effects of a heavy mute

December 9, 2015 at 07:59 AM · I've been using heavy mute, the metal one coated in rubber lately because I've decided to go for quick practices on the go while I'm studying for exams.

I'm finding that the violin tone sounds different, flatter in a way, but in tune, just sounds bad after using the mute.

After a week of practicing with mute on, I brought my violin to my office today and played for a colleague who's been bugging me to do so, the violin really did not sound good. It just sounded really bad.

Discouraged, I practiced without the mute all day, and it sounds "normal" now after few hours of practice.

Do others feel effects of heavy mute on their violin, or would it be because mute allows clumsier bowing and I got clumsier over the past week?

Replies (27)

December 9, 2015 at 11:04 AM · this is Deja-vu. A few years ago some one posted the exact same thing. I agreed with him that a muted fiddle sounded harsher and 'worse' after the mute was taken off and had to be played out. I didn't take mine several hours to 'play it out' but a considerable amount of time. In general, we were shouted down, being cited all sorts of things, mainly, it was supposed to be the human ear that could not adjust to the different frequencies between muted and unmuted. I didn't believe it then, and I don't believe it now. and, yes it seems to be worse with a metal mute than a rubber mute.

My theory is that the mute hinders vibration in the bridge that effects the fiddle and it has to played out to get the fiddle vibrating normally again. I imagine this will also be shouted down.

Do you think it would take the ear several hours to adjust to the different frequencies? I don't. Fortunately, I am not forced to play with a mute, but I would do everything in my power (including living somewhere different if I had to) in order not to have to play with a mute.

Good luck with this post.

December 9, 2015 at 01:00 PM · I think the mute allows clumsier bowing and covers up a lot of errors. I do not think it affects the violin : this is just my opinion.

I hate practising with a mute but sometimes I have to. I am travelling and staying in hotels for the next two weeks so I am using the big rubber mute. When I get back home and take the mute off I will notice the difference in my playing.

Mutes are a necessary evil.

December 9, 2015 at 07:52 PM · If you play the clavichord you get used to what weird (and clever) things your ears are.

December 9, 2015 at 08:49 PM · Maybe we could run a little experiment.....( record fiddle without mute, then practise with mute for about 4 days. Take mute off and record fiddle immediately without preparation. ) I will wager that we will hear the same fiddle with clumsy bowing.........

December 10, 2015 at 02:25 AM · You mean Harpo should start slimming?

Seriously now, when you say the violin sounds bad after using the mute, do you mean that it sounds as though it were being bowed clumsily (in which case, for some notes and passages it should sound normal) or that it just is constantly not quite producing the sound it should. Neither alternative would surprise me.

December 10, 2015 at 02:46 AM · at least to my ears before warming up without the mute, sounds somewhat muted. The whole violin sounds as if the string sounds are distorted and much wider spectrum than focused.

Basically, it feels like the bridge is squished in a way until I warm up without the mute.

December 10, 2015 at 04:05 AM · when I had to play out the bad sound after taking off the mute, it had nothing to do with bowing, as I would just play simple scales, nothing fast or fancy.

Steven: when you say "until I warm up without the mute" do you mean warm yourself up, or warm the violin up?

"Strings sounds are distorted and much wider spectrum than focused"....Yup.

Do you think this has anything to do with bowing?

December 10, 2015 at 04:26 AM · Hi Dave, when I say warming, up. I suppose warming up my violin playing. This includes slow painful scaling in every possible position that I can remember and reach.

I'm not so sure about the bowing. I notice that I am getting clumsy, but when I notice the differences, I'm merely doing scales.

December 10, 2015 at 08:27 AM · "Strings sounds are distorted and much wider spectrum than focused"....

That's your ear playing tricks on you...after being used to the muted sound your ears get a shock when the mute is taken off..and you realise you had been digging in far too heavy with the bow to get a decent sound on the muted violin...

December 24, 2015 at 09:54 PM · Well here's a qualitative experiment I've been running. I learned that my ears are hurting even from pizzicato parts lately and invested in an earplug when I play.

1. With mute: Clumsy bowing is hidden, and kind of encourages bad habits. Once the mute is taken off, the violin sounds odd for a while until I "play it out"

2. With earplugs: Clumsy bowing is still very obvious, my vibratos, and all the small details are still there. Instead of hearing the ringing, I can feel the ringing on my chin and hand, which I find quite pleasant. Once the earplugs are taken off, the violin sounds very loud, but no wider spectrum.

I think I am going to keep playing with earplugs because I can control the dynamics, vibrato and tone better, simply because I can hear the differences properly.

December 24, 2015 at 11:12 PM · The mute effect is real, happens after I use a heavy rubber mute too. :)

For earplugs, don't go above about 15 dB, as it makes it harder to hear

yourself and anybody in the vicinity. :)

December 24, 2015 at 11:12 PM · Double post

December 24, 2015 at 11:33 PM · I have 20dB earplugs, I think it's just in the right spot for me. One thing, if I'm not mistaken, I'm hearing the constant "zing" from the violin, it sounds like a low G, natural vibration mode of my violin probably, do you notice that in on your violin as well? I only get the background sound without earplugs when the strings are brand new and haven't been broken in yet.

My wolfnote is in between C and C#.

December 24, 2015 at 11:48 PM · To my mind a good way to test if a heavy mute affects the tone after it has been removed, without involving a subjective opinion, is to make a series of good quality audio recordings with a good mic before, during and after using the mute (both immediately after and some time later). Then feed the recordings through a good audio editor and examine the spectrographic results to see what changes to frequencies and their amplitudes may or may not have occurred as a result of using the mute.

Results and an analysis thereof to be on my desk by the New Year. Happy Christmas!

December 25, 2015 at 12:08 AM · Trevor, you shall receive my results in 2099, December 31st, funding issues.

December 25, 2015 at 01:03 AM · In the summer time when my windows are open I have to practice with a heavy rubber mute to avoid complaints from my neighbors. I have a metal mute which quiets best of all but I am afraid of top damage if it should somehow slip off. When I take the mute off the sound does seem to be different and not as it typically should. I also notice a difference in sound output after a soundpist or tailpiece adjustment, or even moving my chinrest a quarter of an inch. It seems to me that after playing a couple of hours to a day or two, the violin starts sounding better after "settling back in".

I like Trevor's idea for an actual scientific test to prove my ears are wrong and that I am full of nonsense.

December 25, 2015 at 01:04 AM ·

December 25, 2015 at 01:04 AM ·

December 25, 2015 at 01:04 AM · Sorry, PC acted all weird on me. :)

December 25, 2015 at 05:12 AM · A.O. said "the mute effect is real, happens after I use a heavy rubber mute too" So that makes 3 of us wackos. the OP, me and A.O.

The argument that after the mute is removed the player is digging in harder with the bow doesn't fly with me, because when I'd hafta play it out, I would intentionally use a significantly lighter bow stroke because I did not want to 'force' anything.

Steven: have you considered just trading for a quieter violin? A couple of years ago a tried a louder than average fiddle, good sound but loud. After a week of playing on it, my ears ringing, I took it back. Now one of my fiddles is quieter than average, Louis Lowendall, made in Berlin 1893, but sounds very nice... the opinion of 2 different Luthiers, and everyone that hears it. I think it projects further that what is heard under the ear.

I'm just saying... I couldn't live with ear plugs, I'd want to hear the 'real' sound of my violin. Would you say your fiddle is louder than average? Do you need all that volume? In what'situations'do you play? Have you played quite a few other violins for a point of reference? I am by no means trying to convince you to trade in your fiddle...just saying...

December 25, 2015 at 05:33 AM · I'm scared of those big practice mutes falling off and hitting my instruments. I never use them.

December 25, 2015 at 06:05 AM · Dave, I've actually got this violin in September, after debating for over a month or so. It is certainly MUCH louder than most other violins I got to try. My previous violin was about average~quieter than average, and with the advice from a lot of people here, I tried many different violins over the summer.

I really doubt I'll be trading this one in, perhaps forever. When I was trying it, it had brand new set of Obligato, it was absolutely powerful, and with good sound, oddly either it has been getting louder or I'm getting less tolerant to the sound volume,the sound became too loud for me to hear the small details.

I play purely for recreation, I play in a small hallway in a basement parking lot, in a telescope dome, and seldom in my apartment. The violin is currently loud enough such that I would be playing it in my parents' basement, and my brother on the second floor(past first floor) complains about the loud noise.

I'm currently hoping to explore bright, metal strings with the focus and dynamics I'm hoping to be able to hear without the earplugs. I don't think I mind the earplugs, for now.

December 25, 2015 at 06:09 AM · @Dave: Agree, using the mute only makes you press for a moment until you remember that a muted instrument will not sound good if pressed, just like the unmute option found on the control panel of the ribs. :)

PS: Some people like a loud fiddle even if not playing in concerts and the like, because it offers greater dynamic potential as heard by the player.

I also want one like this, where I can play the quietest ppp, but also crank up to fff for for dramatic effect, like in Paganini's pieces.

December 25, 2015 at 06:13 AM · A.O. except, the ppp on this violin sounds like f on my old violin. I cannot distinguish p and f too well, or even hear my vibrato well with naked ears, once the strings break in.

With earplugs, it gets much more obvious. Same in recordings or apparently to spectators/audiences

December 25, 2015 at 10:16 AM · OK, if you're still using Obligato, I think you could definitely find some strings that would work better for the way you are describing your violin.

I presume you have been reading the 'steel strings' thread and may already have some ideas. I think you are headed in the right direction with brighter and more focus. Infeld blue might work well. they are higher tension, brighter but not over bright. I think they have a quality sound with focus. You mentioned you used an Infeld Red E, the blues are smaller diameter than the Reds & Oblagato. Sometimes it can be a long, arduous & expensive process to find exactly the right strings, but 'exactly' the right strings is worth it imo.

December 25, 2015 at 05:09 PM · @Steven: For an overly loud instrument with too much power, try putting on HEAVY wound gut like Eudoxa.

If they work, the sound will now be resonant with good volume, and will give you many colours without forcing the bow, as the heavy but flexible gut SHOULD suppress the excess volume on a newly made instrument. :)

December 25, 2015 at 07:15 PM · I will get on it after I finish using Karnoel, Amber, Brilliant and Brilliant Vintage. I'm trying all Warchal sample first. I actually want to try cheap D'adrio steel strings on this violin too.

Dave, I actually revived that old thread on steel strings because I liked the ease of play with steel strings on a cheap violin.

Infeld Reds were my favorites actually, it just got too expensive for my taste. The blue set is now over $80Cdn now.

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