Definition and background:
A device used to dampen or soften the sound of certain instruments. a device that is fitted to an instrument to soften or otherwise alter its tone. this may be an object placed inside the bell of a brass instrument, or on the bridge of a stringed instrument.
An object placed in the bell of an instrument which affects the radiation of sound from the instrument and modifies its tone quality
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Wikipedia - Glossary of Musical Terminology
Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary
ORB -- Medieval Music Glossary