Plunger mutes are simply rubber sink or toilet plungers with the wooden handle removed (but can be purchased from certain mute companies). Some musicians cut holes in the rubber to alter the sound produced. Plungers are often used in a manner similar to the hat mute, where the musician manipulates the plunger in front of the bell while playing with their other hand. A “closed” plunger gives a tone similar to a tightly inserted cup mute, and a skilled plunger technician can often produce sounds similar to the human voice.
In Duke Ellington’s orchestra, trombonist Tricky Sam Nanton was noted for his work with the “plumber’s friend”. The Glenn Miller band made a wooden red and white plunger popularly called the “Tuxedo Plunger” (used in the band’s hit tune “Tuxedo Junction”). For a combination of straight mute sound with the readily manipulated plunger, Pixie mutes are used. More recently, some players use a plunger made from a dog toy called the “Jolly Ball Tug-n’-Toss” cut in half.