For more than a decade, I have lived in an apartment. As a trumpet player, this presents some challenges as to my practice routine. I don’t want to be the obnoxious neighbor who is constantly driving everyone in the building crazy by playing my trumpet at all hours of the day. But I also don’t want to skip a practice session just because I am only able to squeeze it in early in the morning before work, or late at night. Even in the middle of the day, playing “full out” for a long period of time just seems rude. My neighbors are quiet, so there’s no question that when I play, it’s easily audible. So what’s a brass player to do? A couple of years ago, I invested in the answer to that question: I bought myself a Yamaha Trumpet Silent Brass System, with a Silent Brass mute for my Bb trumpet, and a year or so later, another pickup mute for my piccolo trumpet.
I can tell you honestly, Silent Brass is awesome. I can literally get away with practicing in the middle of the night without causing a disturbance. One thing to note, though, is that the name “Silent” Brass can be a bit deceiving, because it’s not completely silent. It’s nothing like an unmuted trumpet sound, though – and it’s also significantly quieter than a regular mute. I would equate the volume to playing the radio at a low volume, just enough to be able to hear what’s being said. It won’t cut through or disrupt anything, but you can hear yourself playing, even if you don’t have the earphones plugged into your mute.
I usually prefer to use the whole Silent Brass system – the pickup mute in my trumpet, with the cable plugged into the digital processor, using the stereo earphones that come with the Silent Brass System. I have heard from others that they don’t care for the earphones that come with the system, but I never have had an issue with them – they’re comfortable, and they work – I’m not really going for an exceptional sound quality when I use them – I just want to be able to hear myself play, and they certainly work for that. You can adjust the volume, so if you are trying to listen for something in particular, you can crank it up – I do that sometimes for certain passages, but usually I just keep it a medium-low volume. That being said, you can certainly use a different set of headphones or earphones — they’re completely compatible with any standard set.
Sometimes when I travel, I just bring the mutes and not the whole system… that works just fine for me, because generally if I am traveling, I just need the mute to get in a quick warm-up in a hotel room before heading to a rehearsal or performance, where I of course won’t need to use it at all. I do find that when I have just the mute in, without using the rest of the Silent Brass system with the earphones in, I tend to play a little louder, which isn’t a good thing, because I will tire myself out faster than I would if I were playing at my normal volume, which is easy to do when you have the earphones in. It’s pretty normal to do this, and once you are aware of it, you can stop yourself — after all, it’s pointless to “blast” with one of these mutes in — it’ll still be really quiet…you’ll just feel like your head is going to pop off.
The mutes themselves are a little heavier than your average straight mute, so if you’re a wimp like I am, your arms will get a little tired if you have the mute in for a long time. My advice is just to take quick breaks and shake your arms out a little. The mutes stay put in my trumpet bells without any problem, but I mainly use Yamaha trumpets, and Silent Brass is made by Yamaha, so of course it makes sense that they’re such a perfect fit. I have used the Bb Silent Brass mute a few times with my old Schilke though, and that didn’t have any issues either in terms of staying in place.
Bottom line: I absolutely recommend the Yamaha Trumpet Silent Brass System for brass players who need to keep it down, whether that’s because you are in an apartment, or you are on the road frequently, or you have babies or roomies that you don’t want to wake up when you are practicing during nap time! It’s one of the most useful accessories I have ever invested in. Plus, if you are so inclined, you can use it to mix sounds into another cd player or your laptop, keyboard, or even a deck or amp with speakers – not the reason I use it, but I have seen it used for this very effectively. Happy quiet practicing!