What is my favorite mute? I'm so glad you asked me! Why it's my coconut mute.
Yes, it is a real coconut. I have had this mute for 15 years or so. One of my trumpet heroes and friends, Bob Tildesley* has had one ever since I've known him, and I always thought it was the coolest.
While on a gig one day, I had forgotten my sewer plunger mute and needed it for the show. I didn't have enough time to go home and get mine, and I was beginning to panic. You can always use your hand as a plunger, but that is a sign of laziness or defeat. I remembered that there was a small supermarket near the venue and so I ran across the street and found that they had coconuts! I didn't even bother checking for sewer plungers.
Running back to the venue, I sequestered myself in the green room, hauled out my MacGyver knife and proceeded to try and saw the coconut in half with the little saw blade. I had about 45 minutes to downbeat, and I thought that was plenty of time. Coconuts are really hard. I sawed like a mad man, drinking the coconut milk (which is disgusting), and once I had sawed it in half I had to pry all the meat off and eat it as fast as possible. I was hoping to get two coconut mutes out of the deal, but I fractured one half in my haste. Still, I had my coconut mute (partly filled with coconut meat) for the gig and I was proud. Then I tried using it. It didn't respond much like a sewer plunger mute and I remember cacking a few obvious notes and cursing under my breath. I learned a valuable lesson - the bandstand is not the best place to test out new gear.
After the gig, I finished cleaning the coconut and put some black gaffer's tape (I always keep a roll of it in my trumpet bag) around the rim so it wouldn't clank against the bell. The hole in the functional pore of the coconut is small but sufficient to allow air through so you can play virtually closed with it. It is the coolest. And it is quite the conversation piece on gigs. "Hey, is that a real coconut?" "Why, yes it is!"
If you want your own coconut mute, you can actually buy them from this website. I just googled "coconut mute" for the first time and this website came up. I love his disclaimer at the bottom where he warns you that trying to make your own may result in injury or a lost finger. Ha ha! I'm not encouraging you to purchase a coconut mute from this guy, or endorsing his mutes. To me, the danger of sawing a coconut in half will only heighten the pride you will feel when you use it and show it off on gigs. How many mutes will do that for you? Unless you are Roger Ingram** and you build and restore mutes all the time. Then it probably happens regularly.
* Bob, you really should get a website; this was the best I could find.
** This is just another shameless name drop, because I like the way Roger plays, I like his blog, I like his lead mouthpiece, and you should too. Buy his CDs and get some mutes restored.