From Kevin Warren, master mute maker...
The Woodstop® mute is my original mute that set a “new standard” in stop mutes according to many. It has that hand-stopped sound, yet projects and plays in tune from low to high and has the flexibility to play on all sides of the horn (including the high F side).
I thought it best to simply organize this page to include the most commonly asked questions along the way.
How did you come up with the idea of using wood?
The Woodstop® mute was conceived from an idea that wood more appropriately mimics the sound of natural hand stopping. My good friend Karl Hill (Kortesmaki Horns) conceptualized this some years back and it wasn’t until I talked to him about the prospect of making mutes that he mentioned it. It just made perfect sense to me.
How is it constructed?
Each Woodstop® mute is made from a single piece of 100% solid laminated maple wood. I take pride in producing each mute myself. I have years of woodworking experience and each mute is meticulously crafted by hand. They are also custom fit to perfectly shape your bell for a seal that requires no fiddling. It takes many hours to create each mute, but the result is worth every minute of time.
Who is playing on this mute?
Leading horn players from all over the United States and across the pond. From New York to Los Angeles and Chicago to Las Vegas. From the studios, the Vegas shows, the concert halls and soloists, the Woodstop® has now covered it all.
What are the advantages over brass mutes?
The Woodstop® was developed for that hand-stopped sound first and foremost. My feeling is that the brass mute has a rather nondescript sound. This mute retains the hand color as well as core tone (not just the fringe buzz). Wood also gives you more depth of sound compared to metal. This mute can be played on any side of the horn whether it’s F,Bb, or high F by simply playing one half step below the written pitch as usual. Overall, each Woodstop® mute is much more refined than a pressed metal mute, hence, intonation is much more refined, projection in the louds is excellent, as well as the ability to play very softly. In fact, I’ve had many players tell me they are using the Woodstop® mute as a practice mute because it feels so good to play and plays so well in tune. The fact that you can play it on B horn makes it comforting for many who like the security of that side of the horn. I did originally developed it for the B side, but you will find it easy to play on either F side.
How do you make them?
Without revealing all my secrets, the Woodstop® is made from a single block of wood and mostly turned on the lathe. I then burnish a protectant on the inside of the mute. Afterward, I take great care in bringing out as much of the beauty of the wood as possible. I use several coats of a special blend of varnishes which pulls a 3D (almost holographic) look out of the grain, as well as a couple highly protective coats for that Art Deco glass smooth and glossy finish. As Karl has said: “They are worthy of coffee table art”.
Will this mute fit all horn bell sizes?
The short answer is yes! I have found that my process of shaping enables for a tight fit for all large, medium, and small belled horns. I have many customers on Conn 8D’s and small bore horns and they fit perfectly in both. Getting into the Wiener horns is where I had to “custom fit” to a completely different bell altogether. I have so far fitted to just about every conceivable horn out there with no issues.
Where have you sold the mutes?
The mutes have been sold worldwide, including the US, Belgium, Austria (Vienna), Australia, Portugal, the UK, and Canada, Denmark, Sweden, Japan.
How durable are these mutes? Surprisingly, they are quite durable. I just wouldn’t throw them around! The nice part is they won’t dent like your thin metal mute, so if they are among other things in your bag of goodies (I hope not!) they will only get scratched. I say to each customer to “treat it as they would the most delicate of horn passages”. I think that’s a good mantra.
Does the mute play well down low?
These mutes were developed by two low horn players. We are looking out for you!
Why do I need a Woodstop® mute if I already have a brass one?
You don’t... but you might find that your life is a lot easier on the horn. I received a phone call recently from a purchaser who called simply to tell me a story about what happened that day at rehearsal. It was about a stopped horn passage. Ever notice how bad things happen when there’s a stopped section passage? You inevitably always have to work that passage out because of (mostly) pitch discrepancies. Well, in this instance it was so bad the conductor stopped the orchestra and had each person play their note. Where did he start, but at the bottom of the section. Well, this was the guys first time on my mute after just receiving it and he didn’t practice the lick (I’m sure like the others), and just played the note his usual way on B horn. The conductor peered at him with a puzzled look on his face and had absolutely nothing to say except that he liked what he heard. This guy literally called me between the rehearsal and the concert that evening to tell me this story and say that it was money well spent on a tool that is often overlooked. Everyone else up the line had issues that needed correcting. I got a kick out of it because I’ve been there when the conductor comes looking your way... especially when you’re on the bottom. You are often easy prey to their ego.
I hope this helped in answering any questions you may have had about the Woodstop® mutes. They are not perfect, but in the over 250 stopping mutes I’ve made since opening my door to sales in October 2008, I’ve had only positive feedback. I simply encourage you to try someone’s mute when you run across one.