Heavy Violin Mutes

Edited: June 9, 2018, 3:47 AM · Are there any long term effects on a violin from using a heavy mute? I am talking about those big, metal mutes (plastic covered or nickel plated) that are placed on the bridge.

After skimming this forum all I saw mentioned were accidental damage (i.e. the mute falling off of the bridge and landing on the violin, or closing the case on the violin without having removed the mute).

But one often notices on older violins the markings of the bridge feet on the top plate (the varnish is damaged, and in some cases the top plate gets "dented" or warped at those two points). This must be caused by the pressure of the strings, and such pressure would only be greater when adding the weight of a heavy mute, right?

Replies (23)

June 9, 2018, 4:49 AM · Welcome Ray Mundus!
Good question. I often use a heavy rubber mute for sound reduction but rarely need to use a heavy metal mute. For some reason my bowing stays the same with the rubber mute but the metal muute makes me apply more bow pressure so I avoid using it. I would not think that the use of these has harmed my top from the extra weight added but interested in what others have to say on this topic.
June 9, 2018, 4:59 AM · I'd be more concerned about how it's put on and taken off than the additional pressure from simply sitting on the bridge. I always hold the bridge with one hand while removing or attaching the mute, which prevents the bridge from moving and the hand from exerting additional pressure on the violin when attaching it. I think the claims about the mute changing the sound or affecting the tuning largely arise from slight movements of the bridge, which can be avoided with such care.

Another potential source of damage is forgetting to remove the bridge when closing the case or just having the lid fall down on it. Remember to always remove it when placing it in the case, and to use both hands, then I think it should be fine.

June 9, 2018, 6:43 PM · Marking of the bridge feet I would think are more related to varnish softness, some of which never really harden. I always exercise extreme caution when using such mute however as damage to the bridge or top plate is likely if one isn't being careful.
June 9, 2018, 7:21 PM · I use a heavy mute for about an hour every night when practicing and my son is sleeping. I have noticed no ill effects. I have the metal one covered in rubber. Just be careful putting it on and off, i.e. make sure the mute is firmly on the bridge.
Edited: June 12, 2018, 7:10 AM · Those nickel plated brass practice mutes are the heaviest ones I know of, and they weigh about 65 grams. That's a tiny fraction of the pressure your strings are exerting on the bridge, so you needn't worry about it.
June 9, 2018, 11:11 PM · If you're willing to spend like 50 bucks on a practice mute (I was), try wmutes.com

They don't come off your bridge accidentally and they interfere with the bow hand less than a traditional heavy practice mute. They also won't damage your bridge at all.

Edited: June 12, 2018, 8:44 AM · The Wmutes look very nice indeed, but wow... they do cost a few pennies. $150 CDN for the set (concert & practice)!
June 12, 2018, 1:11 AM · Yeah it's been pretty great. The tone is quite balanced and of course the volume is lowered approximately to what other practice mutes achieve.

I was hesitant about 50 bucks for a mute but then again if it means sometimes I'll practice a bit more, it's worth it. Plus string sets are like 100+ nowadays so it's only half of that.

Edited: June 12, 2018, 8:00 AM · Erik, do you have access to a gram scale, and can you weigh your Wmute for us? That will tell us a great deal about the effect without having to buy one first. (Electronic gm scales are cheap to buy these days, and nice to have for bows, etc. Or you can ask your local jeweler to weigh it for you.)

My nickel plated brass mute weighs 65gm. My Artino is 58gm. Ultra practice mute is 14.5gm. Menuhin shield (and Alpine clone) = 3.8gm. Tourte single hole = 1.9gm. Heifetz = 2.5gm. Finissima = 1.5gm. Spector = 1.6gm. Sihon = 2.4gm. Weissmeyer = 2.2gm. (If I left out anyone's favorite, just ask. I might have it too.)

There's not a perfect correlation between mute weight and effect. As an example, the Finissima and Spector mutes function in the same way, and are very near to the same weight, but the Finissima is more effective (and I like it more) than the Spector.

Edited: June 12, 2018, 9:19 AM · For tone, the best practice mute for my violin is a leather mute. Go to

Leathermutes.com

$58.99, from Canada.
This one wins easily over the heavy metal and the rubber models. And it is lovely. I have one for my cello too.
Edited: June 12, 2018, 10:06 AM · I agree with Erin. The leather mutes from Marcel St. Cyr are favorites of mine too. Violin practice mute = 11gm. Performance mute = 3gm. (These will vary somewhat because they're handmade.)
June 12, 2018, 2:44 PM · Mark and Erin, aside from quality of sound, is the reduction in volume for a leather mute as significant as that of a metal mute?

Erik, how does the Wmute compare again in terms of sound reduction to the standard metal mute? I know it's also metal but looks differently designed.

June 12, 2018, 6:45 PM · The reduction in sound is roughly proportional to the weight of the mute. How tightly the mute grips the bridge is another factor.
June 12, 2018, 7:11 PM · So roughly 6 times louder than the 65 g metal mute...
I guess it'll work for someone who wants go quite down the violin but not keep the sound in the room.
Edited: June 12, 2018, 10:17 PM · What I meant by proportional was that a metal mute of a specific weight will have the same approximate volume reduction as a rubber or leather mute of that same weight. If you're wondering how much of a muting effect an 11gm leather mute will have without spending all that money, get a 14gm rubber Ultra mute for a few dollars first. The volume reduction will be about the same, but not the sound characteristics.
Edited: June 13, 2018, 4:10 AM · I understand. Therefor comparison between rubber and leather is more feasible than metal vs leather.

If a leather mute cannot equal the sound reduction of a heavy metal mute, one cannot say that the former is superior to the latter given that the purposes of purchase would be different. The reason people buy metal mutes is for extreme sound reduction and theyre ready to sacrifice much more of the quality of sound.

Hence metal vs metal and wondering how much the Wmute weighs per your question to Erik.

June 13, 2018, 8:30 AM · Ideally every mute manufactuer would be providing a DB Reduction rating as well as a Frequency Attenuation Curve with their product, especially those high end ones. Mark, it looks like you are well positioned to do such comparative evaluation, which would be a very valuable resource for everyone, and worthy of an article in the Strings magazine perhaps.
June 13, 2018, 9:00 AM · @ Roger St-Pierre: What's interesting about the whole thing is the reduction may not be what it seems to your ear (or at least mine, anyways). I live in a townhouse, so I have many mutes. I finally found one I really liked and was using it a lot. One day I decided to measure the sound level while playing from about 6 feet away with my sound pressure level meter. I was shocked to find that while the sound had changed a lot, the total sound pressure level was nearly the same. Yikes. My poor neighbors. My best compromise is one of those big, across-the-whole-bridge mutes. Only if it didn't smell like I have my nose in a tire.
Edited: June 13, 2018, 4:49 PM · Interesting indeed. It would be very revealing to see Db reduction measurements along with the frequency attenuation curve on a variety of mutes.
June 14, 2018, 3:42 AM · "My nickel plated brass mute weighs 65gm. My Artino is 58gm"

Are you sure? My Artino mute is 40g, and my metal mute is also 65g. I've used two different scales, so I'm sure.

I haven't found much information online about the weight of the Artino, although one seller on eBay said it's '49.9'g, and I only see one model of the violin/viola mute mentioned. Including the case, mine's around 63g, so that doesn't explain the difference. So it seems that they might be different variants of the Artino -- perhaps they've changed over time?

June 14, 2018, 7:37 AM · Yes, I'm sure. Artino = 58gm, out of the box.
June 14, 2018, 12:40 PM · I can't weigh my W-mute because I don't have a gram scale, but it most certainly weighs a lot less than my huge metal practice mute. Maybe half the weight of that.

With that said, it probably doesn't mute as much, but the benefit is that 1) it doesn't damage my bridge and 2) it has no change of falling off because it actually clamps on with an internal spring (and has cork to protect the bridge).


I do feel that it mutes more than other mutes of a similar weight would, though, most likely because it doesn't just sit idly on top of the bridge. The clamping action and the cork combined seem to do a good job of bringing the volume down very significantly. I could measure dB levels but I'm far too lazy for such a thing.


I suppose they could make a higher-weight version, but any increase in the size of the mute would start to interfere with playability. For example, expanding the mute sideways so that it also covered the E and G would make it so that close-to-frog bowing would inevitably run the hand into the mute. Expanding it upwards would have a limited effect in my opinion on the actual damping, and would obstruct visibility (and once again, might get in the way of the hand). Expanding it forwards would make it hard to play at soundpoint 1.

So for high-level playing, I think that the design is about as good as it can get... Although perhaps one could add small, auxillary clamping mutes on the sides of the bridge, to add more total mass.

Or, they could make it out of tungsten.


With all of that said, I don't think most good players are trying to mute their sound to such a degree that they can barely hear themselves. Some degree of vibration-feedback is crucial for quality practice to occur, in my opinion.


Edited: June 14, 2018, 2:57 PM · The sound of leather mutes is indeed intoxicating. Paul Wiessmeyer in Boston also makes some in the performance (not practice) category.

I once heard Joseph Fuchs use a very hard rubber one, which produced a magical sound in a Prokofiev sonata. His only word of wisdom was that they don't make them any more. It could have been made back in the 20s, for all I know.

But for reducing volume, the rubber-coated metal ones (Artino, I think) totally rule. They not only help reduce your burden to neighbors, but they can help your playing by making clear every reduction of volume that your bow technique is causing when it shouldn't. Pop one on, practice a difficult passage, and it will be speaking more clearly when you take it off.

The W mutes look interesting for practice-- I may see if I can try one of those also.

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