Shut up! A classy alternative to keep the volume down...

By Maxine Kwok Adams  -  02 May 2016

The humble mute, not something to write home about eh? Well we could all be wrong, the mute just got seriously sexy! Violinists generally acquire their first mute when we join a youth orchestra. At the time my parents would have handed over a quid, there would likely have been three choices, firstly the large wooden M mute - not a very successful choice as it had to be completely removed from the violin when not on the bridge. Secondly the plastic and wire mute which looked like it had been part of a dental retainer, and lastly the standard circular rubber mute that most people use to this day. 


I briefly toyed with the magnetic mute, with the huge promise of no more rattling as you played, but with the extra component added to the tailpiece, this actually encouraged more of a buzz. Epic fail there manufacturers. 
A few years ago I fell in love with mutes when I discovered a creative lady who had been blinging up mutes with crystals for her thirteen-year old daughter and friends. I therefore have a veritable mute wardrobe or as one person once remarked, "your mute has an evening gown!" This told me I was seriously immature (who knew??)  and that there were many similarly like-minded adults (ladies and gentlemen I must add) since these sparkly mutes are now gracing the violins, cellos and basses of orchestras all over the world. By happy coincidence sales in sunglasses have increased too. 
And now to introduce the new Spanish "W Mute". A sleek, sexy ergonomic design that I first spotted on Twitter and I hastened to the website. The standard mute prices range from €28 for silvertone in matte/polished to the option I chose consisting of matte goldtone embossed with three initials (if you don't want the W logo) at €48 (incase like me you worry about your thieving colleagues taking a shine to your new toy..). There are matching gorgeous practise mutes but at €66 for the equivalent gold embossed version I felt I should test run a standard mute first. 
Delivery from Spain was approx five working days and as my eager fingers tore into the package, I found the promised mute presented almost like jewellery in a black velvet pouch. So far so good. The mute I admit is not for the clumsy as I fear if dropped you'd never find it again.. Certainly would be a risk on old concert halls with gaps in the stage. The mute clips securely to the bridge and then vertically to the string when surplus to requirements but I'd say it won't be the quickest option when changing from con sord to senza sord in hasty passage work.
Now for the real test, Saturday night so I hope the neighbours are out.. The sound test resulted in discovering that the "W mute", although not the quietest option, does give a lush, rich muted sound. Perhaps the combination of brass and velvet adding to this rich tone. 
So if you are a violin accessory geek after my own heart I'd heartily recommend this mute if you have a few quid to spare and you're seeking something discreetly stylish. I also think it would make a thoughtful gift to the string player in your life. I for one am saving up for the boxed gift set of the standard and the practise mute to emboss with SC for my best friend, Shh...


For more information check out the W Mute selection at www.wmutes.com 

About Maxine Kwok Adams

Fashion correspondent and violinist of the London Symphony Orchestra

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