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Saxophone Mutes Expert’s Guide

The saxophone is a pretty loud instrument acoustically. But it’s not so easy to mute like other instruments. If you want to mute the instrument, this creates a problem.

If you’ve ever had angry neighbors but needed to practice to get better, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Let’s find out how a sax can be played quietly and examine the options for muting the saxophone.


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Is It Possible to Mute a Saxophone?

Do saxophone mutes work? Why is the saxophone difficult to mute? 

The saxophone was designed as a hybrid instrument between a brass and woodwind instrument.

It was much louder than most woodwinds which put it in the volume range of a brass instrument, but it still had the feasibility of playing fast like a woodwind, where brass instruments had difficulty.

This has a lot to do with the success of the saxophone, but it has its limitations.

The saxophone is made of brass which makes it much louder, but the key systems are designed like a woodwind.

Because a woodwind is full of holes, the air/sound escapes from many places in the instrument. This makes a woodwind more difficult for the mic, and it also makes it much more difficult to mute.

In the case of instruments like the flute or clarinet, they often aren’t loud enough to bother anyone.

But in the case of the saxophone, the brass makes it significantly louder than other woodwinds.

As well, the saxophone does not have the advantage of electronic instruments like electric guitars and keyboards.

So what are you supposed to do? Saxophone Mutes, do they work?


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How Effective Are Saxophone Mutes?

Muting my saxophone has been a recurring issue for many years for me.

Living in apartments, I’ve had many complaints over the years, even being threatened to be evicted a couple of times.

The issue of volume from the saxophone became a source of frustration because I needed to practice, but the practicing was often too much for the neighbors-especially when I’m practicing something that is not pleasing to the ear.


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Best Options for Muting a Saxophone

So, let’s go over several options for you to mute or lower your volume.

If you start googling saxophone mutes you will see a number of options. Let’s go over these, starting with full-body sax mutes, the most popular options

E-sax Whisper Mute from Best Brass

This mute goes over the entire saxophone, with holes for your hands. You listen to the sax on headphones.

There is also a line in and a line out to make the sax completely electronically compatible, and to make it completely self-contained.

E-sax Whisper Mute

The e-sax whisper from best brass
  • If you are looking for a serious option, this is an expensive but effective solution.
  • This was the mute that I finally settled on. I have to say it is a lifesaver.

I can practice in apartments, even late at night, and the sound isn’t much louder than a person talking. Also, for traveling it’s pretty lightweight and hollow inside, so I just put it in my suitcase.

Check out also the Best Brass E-Sax Whisper Mute page

Use as an Alto Saxophone Mute or Tenor Saxophone Mute

These saxophone mutes are only made for alto and tenor.

If you play bari or soprano, you are out of luck.

Also, the tenor saxophone mute is quite big, so I would imagine it would make it difficult to travel with it.

For this reason, I think it is most practical for alto sax.

But there are a couple of drawbacks to this saxophone mute, which I wanted to go over.

Price

The primary brand is Best Brass E-Sax mute. For these models, the price is around $600.

This is a serious investment for the player when you could buy a cheap saxophone for around $300.

There are also cheaper versions that can be found on eBay. These mutes often have no brand name but are the same mute for half the price.

Weight

One of the complaints of this mute is the weight. If you are using a neck strap it will be tiring after a while.

The workaround that I have used is to use the mute with a bari sax harness. This re-distributes the weight of the mute. If you’ve already spent this amount of money on the mute, a bari sax harness won’t break the bank.

Low Notes

The low notes are difficult to get out. From low D downwards the notes tend to squawk. But, this can be good because it can teach you how to control the low notes.

Electronics

Another complaint is that the electronics are cheaply made. I agree with this, it’s simply plastic with foam on the inside. But after having the mute for a few years now, there hasn’t been any problem I haven’t been able to work around.

Hand Positions

The hand positions are a little strange and take some getting used to. But I have to admit that my hand position has gotten a lot better because of this saxophone mute because I’ve had to really hone in on my technique.

If all of these drawbacks don’t phase you, this is probably the best option.

For the beginning player, I would advise you to be careful with this and not use it all the time, however, because you are listening to a microphone of your saxophone sound, which can be different than the actual sound.

e-Sax Mute Alto Demo
The sound level in a room of an E-sax Whisper Mute

Sax Mute One

Another version that is quite similar is the Sax Mute One.

The Sax Mute One is very similar to the Best Brass, but it does not have a built-in microphone. But, it is cheaper.

They have an alto version and a tenor version.

Sax Mute One
The Sax Mute One

One of the other drawbacks is that it is a bit bigger than the Best Brass or the E-Whisper, so traveling with it might be difficult. Check it out here.

One advantage is that there is a bit more room for the hands because it is larger. Another advantage is that the low range is a bit easier to play, also because it is larger.

Another similar option is the Vibes Sax Partner, but does are more difficult to find now.

Saxmute

These saxophone mutes are basically sponges that you put inside the saxophone.

You put them in various parts of the saxophone to reduce the sound. They claim to lower the sound by 50%.

Expert’s Note

These mutes do lower the sound of the saxophone, but the difference is often not significant.

The other problem with these mutes is the resistance they will create when you are playing. If you are learning to play this is potentially a problem because you will not have this resistance when playing without the mute.

The other problem with these mutes is the resistance they will create when you are playing. If you are learning to play this is potentially a problem because you will not have this resistance when playing without the mute.

However, running at about $30, these mutes are significantly cheaper than other options.

For this reason, these mutes may be worth trying.

But if you are looking for a serious option this isn’t the best solution, as it will significantly increase the resistance without significantly reducing the sound.

You can check them out at Sweetwater.

Bell Mute (Not the best option for Saxes)

These types of mutes go directly into the bell of the saxophone.

For a brass instrument like a trumpet or trombone, this would work well.

In fact, Silent Brass practice mutes are designed very similarly to this and allow brass players to play almost completely silently.

These types of mutes do not have the same effect on saxophones.

This is because the sound on the saxophone comes out of many different places. This mute only deals with the notes coming out of the bell, which is mostly the lower notes.

It will not significantly lower the sound of the saxophone for this reason. Although it seems like a good solution, this isn’t really worth buying.


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Other Methods to Mute the Sax

There are some other homemade methods that I think work well if you need to make the sax quieter.

Make a Sax Mute

I did this for years, and it worked quite well.

Not quite as good as a manufactured sax mute, but it definitely allowed me to keep my apartment in some situations.

I took a cardboard box (a box for a trombone case) and lined it with several layers of foam. Then I cut holes in the side for my hands. I could close the cardboard box with tape.

This significantly lowered the sound of the saxophone, and I could fit both the alto and tenor, although I couldn’t close the box with the tenor.

Since I went to a music store and asked if they had any boxes lying around, the only cost was foam from a fabric store and super glue.

Significantly cheaper than a manufactured mute.

Play on Harder Reeds

This is an option that I’ve seen other people do.

If you play on reeds that are too hard for you to play, your sound will be significantly quieter. However, the drawback is you aren’t really creating much sound with the saxophone, so you aren’t able to learn how to create a sound and work on your tone.

But this can also be an option.

Play Quieter

While it’s important to practice both loud and quiet, practicing quiet might be the best because it teaches you to have control of your air at a low volume.

Later on, when you go to play loud, you will have developed strong breath control. Practicing quiet isn’t always possible though, but if you are able to practice at low volumes this might be enough to keep your neighbors at bay.

It is said that practicing quietly is harder than practicing loud. While there are challenging things about playing loud, playing quiet does have its own challenges. 

Pro Tip for Playing Quietly

To play quietly, you need to use your diaphragm muscle. This is located right at the bottom of the rib cage, right in the middle. 

The best way to start practicing this is with long tones, long notes held out as long as you can
The goal is to have the note be as stable as possible. 

See if you can do it while playing as quietly as possible. This will improve your control, as well as improve your ability to play quietly. 


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Conclusion in Sax Mutes and the Best Options

Muting the sax is not easy.

Due to the brass body but woodwind design, the saxophone is a loud instrument that is very hard to mute because the sound comes out everywhere.

I think if you can afford it, the best option is the Best Brass E-Sax or the equivalent Sax Mute One.
If that is too pricey, check out some of the other options in this article.

You may have to get creative. If you work at it, you can come to a solution.

As the saxophone experiences a resurgence in popularity as populations become denser, I think this will continue to be an important issue for saxophone players.


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Common Asked Questions About Sax Mutes

How Do I Practice Quietly?

To practice quietly, you need to practice using your diaphragm. You can start by playing long sounds, holding them for as long as you can before releasing them.

How Do I Mute the Sound on Saxophone?

There are different options to mute the sound on a sax. Some are from well-known products as described in the article, others are from different methods, including homemade options that you can make yourself.

How Much is a Saxophone Mute?

The best options are between $300 and $600. For example, a Best Brass E-Sax can run from $400-$600, however, it’s possible to find the same product without a brand name for about $300. A SaxMuteOne mute runs about $300. A Saxmute brand is about $30, but it’s not the most effective. 
Or, you can make your sax mute using a cardboard box as mentioned in this article, which is almost free.


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Author: Cooper White

  • Cooper is a Multi-Instrumentalist, with vast knowledge and experience performing with Sax, Flute, Clarinet, Keyboard, and Blues Harmonica.
  • With a Bachelor’s Degree from the Berklee College of Music in Boston and studies in Classical Performance at the Lionel Hampton School of Music, he has also more than 10 years of performing professionally, whether while road touring in the U.S. or playing on different cruise ships.
  • He is also an entertainer with his shows, as well as a producer of his music and others. Whenever he is not performing, he teaches individual online classes. He mostly plays Jazz, Classical and Popular music.
Saxophone Mutes Guide