Con Sordino (With Mutes….)

Adding a mute to a stringed instrument has a very different effect from muting a brass instrument. Although by definition, a mute does take off a little of the volume, rather than just making the violin quieter, it can make the sound more mellow and add a subdued quality. Adding a mute is an excellent tool where the harmonies are complex and slow moving – or where the arranger would like a wash of strings to add a special ambiance.
A mute is a small piece of either plastic or wood which sits between the strings and the tailpiece of the instrument – it can be slid up on top of the bridge to restrict the vibration – thus creating a less piercing sound. The Italian musical term for adding a mute is ‘Con Sordino’ and the instruction ‘Senza Sordino’ means to take the mute off again.
When arranging for strings and using mutes, it’s important to allow a few seconds either side of adding or removing one so that the player has a chance to move the mute on or off.
Although it’s possible to just mute some of the instruments in the section, the effect is more striking if all the strings are muted simultaneously – this can really add interest, variety and a whole different sound to the strings.