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Feb 9, 2021 - 8:13:04 PM
3 posts since 6/8/2020

For my "health" (frown), I am required by my family to use a mute when I practice or play at home.  Is it OK to leave the mute on the banjo most of the time, even when not playing it? Or will it possibly damage the bridge (or other parts??)? I suppose that isn't too big of a deal to replace the bridge.  I have Mike's mute which attaches to the top of the bridge.  Similarly, is it OK to do most of my practicing at home with a mute?  Will it stall/hinder/hurt my progress?  I do play 1-3 hrs per week without it, whereas the other 4-6 hrs per week are with it on.

Feb 9, 2021 - 9:09:44 PM

137 posts since 2/20/2004

No problems leaving it on all the time.
Better to play with a mute than not at all.

To my ear a mute gives a tinny sustaining sound.
You just loose the banjo magic. But it sounds like you are getting your unmuted banjo time

Feb 9, 2021 - 10:15:09 PM

doryman

USA

972 posts since 11/26/2012

Better to play those 4 to 6 hours with a mute than not play those 4 to 6 hours at all. I've had a Mike's Mute for years. I'm still married because of it and my kids don't hate me. I've not noticed any damage to my banjos caused by the mute and yes, you are correct, if it did damage the bridge after a few years, it's not exactly a life-changing catastrophe.

Feb 9, 2021 - 10:42:14 PM
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pfalzgrass

Germany

40 posts since 9/13/2017

I don’t like playing with a mute due to the crappy sound you get when playing with it. When I am required to play more silent, I just practice without picks and try to play very smooth, which is helpful when trying to improve the tone, especially when you pick too hard, which I sometimes do.

Feb 10, 2021 - 3:17:13 AM

Bill H

USA

1580 posts since 11/7/2010

I feel your pain. I just brought home a new Nechville Phantom which is some loud, and I have heard some grumbling. Then I make it worse by by complaining about the TV being so loud when I come out into the living room. Have you tried stuffing the head with foam or a rag? I have done that with my open backs at times. It damps it down pretty well without taking the life out of your playing. I try to practice at the same time every day when my wife is in her office at the other end of the house, which is helpful. I met my wife at a pot luck jam. She loved my banjo that first time. Twenty years of living with a daily racket of repetitious banjo exercises is a true test of a relationship.

Feb 10, 2021 - 4:34:43 AM
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BobbyE

USA

2845 posts since 11/29/2007

It is generally agreed that the three major 'Ts,' for playing the banjo well is timing, tone, and technique. You can throw the 'tone,' out if you practice with a mute since what you are hearing is really not what the banjo was intended to sound like. I do understand the need however. As an additional point a well regarded banjo player said, "you need to practice the way you want to sound." Again playing with a mute in place would tend to hinder that.

Bobby

Feb 10, 2021 - 7:52:17 AM
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6087 posts since 10/13/2007

Buy family ear plugs or headsets!  Banjo First!! (& good luck devil).

ken

Feb 10, 2021 - 9:24:44 AM

waynejo

USA

293 posts since 1/16/2007

put a towel or some kind of cloth in and around co rods. still has banjo sound not tinny.

Feb 10, 2021 - 12:08:52 PM
Players Union Member

DC5

USA

18430 posts since 6/30/2015

I've been using mutes in one form or another since I first started playing in the early 70's and I've never seen any damage. The mute will save your marriage and still give you right hand and left hand practice. The notes are still in tune, but the sustain will be a bit longer - which can be somewhat countered with well placed rags stuffed in the pot. Since you get both on and off mute time, your adjustments are minor IMO. I play with a mute virtually all the time at home, and don't notice it getting in the way when I play without the mute at a jam.

Feb 10, 2021 - 12:15:10 PM

1126 posts since 1/9/2012

All mutes also change the tone. To my ear, a small piece of foam rubber stuffed under the strings, right next to the bridge on the playing side, does the least damage to the tone, while dramatically reducing the overall volume.

Feb 10, 2021 - 1:58:53 PM

653 posts since 11/21/2018

Try adapting your picking a bit to try and keep as much staccato /short note decay going (short) as you can.
The mute's going to increase the sustain a lot. If you keep this in mind it isn't "quite" as weird when you go back to unmuted/ with picks playing at least feel wise.

I find that adding a bit of accented "bounce" to the rhythm helps to keep the feel a bit more too. Combining the stuffed pot with the mute might get you to a more staccato feel too. That works well on my resonator banjo.

Feb 10, 2021 - 7:08 PM

3 posts since 6/8/2020

Thanks everyone. Lots to consider here. Seems like the banjo is safe and my marriage will remain safe, just the tone that suffers. I'll try some of the variations on stuffing pot & strings that y'all suggested and see what works. I will say that northernbelle's comment about sustain "rings true" - I do find it causes some interference. So that's good advice about trying to keep the staccato up and shorten the sustain.

Feb 11, 2021 - 5:24:31 AM
Players Union Member

DC5

USA

18430 posts since 6/30/2015

FWIW, for some songs I actually prefer playing with the mute on. Yes, the tone is altered, but so many variables alter the tone, tightness of head, mass of bridge, type of string. Much like many trumpet songs are played with mutes, the mute adds another flavor to the banjo.

Feb 11, 2021 - 8:15:20 PM

3 posts since 6/8/2020

I agree DC5. I'm not a huge fan of Banjo in the Hollow - but I actually like it with the mute on and a syncopated rhythm to the rolls. Makes it much more interesting.

Feb 12, 2021 - 5:21:22 AM

155 posts since 11/28/2006

A little late to the discussion, but I practiced exclusively with a Mikes’s mute for 4 months last summer. We were living in a condo and it seemed only neighborly to not share my fumbles and failings with the rest of the residents. It took a day or two to get used to playing without the mute, but I got 4 solid months of practice that I wouldn’t have. Also, Mike makes a very nice mute.

Feb 12, 2021 - 6:03:42 AM

Mivo

Germany

50 posts since 9/13/2017

I've tried two mutes, the Gold Tone Ultimate (appears to be the same as the Deering mute) and the Gold Tone Iucci. The first one always moved my bridge because it was pretty tight, and it shed dark fibers. The Iucci was nicer, easier to slide on and resulted in a more attractive tone (it still shed). But in the end I just opted for stuffing a towel in my open back banjo. That was even quieter and sounded better too. I tried different types of towels, socks and rags until I found something that gave me a happy combination of low volume and good tone. I mostly practice unmuted, though. No complaints from neighbors so far. Might be different if I was a BG player with a resonator banjo.

Haven't had a chance to try Mike's mute. Something to buy (import) down the road, but for now the towel solution is just fine when I want to play quietly.

Edited by - Mivo on 02/12/2021 06:05:28

Feb 12, 2021 - 6:05:57 AM

Mivo

Germany

50 posts since 9/13/2017

quote:
Originally posted by davidppp

All mutes also change the tone. To my ear, a small piece of foam rubber stuffed under the strings, right next to the bridge on the playing side, does the least damage to the tone, while dramatically reducing the overall volume.


This sounds intriguing. Would you mind posting a photo for an idea of how big the piece of foam is?

Feb 12, 2021 - 9:44:15 AM
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1126 posts since 1/9/2012

@Mivo

That piece was cut to 5 mm taller than the bridge. For this particular installation, I chose to move the bridge back a bit and position the foam by matching the 12th fret and harmonic. The muting efficiency depends strongly on the foam. A styrofoam packing "peanut" was too soft to do much of anything. This particular closed-cell foam is louder than I remember when I used something a bit softer. My choices at home are currently severely limited, and I'm not allowed to go out and about.


Edited by - davidppp on 02/12/2021 09:46:01

Feb 12, 2021 - 10:40:18 AM

6638 posts since 9/5/2006

i just pull the wipe down rag for my banjo between the bridge and tailpiece to mute...works good

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