Metal practice mutes
Hi all, I am the one who asked about playing in an apartment a couple of days ago.
I'm now looking for a good mute and wondering if anyone's used a metal practice mute before? I've heard they're more effective but am a little worried about damage to the instrument.
I've used one in the past with no problem. My current practice mute, which I very seldom use, has some kind of rubberized coating over a metal core.
I'm guessing that Mary Ellen is talking about an "Artino" mute. Very effective and it grips better than the solid metal ones. But such mutes cut the response so much that your bowing can become rather brutal and you hardly know it. And intonation is harder to perceive too. They're cheap to buy, so it can't hurt to try one.
I know many disagree with me, but a few others do agree-if you have to use a heavy practice mute, go for the one Ms. Goree has now (rubber over metal), not the more common, all metal one that may fall on your instrument and if not break it, do something undesirable to it.
The heavy metal practice mute cuts the volume down to close to 100%, but I don't use it anymore, because if I drop it on the violin it will make a big permanent dent. Last summer I had a student group doing a Vivaldi 3-violin concerto. For one movement there was notation (in italian) to use a metal mute. I just happened to have one, very old. It sounds very different from the wooden mute, very effective, nasal, buzzy. If you do a lot of practicing with a practice mute I recommend using a second, back-up violin. The practice mute can dampen the response of your main instrument.
I tried a metal mute but found that it left the violin unresponsive for several hours afterwards. Was it damaging the wood of the bridge, which seemed to need time to recover? I moved on to the (less heavy) plastic-coated type mentioned above, with better results. Incidentally, referring to the risks of the heavy metal mute being dropped on the instrument, violins, like computers, should be considered no-fly zones: nothing sharp, heavy or wet should be allowed into their airspace!
(at risk of repeating others) Bare metal is horrible. You get the feeling that at any time it could damage your bridge or fall off and scratch your violin. Get an Artino or shop around for a heavy rubber one that works (some are less heavy than others and don't work). Every reservation about the Artino mentioned above I agree with. In addition, you don't get any of those sympathetic resonances that you can use for intonation and so on. Brutal bowing if you are experienced, maybe. But if you are inexperienced, it can mean confident bowing, and if you are inexperienced and timid, that can be very important. Tonalities can be weird - I haven't used one for a while (I've got a heavy rubber one that I like), and playing sul tasto could sound like a fly with bad adenoids.
Look up "W mutes". They're about 50 bucks but quite good.
Listen to Erik Williams. He knows what he is saying. I must practice with a heavy mute since I usually arrive late at home. I bough a practice Wmute two months ago and the difference is astonishing. It’s expensive. But if you plan to use it in a regular basis, it’s completely worth it.
I have the Artino practice mute (rubber over metal) and am very pleased with it. I didn't have any issues with it fitting over my bridge and holds quite well. https://fiddlershop.com/products/artino-practice-mute-violin-amp-viola
This might impair visibility on a violin!
Here's an earlier thread on the same subject: