One topic I had literally never, ever, given any thought to until very recently was how to hold a stop mute. My method of choice was what for lack of a better term I will call the caveman approach. Holding it in tight with the hand around the stem, don’t want it to fall out!
I had also seen people who cupped their hand around the bell of the stop mute, but that always seemed insecure to me and I doubted it sounded much differently either.
What I learned in a recent studio class however was that some people have given this some thought and there is a third way that is superior.
Testing them back to back, the cupped fingers method was the worst, with caveman also lacking in color. The best was to hold the stem lightly with the fingers. It seems to allow the mute to resonate better, the sound has a better color and more of it.
That led to a comparison of brands of stop mutes, which I had last done teaching at a music camp maybe 15 years ago. On hand we had Tom Crown, TrumCor, and Alexander. Do the comparison yourself sometime if you have the chance, it is quite interesting. The bottom line for us was the TrumCor and Alexander are both fine choices with a slight overall edge to TrumCor with the largest bell installed. The Tom Crown is an OK mute too, but not as powerful and the sound is not quite as good. If that is your main stop mute, you might consider an upgrade.
And then I had one more stop mute in my office, an unmarked mystery mute. It has a “one piece” bell and a larger tube out compared to the TrumCor. This one, on the right in the photo, is a very fine stop mute and will become my main one. Based on who it came to me from my guess is that it is 1970s vintage Giardinelli.
In any case, this is a comparison well worth doing in a studio class or with your friends. There are very real differences to be heard with different brands of stop mute and different holding methods. Something to know when you need more stopped horn!
NOTE: You would have to be a super fan Horn Matters to have noticed, but we had a brief hiccup with the site and a few articles posted around the time of this one were lost. This is one of them; content is really similar, but not identical to the original.