A cello mute is a small accessory, usually made of rubber, that attaches to the bridge of a cello and “mutes” the cello by dampening the higher notes. This makes the sound much more mellow than usual. Below we’ll discuss the best cello mutes you can buy.
Mutes are used throughout many classical pieces and places where mutes are required are usually notated with a “con sordino” or “con sord.” for short which means “on mute.” When a mute needs to be removed, the music will state “senza sordino” which means “off mute.”
Composers through the ages have used mutes to add texture to their pieces. Prokofiev requires the use of a mute by all string instruments at the beginning of his piece Romeo and Juliet. You can hear the opening in the video below:
Mutes come in a variety of styles as we’ll outline below. Before you choose your mute, there are some things you should consider:
- Ease of use: Being able to put the cello mute on and remove it quickly during concerts is vital so you need to choose the mute that will be easiest for you to use. There are two main types of mutes: sliding and over-the-bridge. Sliding mutes are extremely to put on and take off, though they don’t provide as much dampening. Over-the-bridge mutes require a little more effort to put on, but not a significant amount.
- Look and Feel: It’s important to pick a cello mute that will complement the overall appearance of your cello. Mutes come in a variety of colors and styles, so make sure you pick one that you’re happy with.
- Sound: While every mute will change the way your cello sounds, you need to make sure it doesn’t adversely affect the overall sound. If you don’t like the way your cello sounds after you’ve tried a new mute, send it back and try another one. Don’t settle for any mute just because it works.
Below we cover six of the various cello mute types. If you’re uncomfortable buying a cello mute online or want to test out the sound before you buy, try going to your local music shop. They’re guaranteed to have several cello mutes available that you can try in-store with your cello.
Tourte Shaped Cello Mute
This is the most popular mute used for solo and orchestral playing due to both its quality sound, low cost, and extreme ease-of-use. You can find many tourte cello mutes for less than $10 and there’s even a cello mute on Amazon for less than $5. The shape of the mute doesn’t fully dampen your cello’s sound, so that makes this mute a great option for orchestral settings. This is definitely one of the best cello mutes as it sounds great and is really inexpensive.
Tourte shaped mutes are made out of rubber, so they won’t harm your instrument, and they have a single pull-tab that you use to get them onto the bridge. When not in use, the mute is near the tailpiece, hooked on to the D or G string.
Tourte Round Cello Mute
Nearly as popular as the shaped tourte mute above, the round tourte cello mute is also made of rubber and sits on two strings (D+G) instead of one. It is frequently used in orchestras since it is easy to put on while playing. When not in use, the mute is near the tailpiece, hooked on to the D or G string.
Ebony Prong Cello Mute
This style of mute is simply the easiest cello mute to put on. All you need to do is press it down over the cello bridge and you’re good to go! The mute sits over the D and G strings so that it is centered on the bridge.
This style of mute dampens the cello’s sound even less than the tourte mutes above, but makes up for that fact due to the ease-of-use. The limited dampening and quick application make this style of mute ideal for orchestra players and we’d definitely like to see this mute become more popular among players.
Metal Practice Mute
This is a great mute to use when you don’t want to disturb your neighbors or roommates while practicing. Since it is made of nickel-plated brass and quite heavy, you get a very muted sound, but still get a clear tone.
If you plan to practice mostly at night or when others are sleeping, this mute is a must have.
Honbay Rubber Cello Practice Mute
Another great practice mute, the Honbay mute is made of solid rubber and thoroughly dampens your cello’s sound so that you do not disturb your neighbors. Since the sound is so dampened, this mute is not ideal in performance settings and unlike most of the mutes above, you can’t keep the mute on the instrument when the mute is not being used.
Bech Magnetic Cello Mute
This mute is certainly one of the most unique mute inventions in the last few years. It features two halves that magnetically attach to each other. One half sits on the tailpiece and the other half attaches when you need to mute your cello. The main benefit of this design is that it reduces rattles since the mute is not on the vibrating strings
You shouldn’t spend too much time searching for the perfect cello. Most mutes will do the job just fine and they’re cheap enough you can buy a few to try out. We personally prefer the Tourte mutes, but you should try out the other mutes as well to see which ones work for you.
If you want to make a lot of friends in orchestra, you should consider buying extra cello mutes to store in your case. Many people forget their mutes or don’t own them, so you will sure to be a favorite among your orchestra peers.