Practice mute affect on sound

October 2, 2007 at 04:28 PM · Why is it easier to sustain a long line with a practice mute? I've done this on several violins, and especially on the E string, a more sustained sound seems possible.


Replies (23)

October 2, 2007 at 09:48 PM · Maybe less energy is going back into the stick, energy that would normally need to be controlled.


October 2, 2007 at 10:02 PM · Just an idea, that maybe with the practice mute on you have very little dynamic range, so a) You have less opportunities to create dynamics, which are the basis of musical lines and b) You probably are digging much harder into the string than you normally would (because you can't scratch for one thing) and therefore the notes connect much more easily.

The violin also does not resonate like it normally does, so you are hearing a very "pure" sound that is easy to follow.

October 3, 2007 at 08:34 AM · Ha, I was just noticing this this weekend.

It seems as though the contact point becomes more receptive, allowing for a wider range of acceptable weights and speeds. What it reminds me of is removing the contrast from a black and white photo. Grey is much more subjective, you know.

February 27, 2011 at 08:23 PM ·

What an interesting observation.  I share a house and am playing in the basement - but still need to tone down my rather loud fiddle - so I play with a mute (old fashioned ebony kind).  I actually love the sound but also find it easier to play.  Maybe for the reason above that it simplifies the note....

February 28, 2011 at 10:37 PM ·

After practicing with the mute for awhile it can be rather discouraging actually to go back to without one!

February 28, 2011 at 11:58 PM ·

Thats true, I used to practice with the mute all the time. But then I found out I need to take them of to work better on dynamics.

March 1, 2011 at 03:13 AM ·

 Hi all,

where normally u all placed the mute?

I am using a toutre mute and i notice when its inbetween the G n D strings its sounds different when its inbetween the A and D strings.

so whats your opinions :D


March 1, 2011 at 12:23 PM ·

The bridge moves enough to destabilize the string a bit. For "ideal" string vibration, both ends of the string would need to be supported by a solid, unmoving part. Attaching a large mass (practice mute) to the bridge makes it behave more as if it was a rigid part.

When I was a little kid, I "discovered" that the violin was easier to play with a heavy mute, practiced that way for a week, and then put the mute on at my next lesson, excited to share my discovery with my teacher. Sadly, he didn't share my enthusiasm. LOL

March 1, 2011 at 12:40 PM ·


" Hi all,

where normally u all placed the mute?"

You do not really want me to tell you, do you? (wink)

March 1, 2011 at 12:42 PM ·


I might insist on a mute all the time for my quartet session tonight. (Just for me).

If they complaiin I might tell 'em where to stick it ... !!! (wink)

March 1, 2011 at 01:59 PM ·

 @ peter, well i am dead serious asking that question haha :D

those who do not use a heavy mute where do they normally placed the mute at :D

March 1, 2011 at 02:41 PM ·


I have one of those small "Heifetz" mutes and I put it in the middle of the bridge, but if you put it more to one side it mutes either the upper or lower strings more. A practise mute, or my one anyway, covers most of the bridge and so damps everything a lot.

Of course one could take the soundpost out and this might work!! (Dont anyone try this --- I'm only joking!!) (When was he known to be serious, I hear someone say ...)

March 1, 2011 at 02:57 PM ·

For those not entirely clear on the terminology, could someone define a 'mute' vs a 'practice mute'.  I assume the old ebony hair comb structure falls into the latter?  From the sounds of things (which is quiet :p ) the 'practise mute' actually mutes teh violin whereas the perfirmance? mute is half baked...

March 1, 2011 at 03:30 PM ·

My cello teacher from my youth, my violin teacher today, and many others (players and teachers) all give the same advice: don't do extended practice with a mute on a regular basis – it diminishes your ability to listen to and control the natural tone of the instrument.

March 1, 2011 at 04:59 PM ·

I've just thought of a new use for a mute - a very big one preferably.

On a talkative conductor during reheasals ...

March 1, 2011 at 05:07 PM ·

Fortunately Peter, we don't seem to need any on V.Com of late...

Just saying, mind you...


March 1, 2011 at 05:31 PM ·

Another thought.......playing the violin is supposed to "wake it up"  make it sound better. There's even a gadget you can buy called Tone Right that's will "play" the violin when you can't, hence improving its sound. Does playing with a mute and especially a practice mute, negate this by not allowing your violin to resonate to its fullest?

March 1, 2011 at 07:45 PM ·

Randy, that may be so if you use a practice mute continuously on a brand new fiddle, but it is hardly likely to reverse the tonal qualities of an instrument that has already been well played in for a significant time. But I do stand to be reversed on appeal if peer-reviewed scientific data to the contrary is put in evidence.  

March 1, 2011 at 10:34 PM ·

Well, I would love to hear two instruments made by the same maker with the same materials (as close as we can get) where one was played only with a mute and the other without - to see if there was any difference.

Its all getting a bit mystical...

March 2, 2011 at 03:56 AM ·

"For those not entirely clear on the terminology, could someone define a 'mute' vs a 'practice mute'. "


A practice mute is a lot bigger than a normal mute and reduces the volume more.  It is for practicing so you don't disturb the neighbors.  I think Emily Grossman might use one to avoid waking hibernating bears. 

March 2, 2011 at 06:15 PM ·

David B is far too modest to ring his own bell, but he is a world class violinist with a practice mute.  However, without the mute, he does better with the aid of a sawzall :-)


March 2, 2011 at 06:45 PM ·

It's better than that. I defy you to hear any technical errors whatsoever in my playing  (with my practice mute, and soap on my bow).

See how important the right equipment is?

March 3, 2011 at 02:25 PM ·

Soap on the bow cleans the strings as you play?

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