Saxophone muting has been common among classical saxophonists for decades. The traditional saxophone mute is made from a curtain ring or something similar wrapped in a soft fabric such as velvet, and is generally tilted vertically. The primary goals of placing this type of apparatus in the bell is to lower the pitch of the notoriously sharp low Bb and to dampen the brash timbre of this range of the instrument. My design is different, so I’ve decided that calling this product a mute doesn’t accurately describe what I have intended it to do. This is why I call my product a “bell ring” instead.
There are a handful of advantages I think my bell rings offer over a traditional cloth mute. The first thing people notice is that the bell rings are not wrapped with fabric to dampen the sound of the instrument, so the overall volume, presence, and responsiveness of the tone is retained. In my opinion, adding fabric to the inside of a wind instrument is counterproductive acoustically because it reduces the efficiency of the standing wave by absorbing energy. My bell rings achieve the same primary objectives as a traditional cloth mute without limiting the tone color. I also have noticed that many cloth mutes are quite thick and can lower the pitch of low Bb too much—even when turned vertically as they most commonly are. This is one reason I have developed several different sizes. Players can fine tune exactly how much they want to lower the pitch of low Bb and decide what size offers the best response and tone color for them. Many traditional mutes are also at risk of inadvertently tipping horizontally during performance, which the player doesn’t notice until they play an egregiously flat low Bb. Bell rings are designed to fit horizontally and stay in place, but many people also choose to use them turned vertically which is also fine (especially with plus size rings). They tend to stay in place regardless of which way they’re turned because the material has a good grip on the bell.
Additionally, while traditional saxophone mutes are primarily intended for “classical” saxophonists, I strongly believe that this design is an equally viable option for jazz players. A cloth mute absorbs and dampens the tone, but a bell ring tunes, focuses, and enhances the sound. I believe every saxophonist has something to gain by using a bell ring.
Important Note: Tenor Bell Rings have been resized for better tone and response.
After a long testing phase of new tenor bell ring sizes aided by the input of many established tenor players, these new sizes offer the same intonation benefits while offering improved response and tone compared to the previous sizes. The new sizes also allow for a greater range of options to fit more players’ needs.
We are so confident that these new sizes perform better for most players that we have decided to completely redesignate tenor bell ring sizes.
In our testing, the new sizes O and II were the most popular. We consider size O the safest option, particularly if a player is worried about a bell ring impacting their tone or low register response too much. Size II was especially popular among classical saxophonists, as it provides a pleasantly dark-sounding low B-flat without adversely affecting response in the low register.
Please refer to the conversion chart below to see how the new sizes compare to the old sizes. The main difference with the new tenor bell rings is that we have decided to make the “standard” sizes thinner. We have decided to make many of the old sizes still available under a different roman numeral designation with a “+” signifying a thicker ring, for those who may still want to have access to those.
The New TPU Bell Rings
Bell rings will now be offered in a new material option—A flexible 3D printed TPU (thermoplastic poly urethane)
. This material and manufacturing method is excellent for saxophone bell rings. Compared to the original bell rings that I am still offering (made from vinyl), they perform essentially the same. The look, of course, is distinctly different. The 3D printing process offers greater consistency in roundness/shape, labeling, and are overall more efficient for me to produce as a one-man business since I don’t have to do nearly as much production by hand. I will continue to offer the original bell rings for alto and tenor. The original bell rings for soprano have been officially discontinued.
The TPU bell rings are available in 10 colors: black, white, gray, blue, red, yellow, pistachio green, dark gray, translucent blue, and natural (semitranslucent). The sizing options will remain the same as with the original bell rings for alto and tenor. With the new possibilities of this new material, there will likely be new innovations from Peak Performance Woodwinds to come!