Types of mutes

February 7, 2019, 10:08 AM · Hi everyone,

I'm just curious about different types of mutes and which ones are the best?

I've got the basic rubber mute you get at the store, but I've seen players in the local orchestra I'm in with other kinds.

Also, some of you know my violin is a bit odd and is bigger than normal, so the violin mute I have doesn't quite fit right on the bridge. Should I consider either a viola mute or a different type of violin mute?

*I'm not asking about practice mutes, just normal ones!

Replies (28)

February 7, 2019, 11:40 AM · Best is relative and depends on what you intended to achieve. Do you mean best in tone, best in sound dampening, best in usability?
February 7, 2019, 11:49 AM · Sounds like you have a standard Tourte mute. It should serve you well - they certainly do for professionals (all of my private lesson teachers and orchestra directors, with one exception, use the little round black ones).
However, if you have some money to chuck out on a mute, wmutes and leathermutes I've heard are very nice. Leathermutes I believe do something to change/make the timbre warmer? I've never tried one, but I have friends who own them. And wmutes I've heard are really nice, but they're so expensive, and I'm not sure if the price is worth it.
Edited: February 7, 2019, 12:19 PM · I love a leather mute for the reason's Nina described. I have them for violin, viola and cello - they are designed to stay on the string afterlength (between bridge and tailpiece) but they are not designed to do this safely - there is a significant risk they could fall off and I would lose a high-priced mute.

Rubber Tourte mutes (also stored on the middle string afterlengths) are to be preferred for situations in which you might need them on and off in a hurry. There both one-hole and two-hole types. I have found the two-hole mutes more likely to rattle in stored position.

I think the Sihon slide-mutes can mess up the string- afterlength windings and they can change the tone of instruments that engage vibrations of the afterlengths - they can, however, also act as wolf-suppressors for some instruments. I used this type of mute in my early years - on violin and cello. A very good cellist in our orchestra uses one and I have not asked her why - maybe I will next week.

Edited: February 7, 2019, 12:21 PM · I like both Menuhin shield and leather mutes. The Finissima and Spector, a similar design, are fine, but don't expect to love them without trying first (perhaps you can try several at a shop).

Nothing wrong with Tourtes (or dollars, for that matter), but I personally do not like how they hang on the violin strings, and they *may* rattle a bit. The shield and leather mutes stay in place without buzzes, though I admit the Menuhin style didn't stay "hooked" *while in use* when I was using an steel A, as the uneven heights of D&A strings in the afterlength (due to the A fine tuner) prevented it to sit more normally on the bridge.

February 7, 2019, 12:35 PM · Hmm thanks for the suggestions! Another thing about my odd violin is that in order to get the right shape for the bridge, the guy who restored it (and did an amazing job!) had to make the right side of the bridge angled sharply downwards (E string side). I can't upload a photo right now, but I can later so you guys can see it. Basically, the E string sits quite a bit lower than you'd expect. It doesn't really affect anything other than a lower bow arm angle, but I'm wondering if this will affect what kinds of mutes would work for me?

Also, I play second violin in the local community orchestra (most people are retired educators and retired philharmonic players, but some community players as well), so maybe I'd need something to help me blend with the rest of the ensemble. Warmth is always a plus, but my instrument is already really warm and dark.

I have noticed my little rubber mute will vibrate and buzz ever so slightly occasionally.

February 7, 2019, 12:49 PM · Ms. Stadelmaier,

It shouldn't affect it, as most of the mutes we are discussing rest-if they do-between the D and A-my E is quite low as well, and that has never been a problem. My steel A was a bit too high in relation to the D for the Menuhin shield-most mutes do not have a problem with most "regular" violin setups, and I no longer have the problem.

I forgot if you live in a metropolitan area, but if you do, nothing wrong with trying them on a shop. Some are pricier, so you may (or not) save money that way.

February 7, 2019, 12:58 PM · Adalberto, I do live in a metropolitan area, but the only luthier around just carries the Tourte mutes. I'm not sure if the two shops in the next city over (about an hour and a half drive each way) have them.

I've got fine tuners on for all my strings, just to save me the headache of having to screw (haha) with the pegs each time I tune, so my D and A (synthetic EP Gold, but will change to Russian/Brilliant Vintage when these die) are pretty well-set.

I've checked out all the ones you all have suggested, and the ones that look the best to me are the Menuhin, The Finissima, and the Spector. I'd be wary to put the wire one on my violin, and I couldn't find a price for the leather one. The wmute is $42USD so that to me isn't worth it.

The next thing, is because my violin is a bit bigger than normal, the strings are spaced out slightly wider than standard too. My little two-holed Tourte mute struggles to sit nicely between my D and A, event though it usually stays in place pretty well. Would you all suggest that I try a viola mute, or would that be too big? There are so many variables, sorry for all the questions!

Edited: February 7, 2019, 2:51 PM · Try this mute, designed by Weissmeyer. It was recommended to me by David Burgess on this or another forum. He knows a few things about violin tone :)

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07DFV76DW/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o00__o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

The mute can serve as a practice mute, or an orchestral mute. Both "modes" of operation sound wonderful. I ditched my other mutes after getting this one.

A tip: Don't get a white one (they come in many colors), or you may lose it like I did. I got a second, orange one so I'd see it and not leave it behind. They are small mutes.

February 7, 2019, 3:05 PM · I was actually referring to the Weissmeyer myself earlier, when referring to my leather mute above. Sorry I wasn't more specific. It's excellent. Forgot price, though I do not think it was outrageous.
Edited: February 7, 2019, 4:21 PM · I don't use a Tourte mute on a gut-strung violin for the simple reason it causes the after-length to fray, and it can rattle if I'm busy on the G string. The one I therefore use is the old-fashioned 3-prong ebony mute which does its job very effectively, presumably because of its weight compared with the Tourte. The only thing I have to be careful about is mislaying it.
February 7, 2019, 11:46 PM · For the price, the Weissmeyer seems like a good one to try out. It looks stable, but would it fit alright on my bridge? Remember, it has a significant curve on the right side near the E string.
Edited: February 8, 2019, 3:50 AM · Also by Wiessmeyer is a single-hole Tourte mute that is made from composite in many colors. It is much more effective than the rubber variety and won’t create the ergonomic hassles you are worried about. That and one of his leather mutes for solo work should cover all your needs.

https://www.viowiess.com/viol/

February 8, 2019, 8:35 AM · Those are really cool!! I love the unique patterns, and that they're 3D printed. I'm going to continue looking into these ones! Thank you guys!
February 8, 2019, 10:16 AM · I think your atypical bridge angle will be fine.
February 8, 2019, 5:01 PM · The 3D printed mutes are made by Paul W.'s son in the north end of Seattle.

http://www.kdrmusic.com/bows---bow-hair.html

They are neat and have a different sound. Well worth trying.

February 8, 2019, 5:02 PM · The 3D printed mutes are made by Paul W.'s son in the north end of Seattle.

http://www.kdrmusic.com/bows---bow-hair.html

They are neat and have a different sound. Well worth trying.

February 9, 2019, 4:03 PM · Thanks Duane! I'll have to try one. Any differences in sound with the different shapes? Is on better than another?
Edited: February 11, 2019, 5:30 PM · Don't overthink it. The standard round black Tourte mute is used by 90% of orchestral violinists. It's a standard for good reason. If your D and A are really far apart (and I would think about fixing that, that could cause you issues in bowing passagework), you can get a viola tourte mute, which is not much bigger.

It's fun to experiment with mutes -- you can get lots of slight differences in color or muting effectiveness. But in the end the best mute is the one that is always on your violin and very quick to put on and take off.

The one thing I would NOT do is rely on a non-attached mute. You will inevitably forget and not have it with you when you have a really critical muted passage in a performance. Or people drop them. Nothing sucks more than dropping a wooden mute on stage and have it skipping around during a delicate pianissimo passage.

There is a lot of music (especially in opera) where Con Sordino or Senza comes at a very inconvenient place and you have like half a second to get a mute on or off WHILE you turn a page. That's why people use Tourtes -- not because the sound is anything special.

(And by the way, if you do end up without a mute on stage, you can create an emergency one by rolling up a dollar bill and stringing it through your strings behind the bridge. Push it to the bridge, it mutes, pull it back
for senza. An old pro musician taught me that)

Edited: February 11, 2019, 5:38 PM · I've used the good ol' $1 mute for a concert last year. I normally remove the mute from my viola any time I have a concert or rehearsal where I know I'm not going to use it, and there was a concert where I forgot to put the mute back on my viola and left it at home. So I resorted to a dollar bill in my wallet, and it was quite effective -- even more effective at changing the timbre than the Tourte mute I normally use. (BTW, you really have to push it up against the bridge.) The down side is that you can't get it on or off nearly as quickly, of course.
February 11, 2019, 6:08 PM · Thanks, Tom! My A and D strings are further apart than normal because the violin itself is larger than normal. It's all proportional, just a bit bigger than a 4/4. It's 14.25 inches long instead of 14in, and a bit fatter all around (though it's not a viola! I asked several luthiers and they all said the same thing. It's just a big boy).

I might try the viola Tourte and see what that does for me. The dollar bill trick is smart, too, thanks guys!

Edited: February 12, 2019, 5:16 AM · I use a spector mute as it stays on the strings and can be taken on and off very quickly, more easily than a tourte in my opinion. It is very quiet compared to a tourte. Unlike a tourte it doesn't move/rattle when not in use.

Here in the UK if you go to a bricks and mortar shop a violin tourte will set you back about £2.50 but a spector will be around £8 so quite a bit more expensive but definately worth the expenditure when you consider the benefits.

I agree with what others have say about trying a viola mute if your A and D are further apart than usual.

Edited: February 12, 2019, 11:30 AM · Kristen,

You wouldn't set up a large violin with the string spaced wider than normal. That just adds insult to injury. We use certain numbers and spacing for a reason. If you were playing the large violin as a small viola then yes, the spacing would need to be wider.

As for the mutes, you should just try them. As a violin maker and frequent adjuster of instruments, I prefer to not color the players perceptions with what I think. I need to know what the player hears.

February 14, 2019, 10:56 PM · 1. The slope of your bridge should affect the function of your mutes... especially when you mentioned that it's the E strings which is esp lower

2. I tend not to use mute that affect the after-length part of the strings... Sihon and Menuhin alike. I use Tourte. I take it off whenever there is no con sordino in the piece. With the Tourte resting on the after-length of D and A, there is severe rattling when I play an open G note. It shows you how the after-length and tailpiece work together as a part of the whole instrument in its sounding mechanism.

February 16, 2019, 1:33 PM · CSO (Chicago) concertmaster and Heifetz student Robert Chen uses a 1-hole tourte mute. If memory serves, other mutes used in the first section appear to include a menuhin shield, Spector (ex-CSO section member), 2-hole tourte, and Swarovski bling. I’ve even seen Moustro on Charles Pickler’s viola.
I have found that I like some mutes for their sound: Glaesal and Polly for quiet, small 1 or 2-hole tourte for general muting. Others for their ease of use - Finissim and Spector.
Sihon (Oistrakh’s choice) kills resonance when disengaged, as does Finnisima and Polly.
2-hole tourtes can rattle. 1-hole tourtes can be turned sideways to ‘lock them in place.
February 16, 2019, 1:41 PM · Sihon wire and alpine can be tricky if they don’t match the curve of your bridge. Some of my section mates like the Beck, which adds a little weight to your tailpiece.
I have used dollar bills and handkerchiefs in a pinch. If you play outside, you might have a clothespin in your case that can be mounted to the side in a pinch. Someone out there makes them smaller and in different woods as vln/vla mutes.
1-hole tourtes can fall off easily as can Menuhin when slipped between the afterlengths. I have dropped wooden mutes in rehearsal.
I have never tried or seen leather mutes in person.
February 16, 2019, 1:43 PM · The Spector has been the most varied in response on different instruments of mine varying from fantastic (unfortunately not on my main violin or viola) to no affect.
February 16, 2019, 1:44 PM · Just received a Wiessmeyer 2 prong mute. Very happy. The old two prong metal mute was favored by some jazz violinists but is no longer available. I was happy to find a leather one but it was a little expensive for something that is lost easily. The 3d printed ones is very similar in sound at a much nicer price for when you lose it!
February 16, 2019, 5:45 PM · I like the knock off of Mr. H's. Does not seem to be any way to carry it on the vln. Maybe in the pegbox.

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