Heavy Violin Mutes
Are there any long term effects on a violin from using a heavy mute? I am talking about those big, metal mutes (plastic covered or nickel plated) that are placed on the bridge.
After skimming this forum all I saw mentioned were accidental damage (i.e. the mute falling off of the bridge and landing on the violin, or closing the case on the violin without having removed the mute).
But one often notices on older violins the markings of the bridge feet on the top plate (the varnish is damaged, and in some cases the top plate gets "dented" or warped at those two points). This must be caused by the pressure of the strings, and such pressure would only be greater when adding the weight of a heavy mute, right?
Welcome Ray Mundus!
I'd be more concerned about how it's put on and taken off than the additional pressure from simply sitting on the bridge. I always hold the bridge with one hand while removing or attaching the mute, which prevents the bridge from moving and the hand from exerting additional pressure on the violin when attaching it. I think the claims about the mute changing the sound or affecting the tuning largely arise from slight movements of the bridge, which can be avoided with such care.
Marking of the bridge feet I would think are more related to varnish softness, some of which never really harden. I always exercise extreme caution when using such mute however as damage to the bridge or top plate is likely if one isn't being careful.
I use a heavy mute for about an hour every night when practicing and my son is sleeping. I have noticed no ill effects. I have the metal one covered in rubber. Just be careful putting it on and off, i.e. make sure the mute is firmly on the bridge.
Those nickel plated brass practice mutes are the heaviest ones I know of, and they weigh about 65 grams. That's a tiny fraction of the pressure your strings are exerting on the bridge, so you needn't worry about it.
If you're willing to spend like 50 bucks on a practice mute (I was), try wmutes.com
The Wmutes look very nice indeed, but wow... they do cost a few pennies. $150 CDN for the set (concert & practice)!
Yeah it's been pretty great. The tone is quite balanced and of course the volume is lowered approximately to what other practice mutes achieve.
Erik, do you have access to a gram scale, and can you weigh your Wmute for us? That will tell us a great deal about the effect without having to buy one first. (Electronic gm scales are cheap to buy these days, and nice to have for bows, etc. Or you can ask your local jeweler to weigh it for you.)
For tone, the best practice mute for my violin is a leather mute. Go to
I agree with Erin. The leather mutes from Marcel St. Cyr are favorites of mine too. Violin practice mute = 11gm. Performance mute = 3gm. (These will vary somewhat because they're handmade.)
Mark and Erin, aside from quality of sound, is the reduction in volume for a leather mute as significant as that of a metal mute?
The reduction in sound is roughly proportional to the weight of the mute. How tightly the mute grips the bridge is another factor.
So roughly 6 times louder than the 65 g metal mute...
What I meant by proportional was that a metal mute of a specific weight will have the same approximate volume reduction as a rubber or leather mute of that same weight. If you're wondering how much of a muting effect an 11gm leather mute will have without spending all that money, get a 14gm rubber Ultra mute for a few dollars first. The volume reduction will be about the same, but not the sound characteristics.
I understand. Therefor comparison between rubber and leather is more feasible than metal vs leather.
Ideally every mute manufactuer would be providing a DB Reduction rating as well as a Frequency Attenuation Curve with their product, especially those high end ones. Mark, it looks like you are well positioned to do such comparative evaluation, which would be a very valuable resource for everyone, and worthy of an article in the Strings magazine perhaps.
@ Roger St-Pierre: What's interesting about the whole thing is the reduction may not be what it seems to your ear (or at least mine, anyways). I live in a townhouse, so I have many mutes. I finally found one I really liked and was using it a lot. One day I decided to measure the sound level while playing from about 6 feet away with my sound pressure level meter. I was shocked to find that while the sound had changed a lot, the total sound pressure level was nearly the same. Yikes. My poor neighbors. My best compromise is one of those big, across-the-whole-bridge mutes. Only if it didn't smell like I have my nose in a tire.
Interesting indeed. It would be very revealing to see Db reduction measurements along with the frequency attenuation curve on a variety of mutes.
Yes, I'm sure. Artino = 58gm, out of the box.
I can't weigh my W-mute because I don't have a gram scale, but it most certainly weighs a lot less than my huge metal practice mute. Maybe half the weight of that.
The sound of leather mutes is indeed intoxicating. Paul Wiessmeyer in Boston also makes some in the performance (not practice) category.