Whether you decide to stick a piece of foam or a sock in your saxophone horn, get yourself legit saxophone mute from a store, or have a full soundproof area to practice saxophone quietly, the truth is that for years sax players have tried to find the best way to practice without bothering their neighbors or housemates.
Understanding this need, many companies have developed different “solutions” to lower the instrument’s sound to a level that doesn’t bother others while practicing, therefore we now have a variety of saxophone mutes available.
In this article, I will try to explore the different types and saxophone mutes and shed some light on how they work and if they are really worth purchasing.
What is a saxophone mute?
First, we need to understand what a saxophone mute is. A sax mute is a tool that intends to lower the volume of a saxophone. Some are made to be placed inside the bell, neck, or mouthpiece of the saxophone and some encase the whole instrument and try to soundproof it.
Types of mutes
Mutes that go in the bell work on the principle that, since the sound of wind instruments comes from the bell, if you block it the sound should be lowered. However, sound from a saxophone is not produced solely from the bell but also from every tone hole that is open, so this type of saxophone mute will dampen the sound but won’t be 100% effective.
Neck or mouthpiece mutes work to some extent and will reasonably lower the disruption but will add resistance to the range of the instrument and will make you breathless faster. It could also affect the tone quality.
Then there are the full-body mutes that enclose the whole instrument inside a soundproof material, allowing you to play without much interference or blockage. The downside is that they tend to be bulky, heavy, and more expensive, but is one of the most effective solutions so far.
Saxophone mufflers are another way of calling a saxophone muter, specifically those placed in the bell, neck, or mouthpiece. They’re usually made from soft materials, like foam, but there’s also a variety of mufflers made from aluminum.
As we said before, if you are looking to practice saxophone quietly, mufflers won’t be much help because of the way saxophones are designed and how they produce sound.
However, some sax players say that this kind of saxophone muter alters lower and higher sounds improving them, as well as the tone, and even could help correct pitch issues with certain notes.
Keep in mind that the incorrect placement of the sax mutes could cause notes to be off-key. Also, we practice with the intention of improving our skills, and mufflers intervene by making the instrument feel different, and this can later turn into developing bad habits and you also won’t be able to listen to the instrument’s true sound because it will be dampened by the muted saxophone.
In the end, you need to really analyze if a muffler will really help you out as a saxophone silencer or just add difficulties and issues in the long run.
Full-body saxophone mute and its usability
If you can’t pay to get a soundproof space to play saxophone quietly, full-body mutes are the next best thing. They really have the capacity to lower the volume of the sax to a conversational level without affecting the way the instrument feels while playing it.
Full-body mutes are basically soundproof cases in which you encase the whole instrument and lower considerably the decibels, ranging from 60 to 70dBa, as opposed to the 90-95cBa produced normally by saxophones. This means that what your neighbors would, under normal circumstances, consider as saxophone noise, would be lowered to a conversational level allowing you to practice and strengthen your skills further without many interruptions or complaints.
There’s always a downside to everything and no saxophone mute is perfect, and in this case, the main issue would be its price, because they are not cheap, but if you are able to make the extra effort you should consider these.
Brands of full-body saxophone mutes
There are two types of full-body saxophone mutes on the market.
First, we have the Saxmute One, which reduces the volume dramatically and it’s basically a soundproof case that covers the whole saxophone. If you search for Saxmute One saxophone mute review, you will find a lot of sax players raving about this mute for saxophone. It is considered to be an amazing product and a long-awaited solution to saxophone noise.
The other type is the E-Sax Whisper Mute, it’s similar to the Saxmute One because it’s also a soundproof case, but to top it off it includes a microphone and headphone input so you would be able to listen to the real sound made by the sax. There’re mixed reviews on this particular saxophone mute, ranging from those who love it to those who were expecting a more muted sound, but overall is a well-received product.
Pros of full-body saxophone mutes
The main pro of this kind of saxophone mute is that it drastically lowers decibels from the instrument while playing it, allowing you to extend your practice time without bothering, to some degree, your neighbors, or housemates.
Also, it won’t affect the way you play, because there won’t be any blockage to air passages in the saxophone, so it won’t be harder to play, and it won’t affect the embouchure or make you lose your breath faster.
One interesting fact of the E-Sax Whisper is that it also allows you to add effects through the headphones, listen to tracks while playing and record yourself which is very useful when you need to transcribe.
This solution has been so effective that engineers and musicians continue to invest their time in improving them, helping others in their search about how to make a saxophone mute.
Cons of full-body saxophone mutes
Full-body saxophone mutes are basically soundproof cases, so they are rather large, bulky, and heavy. You can counteract the heaviness by using a harness or a saxophone stand to alleviate the weight off your neck and shoulders, especially if you are using it for a long period of time or practice session.
Another issue is that low notes could sound off and you can find resistance in the lower register. Also, when using the Saxmute One, the player can’t hear the true sound of the instrument, only the muted music.
If you search “how to mute a saxophone” you will find that seasoned musicians have also suggested that the effect of the full-body mute could be accomplished if you play or at least place the saxophone inside a closet full of clothes, because the fabric surrounding the instrument will act as soundproof material and you won’t have to invest so much to accomplish the desired effect.
If you decide to buy a saxophone mute, and not make one by yourself with cloth or foam, there’s a wide variety to choose from on the internet and stores. You could get a muffler for as low as US$8.00 and up to around US$15.00, so it is a rather economic help, because, as we’ve established, this will not grant a truly mute saxophone.
On the other hand, to get a full-body saxophone mute you will need to fork out at least US$200.00 and up to US$500.00.
You could also soundproof a whole room and doing this typically costs anything between US$1,000.00 to US$4,000.00, that is understanding that you have the spare space to adequate it for practices and won’t need to actually build a whole new room.
In the end, your decision will be based on your economic possibilities and how far you are willing to go to ensure to play saxophone quietly.
Playing the saxophone can be very beautiful and rewarding, but like everything, it comes with pros and cons, and while for you this can be a way of living and something to look forward to, for those around you it can be perceived as simply saxophone noise.
So far, there’s no such thing as saxophone practice mute with a normal instrument, but in the meantime, there are options to aid you in your quest to become a better prepared and equipped sax player.
To explore more ways to practice disturbing others you can check the following article: 12 Tips on how to practice saxophone quietly
You can also look for information about the Yamaha YDS-150 digital saxophone if you are looking for a silent saxophone, which is an alternative to the saxophone mutes available.