Practice mute trouble

Edited: August 24, 2019, 4:54 PM · I recently bought a big rubber practice mute. I noticed when reading customer reviews (not just for the one I bought) that some customers found a huge reduction in sound intensity while others claimed there was no effect whatsoever. That struck me as weird.

I bought one anyway and tried it out. Under my ears it seems to me to be quite effective though less than I had hoped. However my wife--for whose comfort I bought the mute--says there is no difference between me playing with it on or off.

So: is the effect of a mute depending on listener's ears or what is going on here?

I am afraid to use a metal mute. Any other advice?

Replies (14)

August 24, 2019, 4:56 PM · I would recommend not using a metal mute as that could potentially damage your bridge. I think it depends on a the volume of your violin and b the distance of the instrument to your wife. That seems to be the 2 things that affect my practise mute
Edited: August 24, 2019, 5:20 PM · Try the Artino mute. It's metal with a rubber outer layer.

Edited: August 24, 2019, 6:07 PM · Get some earplugs. Then you won't hear your violin or your wife complaining.

If you play in another room with that rubber mute on and the door closed, it will not bother anyone else in your house, unless they're trying to sleep. It pretty much kills the violin's "penetrating power".

Edited: August 24, 2019, 8:08 PM · Your wife might have a point, though I'm not taking her side. I'd recommend downloading a dB meter app to your cell phone. There's many to choose from, and the one I have works well. Then you can experiment. I've found that many mutes dramatically affect the violin's timbre, and seem to drop the volume significantly from the player's point of view, but drop the actual dB output surprisingly little. And it becomes very easy to make up the muted difference with more aggressive bowing, which I seem to almost automatically do. The really heavy practice mutes, like the nickel plated brass ones or the Artino, drop the volume the most, but the sound is so stilted that it's almost not worth doing anymore. (And just as a side note, if you have an "Ultra" practice mute or clone of same, I have to tell you that I personally can't stand the sound of that one.) So what's to be done? I'm not sure, except to get the dB meter app and go from there. You could ask your wife to wear the earplugs. It's not so much to ask.
August 24, 2019, 8:27 PM · There's not much choice - you need mass to reduce the vibration. A metal mute will (generally be much heavier and therefore) reduce the volume much more than an Artino which will do much more than a plain rubber mute. If you can get by with an Artino, that would be preferred as it would have less impact on the sound and probably fit more securely and gently on the bridge.

No mute will be enough if you have no acoustic separation between yourself and a listener who doesn't want to hear, so you should combine the mute with physical and temporal separation. Closing a door and door gaps can make a big difference.

August 24, 2019, 11:49 PM · The reason it's not different for your wife is because she can still hear something. You can safely conclude that her opinion of your violin playing is binary. Playing the violin = bad. Not playing the violin = good. Buy some lumber and some fiberglass insulation and build yourself an insulated practice booth.
August 25, 2019, 3:41 PM · I believe I'm something of a connoisseur of practice mutes. I own a rubber one,a WMute, an Artino and one of these. Like Mark, I downloaded a dB meter app for my phone and tried them all out.

I practice in a room with a sound proofed door, and my goal was to attenuate the volume of the instrument to the point where I wasn't disturbing my wife.

The rubber one attenuated by a very small amount - 1 dB/m if I recall (all measurements done as an average over the same piece of music outside the practice room door). The WMute around 2 or 3 dB/m but sounds shocking, doesn't really attenuate the G string very much and would quite often resonate unpleasantly when I bow the G string firmly. 72 EUR I won't get back. The Artino was better (5 dB/m but sounds a bit rough). The best one by far both in terms of attenuation and sound quality is the heavy practice mute linked to above.

And for the people who say "don't use a metal mute because it will damage your bridge" I say bunkum. I've been using this mute for over year now pretty well every day, 90 - 120 minutes practice in a session and not a single visible mark.

August 25, 2019, 3:58 PM · Tony, the danger with the nickel plated brass mutes like the one you linked to isn't that they can damage your bridge. It's that they can vibrate loose, fall off, and damage your violin top. I'm happy to hear that you haven't had that problem, but some people have. Be careful.
August 26, 2019, 12:33 AM · Mark - the mute is very heavy and around 4mm of the bridge are inside the mute when it is fitted. To vibrate loose would require enormous acoustic energy. Far more than a violin can produce.

The people who report the mute falling off and damaging the top most likely don't fit it firmly enough to the bridge and it simply drops of as the violin is lifted to and from the shoulder to play.

August 26, 2019, 10:13 AM · For practice purposes a couple of clothes pegs borrowed from the wife work fine. They are also ideal for holding sheet music in place on the stand in breezy outdoor conditions.
Edited: August 26, 2019, 11:27 AM · I have 3 practice mutes: a heavy metal mute, a rubber mute and a leather mute. The heavy metal mute is the best at muting my sound; the leather mutes less, but gives the most pleasant tone (Google Leathermutes). The rubber mute is in between.
I have never had the metal mute vibrate off the bridge on my violin; I have had this problem with a metal mute on my cello, and I stopped using it for that reason.
I have heard that clothespins work too- one on each side of the bridge.
The quietest way to practice for me is on my electric violin using earbuds; I got a cheapo damaged electric violin from SHAR in one of their sales.
Hope you find success !!!
August 27, 2019, 10:09 AM · I've been using a brass practice mute for 30 years without damaging bridge or top.

But if someone sells a rubber-coated brass mute, that sounds like a good solution.

For the OP, the point to take away is that a heavy metal mute will do the best job of dampening the sound.

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