Advice Please

Edited: December 31, 2017, 9:10 AM · Greetings to All from a very cold wet December Scotland – rather like our summer.

To describe myself as a violinist is a bit like Humpty Dumpty who makes words mean whatsoever he wants them to mean. When it is explained to you kindly folks that I recently had a couple of violin lessons, never having even whistled a tune before, to see if I had any talent, I don’t, you’ll understand.

But I’m hooked and bought a violin on which I make ‘sounds.’ I’m looking for some advice, please.

I really don’t want to drive my neighbours crazy and have found a local community centre where I can rent, for a very modest fee, a room to practice – but only for 1 hour per day. However, as a bit of an insomniac (I’ve had this even before I started listening to my playing violin [I believe the best cure for this is a good night’s sleep]) I have plenty of time on my hands and could practice late evening and into the wee small hours.

So, out of consideration for my neighbours I bought a heavy rubber mute to dampen down my noise – correction – ‘sounds.’ But although it does lessen the sounds it’s not achieving what I hoped for, namely, to play in something just above a soft whisper.

Will some kind fellow violinist please offer ‘sound’ suggestions which can achieve my needs and especially as I’m very modestly aiming to play at the Royal Albert Hall in the New Year. Talking of which a very happy New Year to all.

Thanks

Will


Replies (32)

December 31, 2017, 9:18 AM · More weight on the bridge is what it takes. They make brass practice mutes that will damp the sound even more.
December 31, 2017, 9:26 AM · I have compared a chrome-plated metal mute and an "Artino" plastic-coated metal mute. They are both much more effective than a rubber practice mute. It is said that the all-metal mute is more effective than an Artino, but I didn't notice much difference. I'd recommend the Artino since it's cheaper and less likely to scratch the violin.

I have been told that it's important for improving tone quality and intonation to practice without a mute as well.

December 31, 2017, 9:29 AM · The Stentor 1173 Tonwolf Mute is available from amazon.co.uk and looks as if it would silence bagpipes
December 31, 2017, 9:39 AM · Go out on the moor and listen to yourself without a mute every good-weather day that comes along! True, the heavier the mute, the less sound - but it totally destroys the point of playing a string instrument - to have 95% of the sound damped.

You might try playing muteness until your friendly neighbors complain. When I was growing up and my Dad practiced his violin in our New York City apartment a next-door neighbor finally did threaten murder - so Dad got a lead-weighted practice mute - dangerous to the violin if it falls off. Fortunately, we moved away from NYC soon after to a house in the middle of 27 acres and he spent the next 7 years he lived practicing muteness at home and playing with other people in orchestra and string quartets to his heart's content.

Edited: December 31, 2017, 10:45 AM · Yamaha "silent" electric violins were originally developed for Japanese players in that high population density country, so they could play without disturbing their neighbors. Those Yamaha violins are not as subtle in their response as an acoustic, but they could conceivably solve your problem, at least in the beginning stages.
December 31, 2017, 12:01 PM · Practicing with a mute is a great learning process . The mute takes away a lot of the frequency characteristics of your instrument so enables you to develop technique not warped by the inadequacies of your instrument.
Trust me if you work hard and your tone production develops well you'll be able to make quite a lot of sound with the mutes on . When they are off well what can I say.
Another thing you could try is to stuff your violin with toilet tissue . Don't separate the sheets it makes them hard to retrieve . This works even better than using mutes and in my opinion is an invaluable experience .
December 31, 2017, 3:27 PM · Please don't stuff your violin with anything. Get a metal practice mute, and periodically take your neighbors homemade baked goods and/or fine wines. ;-)
Edited: December 31, 2017, 5:23 PM · If you stuff toilet tissue (or anything else) into a violin there's a high likelihood that you'll dislodge the soundpost while doing so, and probably more so when retrieving said tissue later. A soundpost down is a serious matter and the very first thing to do if that happens, no matter how it's caused (I had my bridge snap in two without warning a few weeks ago when practising), is to let the strings down immediately to take the pressure off the top plate before it gets damaged. Then you take the violin to a luthier (no-one else!) for the very skilled job of resetting the soundpost.

It would certainly be an invaluable and expensive experience nobody would want again!

December 31, 2017, 6:56 PM · Sacrifice the LR of your apartment and build an insulated practice booth inside.
December 31, 2017, 7:50 PM · You can buy a $60 electric violin on ebay that will be quiet enough for you. I had to put a cork under the fingerboard on mine to keep the neck from collapsing. The $100 electric violins will survive better. They really do work, are quiet and fun,,,but I much prefer to get loud with my acoustics.
January 1, 2018, 10:34 AM · Someone already mentioned the Yamaha “silent” line of violins. I thought I’d mention the YEV line. They are extremely quiet as well. They can be played unplugged if needed, or you can plug in electronics and use headphones. I have the YEV-104 in the natural finish, and I love it,
January 1, 2018, 12:35 PM · Thanks to everyone for suggestions - appreciated - and with special thanks to Andrew but if I rely on good weather to "get out on the moor" to practice I think I shall not get in much if any practice unless I also erect a large tent!

Han N. re: Artino plastic coated mute did you mean rubber coated as I can't find the item you suggested?

The idea for Yamaha "silent" violins is probably a last resort especially as I just recently bought an instrument. When you say they are "extremely quiet" we may have different interpretations. If you were practicising in, say, a bedroom with the living room on the other side of the wall would you hear anything at all? How loudly/softly?

Thanks


Edited: January 1, 2018, 1:23 PM · I have a Yamaha YEV-104 too. The volume without plugging it into anything is pretty much exactly the same as my acoustic violin with one of those heavy plated brass mutes that have already been mentioned. No, you would not hear it through a wall. (Unless maybe you pressed your ear against the wall.) ;)

Re: the Artino mute, the covering is a black synthetic rubber, i,e., it's plastic. Some sellers call it rubber, some call it plastic, same thing. That's your easiest and cheapest solution.

January 1, 2018, 1:57 PM · I was going to say that as well: an electric “silent” violin is almost exactly as loud as an acoustic violin using a heavy mute.

So they’d be equally quiet (or noisy) to your neighbors.

The advantage of an electric is that you can plug in headphones to be able to hear yourself at a more reasonable level while playing.

January 1, 2018, 4:07 PM · Thanks again.

Looks like I'll go for the Artino which is the cheapest option and if that doesn't do it will visit music store to try out Yamaha YEV.

Your suggestions are very much appreciated.

Will

Edited: January 2, 2018, 1:11 PM · I live in a small apartment in a large city, filled with folks who are neighbors that rarely speak to each other in passing, and I practice for at least an hour a day. I KNOW my neighbors can hear my practicing, but I will typically stop by 9pm (latest). If I hear banging on the shared wall that seems like "expressed irritation", I'll either stop practicing or put my (much hated) practice mute on. They have not threatened murder, or even complained to me or my landlord, and did not even when I first returned to playing. Frankly, I am surprised by this.
Edited: January 2, 2018, 2:48 PM · Another option for a practice mute is to put several performance mutes on together. Mute designs vary, and some are more limited in how many will fit, but my personal favorite, the Heifetz mute, will allow you to put as many as five on at a time. Then the muting is significant, and you can adjust it in subtle degrees by using any number up to five.

Note: I'm not affiliated with the makers or sellers of Heifetz mutes. I'm sure they'd be thrilled if everyone went out and bought five of them!

January 3, 2018, 5:29 PM · Well Mark - and our other friends who kindly gave their input - this is going to sound totally crazy ... but...

Last night when practising with the rubber mute on which still makes too much sound ( I almost said noise) and playing very gently my eye fell onto (no, not literally) a certain object and I thought maybe it'll just work. So with the rubber mute still in place I added this other item directly onto the strings and up against the fingerboard side of the bridge and ... well, it actually worked in that it muffled the sound even more. And then when I re-adjusted it by putting it at the fingerboard end the sound, other than a very low squeak, was practically eliminated.

You won't believe me when I identify the additional item - but I'm telling it straight. It's a comb. Yes, that's right a common ordinary comb that you run through your hair.

Okay, I accept arguments on the lines of 'what's the point when you can't hear any sounds?' Well, for me at two o'clock in the morning and not wanting to disturb the neighbours I at least get to practice bowing and finger positioning. Speaking as a former golf addict (back probs ended that) I thought it really was only golfers that were crazy - now I know that violinists are also in that classification!

January 3, 2018, 5:47 PM · I can't look.
January 3, 2018, 7:37 PM · I am curious about how it went with the Royal Albert Hall performance in the New Year.
About disturbing the neighbours, first of all: Have they complained or commented anything? Violins sound very strong in our ears but not always go through walls and doors easily. I say this because I had the same concern and I was using a very heavy mute and playing very softly but when one day I decided to visit my neighbours to explain and apologize, they told me they never heard anything. With or without mute. At least, when I played in a particular room in the house.
On the other hand, talking to them and explaining, opens the door for sympathy. One of the neighbours told me he had a brother who used to practice and he encouraged me to not worry about him, as he understood.

Another solution is to soundproof the room. My father was a sound-freak and needed absolute silence and what he did was to hang thick carpets from the walls. Not attaching them, but hanging as courtains with an inch or two between the fabric and the wall. You would not hear a squeak going in or out. And the room looked cool.

January 3, 2018, 8:22 PM · Is it possible to practise while they're out at work? Might be a useless suggestion if you also work during the day...

I don't know how it is in the US/UK, but surely it cannot be reasonable to complain at someone practising an hour a day with a hardcore practice mute, within daylight hours.

January 4, 2018, 3:35 AM · If you leave one end of the toilet tissue hanging out one of the ff holes, it can come in handy for wiping your nose, or for other toilet tissue emergencies. The violin makes a very elegant dispenser. I may mount one on my bathroom wall.
Edited: January 4, 2018, 6:22 AM · "The idea for Yamaha "silent" violins is probably a last resort especially as I just recently bought an instrument. When you say they are "extremely quiet" we may have different interpretations. If you were practicising in, say, a bedroom with the living room on the other side of the wall would you hear anything at all? How loudly/softly?"

That really depends on several factors, including the building construction, air gap between the door(s), ambient noise, hearing sensitivity of the listener and playing volume.

If there are any air gaps, closing them would help noticeably, but also cut off some air circulation.

Mutes come in different strengths. I'd start with the Artino or comparable (IIRC, one's branded Gewa) -- it's much heavier than a rubber mute. A pure metal mute would be heavier and more effective, but with additional risk of damage and greater alteration of the sound.

I'd say that an electric violin such as the YEV sounds about as loud as an acoustic violin with a heavy metal mute, maybe a bit louder. But, you can also use a mute on an electric, which would be the quietest. Some electric violins are also quieter than others -- a Gewa Line for example is louder than a YEV. If you end up getting an electric violin, note that they're still manually assembled so there are unit to unit differences -- try to get one in person with exchange privileges.

Finally, when attaching and removing a mute, use two hands, one on the bridge, to reduce the movement of the bridge and pressure on the instrument.

January 4, 2018, 3:04 PM · Thanks for the latest input including from David who in suggesting the use of toilet tissue has obviously heard the 'quality' of my 'musical' output. Appreciated :-)

Carlos, I haven't made my appearance at the venue as yet and working hard at getting there but it may take me some time - maybe 50 to 60 years. But when I'm next in London will visit a certain wholesaler of Persian Rugs/Carpets - which may magically transport me back to Scotland.

In the meantime I'm going for an Artino metal mute and doing so will free up my comb.

January 4, 2018, 11:51 PM · If you are working to grow as a musician, I would agree with soundproofing. As another person who likes practicing late at night, I understand the dilemma of not bothering others around you, but using a mute prevents you from training your ear. A mute will dampen the vibrations and alter the tone of your instrument. Even if intonation and rhythm are the first things you want to work on, your ear is being trained every time you practice. I personally get joy from hearing the tone and nuances in my sound, and I'm glad that my first teacher taught me to hear the ring in the sound very early on in my learning. I think if you put that much work into learning your instrument, you shouldn't hinder your progress by not actually hearing what you play.
January 5, 2018, 9:09 AM · I agree that it's not a good idea to use a mute all the time -- mainly because the strings don't vibrate as much so don't give you the same feeling and response. However, muted practice is much better than nothing. Here's an article which mentioned various options and some artists' preferences:

https://www.thestrad.com/practising-quietly-the-products-that-can-help-you-put-in-the-hours-without-annoying-the-neighbours/4402.article

January 5, 2018, 9:44 AM · Every considering sound-proofing your room? Most of the sound escape through windows and doors.
January 5, 2018, 2:26 PM · Hannah, I'm very pleased to hear that you get joy from listening to the music you create - you wouldn't get that emotion from listening to me. And I very much agree with you about training the ear and even at this early stage when I'm listening to real music being played - and not my scratching, crunching, squeals - I'm learning to pick out the notes. That in itself gives me a certain level of enjoyment.

The cost of soundproofing an entire apartment is prohibitive but I' looking at other options - I wonder how much value crazy violinists have added to the building industry?

Thanks J I'll check out the link you provided.

Much appreciated folks.

Best

Will

January 8, 2018, 3:19 AM · Hello,

I started using rubber mute in the evening at home, but I stopped it, it sounds dull and I need to hear myself, fortunately I am not disturbing people with my play. It can be heard just in one neighbour, she is kind girl learning guitar, so often we are playing together over wall :) rest of house is soundproof.

I am little bit scared of the extreme silence you must keep, it is almost non-breathing. But really really try to play at least in hired room and outside (if weather allows - I know Scotland very well beautiful country but awful weather) and sometimes during the day, without mute.

I am not using mute anymore, just few times (I have 1.5 yrs daughter, when she sleeps I play with mute).

GL

January 8, 2018, 12:31 PM · Hi Martin,

You've been to Scotland? I never saw you. Yes, it's a beautiful place with stunning scenery along the Fife Coastal Path and in the hills and Glens of Perthshire BUT the weather.....

During the day I hire a community centre room but only get a limited time - and I have to supply earplugs for other centre users. As an insomniac - I really only need maybe 4 hours sleep - I could play in the wee small hours but without a really effective mute don't do so as I really don't want to disturb neighbours.

January 16, 2018, 11:10 AM · Sorry I should have mentioned that one should be careful not to damage the F holes when retrieving the tissue that you've stuffed in the instrument . This violinist is a beginner presumably playing a violin that is not valuable . When handling an instrument you must be sensitive , but I can tell that neither of you have ever stuffed a violin with tissue the idea that one would dislodge the sound post is preposterous .
January 16, 2018, 5:46 PM · Well of course I have never stuffed a violin with tissue. The idea is preposterous.


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