MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Now that the holiday season is officially underway, no doubt you'll be listening to your favorite holiday tunes. What you may not know is those tunes are often shaped by a mute, and one of the best mute makers in the world lives in Memphis.
When you listen to music, you may not understand how this thing called a "mute" changes the sound and tone of an instrument, but Ion Balu does.
Balu has sold thousands of mutes to musicians around the world.
"The reason I am the number one horn mute maker is the world is they are very resonate," he said, "It's got great sound basically."
From Balu's Cordova studio he handcrafts every one. He came up with the technique while working for the Memphis Symphony Orchestra.
"I truly didn't have money to buy a good mute so I decided, I'm gonna make a mute and it's gonna be the best mute in the world."
"The horn part, after I was able to make good mutes, the next challenge was how can I make a horn play better."
Working in his garage, Balu figured that out too.
"The reason I can make a good horn is because I play horn so when I make it from scratch I can feel how the horn plays."
The mutes are used in everything from classical masterpieces to Christmas songs. And for this Romanian immigrant, who came to America with nothing not long ago, he has plenty to be thankful for.
"I'm not thankful, I'm beyond thankful! I tell my American friends if you can succeed anywhere in the world it's here."