I am reading a jazz book, "Really The Blues" by Mezz Mezzrow, in which a 1920's cornet player, Bix Beiderbecke, was referred to as playing his horn mostly " open".

He played mostly open horn, every note full, big, rich and round

I'm assuming this is a sort of slang in jazz for a certain style of cornet. I understand that the Bb cornet overtones are C, G, C, E, G with no valves pressed. Has anyone heard the term "open" style?

  • 3
    Sometimes people talk about playing a horn "open" as distinct from playing with a mute. I have seen Bix discographies that make this distinction, and I suspect that this is what is meant.
    – user87976
    Aug 4 at 3:48
  • As a side note, if you want a super 'round' huge sound, play a flugelhorn. Compared with aflug, a trumpet is "thin' and strident. Aug 4 at 13:47

2 Answers 2


The book mentions "every note full, big, rich and round". This means that the instrument is playing unmuted, therefore is "open". According to David Summer Music Studio (https://www.summersong.net/music-teacher/trumpet-lessons/brass-instrument-mutes/), it also mentions:

When the performer should remove the mute, the word “Open” is used.

In other words, when the instrument is playing while unmuted, it is open. This website refers to brass instruments, including the trumpet and French horn.

Hope this helps.

  • And note that when you insert a mute in the bell, you are partially closing off the outflow of air. Aug 4 at 19:41

Open horn in this context means to play unmuted. Other cornet/trumpet players were known for the distinct sound they made with a particular mute.

A classic example from a later era is Miles Davis, who was known for his Harmon mute.

Some trumpet players well-known for their mute use closer to Bix Beiderbecke’s time are Bubber Miley, Cootie Williams, and King Oliver.

  • 2
    It's important context that playing with a mute is much more common in Jazz than it is for Classical. From someone with a Classical background, playing without a mute is assumed unless otherwise specified, and you wouldn't really need an extra adjective to describe it as a playing style. In contrast, Jazz makes much more extensive use of mutes, so eschewing a mute warrants special mention.
    – R.M.
    Aug 4 at 17:13

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