As the title suggests, I have spent some time thinking about practice mutes. A quick search on 'practice mute' in this forum's search field returns like six pages of hits. Practice mutes have been discussed quite a bit before now. I do believe I have some original experience with these devices that may be interesting to some: re: resistance ... backpressure ... a lot of you have returned highly rated mutes to retailers as having excessive resistance. Full disclosure: the experiment(s) I describe below were performed using a Horn as the brass instrument being muted. I see no reason why the findings should not cross over to other brass instruments.

About a year ago I bought a model of French Horn mute called the 'Pampet Horn Mute'. It is one of those where all the air goes through the mute and exits through a single port on top of the mute. It mutes VERY effectively. Intonation in the top octave is markedly flat, neutral in the middle octave and only slightly sharp in the low octave. Pedal octave is more or less non-existent. Resistance was moderate. Here's the thing though ... I often play Horn with one of those -30db snore stopper drugstore ear plugs in my right ear. When you play Horn in a small space, the direct sound from the bell to your right ear makes it difficult to judge your sound.

For reasons I don't fully remember, I tried playing the unmuted Horn with both ears protected by the 'Snore Stopper' earplugs and found that my lips perceived just about the same amount of backpressure as when the muted horn is played with completely open ears! I have been repeating this experiment over at least a full year. My theory is that having the ears blocked focuses the attention on how things 'feel' at the lips. Things don't feel much different at the lips whether the 30db loss of audio feedback from the instrument is caused by a -30db Practice Mute or -30db Earplugs. If I am right, NO practice mute made can ever satisfy a player who cannot tolerate 'resistance' because the 'resistance' is not from the mute. Most mutes, in fact, have less resistance than the horns they mute! The manufacturers really are being truthful when they say that their products have 'low' or 'no' resistance.

Don't hate me. I don't have to use a practice mute. I live in an end unit of a four-plex. There are drummers in the neighborhood, I fly under the radar. So why a mute? Well, I believe the benefit of spending some of a practice session with a device that takes the edge off extremely high and loud playing is of immense benefit. If you have even moderate pitch talent your ear will not be 'ruined' by working with practice mutes that affect intonation negatively. Once again, the intonation idiosyncrasies of mutes are IMO overstated. Euphoniums themselves also have intonation idiosyncrasies. We learn to quickly (or not) compensate for the tuning of the horn to play in tune with what we hear. I have been playing with a mute for about 1/2 of my practice time for a year or so and it has zero negative effect on my ability to play in tune on the unmuted Horn when I play with a duet partner or accompanying instrument. FWIW.