A bit sad, but which violin mute to buy?

September 21, 2006 at 02:07 AM · There are so many mutes out there: Tourte Round,Tourte Violin Shaped, Bech Magnetic, 3-Prong ebony, Ultra USA, chrome/metal, Spector (in-between string), Heifetz mute, Finnissima, etc!!

What do most people use in orchestras and solo playing for the best possible muted sound? What about for practice usage for maximum damping?

Thanks a lot in advance.

Best regards,

Jonathan

Replies (39)

September 21, 2006 at 02:09 AM · Tourte round is fine and great for orchestra use. Maybe upgrade if you're playing a solo that will require a more consistent effect.

I've heard mention of Gingold's chocolate violin mutes...he would eat it when finished...maybe this was just for practice? :-)

September 21, 2006 at 12:58 PM · I've tried a number of mutes, and like the Spector mute the best. It slides to and from the bridge easily enough when you need it and importantly, doesn't move around when you are not using it. ( Actually, at first it doesn't slide so easily. What worked for me was to apply with a toothpick a tiny bit of Salchow bow lubricant into the grooves before fitting it between the middle strings.) It gives a decent muted tone. Interestingly, I find that I can achieve a couple of different levels of muting with the Spector. For 'normal' muting, I slide it over the bridge, ( the way it's meant to be used). But I can make a "poco sordino" effect by siding it just up to and touching the bridge.

I don't know how widely available they are. I got mine from Shar.

September 21, 2006 at 01:28 PM · Spectre is nice for orchestra playing, but does actually noticably affect the sound of the instrument even when not actually on the bridge.

Preston

September 21, 2006 at 08:03 PM · To the extent that I've encounterd that at all (with a Spector) - and I have them on several of my fiddles - it might be one or two notes. Moving the mute up or down a bit solves the problem. Perhaps too tight a fit could have some effect - but that's where my lubrication idea comes in.

September 21, 2006 at 07:59 PM · Hi,

Yes, this is true. The Finissima mute is similar in concept, was invented before the Spector, and is better in this regard. Quite good for quick add ons, take offs in orchestra. The good old one hole Tourte mutes are also excellent, and inexpensive.

The original Heifetz mutes, now a collector's item were made of wood and great in sound, but the new ones are nothing like it.

For practice, a special metal or rubber mute covering the bridge will get you the most muted sound.

Cheers!

September 21, 2006 at 11:26 PM · Greetings,

I always pick my mutes according to how good they are at housework.

Cheers,

Buri

September 22, 2006 at 06:14 AM · The best mute I ever played are the ones I make by folding up a dollar bill and sliding it between the strings.

I know that's not politically correct, but I'm not into that. I'm only into what sounds good.

September 22, 2006 at 07:36 AM · Ha, I do that.

September 22, 2006 at 12:44 PM · I fold old rubles up and play with them.

September 22, 2006 at 05:19 PM · Sometimes you can find $20 bill mutes on sale.

September 22, 2006 at 11:27 PM · Greetings,

all well and good, but don`t know why you guys haven`t noticed that the quality of sound fluctuates in sympathy with the value of the currency,

Cheers,

Buri

September 25, 2006 at 02:47 PM · I'm *very* fond of my "Goldner" mute. It's shrewdly designed, sits between strings, slides pretty efficiently, and is reversible for greater or lesser muting. Made of typical black mute rubber, except with perfectly-varied density-- hard to describe. I think they're not made anymore, so this recommendation may not be the most practical. I'm surprisingly foggy on details-- I think I got it as an experiment from Shar 10 or 15 years ago. If anyone has one lying around, neglected, I'd be happy to give it a good home. Or maybe one of the engineers among us could be interested in creating a new mute along similar lines....

September 25, 2006 at 05:00 PM · I like the quality of sound I get with the Menuhin Shield mute...

September 26, 2006 at 01:43 PM · Specre (spector?) works best for me. It is really fast off and on and I don't feel like I'm going to push or pull my bridge over. It is very quiet and I don't have to even glance at it while muting or un-muting. It seems to alter the sound just a little bit even when it is pulled back so I take mine off when I'm not playing a concert that requires it.

September 26, 2006 at 04:28 PM · I haven't noticed too much of a difference at all in the sound of my violin with the Spector mute off of the bridge. Can someone explain to me how it would affect the sound if it weren't on the bridge?

I like the Finnissima, too, but the Spector is significantly cheaper. They are great for playing in a situation where you must slide a mute on or off quickly. I think that the best sounding muters are the three-pronged wooden mutes. They are either on or off of your instrument, but they give a very nice muted sound...and best of all, they are very cheap and extremely available!

September 27, 2006 at 01:28 PM · Though I'm obviously in the Spector 'camp' (v. my two previous posts here) any mute potentially can, but won't necessarily affect a violin's sound if it stays on the strings behind the bridge. Even what goes on behind the bridge can affect the sound, such as the length of string between the the bridge and the tailpiece, and what the tailpiece is made of (ebony? boxwood?). An attached mute adds a bit of weight and (depending on its type) hold on the strings and this is how an effect can come about. This isn't always a bad thing! One of my violins has a wolf on the open A. I find that putting a (latter day Heifetz) mute on the A string behind - but very close to - the bridge, works like a wolf eliminator - but is easier to use!

Now I have a new mute question for everybody: After using a mute - any mute - for a while, when I go back to playing without one, the violin sounds worse than before - harsher, more pinched. It takes a few minutes of playing to work this poor sound out. I don't know if it's psychological - suddenly getting all this non-muted sound back at me, which takes a few minutes to get used to, or acoustical - maybe the bridge has been temporarily affected and needs to vibrate more and be freed-up. Maybe it's a bit of both. Has anyone else experienced this?

September 29, 2006 at 04:55 AM · One guy who's probaly done the physics experiments for a definitive answer on whether prolonged use of mute genuinely changes resonance of instruments is Norman Pickering. Anyone out here in touch with him or familiar with all his researches? And/or VSA people and publications in general would make sense to seek an answer. I'm not well in that loop. But curious as well, what's real and what's myth in this area....

September 29, 2006 at 03:40 PM · I love my goldner mute too... I bought it from some guy in the boston symphony twenty-five years ago!

My advice- mutes are cheap, so go by the top five or six mentioned here and try them yourself.

September 30, 2006 at 01:07 PM · I've been a member of the Violin Society of America (VSA) for a long time, and don't remember the subject being brought up in their Journal. But I'm glad to hear the VSA mentioned. They hold meetings, have instrument-making competitions, and publish an excellent Journal based on their meetings. It focuses mainly - though not exclusively - on the instrument itself. Anyone interested in various aspects of making, adjusting, restoration, etc. will find up-to-date and detailed articles in the Journal. Incidently, there is no monolithic concensus on a number of these issues, and their debates can be as lively as ours!

info@vsa.to

September 30, 2006 at 06:32 PM · I can't believe there's more than one Jonathan Law on v.com! And in the UK too!

March 27, 2009 at 05:47 PM ·

I tried the Spector and Bech Magnetic mutes.. 

Spector - When on the bridge, it definitely produces a nice sound, but also definitely louder than the Tourtes or Bech Magnetic (maybe not muted enough).  It also doesn't rattle.  However, I feel like the violin gets a semi-muted sound when the Spector is unused, when it does not sit on the bridge. 

Bech Magnetic - I definitely prefer the Tourte or Spector above the Bech Magnetic in terms of sound.  The only advantage is that when it is not in use, it allows the instrument to resonate more than the Spector. 

March 27, 2009 at 06:51 PM ·

The one in chrome metal is really a heavy duty... You don't hear much and many take it in hotels.  But I noticed that when I practiced with mutes at home, my violin seemed to be mute even when I didn't have it. It took a few days to become normal afterwards.  Just don't scrap your violin. Well you wouldn't scrap it and I know that for ear lost  + practical reasons, many must practice with it but just hope that what I noticed is not true!

Anne-Marie

March 27, 2009 at 07:07 PM ·

 

I too have a collection, kind of like the pizza box "you've tried the rest, now try the best...

my two favorites are  basically like the common ebony three prong mute; but with some class, both visually and tonally too

  • leather mute
  • boxwood with ivory inlay ( don't even remember where I picked this one up, have had it for "years")

March 28, 2009 at 01:29 AM ·

I think the spector is the most practical for orchestral playing.  It doesn't rattle like the tourte can, is easier to put on quickly than an ebony or heifetz mute, and doesn't damage the strings like a normal slide on mute. 

As for muting when not in use, I take it off for chamber music or solo pieces where it's not necessary. 

March 28, 2009 at 03:59 AM ·

I'd go for the wooded mute where you'll have to take it off when not in use, instead of leaving it on the instrument.

I find if I have something on the string afterlength, it'll somehow take away some overtones, result in a less colourful sound. So I won't leave any mutes on the strings.

In fact, I've heard some soloist not using the mute where it's necessary (e.g. zigunerweisen), not sure what's the reason behind?

March 28, 2009 at 04:43 PM ·

When I changed my tailpiece my Finnissima mute got really loose and startled rattling like mad. I went back to my bech mute but it makes the tail piece look ugly. Both are great IMO.

March 28, 2009 at 07:33 PM ·

Be a Rebel!--- use a Mouse-stro mute. Shar or Southwest has them!

September 17, 2013 at 02:45 PM · You could try this one I have started manufacturing. Swan Violin Mute

In my opinion better than anything else you can get your hands on on the market in terms of tonal quality and ease of use.

September 17, 2013 at 02:46 PM · I should add that it is aimed at orchestral/solo use and not maximum damping for home practice

September 17, 2013 at 09:55 PM · Spector works well for me and is cheap.

September 18, 2013 at 03:10 AM · In case of an emergency, or just for fun, use 2 wooden clothespins; attach under the strings, one for each side of the bridge.

September 19, 2013 at 03:15 PM · Rather than pronouncing one superior to all others, I will simply tell you which ones to avoid like the plague. I'm assuming you are a student, perhaps venturing into orchestra for the first time, and suddenly in need of one. The regular, single hole Tourte for 0.99 is an excellent choice and at that price, you can get a spare :_)

Do NOT get the Tourte 2-hole mute...it travels in quite an annoying fashion when this is least desirable.

For orchestra,any mute that doesn't sit permanently on the strings is out. You need them fast, silent, and above all - not lost - in your case, on the floor, or amongst the music LOL

The bracket style that covers four strings that you push up onto the bridge works well for students, but will tear up your string windings.

hope this helps~

September 20, 2013 at 04:27 AM · Paul Wiessmeyer makes a leather mute that sounds terrific for solos and is also extraordinarily useful as a practice mute. There are grooves cut in it so you could mount it on the strings before and after use, but I tend not to use it for orchestral playing unless it is a one-time-only thing. For quick, repeated on-and-off stuff, the above-mentioned rubber and plastic mutes are more practical.

There is another maker up in Montreal (I think) who makes even more substantial leather mutes for practice only, but they are VERY expensive.

September 20, 2013 at 01:37 PM · I did experiment by taking a mute (take your pick)and fitting velcro to it and the top side of the fingerboard. It did work, but you need better glue than you get on sticky velcro. Also velcro isn't silent, and that put me off, though the sound mightn't carry in a concert hall.

September 26, 2013 at 10:10 AM · @Mark Emms, how much is the design of that Swan mute influenced by the now-unavailable Menuhin Shield mute? It looks very similar, save for what looks like a hole in the metal in the middle (vs the solid disc of metal in the Shield).

(I have a Shield mute and LOVE it, and I know people have been desperate to get their hands on them.)

[EDIT: I just read the other thread where you mentioned the Shield influence...]

September 27, 2013 at 10:24 AM · I use a wine bottle cork with string cut-outs and a deep longitudinal gash for the bridge. It's the cheapest and most natural sounding mute ever.

Unbeatable price. Plus the fun factor of having a bottle of wine for professional purposes...

March 29, 2015 at 03:51 AM · Just refreshing this thread to give the aforementioned Wiessmeyer leather mute my firmest recommendation. Top notch product-will have very little if no effect when left on the strings, and does sound nice as advertised. Also, very easy to put on and off, remove from the strings as needed, etc. I bought it almost by chance, but what a happy accident it was.

I like my other mutes, but hate the annoying cutting of higher frequencies that usually accompany them, taming the violin a bit. Of all the mutes I've used, the effect is minimal to non-existent with the leather mute (hard to tell, whereas with my previous mutes the frequency cut was quite obvious.)

Another pro-it doesn't affect the tuning of the strings when on, as a few otherwise good mutes do for some violins.

April 3, 2015 at 04:01 AM · Just get something simple.

April 3, 2015 at 04:06 AM · What do you need a mute for? You don't see Heifetz playing with a mute, do you? :)

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