A mute is a small accessory that fits over or attaches to the bridge of your violin, viola, cello, or bass. At some point in your music career, you're going to want to get one of these, so.....Let's talk about mutes!
So a mute essentially dampens your sound. And naturally, different materials and sizes of mutes will affect your sound one way or another.
When you're looking for a mute, consider these things:
Accessibility - Can you leave it on the bridge when you're not using it? There are several pieces of orchestra music that require a mute at different points in the song. You may not get a lot of time to put it on, and even less time if you have to search for it!
Setting - Will you be using it in an orchestra? As a soloist? Maybe you're just wanting something that's not as loud for practicing in an apartment or at a hotel. Different mutes are ideal in different situations, so consider where you will be using it.
Tone - Certain materials and densities will dampen your sound more. This is why it's important to know where you're playing. If you're playing as a soloist, you'll want a mute that dampens your sound without compromising on the tone. You will need some of those overtones to help color your sound. On the other hand, if you're wanting to play in a hotel or apartment (where you don't want to disturb your neighbors), then your goal is going to be to dampen the sound considerably. That's where a heavier practice mute will come in handy.
Now that you've determined accessibility, setting, and tone, there's only one more thing to consider: which mute you want! Here's a few options:
Tourte Shaped - This mute is typically made out of rubber, so it won't damage your strings. When it's not in use, it rests over the A and D (D and G for viola and cello) strings in between the bridge and the tailpiece, making it easy to grab if you need to mute your instrument quickly.
Tourte Round - This mute is by far one of the most popular mutes on the market. Like the shaped mute, it can be left on the middle two strings when not in use. It's also made of rubber. Several teachers in the Texas panhandle ask their students to get one of these at some point in the school year.
Ultra Practice. This mute dampens the sound considerably. It's the perfect mute if you're looking for a quiet mute. They're typically made of rubber that fits over the bridge. But you can't leave it on when you're not using it! Sometimes, you can find practice mutes that are made of metal. These will provide you with a more clear tone, even with the dampened sound.
Wire. This mute dampens the sound just a little bit. It's a good choice in a solo setting, but you must be careful to put it on gently, as it can affect your strings.
Finissima or Spector. These are mutes that are starting to get recommended by quite a few professionals. The great thing about this kind of mute is that it doesn’t mute overtones. So it's a great choice for solo or orchestral performance. You can leave it on your strings when you're not using it, so it's also easily accessible.
Ebony. This is a three-pronged mute that fits over your bridge, so you can't leave this one on, either. Out of all of the mutes, this one is probably the most aesthetically pleasing! Sometimes, you can find three-pronged mutes made out of metal, as well.
There are a lot of mutes out there, even metal and magnetic! The best thing you can do, when in doubt, is to start accumulating different types of mutes to experiment with. See which ones you like best in different settings. I hope this information is useful to you guys! And, of course, please call us here at Tarpley Music if you have any questions on ideas of which mute is right for you!
Bethany Mueller Backstage Pass Orchestra 3800 I-40 West, Amarillo, TX 79102 p. 806-32-5293 | f. 8063525916
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