V.com weekend vote: Are you happy with your mute?

July 12, 2019, 12:48 PM · I had to play with a lot of mutes before I found The One.

mutes

Okay I'm being a little dramatic there, but I've certainly rejected a lot of mutes, for a lot of reasons. One tore up my strings - that's no good! Others were inconvenient to put on quickly. Many of them moved around, the mute occasionally making its way toward the bridge until it caused a buzzing sound. One seemed perfect because it stayed in place and then slid on easily -- but then it barely muted the sound.

Of course, different mutes work in different situations. I'll never forget when conductor Victor Yampolsky required that we use old-fashioned ebony mutes to get the right sound in a Shostakovich symphony - he was right, no other mute makes quite the same sound. I'd still say that sound is the best, though it is arguably the most inconvenient for the typical orchestra situation because the mute has to sit somewhere separate from the violin while not in use.

I have a big, plastic practice mute that I would never use for performing, but it works very well for practicing in a hotel room, or late at night, or when your ears need a break. For regular orchestra playing, I've settled on the Alpine Professional Shield (which I think was once called a Menuhin shield). It doesn't rattle, it stays in place, it mutes the strings sufficiently, and it's actually rather elegant-looking.

The only thing I'm missing now is a blinged-out mute with crystals on it!

What is your mute situation? Which ones have you liked, and for what reason? Have you had to reject certain kinds of mutes? How is the one that you have now?

Replies

July 12, 2019 at 06:12 PM · It is a simple rubber mute, the same as the first on the left of the picture. It could be heavier and mute the M string a little better, but for my use it is good enough.

July 12, 2019 at 06:20 PM · I really like the sound of the Heifetz mute, but it takes longer to put on than some others (and it has to be stretched out a bit so it doesn't make noise when taking it off and putting it on.) I wouldn't use it for Mahler 4, where (if my memory is accurate) the viola part has you constantly putting it on and removing it. For that tune, ease and speed definitely win over sound quality!

July 12, 2019 at 06:22 PM · I have the Heifetz but I've been actually a little afraid to put it on because it is so tight!

July 12, 2019 at 06:37 PM · I have an ORIGINAL Heifetz mute I guard with my life! LOL! Bought it in the 1950s when they were plentiful. It has the sweetest sound of all the many mutes I've tried oner the years. Didn't use it in orchestra as it took too long to put on and off and I was afraid of losing it, as it bounced quite easily. I tried just about all the mutes on the market, except the slide on that stayed behind the bridge and tore the string wrapping when it was moved.

Liked the Spector mute and the Finissima, and used both the metal and rubber ("hotel") practice mutes.

July 12, 2019 at 07:31 PM · Laurie,

The Heifetz mute has a steel clip pressed onto the rubber body, and by design and intention the user is supposed to pull that clip up to suit themselves, to adjust the tension and ease of applying it.

And I have a compartmented polyethylene box with more than two dozen different mutes in it. I think they're fun! If it wasn't so awkward for technologically challenged people like myself to post photos here on violinist.com, I'd photograph it and share it. (That's my site commentary for today.)

July 12, 2019 at 07:53 PM · I have a Bech Magnetic, which I don't recognize in the pictures above. Basically it's a Tourte with a magnet that holds it to the tailpiece when not in use and stops it rattling. It does mute the violin/viola to some extent(so I keep the rules).

You do have to make sure that the other magnetic bit is properly fitted to the tailpiece - I've recently lost one (but then I had lost a muting bit when a string broke and I forgot about retrieving the mute, so it's evens).

If you're desperate, a clothes peg does work, plastic or wood - take your pick.

July 12, 2019 at 08:14 PM · I've got a bit of a collection myself! A classic ebony, a similar one of lightweight brass that was with the violin when I got it, a rubber, a metal and a rubber coated metal practice mutes and until recently was using a classic tourte figure 8. The Tourte was until recently because it started sliding up the string a lot, so on a recommendation I got a Poly shield type. I like it so far.

July 12, 2019 at 08:18 PM · My favourite over the years is an old rubber Tourte violin shaped mute from 30 years ago (I think I paid 75 cents for it) that I use to this day. Holds on one string behind the bridge and clamps on the bridge. Beautiful sound, and it a faithful musical companion.

July 12, 2019 at 09:28 PM · I have an old-fashioned ebony mute for the same reasons as you mentioned in your article, Laurie, regarding the conductor Victor Yampolsky who required it. It does give the best sound in my oppinion.

But sometimes there is not sufficient amount of time to either take the mute on or off. Therefore I do have a rubber mute which I can place behind the bridge and easily take it on or off. I only put it on the violin if I am going to play a piece where such a fast shift is needed.

In the music school where I teach I have insisted that the students use the old-fashioned ebony mutes in the orchestra, therefore the music school has got a stock of them so the students can borrow them in case they don't have such a mute. But I admit that sometimes a different type of mute which can be changed fast is needed as I mentioned above.

July 12, 2019 at 09:59 PM · Old plastic practice mute here, but I don't use it these days. I don't do orchestra anymore, and my next-door neighbors are 100 feet away, while the ones across the street are 200 feet away. So I can play in the garage and not have to worry about disturbing anyone.

About ears needing a break: In place of a mute, I use foam earplugs, L/R -- decibel factor of -33. I won't practice or play without them in place. I started this routine years ago when I added Infeld Red strings to my lineup. I noticed right away that they were more powerful on my instruments than the wound-gut types I'd been used to.

July 12, 2019 at 10:29 PM · I can't even remember the last time I used a mute.

July 13, 2019 at 12:13 AM · Not a mute but rather an electric violin, an instrument I don't much like but I bring it to busy worksites where I don't want everyone to hear how unbeautiful is my playing. I don't worry about temperature or humidity or breakage because it is robust plastic. It is as silent as any muted fiddle could be, plus impervious to outdoor and car settings all day.

July 13, 2019 at 04:44 AM · I love my rosewood mute. I sometimes use it orchestrally, but like you said, it's tough to get on and off fast enough, so I do have and use (and lose) a little rubber mute too.

July 13, 2019 at 04:57 AM · I have the Bech magnetic as well, which I really like as long as the magnet stays put. I recently lost the magnet out of one of mine and then it started buzzing again.

July 13, 2019 at 05:01 AM · Ive heard the heifetz mute makes your vibrato faster ...

I have the tourte mute and it buzzes, especially on viola.

July 13, 2019 at 05:01 AM · I use leather mute which sounds so sweet.

July 13, 2019 at 05:29 AM · I won't vote on this: The option I would vote for would have to be: "It isn's perfect but it does its job."

When I was a student I had a mute that was fixed to the strings between bridge and tailpiece. It was extremely easy to push forward onto the bridge and pull back again. The student orchestra had a recording session with a 20th century piece which required constant change from con sordino to senza sordino. We were all sitting there and playing every section repeatedly. I moved that mute up on the bridge and back again too many times--until the bridge was pushed too far forward and fell over with a loud bang!

Luckily nothing broke and I could upright the bridge, tune and go on playing.

Since then I distrust mutes that are easy to put on and off.

July 13, 2019 at 02:14 PM · There are two reasons Tourte mutes (which oddly are not included in Laurie's picture) are so dominant among pros and semi-pros, and it has nothing to do with sound.

1) They're already on your fiddle, so you don't have to worry about forgetting in your case or dropping it on stage.

2) They're super-quick to put on and off. Sometimes you have two or three beats to con sord and the Tourte is at least as fast as anything else out there.

I agree about the buzzing on viola for a Tourte. If anyone has a solution I'd love to hear.

July 13, 2019 at 03:14 PM · Thomas Boyer I bet the solution is for them to make a viola mute that is proportionally heavier. That's the trouble with "violin/viola" accessories: They're violin products.

July 13, 2019 at 03:41 PM · These are pretty cool: https://www.bostonfiddle.com/3d-mutes

I personally love the sound of these leather ones: https://www.bostonfiddle.com/leathermutes

July 13, 2019 at 03:56 PM · I love the sound quality of my shield mutes. Nice to see another company making them again (Alpine Mute Co.)!

July 13, 2019 at 05:41 PM · I have a stainless steel practice mute that I use when needed for quiet practice - which is not often. My favorite is my ebony mute - I love but takes time to put on and take off. I once held it in my teeth so that I could easily trap it. I have a round torte mute that I like, I rarely have to fool with it, I have not had it on and off to the point where the bridge fell over. I don't like the figure 8 because it wobbles when playing and makes noise.

I look for, find , and give my viola students a real viola round torte and an ebony mute.

July 13, 2019 at 06:10 PM · Bech magnetic. Totally love it and NEVER have to scramble or play without a mute, when sight reading in orchestra and all of a sudden a mute is required.

July 13, 2019 at 06:20 PM · I use a Tourte mute, mostly because it's the orchestral mute I'm familiar with, and it buzzes. It's enough of a headache that I remove the mute completely whenever I know I'm not going to use it in a particular rehearsal or concert.

July 13, 2019 at 07:21 PM · Andrew -- yes, that's what I do too. It buzzes relatively infrequently with my violin, but pretty much always with my viola. There's just too much vibration in the string after-length. Maybe it's time to go back to one of those old-fashioned rosewood or ebony three-prong mutes. I probably have one laying around somewhere.

July 14, 2019 at 02:40 AM · I LOVED my Menuhin Shield. I was really quite heartbroken when I lost it. I replaced it with an Alpine Shield and it's just not the same. It doesn't mute as well or with the same loveliness of tone, and it is both harder to get on and more prone to slipping and buzzing on the strings. I'm using the white version. (I ordered both the black and white and, frustratingly, was sent two white ones.)

What I want: A mute that will change the color of the tone and dampen the brilliance of the instrument, without totally destroying the resonance and projection. Think of it as a mute useful for concerto playing. Plus it should be easy and very quick to get on and push off. The Menuhin Shield was perfect.

July 14, 2019 at 04:43 AM · Lydia, I have black and a white Alpine shield mutes, and an original Menuhin shield mute here in hand. I'm trying to find the differences between them by physically examining them and by switching them onto and off of my violin, and there isn't much to report. When I hold them back to back, their dimensions are as close to identical as one might ever hope for. The Alpines both weigh 3.74 gms, while the original Menuhin shield weighs 3.81 gms. That's something, but realistically not much. When I close my eyes and randomly pick them up, put them on the afterlengths, and slide them into and out of muting position, I can't tell which one is which. Finally, I CAN seem to detect a slightly stronger muting effect with the Menuhin shield, but it's EXTREMELY subtle, and it could be accounted for by the 0.07 gram greater weight. People have complained that the brass disc in the Alpine mutes isn't flush to the plastic surface like in the Menuhin shield, so that the brass touches the bridge. And indeed, mine were that way, but I found that pressing down firmly on the Alpine discs caused them to sink in flush.

I just don't think there's a significant difference, but please don't ask me to sell my Menuhin shield. It's part of my collection after all.

July 14, 2019 at 01:58 PM · Right now, most of my mutes are from Wiessmeyer. He makes a lovely leather model, which he and his son also make out of composite. About 90% of the sound quality, plus durability-- and bright colors if you want them.

When I need to have fast on/off action in orchestra, I use the composite one by Wiessmeyer pere et fils that is shaped like the one-hole Tourte. Doesn't interfere with the after-length too much, goes on and off very easily, and mutes a ton more than the cheap rubber ones. Almost as good as the regular model that requires a shirt pocket for security.

I have tried, after many years, the ebony mute, but have found that they can sometimes be inconsistent with how they grip the bridge. Not that this invalidates anyone else's success. If my grandfather's is still lurking about I shall give that a shot.

The one I would love to hear again was the very hard rubber one from the 20s that Joseph Fuchs used in the Prokofiev Sonata. He was pretty unhelpful in showing it to students or describing it in any detail-- he just said "oh, they don't make it any more." But it sounded wonderful.

For practice duty, the Wiessmeyers are surprisingly effective if you press down hard. There is also a (very expensive) leather model made in Montreal, and the Artino rubber-coated metal one is a fine non-exotic standard.

July 14, 2019 at 08:00 PM · I have a plastic and a steel practice mute, but I am so clumsy that I don't dare to use the steel one. I only use a mute in orchestra once every couple of years. So I don't mind to have it on for that moment and after the concert put it back in my case again for the next couple of years. But I really really ask myself that same question Laurie does: Why aren't there lovely mutes with colours and crystals etc. Why have all the classic violin accesoires have to be sooooo very serious (or boooooring!!) ;)

July 14, 2019 at 08:11 PM · I use the Specter mute. It doesn’t mute so well out of the box, but I rubber cemented a few sheets of paper onto where it contacts the bridge. It works like a charm. It makes no noise and doesn’t damage the strings.

July 15, 2019 at 11:57 AM · I use a Spector mute as my go to orchestral driver and of course where a solo piece, with or without accompaniment, requires the sue of a mute. I have a Tourte as a spare. I use an Ultra mute as my go to practice mute for when the need arises.

I find the Spector easy to put onto the bridge as well as take off and it doesn't rattle about when not in use. Quieter to operate as well compared to a Tourte.

July 16, 2019 at 03:15 AM · I use Big Plastic Practice Mute. It is good for practice. In Hotel rooms, Home and in Living room.


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