’s hands to hold a saxophone while it is otherwise completely covered in nylon or other stretchable materials, thus providing the best volume reduction possible.