Vienna Talk 2015 on Music Acoustics
“Bridging the Gaps”     16–19 September 2015


The on-going quest for trumpet mute pitch-alteration: An acoustical analysis of three historic trumpet mutes at the National Music Museum

Klaus, Sabine and Pyle, Robert 

Proceedings of the Third Vienna Talk on Music Acoustics (2015), pp. 88–91


Musical scores and historic writings from Claudio Monteverdi’s Orpheo to Ernst Johann Altenburg’s treaties mention that mutes of the baroque era raised the pitch of the trumpet by a whole tone, while playing experience with surviving trumpet mutes show a rise in pitch of only a semitone. This conundrum remains unsolved. One of the presenters, Robert Pyle, aimed at an explanation in a computer-generated model (see Historic Brass Society Journal 1991). His theory was that the shape of conical Renaissance trumpet bells with their wide throats allowed the same mute to be inserted further into the bell, hence shortening the air-column length more than in later baroque trumpets with narrower throat and wider final flare. His mathematical computation was based on measurements of trumpets by Hanns Hainlein from 1632 and Johann Leonhard Ehe from 1746. Pyle concluded that although the mute indeed raised the pitch by approximately a semitone in the Ehe trumpet, it was more than that but less than a whole tone in the Hainlein. The computation therefore did not fully explain the phenomenon and therefore experimental measurements were desirable. In this paper we will use data from actual acoustical measurements of three late eighteenth-century historic trumpet mutes, formerly associated with trumpets by the Viennese maker Anton Kerner (1726–1806), now in the Utley Collection at the National Music Museum. These mutes will be measured with trumpets by Johann Leonhard Ehe II and III (ca. 1710 and 1730) and a reproduction of a trumpet by Hanns Hainlein from 1632 in the same collection. In addition we will discuss the acoustical behavior of a differently-shaped whole-tone mute developed by Ralph Bryant for 1632-Hainlein-trumpet copies and its possible historical relevance.


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  • Trumpet Mute
  • Pitch Alteration
  • Semitone
  • Whole Tone

  • Status
    Invited Paper
    not reviewed

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