Violin Mutes: Specific ones for practice and orchestral?

November 9, 2018, 7:51 AM · I was looking for a mute because I do not want issues with my ears. I had been using ear plugs but they mute too much, and I worry about infections from things inserted into my ears, even though I discard after each use (big jar of them).

I bought a little black rubbery roundish one at the music store after my lesson. It was pretty cheap. It stays on the violin and gets pulled up and hooked over the bridge when in use. It does not mute much and my ears still seem to be “ringing” while playing, and feels like it for a little while after.

I was searching Amazon and found one that looked okay, and it was priced in a reasonable range. It had five stars, but the reviews are really not reliable (not getting into that). But one review had this statement:

“Great for orchestral and symphony use! Not as good for practicing. It's more of an orchestral mute”

It is for a Super Sensitive Violin Mute Fred Spector Design Color Black .

What is meant by it is good for orchestral use? Why not for home use?

My instructor let me use one her father gave her decades ago. I really liked it. It provided a nice mute, whereas wearing my earplugs made it hard for me to hear her. But, it was given to her by her father a long time ago and she does not know where he got it, and has never seen another, but she said she has never looked, either.

It was a folded double layer of thin shiny metal that sits over the bridge, but it is not heavy. It has to be removed completely when not in use. I hope this small description gives you an idea of what it was.

Is that an orchestral? What is the difference between orchestral and private use and why can’t you use an orchestral for private use?

Thank you for any information you can provide.


Replies (15)

Edited: November 9, 2018, 8:08 AM · Orchestral mutes seem to me to be intended to affect timbre rather than volume, and using them is an instruction in the score. I've got a very beautiful one made of rosewood.

For home use you want a practice mute, which is a different animal.
Anything in heavy rubber or, best of all, an Artino, which is rubber with a metal core. But really they are for not annoying people at midnight - for normal practice I don't use one. Also it obstructs your view over the bridge.

November 9, 2018, 8:02 AM · Orchestral mutes are designed to change the timbre and produce a thinner sound, for effect. They're not meant to reduce the volume much at all; orchestral players are supposed to be able to play fortissimo with a mute on. These are small and lightweight and most commonly made of rubber, though you sometimes also see wire, wood, or leather orchestral mutes.

Practice mutes are used to reduce volume so you don't bother other people while practicing. That's the kind of mute you're thinking of.

November 9, 2018, 8:21 AM · Thank you, Andrew Fryer and Andrew Hsieh.

Can anyone recommend a good non-orchestral mute? I would like to ditch the earplugs for a mute.

As stated earlier, the little black round rubbery one that remains on the violin behind the bridge, that you pull forward and hook a tiny section over the bridge in the middle does not mute much. They cost between $1-$3, if that helps you know the one I am using. Handy, but not very affective.

My violin has really great sound. Projection? It really affects my ears.


Edited: November 9, 2018, 8:41 AM · I have one like this, and it mutes things far more than my orchestral mute. Practice mute
November 9, 2018, 8:42 AM · Use cottonballs to protect your ears. The orchestral mutes are not for reducing volume.
November 9, 2018, 10:07 AM · I agree with everyone above.

If your playing is not bothering anyone else, I recommend plugging yoour ears (especially your left ear) and letting your violin sing out in all its timbre-ous glory.

For orchestral work I keep Spector mutes on my violins - very effective for that purpose. Spector mutes are not a good fit on a viola so I use a rubber Tourte mute on viola - and on cello. I think a Spector is an improved substitute for the formerly ubiquitous wire mutes that also fit on the string afterlengths, but also affected the afterlength resonances and this the ton of some instruments AND caused wear to the string afterlength and silk windings because of rubbing.

But for solo I like leather mutes (a leather violin mute fits viola and cello mute is larger). These are 2-pronged and you can vary the timbre of the sound by how far down on the bridge you push the mute. You can get some really beautiful effects - but they are not made for rapid changing.

I think the metal mute Cynthia referred to has 3 prongs (I had one years ago) that can also be pushed varying distances down on the bridge.

Other varieties of mute include the many wooden 3-pronged varieties, the "Menuhin Shield" style, the "Heifetz" mute - ALSO clothes pins and dollar bills* (or $20s or $10s). I've heard the Russians prefer $100s because they can buy more vodka after the concert!

* Actually if you want some timbre muting, a folded currency bill does a grat job.

November 9, 2018, 10:09 AM · I have a mute like the one Elizabeth posted above. I don’t use it often as I prefer to practice without one, but it does work very well.

You mentioned your violin has a really great sound, you were not happy with your violin before and were starting to shop around for another correct? Is this a different violin? If so congratulations on finding one your happy with!!

November 9, 2018, 10:28 AM · Have you seen this link, which pops up on Google
November 9, 2018, 10:52 AM · I have earplugs, and they are intended for musicians, but they aren't very comfy. So I tend to use the practice mute instead.
November 9, 2018, 11:51 AM · Yes, Kim, I have a new violin! I love it. It is warmer, not as bright as the Revelle 500QX was. This was a few hundred over the budget, but I am not going to be trading up to get some orchestral violin. I am doing this for myself and wanted one that I liked the sound of when playing, and listening to recordings of before I share with my granddaughters (I am trying to get them interested). The violin shop let us spread it out over three months, no interest, so it is very doable. The bonus is that not only do I love the sound, I love the feel and I love the darker color. This one was made in Germany. Not like the more expensive ones made elsewhere, but for me, this is beyond “fine”.

We could not believe how it projects (I think that is what you violinists call it) in my house! It sounded much more robust in the studio in the violin shop than the Revelle 500QX did, but we were surprised as to how it carried over to the house. It is lovely when I am on the mark! The violin shop put a Passione “E” string on it and it sounds so lovely.

I have a mute like the one Elizabeth mentioned on my cello. I actually like it. I was not sure if it would be a little heavy on a violin, even though it is smaller. I don’t have a specific room for playing my violin. Years ago we moved two houses to the west of our first house to downsize, kids have all married and moved away. This house does not have as much room, but easier to keep up. I make do. But, because my violin is heard almost throughout the whole house, I thought a mute would be nice to use once in a while to give my husband a break, as well as preserve my ears.

I think the little mute I currently have would be good for learning new notes to make sure of my intonation because it does not mute a lot. It does have my ears ring for a while but not nearly like not using a mute at all. But after I am comfortable with those notes or position, I can switch to the better mute. My husband said it doesn’t bother him, but because I really don’t want to have him having to listen to it all the time, I would feel more free to play it when I want if I could mute it a lot more once in a while. Just an option.

Thanks for mentioning that mute, Elizabeth. Thanks dor askimg ablut my violin, Kim.


November 9, 2018, 11:54 AM · I had the same problem with ear sensitivity during practice and tried various bridge mutes which worked well to varying degrees but eventually settled on special acoustical earplugs designed for musicians, as Elizabeth mentions above but there are many different styles and types. Mine are designed to allow accurate hearing, but with reduced volume, maintaining sound quality. They have different size tips made with a very soft and comfortable silicone and work very well, still allowing fairly normal conversation as well.

Another set I have came in three sizes instead of different tips. They also work well. I found I prefer the earplugs to putting mutes on my bridge, with the potential of marring or damaging, regardless of how careful I am.

These are my favorite, recommended that by a couple of musicians in our local orchestra, as well as great reviews on Amazon, but there are good less expensive alternatives. See link below. Make of the name what you will :)

November 9, 2018, 5:17 PM · Cynthia I’m so glad you found a violin you love!!! Everyone should love the sound their violin’s voice and shouldn’t settle for less.

Edited: November 9, 2018, 7:00 PM · i like the Glaesel version of the two hole tourte when I want to kill volume, but don’t want to put on a rubber practice mute. The squarish design has more mass than most string -mounted designs and that mass is distributed in a way that I think dissipates more frequencies than round designs.
For me, I prefer the undersized violin 2-hole or 1-hole tourte mutes on vln, vla, and regular size on vc, & cb, IMhO they dampen / kill resonance the least when off and they give a sufficient change in tambre when on.
As to earplugs, I’ve used hearos musician’s designed plugs when placed near drums, brass, percussion, etc. I hate earplugs. I only use them as a last resort and would never practice with them. I feel out of control because I lack feedback as I play.
Edited: November 13, 2018, 12:25 AM · The little circle ones are orchestra mutes. They are not really for volume, they create a specific tone.

Edit: Sorry it posted so many times! Don't know what's up with that!

November 10, 2018, 8:25 AM · LOL Thanks, Gemma.


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