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Yesterday at orchestra rehearsal a young lady in our violin section introduced me to a novel but effective way to mute the instrument. There are a couple of pieces we play where we have to accomnpany a vocalist and so as not to overpower the vocalist we have to either play very softly and/or mute the instrument. I don't happen to have a mute handy so I played softly. After the rehearsal she mentioned to a few of us that she uses a clothespin for a mute. She simply clips it onto the bridge below the strings about halfway between the strings and the body of the violin. And it does make a difference. She gave me a with/without demo of how it works and there is a noticeable difference. Apparently it does dampen the vibrations transferred from the strings through the bridge to the body of the violin resulting in a more subdued, "muted" sound yet without negatively affecting the tonal qualities of the vibrations. At least one or two other people mentioned that they too have used a clothespin as a violin mute. The idea is not to silence the instrument, just to reduce vibrations and hence volume somewhat. It does indeed work. From now on I am carrying a clothespin in my violin case,
I always carry a clothespin in my case but just to help hold music in place if I am playing outside or somewhere I don't have a stand. I'm going to try it as a mute.
Opportunity is often missed because it wears suspenders and looks like hard work.
Just be careful to not damage your strings.
The way she showed me to use it is to clip it onto middle of the bridge below the strings. When properly attached the clothespin "mute" should be parallel to the body of the violin and should at no point be touching the strings. The idea is to dampen vibrations from the strings as they pass through the bridge and to the body of the violin. This provides a sort of de-amplification... a subtle muting effect. The violin body still resonates and amplifies the sound but not as much as when the pin is removed. It is handy to use when we accompany a vocalist and it is important for the violins to be soft and subdued. Most people use a mute made for the fiddle but this was the first time I had ever seen a clothespin used for muting. I haven't tried it on my own violin yet but I'll experiment with it tomorrow.
I tried this yesterday. It does dampen the sound, I would say significantly but I haven't tried any other mute so I don't know how it compares. I will say that it changed the tone quite a bit; so much that I probably wouldn't want to use it very often, only when I really needed to be quieter. That said, it was nice to be able to play and not worry so much about bothering other people. Another thing I worry about is moving the bridge around. I was careful clamping the pin down and it's just a clothespin, but it worried me a little that I might be damaging the bridge in any way, or even just moving it out of place.
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