Started in the winter of 1973 when, quite by chance, Peter was down at his local pub with his neighbour remarking that he was unable to find suitable fibre mutes for either himself or his students. This sparked off a lively discussion as his neighbour, Len, an auto electrician by trade, who also happened to be extremely skilled in moulding fibre glass canoes. A handshake was made and Len started to explore the challenges involved in producing a fibre glass mute – fibre glass being the best quality material in use at that time.
In simple terms Len measured the trombone bell and soon a wooden plug was made and from this a female mould. Over the next few months a number of mutes were made and tested: long ones, short ones, thick and thin all with a different choice of base material. Some worked well, some were a complete waste of time. More research was needed to gain sufficient technical information on acoustics, wavelengths, nodes, anti-nodes, displacement anti-nodes, cylindrical pipes both open and closed, harmonics, how they worked and how they affected sound quality and intonation both in practice and performance.
Finally, a number of mutes were made that came close to being professionally acceptable. The only problem was the quality of sound produced by the fibre glass resin. This was not all that could be desired – an alternative fibre material needed to be found.
Eventually, and after quite some searching, this substitute material was found. Techniques of working with the new material by hand were gradually mastered by Len and requests for new designs of specialist handmade quality mutes began to arrive. Each new mute had to be designed, patterns made, each requiring its own mould, clamps and range of strong but flexible corks. Every new mute had to be tested by a top professional before being passed as suitable for sale.
Orders began to flow and despite the process being labour intensive with some mutes taking days to cut, form, glue, shape, paint and finish, they are still flowing from the craftsman’s bench some 40 years later.
After Len’s unfortunate demise in 2002, Gerry birch stepped in to save the mutes from extinction. Armed with little more than a book of designs, a box of moulds and his ability to make something from almost nothing, a skill he continues to utilise by repairing instrument deemed unrepairable by modern repairers, he resurrected the production of the mutes and has been instrumental in furthering the mutes to where they are today.
Fast forward 15 years and the torch has been passed again. This time with all the necessary tools and knowledge to continue the production of Peter Gane Mutes and to fulfil the initial goal of the company. To provide brass players with quality fibre mutes.
Peter Gane is one of Britain’s leading brass specialists. At the age of 16 he won an open scholarship to study trombone at the Royal Manchester College of Music and at the age of 19 he became a member of the London Symphony Orchestra. A founder and former president of the British Trombone Association with many publications to his credit, Peter Gane has earned particular recognition for his work with young people. He has a long-standing association with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and the European Union Youth Orchestra where he has been professor of trombone since 1977 and 1984 respectively. As a teacher, brass specialist and conductor he has taken master classes and workshops in many European conservatoires as well as with professional groups in Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Spain, Holland, Austria, Italy and the U.S.A. His international reputation has recently been confirmed by the presentation of “Neill Humfeld award for excellence in trombone teaching” by the International Trombone Association.
He became a professor of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in 1971, was elected a Fellow of the School in 1981 and is currently Head of the Department of Wind and Percussion where he regularly conducts and records with the Guildhall School of Music Symphonic Wind Ensemble.
Peter’s recent publications include:
The Good Brass Guide, Trombone Books 1 & 2, published by the Guildhall School.
Circuit Training for Trombone, Slide Systems, Five Games, Guildhall 125, World in Motion, Mansion House Fanfare, published by Warwick Music.
How Trombonists do it, published by Brass Wind.
Brass Medals, published by the Associated Board
Unlike many “Hand Made” products these days which are just hand assembled from machine built parts, Peter Gane Mutes are hand made from start to finish.
The mutes start their life as a flat sheet before being cut, formed, glued, punched, riveted, scraped, sanded, corked, painted, varnished and stickered all by hand with the end result being a mute that works as well today as when they were first introduced more than 40 years ago.