Muted in Portland
Dear Violin Advice Column,
I've been playing for three years. I practice every day, but I always try to practice when I've got the place to myself. If my spouse goes for a walk, or a bike ride, or goes to visit her daughter, I'll pull out the violin and practice. It's not that I'm awful, but I'm sure listening to someone play the same songs over and over, and practice scales, arpeggios, etudes, and work out new material, must be a bit mind numbing. This has worked to our mutual happiness.
Well, now we're confined to the house, and finding those times when I'm alone are fading memories.
Hence, after weeks and weeks of this, she hit a wall. Now, to be fair, she was polite about it, but she did say, "If I hear that violin one more second today, I'm going to explode." It's made for some uncomfortable moments.
So, my fellow housebound friends, I'm sending out this Dear Abby request - how do I practice and save my marriage? Are you doing ok? Are you driving anyone crazy?
Muted in Portland.
Gift of noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs?
These times are very difficult when we're all forced into close quarters with each other and the things that we used to be able to work around the schedules of others aren't possible.. For an instrument like the violin there isn't much alternative. Even the use of a heavy practice mute doesn't quiet it all the way. The suggestion of an electric violin which you can play with headphones. They can be very expensive or not-so-expensive. Be wary of very cheap ones, though, because they are often not set up at all well. But for around $600 or so there are some nice Yamaha electric violins. And if it keeps peace in the family, it's well worth the price.
Having the same problem here...I find the QUIETEST practice mute is not rubber, not leather, but heavy metal! I see Fiddlershop sells one like mine; it's brass. I use a SHAR electric violin that I got on sale for $99 a few years ago (and paid almost as much to have it properly set up). I use it with earbuds, as earphones are too heavy. Also--don't practice 100% electric because the bowing is so different; negotiate for some real violin practice time... Best of luck!
When I was very young, we had a budgie.
I've a collection of practice mutes and for me,
Get out your calculator, a few pencils, and a pad of paper. Design yourself an insulated practice booth that you can install in your basement that can be made out of framing lumber, drywall, and fiberglass insulation. Order the materials from Lowe's. Make sure to think of everything including ventilation/HVAC, overhead lighting (lots of LED options now, and an electrical receptacle). There are booths that you can buy and assemble but they're quite pricey.
Well, mutes seem like an inexpensive option. Paul, that's a wonderful idea, but I'm in a townhouse without a basement, so I'll have to pass on building a booth. Plus, I barely got a C in woodshed when I was a kid in middle school. Tony, the link to that mute isn't working, can you try again? Thanks everyone, and please give recommendations for good mutes.
I just bought the Artino practice mute. It is heavy metal coated with rubber, for safety. Appochryphal story: Someone asked J. Heifetz' next door neighbor what it was like living there. The answer was "well, I like coffee, but I wouldn't want to live next to a coffee factory."
Dear Muted in Portland,
Use bar soap on your bow, rather than rosin. Your wife will love you again almost as much as on your honeymoon. :-)
I can't help myself from believing that Paul's suggestion is made in jest. HVAC? And Tony's link doesn't work for me either, but it's clear that he was trying to link to the Weissmeyer & Son practice mute. You can google it. I have one, and it's effective, though I find it difficult to put on. My favorite practice mute is made of leather, but apparently no longer available, so I admit that's not very helpful. (I have a plan to make some leather mutes myself, but since I haven't done it yet, that's not very helpful either.) An electric like the Yamaha YEV has almost the same volume when it's not plugged in as an acoustic with a common heavy plated brass practice mute, and is worth considering. It's quite playable not plugged in. (It won a long list of international design awards when it was introduced in 2016, and is a pretty elegant design.) I don't think we can do anything else but suggest; you'll have to sort this out in the end.
Mark, I find a leather practice mute has by far the best sound. You can buy one from Marcel St. Cyr at leathermutes.com.
Erin, that's my source for my favorite leather practice mute, but he's an elderly gentleman, a sole proprietor and maker, and his website and email have been unresponsive for a couple of years now. I wish I bought more than the one I have when I could.
oh dear....no more St Cyr...
You know, Ben, I have been thinking about the garage, and that might do the trick. I live in a townhouse complex, so there isn't a back yard, side yard, and only a two foot strip of land for a tiny front yard. I do think Paul was just goofing around (I hope he was) but I thought I'd go along with it in case he wasn't. I put a mute on the violin about an hour ago and my wife is talking to me again, so that's good. However, when she found out I bought the thing two years ago, and had never used it, things got a bit . . . well. . . less than ideal for a few minutes. Thanks for the advice!
Hi Michael, I hope things work out for you! Just in case you're interested in checking out a leather mute, I found this link below. I haven't tried one though...
Yes Ben David, but the Weissmeyer leather mutes are performance mutes, not practice mutes.
Does anyone make a practice mute for singers ?
Weissmeyer leather mutes are more for performance than practice, but still nearly as effective as the St Cyr. Also, the full range of composites they sell, not just the caterpillar, do a nice job in reducing volume.
This link works. Weissmeyer makes some cool mutes and their CatrPilr is a fantastic practice mute. Low volume but still retains a decent sound.
This is tough! It is terrible to play with a mute, all the time, and you can be heard, anyway.
Thanks for the suggestions, Emily. Here's what we've come up with as a compromise. If she's home, and I want to practice, I'll use a mute on the violin. When she goes for a walk, or to the grocery store, I'll unmute the violin and play. This morning she was a bit confused about her reaction to the violin yesterday, but I pointed out that over the past three years, I've worked to be sensitive to her patience. I always played when she was at a yoga class, or riding a bike, with her daughter, or some other activity out of the house. Hence, she didn't hear me play as much as she does now.
Recommendations for ACTUAL playing time:
Susanna: "fill long songs with rice" ??? (That sounds like it would be very quiet)
Erin: oops! typing too fast. I meant long socks :)
Wow, you folks are great, but it sounds like you're getting about as loopy as I am with all of this. I'd type more, but I'm going to go watch "Groundhog Day". I'm feeling a lot of empathy with Bill Murray's character.
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