Are there quiet violins?Instruments: Can a violin be setup to be quiet?
From David Knutson
From Brian KellyHave you tried the heavy rubber mutes ? They sound better than the heavy metal mutes.
Posted on June 3, 2012 at 05:01 AM
I have also heard that stuffing the violin with cotton wool will reduce the sound but I have not tried it and I do not know what effect it would have on the tone.
From Peter CharlesIf you take out the sound post it would make it pretty quiet but I would not advise doing so as it may well make the belly sag under the string pressure.
Posted on June 3, 2012 at 06:30 AM
You could try cotton wool in your ears! You don't say why you want a quiet violin, is it for you or to stop it disturbing other people or neighbours?
Or get a baroque fiddle, they are pretty quiet ... (wink)
From Carlo Ballara@Peter, I thought taking the sound post out was the quick way to baroque a violin. A lot easier than doing a full conversion.
Posted on June 3, 2012 at 06:38 AM
From Carlo Ballara@David. There are plenty of soft violins available at dealers. These are usually the ones that don't shift. It is not normally what people want in a violin.
Posted on June 3, 2012 at 06:41 AM
If it is a sweeter sound you are after an old Amati model, perhaps 18th century English, will fit the bill. These are fairly cheap if you look out for the trade violins made in St Paul's churchyard at that time.
From Peter Charles"@Peter, I thought taking the sound post out was the quick way to baroque a violin. A lot easier than doing a full conversion.
Posted on June 3, 2012 at 08:21 AM
Trouble is then that you have to play in all the positions and with all those extra notes ... (wink)
From David KnutsonWould there be some combination of bridge and strings that would result in a softer tone?
Posted on June 3, 2012 at 02:32 PM
From Stephen McGrathI have found that a wire mute (like this one), or other "orchestral" type mutes, will reduce the volume of my violin substantially, while still giving good tone.
Posted on June 3, 2012 at 03:05 PM
From David BurgessYes, a new bridge can be configured so that it will knock the volume down a bit. And strings like Obligatos, while they may not actually be quieter, can give that impression from being less brilliant.
Posted on June 3, 2012 at 03:23 PM
From Adrian HeathI thought of patenting a rubber bridge!
Posted on June 4, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Seriously, though, I use two brands of string on agressive instruments: Aricore and Pro Arte. Ask for the low tension versions. A thicker bridge will give slightly muted effect.
New "industrial" violins, even of a good brand, usually sound brash.
From Smiley HsuThis thread is completely contrary to my concept of a good fiddle.
Posted on June 5, 2012 at 11:20 AM
From Christopher PayneI second the sliding wire mute. Not only can it be used as a mute, it can also be placed very near the bridge to take away some of the brilliance that might sound harsh under the ear. By moving it different distances from the bridge it works like an acoustic eq.
Posted on June 5, 2012 at 11:42 AM
As an aside, this also works very well when you amplify a violin - it takes off unwanted treble and even seems to boost the lows somehow.
From David KnutsonThanks for the replies. I'll give the wire mute a try. I'm told you shouldn't always play with the heavy metal practise mute - is the same said for the wire mute?
Posted on June 5, 2012 at 03:13 PM
From Ron KovachAs someone who's played a silent electric fiddle equipped with low tension strings and a metal practice mute, I can tell you for a fact that that's about as quiet as a fiddle can and will ever get. If that's still too much volume for you, I would suggest picking up the ukulele.
Posted on June 5, 2012 at 10:37 PM
Oh come on now, they're cute!
From Erica ThalerSurely you can find a nice violin with a warm, sweet tone and not a brilliant edgy one. There are lovely violins that are rich and full but might not be ideal concert hall partners. Why not just try them out and see what you like?
Posted on June 5, 2012 at 10:45 PM
If you don't like the power of a violin however, that could be a problem. Even dark and sweet ones should have some richness and power. That's why they are violins!
From Brian LeeYou can have your violin adjusted to be more "intimate" sounding, yet have it still project.. I know a violinist who has his violin adjusted to have a screamy-sounding E string and a very soft G string.
Posted on June 5, 2012 at 10:55 PM
From John CaddWhy does your teacher think a real violin will affect your intonation? It`s not the same thing as tone . Intonation is about the spacing between your fingers and the note frequencies . You often hear famous players hit a wrong note but they gradually nudge the tune back into place by adjusting the following notes . A rubber mute won`t make the notes flatter or sharper . Your fingertips are the ones to blame. Next lesson practise sliding up to the first note like Frank Sinatra . See how Teacher likes that . Do it for yourself to get a feeling of controlling the exact note . Singers slide up to the first note a lot. Listen carefully and see what happens .
Posted on June 6, 2012 at 09:49 AM
From Erica ThalerI wonder if his teacher is referring to the sympathtic vibrations and the "feeling" you get when when you play in tune on an acoustic violin -- that feeling of depth, instead of hardness, when you play a note that makes one of the open strings ring. I am not sure, but I am guessing that the silent violin does not do that.
Posted on June 6, 2012 at 12:46 PM
Personally, I love that feeling of the violin telling me when I am in tune, and the wood of the violin -- all of that is part of the pleasure of playing...
From Erica ThalerAlso: I have heard that Violino strings are the warmest, and roundest sounding strings to tone down a violin, and make it sweeter. I have never used them, but I am very impressed with the Pirastro line. It would sure sound better than a mute...
Posted on June 6, 2012 at 12:47 PM
From Erica ThalerOne more thing -- my old violin used to blast under my ear, yet from 10 feet away it was thin sounding. My new violin is much more mellow under the ear, but when my daughter or teacher play it, it is full and round and colorful from 10 feet away. As an adult player of 7 years, I am not going to be a concert violinist (as if!) and I understand what you mean. My violin is perfect for me, yet is is certainly not meek -- but it is on the darker side. You CAN find a balance in a violin -- one that pleases YOU under the ear. (I thought I would go deaf from my old violin -- it was uncomfortable -- new one is amazing).
Posted on June 6, 2012 at 12:51 PM
I sort of hate to think of what it would be like to play with a mute all the time -- that is not really a violin, is it?
From marjory langeIf your violin blasts under your ear, you might want to protect the ear (Etymotics are good) and let the violin be itself.
Posted on June 7, 2012 at 12:08 AM
I, too, like Violinos--they are sweet (and reasonably priced, too). My elderly violin sings with them.
From John CaddHow do you play the Yamaha when the teacher is there ? Is it plugged in or just played without an amplifier ? It may be for the teacher`s convenience . They sound a bit horrible without any electricity .
Posted on June 7, 2012 at 11:38 AM
From Paul DeckJust buy a regular violin and fill it with low-density silica gel.
Posted on June 8, 2012 at 04:07 AM
From Adrian HeathTwo points:
Posted on June 8, 2012 at 08:19 AM
Joking apart, a violin with no sound post does not sound soft, it sounds like a bad radio set, full of wolf-notes!
Pursuing my brilliant idea of a rubber bridge:
From Robert CunnahA mute!
Posted on June 8, 2012 at 03:24 PM
From marjory langeI'm not entirely clear about your desire: is it to have less sound under your own ear, or to avoid disturbing others?
Posted on June 8, 2012 at 03:32 PM
If the second, you've gotten lots of good advice (and some--typical for this site, alas--nonsense).
If the former, however, you might consider using an ear plug in your left ear. That helps protect you, and lessens the sound, without distorting pitch or quality, because you acquire those through bone conduction.
I use Etymotics when I practice (hearing damage from too many hours without protection, coupled with too many years in front of brass players in orchestras) but I find it helpful in reducing sound anyway.
From David KnutsonThanks for all the ideas! I guess what I'm looking for is a way to soften the sound so when I play in a small room, it doesn't overwhelm nor does it intrude on anyone close by. Think Enya instead of Celine Dion.
Posted on June 8, 2012 at 08:58 PM
From Peter Charles"(My bridge now has pretty little white socks!)(No snide remarks, please, Peter..)"
Posted on June 8, 2012 at 11:53 PM
Matching your neglige (with an accent) no doubt!!
Sorry, couldn't resist that one!
From marjory langeThen probably a wire mute, or a rubber one would suit your needs, after you have moved to gentler strings, like Violinos. But, you know, you probably aren't disturbing anyone...and playing a violin is, ultimately more a public activity than a private one. Very few violinists need to worry about comparison with Celine Dion!
Posted on June 9, 2012 at 12:37 AM
From Emmanuel BorowskyVery simple-tape up the F-Holes, maybe.
Posted on June 10, 2012 at 08:36 PM
From J RayDavid, I think it's useful to break this down into separate areas and address them individually:
Posted on June 13, 2012 at 03:38 PM
1. Intonation / Accuracy
Your teacher's justification for (2) is (1), which we take to mean that your teacher wants you to have an instrument which has audible sympathetic vibration. This has its own consequences -- a quiet or quietened violin might have significantly reduced sympathetic vibrations, defeating that purpose.
Intonation is not sufficiently addressed with just sympathetic vibrations on an instrument, so I think you should separate (1) and (2); address (1) specifically with various means, but also address (2) for its own merits. Intonation/accuracy is a big topic for violinists, and I am avoiding the temptation to give specific advice now.
For (3), you could continue with the instrument you have, and try a conventional violin with a different practice mute -- e.g. Artino, which is a rubber/metal hybrid which diminishes the sound significantly, but not as severly as a metal mute. However, you must also remove the mute at times, and play with the full sound of the violin. Doing this before lessons or performances might be sufficient. Perhaps you could find a good time or place to practice in this way which would bother others the least. You might also get by limiting the time you practice at full volume, explaining to others that you are minimizing that time.
You could also address the room and the ear. The ear is easy -- use a musician's ear plug. You can make a difference to the room with more damping material at the walls and plugging gaps at the door, but much of it depends on what you have to work with, and making a lot of improvement is generally hard.
From John CaddSo you want a quiet violin at home and a loud normal one for teacher . You can contain the sound in a room by secondary glazing .That`s far more effective for sound reduction than double glazing . The walls can be covered with a double layer of plasterboard.( Sheetrock ) Then the floors and ceiling will need attention. That leaves you able to play normally .
Posted on June 14, 2012 at 06:26 PM
From N.A. MohrLet's see now...a $5 mute...or a $5000 room conversion...lol.
Posted on June 14, 2012 at 06:38 PM
...speaking of which...aren't there some kind of sound-dampening panels that you could just hang on the walls...and maybe get some heavy draperies and other sound muffling fabrics/area rugs, etc?
p.s....just found this:
...and this (with photos to give you more ideas):
From John CaddI should have gone for a cubicle idea really . Plasterboard ( aka Sheetrock ) is not expensive . Simple framework could be assembled with nuts and bolts or just adhesive . Lighting could be just electric. I sense the gap here between the question and the answers. Your question is getting all the other player`s personal preferences . What`s the main reason behind the quiet aspect ? Neighbours ? That shows you are considerate . There must be a site about music cubicles with drawings . I thought the Yamaha won a sound award a few years ago . What`s the general feeling ? Maybe you want to play that kind of violin permanently. Kennedy plays an electric model .
Posted on June 14, 2012 at 11:43 PM
There is specialist firm that makes cubicles and they are kind enough to show the dimensions for single and double cubicles . That would give you a fighting chance without suffocating. You have to allow for ventilation . How do places like Chethams Music School manage all the practising ? The Chetham`s school is being moved to a new building as the old practise rooms were damp , crumbling and the sound proofing was not good enough . 74 practise rooms !! That would be nice and noisy with all the windows open.
Get your own back and have a barbecue next door .
From Trevor JenningsAnother way to quieten a violin, but expensive and it certainly needs a luthier to do it, is to have a much shorter bass bar installed. Then the top table won't transmit vibrations from the bridge so much. This procedure should revert the dynamic of the violin to something approaching that of the pre-19th century era. Also change the strings to light gauge plain gut, the bridge to the thicker baroque design, fit a baroque tail piece and you'll be well away with a quiet violin with a sweet, perhaps somewhat thin, sound. Better get a baroque or transitional bow while you're about it to do a proper job.
Posted on June 15, 2012 at 01:39 AM
If all or any of the above is horse feathers, then I'm quite sure I'll be told about it forthwith!
From Karen AllendoerferI used to play a German factory violin, modeled on an Amati, that was about 150 years old. It was soft, understated in tone, not much projection. It was my first full-size violin, was very beautiful visually (I thought) and it cost about $800. That "soft" sounding attribute finally became a liability to me a few years ago when I had gotten back into playing as an adult and had a few solos in orchestra.
Posted on June 18, 2012 at 04:53 PM
So, I upgraded and got a violin that projects a lot more (and I started wearing an earplug in my left ear when I practice because the difference is quite noticeable). I gave my old violin to my 12-yo daughter as her first full-size instrument. She's played my new one a few times and doesn't like it at all, saying it's "too loud." She likes the softer, understated tone of her violin. So I think at least for now it has a good owner who appreciates it.
But I think the poster above who commented that these violins aren't that popular is correct. I showed my old violin to an appraiser and told him I'd acquired it for $800 back in the late 1970's, and he told me it was worth only about $500 now. I personally much prefer the sound of my new, "louder" one as well. So I think you might be able to get a soft-sounding violin for a pretty reasonable price if you look for an older German factory violin, based on an Amati model.
Revisit Violinist.com editor Laurie Niles' coverage from Canada of the 2013 Montreal International Musical Competition, including her interview with gold medalist Marc Bouchkov.
Please consider supporting Violinist.com by becoming a sponsor, and reaching our dedicated community of violin professionals, students and fans!