If you’re worried about disturbing your neighbours when you’re practicing your sax at home, a saxophone mute could be the answer.
In this video I’m testing two different types of saxophone mute to see how much quieter they make my tenor sax when I’m practicing.
Sax Practice Problems
For us sax players, this has been a tough year. With COVID-19 restrictions, many of us have been at home with the whole family, which can make practicing tricky. My studio is in my house, so juggling time for practicing, filming and recording my saxophone with the family around has been a challenge at times.
I know many of our thousands of Sax School students have had the same problem – and maybe you have too.
The Saxophone Mute Test
I’ll compare it with the cheapest option I could find – a super-simple cheap sax mute from Amazon.
Hear me play with and without the mute. Plus, I’m going to use a decibel meter on my iPhone to measure how much the mute muffles the sound. Let’s see which is the best option!
Saxophone Mute – Cheap Option
I paid £7 for this mute, although on Amazon they seemed to vary from £7 to £15.
This mute sits inside the bell of the saxophone to mute the sound. They come in different sizes – this is the tenor version. It’s very simple, made from a piece of aluminium with cork around the edge.
Watch my decimal meter as I play without, and with, the saxophone mute.
Without the mute my sax measures at about 100 decibels. With the mute in it’s definitely a few decibels quieter but there wasn’t a huge difference.
For me, the down-side is with the mute in, the saxophone is out of tune, and some of the low notes don’t sound at all.
Sax Mute One
The Sax Mute One costs around £350 in the UK and around $400 in the US.
This is a big, cumbersome piece of kit, which could be an issue if you have a small room. It’s made from moulded plastic and has arm holes at the sides and a catch at the top to take it apart. There’s acoustic foam inside. It feels a little weird!
Theres a hook to attach your saxophone inside, and simple shoulder straps on the outside. You can also mount the mute on a tall Hercules stand, and as it has a flat base, it also stands up on its own.
Watch my decibel meter to see how it performs.
With the Sax Mute One the saxophone is quite a lot quieter, measuring around 75-80 decibels. In the room if sounds a lot quieter. If I was playing my sax more quietly I could still get a really good sound from my saxophone but be barely audible outside the room.
With this mute the low notes sound much better. Right at the bottom with low B♭ it sounds a little muffled, but unlike the super-cheap option, the low notes still sound.
Using the Sax Mute One with a Hercules Stand
This is a great option if you don’t want to carry the extra weight of the Sax Mute One, and means you don’t need to use a neck strap at all.
I love Hercules stands (watch my unboxing video here) but you do need to buy the stand separately if you choose to use one with the Sax Mute One.
There’s a metal bracket inside the mute which attaches to the Hercules stand. Once you’ve got the mute on the stand, you can fit your saxophone inside. I found this quite tricky as the mute pressed on the mechanism of my sax. It would take a bit of fiddling to find a comfortable playing position, and a height-adjustable chair would definitely help.
I wouldn’t waste money on the cheap saxophone mute. They make a negligible difference to the volume, and they make playing your sax very frustrating and difficult.
I’m actually glad I bought the Sax Mute One. It’s pretty big to have in my studio but it means I can play quietly without disturbing anyone else in the house. It’s a useful tool for quiet practice whilst I work on my embouchure or my fingers. If you live in an apartment I think this would be awesome – you could practice a lot more without worrying about your neighbours.
There are other options out there including the E-Sax Whispermute which includes some electronics inside to link to headphones, or to a recording system for example. It’s quite a lot more expensive.
Personally wouldn’t be using this mute for recording. For me, this Sax Mute One is better value for money, because it lets me focus my practice on tone building, technique, and lets me play when otherwise I wouldn’t be able to.
Have you tried a saxophone mute? Let me know in a comment what you’ve tried, and what works for you!
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