All brass players share a common problem: finding a practice space where they won't bother anyone and, conversely, one in which they won't be distracted by ambient sound.
A traditional solution is the use of a practice mute. Inserted in the bell of the instrument, it significantly muffles projection. The downside is that practice mutes produce a lot of resistance that radically alters the instrument's natural playing characteristics. So in the course of reducing projection, they make it tough to really hear what you're playing, thus canceling out much of the benefit of practice.
Yamaha's Silent Brass System elegantly solves these problems while delivering a set of features that will enhance and maximize your practice time. The System consists of the ST9 Personal Studio (the control unit), a Pickup Mute, a locking cable, and earphones. The step-up ST5 Silent Brass Performance Studio adds an array of effects plus practice tools and features that guarantee to make your woodshedding time a downright pleasure. Let's look at the System piece by piece.
The Mute resembles a conventional straight mute. There are specific models for a number of brass instruments including trumpet, piccolo trumpet, flugelhorn, French horn, trombone, euphonium, and tuba. The mute houses a microphone that connects to the module via a cable with a screw-on connector at the mute end and a standard mini-plug on the other.
The signal from the mute's microphone is processed by the ST9 Studio (or ST5 Performance Studio) which then feeds the signal to you through the earphones. This direct connection between the instrument's bell and the musician's ears means you can more easily concentrate on your articulation and tone without any of the self-consciousness that often accompanies audible practice.
The Studio's simple controls consist of a volume knob and echo switch. Connections are equally straightforward. The aux in jack lets you combine external sources such as CD and cassette players so you practice along with your favorite music. The input jack connects to the mute for practice or to an instrument microphone for performance. Likewise, the output jack can be connected to headphones for private practice or to a sound system when you're ready to share your playing with the world. A handy belt loop strap is also included so you can be totally mobile when the spirit moves you.
For the musician seeking extensive practice tools and more sonic flexibility, Yamaha offers the ST5 Performance Studio. It incorporates an auto tuner that can be set to match the instrument's transposition and desired pitch calibration from A=438Hz to A=445Hz. Once you've set the parameters, the tuner automatically detects the note being played and indicates the degree to which you are sharp or flat.
The ST5 also boasts 32 effects including delay, chorus, flanger, filter, auto wah, overdrive, distortion, pitch shifting, limiter, and more. When you're working on rhythmic skills you'll find the onboard metronome with 34 different time signatures in four different subdivision patterns a boon. The ST5 also offers ten different drum patterns ranging from an eight-beat shuffle to funk to bossa nova and samba patterns.
The built-in phrase trainer is a huge help when you're attempting to nail difficult passages. Record a phrase that's up to 16 seconds long from either an external source or your own instrument. You can then play it back repeatedly and even slow down the phrase without affecting the pitch. Incidentally, there's an aux key function that transposes the sound received from external CD/MD players so you can play along with recorded music in just about any key you want, regardless of the song's original key.
Yamaha has designed the ST5's backlit display so that it's highly legible, even in dim stage lighting. A large Value dial gives you quick access to a total of 100 effects presets with 50 of them being user-configurable. You can save all your favorite settings and recall them instantly with a quick twist of the Value dial, making the ST5 and invaluable performance tool when you want to vary your sound.
All in all, Yamaha's Silent Brass family of gear represents not only a comprehensive solution to the challenges that practice presents, but also a tool for enhancing and expanding your performance possibilities.