Practice Mute; a necessity for every string player
As a mother of five kids and resident of close neighbors, I am often asked "how and when do you practice?". I quickly reply, "with my trusty practice mute...anytime my kids are asleep!"
Compare the pictures of a regular mute (the circle one) that is often used in certain musical selections when a specific sound is desired by the composer and a practice one (rounded square with prongs) used for the sole purpose of making the instrument barely audible.
Heavy mutes take the definition of mute a step further. They are larger and have the capability to make the instrument even softer. They come in two types; metal and heavy rubber. The metal mute is considered stronger and more efficient in keeping the instrument's sound to a minimum, the heavy rubber mute has a reputation for better forming to all sizes and widths of instrument bridges. I personally own a metal mute and love how good it is at minimizing my sound.
-adult violinist with kids, roommates, or spouse
-high school orchestra members for warm up before performance, and practicing quietly before class begins
-any violinist that lives in small living quarters with close neighbors
-violin teachers who want to play along with students but not overpower students
Heavy mutes are not very expensive, they run in price range of $4.00 - $14.00. I used mine in orchestra at competitions when warm up rooms were non-existent, and at college when I didn't want to disturb my roommates.
*** Tip for Teachers ***
Use a heavy mute on your violin when playing with students, especially young students with little violins. Your students will still be able to hear themselves while being able to play along with you, and it will be easier for you to hear them too.
Practice mutes can also be excellent tools in teaching students who are self-conscious or overly worried about how they sound. Putting one on your student's violin will allow them to focus on other aspects of their playing rather than their less then perfect intonation or squeaky sound. Some examples of good use in lesson time is when learning vibrato, practicing shifting, and working on playing form.