I recently started learning fiddle, but I haven't practiced much for fear of disturbing family members, as fiddles tend to be loud. What are some good methods of playing quietly for practice?
Probably not very helpful as it involves more expense but I practice at night on an unplugged electric NS violin. The NS series of violins are very quiet unplugged. I often practice while watching TV and can clearly hear the TV sound over the violin. If you are in another room behind a closed door, I bet your family would not even hear you at all.
Note that not all electric violins are this quiet. I had a Yamaha SV130 and that was almost as loud as my acoustic violin.
There are lots of different kinds of mutes. You can even try a clothespin or something. The denser the mute, like brass for instance, the more it will dampen.
I go in the basement at night when everyone else is asleep on the top floor and they can't hear me.
Rubber practice mutes cover the whole top of the bridge and are a couple bucks, works pretty good. Heavy metal practice mutes will make a fiddle very quiet but will leave indentations on the bridge, probably not a big deal if it’s a cheap bridge.
The first method I used was the clothes pin. You can put one on each side of the bridge, might be able to fit two on each side. You can put a little piece of egg carton foam between the pin and the bridge.
Edited by - Johnny Rosin on 02/11/2019 14:42:54
Sometimes I play using a smooth, unrosined stick.. only I can hear it....
I have been playing loudly now for forty years. My wife has never complained. I whistle too. She is an angel.
Here's the mute that I use. Sure, in an ideal world I'd never have to use it, but I live with people, and the reality is that I use the mute or I don't play at all. If you're in a similar situation, buy it. Works great.
I use a heavy metal mute when I want to play quietly BUT I don't think it's a good idea to do it a lot--especially not at the beginning. It mellows things out and creates a pleasant sound which can make it jarring to go back to playing without it. I think it's important to be able to hear exactly what's going on--all the time, but especially early on.
But, that said, being able to practice comfortably and in a relaxed sort of way--even if that involves a mute--is really important.
I have close neighbors and I love the freedom that I have to play as loud and as long as I want when I find myself in a parking lot with no one around, for example, waiting for my husband to finish with work. Keep an eye out for opportunities like that. :)
When I was in the hospital for extended-stay chemo treatments, I mentioned to my doctor that I was concerned a out neuropathy affecting my ability to feel the strings. I was under doctor's order (really!!) to play 4-5 hours a day. To do this in a hospital room without disturbing other patients was difficult. I tried all sorts of mutes, the heavy metal one was the best, but my fiddle was still too loud. So, a friend loaned me his electric (or silent) violin. Problem solved! I could play at any time and not bother anyone. I mostly noodled around playing hymns and songs of the Thanksgiving/Christmas season. I did play some old time/Missouri tunes, but nearly always returned to other familiar melodies.
The result - absolutely no chemo-related neuropathy AND my playing improved tremendously.
Mutes - heavy metal ones provide the highest level of dampening. The rubber mutes not as much, but they retained much of the tone and dynamics - just muted.
I have a Yamaha YEV-104 electric in standard tuning and an older SV-120 that I keep cross tuned. I play those silent and they are plenty loud. It is important to use good strings or it won't sound or feel right.
Even alone this is mostly how I practice.
It won't completely solve your problem, but you can also spend some time learning to play quietly. Its a useful skill, although not so easy to master. You can also practice left hand work by just lightly strumming the strings, which can help you concentrate on fingering, and is much quieter than the bow.
Edited by - DougD on 02/12/2019 05:48:43
I have a friend who says she began learning fiddle especially so she could annoy the neighbors ... Also, I have never used a mute, and my family still loves me.
Edited by - Earworm on 02/12/2019 05:54:25
I have a very tolerant spouse. Well, maybe tolerant is not the word because she tells me that she LOVES hearing me play even when I have to laugh at myself for the squeaks and grunts I am hearing.
I play Banjo....I never try to be quiet.
Mutes are good, but an understanding and supportive family is better. If you go into a separate room and close the door, you likely won't be much of a disturbance. Prearranged practice time prepares the family.
One thing I do is take my fiddle to work and practice during my lunch break at a nearby park. If it's cold or bad weather, I sit in the passenger seat of my car.
Speaking of banjos and lunch breaks, my friend Lee Sexton worked in the coal mines for many years. He started taking his banjo down in the mine with him to play during his lunch break. At first there was some question about whether this was permitted, but Lee said it was his own time and he could do whatever he wanted, and that's the way it turned out. I imagine his fellow workers enjoyed it too.
I remember seeing something about how Lee Sexton played at the mine in the documentary, Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus. Here's a video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMDvVi24Lj0
Fiddle is all the family ya need..play loud!
Buddy MacMaster had a small room built in his living room where his violin and music were, I am sure he practiced there also.
This reminds me of a bagpipe joke.
"They've developed a mute for bagpipes. Its called "The Atlantic Ocean." :^)
Bet Out on the Ocean is a pipe jig, then.
I solved this by not practicing. I play at the jam and that's really the only time I practice. Once in a while if nobody is home I'll play some tunes for my parrots. That never works though. One is scared to death and the other has to yell through the whole tune so I can't hear a thing. So yeah, no practicing for me.
Fiddle is not nearly as loud as a trumpet or sax. Practice behind a closed door during reasonable hours and you'll probably be fine.
I would hope your family supports your endeavors rather than push back. Good luck
Here's a picture of how I mute my fiddle when I need it really quiet.
First I take my quieter fiddle. I don't even try to mute my loudest fiddle – it breaks my heart to hear it's beautiful tone squashed.
Second, I use a heavy metal mute. It doesn't sound great, but it mutes more than anything else.
Then I add two clothespins for additional muting.
Next, I put a rubber band over the strings near the nut (see picture). This makes open string drones quieter than the fingered strings.
If I really need to be quiet, I'll avoid drones and bow as softly as possible. It's really super quiet.
'Shoulder rests' 6 hrs
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