I had to play with a lot of mutes before I found The One.
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?
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