“Of course the most difficult thing on the violin is always intonation. The second one is rhythm. If you play in tune, in time with a good sound that's already high level. Those three are the main things.” - Ruggiero Ricci
Learning how to play the violin means a lot of practice, and it also means needing to buy a number of accessories.
Besides the rosin, chinrest, bow, replacement strings and shoulder rest, having a mute for violin is one of your most important accessories.
In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about the violin mute as well as cover other information about accessories for violin.
Why Should You Get a Violin Practice Mute
A violin practice mute is a device that dulls the sound of your instrument. They are available for violin as well as violas and cellos. Mutes are attached to the instrument at the bridge of string instruments.
By absorbing the string vibration, it can reduce the sound that is made by the instrument’s sound box. When string instruments are played with a bow, vibrations travel in a downward direction along the strings to the bridge. From there, they are transmitted into a sound box where the sound is amplified. It’s simple, when a violin mute is placed by the bridge, fewer vibrations make it to the soundboard.
So if you are searching how does a violin mute work, the main thing to remember is that by reducing the vibrations caused by the strings, the instrument is quieter. Even the greatest of musicians using a violin practice mute!
If all this information about accessories seems like a lot to take in, you may be surprised to find out that any time is the ideal time to learn violin! In addition, you could choose to learn in person with a private tutor or even take your violin lessons online. Either way, make sure that you also make use of good violin books as additional resources too.
How to Use a Violin Mute
Before finding out how to use a violin mute it is certainly helpful to know about the two main types of mutes available. There are those that are used for reducing the volume of an instrument so that it can be practiced quietly, and there are those that are used for orchestral performances. In some instances, concert violinists will often find the words con sordino (with mute) which means they are required to use a violin mute.
Con sordino means that at that particular moment in the music, the violinist is not the soloist and the other musicians need to be heard more clearly.
Orchestral musicians may also find the words senza sordino on their instruments which is a request to play without a mute.
If you are wondering how does a violin mute work, it’s important to note that when searching mute for violin that you remember that varying models have varying sound effects on the instrument.
A violin practice mute is not necessarily designed for orchestral performances. Orchestral versions which are usually made of rubber or ebony can absorb up to 20% of the vibrations.
However, the violin practice mute, which can absorb as much as 80% of sound vibration can be made of metal and cover a large part of the bridge.
Accessories for Violin: Why the Mute?
So the question regarding how to use a violin mute has more or less been answered. In addition, so have the two main reasons for searching mute for violin.
How to Use a Violin Mute: Orchestral Reasons
The main thing about fitting a mute is to remember that it increases the weight on the bridge. According to experts, the less intense the violin sound, the better its timbre. This is one of the main reasons for mute for violin when it comes to orchestral playing.
How to Use a Violin Mute: Practice Mutes
You should definitely invest in a practice mute for violin, especially if you are working with a private violin tutor from home.
While learning and improving your violin scales can be really exciting for you, it can be an absolute nightmare anyone else living in the same building as you. Investing in a practice mute for violin will ensure that you remain in everyone’s good books!
Of course, while you are learning and naturally lack confidence, you may not want anyone to hear you play until you are ready. This is also true for those who work during the day and need to practice quietly late at night or early in the morning.
Choosing the Right Accessories for Violin
Here are some tips to help you select your violin mute.
Like other accessories for violin, there are plenty to choose from:
- Tourte shaped violin mutes: These are a one of the most popular accessories for violin and the most well-used mute in orchestras. Made of rubber, this mute has a magnet in the middle of it.
- Round tourte violin mutes: Not unlike the previous version, this can be used for chamber music performances.
- Three-pronged practice mutes: Made from rubber, these mutes are able to drastically reduce the volume of a violin.
- Metal practice mutes: Not unlike the three-pronged mute, but with a different tone.
- Wire practice mutes: These only slightly absorb sound, making them the perfect option for performances.
When it comes to accessories for violin, you could even use a clothes peg to make violin practice mute! When you attach a peg onto the second and third strings it will have a similar effect to a store bought metal mute.
The main thing to remember when considering how to use a violin mute is that you invest in an accessory that matches the amount by which you wish to reduce the volume of your violin.
As a guide, metal mutes reduce sound by about 70%, rubber by 50% and ebony by 40%.
There are certain brands (like those from Otto) that can reduce volume by up to 80%!
If you’re asking, how does a violin mute work, it depends on your desired option. Here are the three main ones:
- Heavy muting
- Moderate muting
- Light muting
There’s also the option of varying mute combinations of strings, some of these can be cut in half to reduce the effect of them.
How Much Do Mutes Cost?
If you’re searching mute for violin, you are probably also wondering how much they cost as well as where you can buy them.
Mutes are stocked by leading retailers in South Africa and are available in store and online. These can range from R195 – R395.
Regardless of whether you play the fiddle, violin, viola, cello, mandolin, guitar, bass, piano or drums, a store like Marshall Music in South Africa will have accessories for all percussion and stringed instruments.
In addition, you can get tuners, replacement violin strings, metronomes, violin bows, chin rests and shoulder rests, tuning pegs, instrument cases and other resources for beginners.
In the same way that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, a violin is only as good as its worst part. That means that in addition to the craftsmanship of a luthier (violin maker) your violin will need a good horsehair bow, fingerboard and rosin for your bow so that you can improve your playing capability as well as the tone of your instrument.
Don’t forget that it is always a good idea to keep a replacement violin string on hand so that if one breaks it does not it hamper your practice. A violin string, especially the thin, e-string can snap at inconvenient moments which is why next time you are in a violin shop, make sure you pick up an extra set of strings. In fact, why not make sure you have extra cello or viola strings for the other members of your string quartet too?
As a beginner violin player, it is not necessary to invest in expensive violin parts and accessories. Remember that even a perfect sounding violin is going to take a while to sound good in the hands of a beginner.
Another thing to bear in mind is that right-handed musicians usually learn the regular way, but left handed violin players have other learning options and all of these can be found in our other posts.
Finally, our advice to progress in violin is to find a private violin tutor who can take you through at your own pace because the time it takes to learn violin is dependent on several factors.
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