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I see on some violins there is something on the A and E strings between the tail peace and the bridge.

What is it called and what does it do?

Mystery object

I found a similar thing on the violins of the soloist in these videos. I don't know if these are different from the picture above:

(look at 4:20):

This one is only on the D string:

Here everybody has it on their instrument, violin, viola, cello (look at 7:59):

8

It's a damper, or mute, like this one here

When you wish to mute the sound of the instrument you slide it near to the bridge in order to dampen the bridge vibrations.

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  • Is that the same as the sort of comb I used to use to put on the bridge? Maybe a modern version? – Tim Apr 18 '16 at 17:20
  • The purpose is the same, but with an alternative design. I don't play the violin myself but I have heard people complaining that this type of mute tends to ruin the strings. – José David Apr 18 '16 at 17:33
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    @Tim it's only the same in that they both mute the sound. The resulting timbre varies a lot depending on what kind of mute you use and what material (rubber vs wood) in the case of "comb" mutes. – Carl Witthoft Apr 18 '16 at 18:21
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The partial mutes on one or two strings are sometimes called "wolf tone supressors"- they do reduce volume to certain or a single string. They differ from typical mutes by not muting all strings and are used generally whenever an instrument or a string and instrument combination has an uneven response (some frequencies or harmonics or overall volume of that or those particular strings is louder than needs be). The one weight on one string is speciffically set up so as to kill a higher order harmonic or to dampen a certain frequency that the particular violin has too much of...The undesired effect, akin to unpleasant resonances in certain low quality speakers (or a wolf's howl hence the name), only appears at a certain frequency and is most likely a combined effect of string gage, playing style, string material,tension etc and not necessarily a fault of the instrument; in fact, tuning an instrument to the level of fitting custom issued wolf tone supressors is no cheap or easy trick, and usually is reserved to professional top-quality instruments.

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