A violin is a classy and beautiful instrument. The trouble is that just like any other classical instrument it’s very loud and your neighbors would prefer you playing video games. Preferably with headphones on.
So in order to practice a violin sometimes it’s necessary to make it quieter. Luckily, this isn’t as hard you might think. There are a few proven tricks that you can use any time you need to play more quietly than usual.
These are the best tips provided by regular violin players who found themselves in a similar predicament so feel free to use them to your advantage:
1. Plug the f-holes with a cotton cloth
2. Insert a clean soft cotton or microfiber cloth in between your finger board and the top of the violin.
Make sure it’s in there very gently and without any pressure.
3. Try one of the heavy brass mutes instead of the heavy rubber practice mutes.
If you decide to try this, you want to be careful not to damage your bridge, but they’re okay for a short time.
4. Play as quietly as possible, but project the tone
The key is to play softly but with projection. This can be done by using a slow bow, closer to the fingerboard than the bridge. Apply enough hair pressure to bring out the fundamental of the note.
This exercise is good for bow control because it highlights unwanted tension in the bowing hand and arm. This violin player also recommended trying this exercise on gut strings for optimal performance.
5. Get an electric violin
An electric violin can be played almost near-silence. Additionally, you can use headphones with it.
One violinist said that he changed the strings on his violin to Helicores (available on Amazon). Then the sound, without an amp, is quiet enough to not disturb people, but loud enough for him to hear it.
There’s no way that neighbors or hotel staff will complain about the noise regardless of where you’re practicing with a solid electric violin.
Best of all, electric violins are not overly expensive. This amazing handcrafted Bunnel violin outfit from Amazon is under $280 at the moment of writing with monthly payment plan available as well.
6. Keep a foam wedge under the fingerboard
A foam wedge kept under the fingerboard can really dampen the top plate’s vibrations. It will noticeably cut down on the violin’s volume and projection. The best part of all? It won’t affect the tone at all so you can keep practicing as usual.
7. Roll up a dollar bill and weave it into the afterlength
This is a brilliant idea that has helped many violin players. Sliding it nearer or farther from the bridge will adjust the dampening but won’t affect the tone.
8. Talk to your neighbors
Ask your neighbors if the noise bothers them or not. Maybe you’re in fact worrying too much. Also ask them if there’s a specific period during the day when they’re okay with the noise regardless of the volume.
Perhaps your next-door neighbors work from 9 to 5 and you can practice then? Or maybe they’re away on the weekends. People will often be glad to find a compromise if asked nicely.
9. Soundproof your practice room
There are many advantages to soundproofing a room. First of all, you’ll have more privacy to play the violin, sing or listen to music on a higher volume. Secondly, you won’t be bothered by the noise coming from elsewhere.
Smaller soundproofing projects can be very affordable. Adding some thickness to a door or a window will make a big difference for the acoustics in the room AND it will lower the noise coming in and out. If there’s a specific wall, floor or ceiling that separates you and the angry neighbors, make that a priority.
For example, install thick acoustic panels or mass loaded vinyl on the wall or ceiling to absorb the sound leaving through those points of the room. Add a thick mat or wood on the floor. Click on these links to see soundproofing solutions for each part of the room.
10. Make a soundproof booth
This is a pretty simple DIY project. A soundproof booth can be your little quiet sanctuary inside any room. They’re usually made for practicing vocals but there’s no reason why you couldn’t play a violin or another smaller instrument inside one.
A booth can be made from wooden panels or even with a PVC pipes and some moving blankets or thick curtains. There are even professional booths that can be ordered online. I dedicated an entire article to soundproof booths, DIY and commercial ones so feel free to check it out if this interests you.
Final Word: How to make a violin quieter
A violin can be made quieter by muting some parts that create most of the noise. A cotton cloth, a dollar bill or a foam wedge can all be used for this purpose as I mentioned earlier.
If you don’t want to tinker with your instrument too much, consider soundproofing your practice room to some extent. Focus on the weak points such as doors or walls separating you from your neighbors. Another option is to make or buy a small soundproof booth that will absorb a portion of the sound.
Perhaps the easiest and best way to make a violin quieter is to simply get an electric violin. An electric violin will allow you to play anywhere without having to worry about disturbing others.
Lastly, having a conversation with your neighbors or housemates and figuring out a practice schedule that everyone is okay with can also be helpful.