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Thread: Absolute Silence

  1. #1
    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Absolute Silence

    I'd like to have the ability to practice some techniques in absolute silence. There are threads with suggestions for playing quietly: electric mando, rags stuffed under the strings, foam filler, felt picks.

    About 20 years ago I bought a Harmony A style at a pawn shop and would love to transition it over to a silent practice instrument. Would replacing the strings with actual "string" (cotton or whatever), accomplish this? Any other suggestions not mentioned above?

  2. #2

    Default Re: Absolute Silence

    I would think stuffing it would be best...I can’t imagine anything but real strings and a real pick giving a realistic enough feel to make practicing worthwhile.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Absolute Silence

    I'd think you need the same strings and tension practicing as you would when you want to be heard. I grew up playing a solid body guitar, unamplified so the parents didn't hear it and that's about as quiet as you'll find. One degree quieter might involve a felt mute, have to experiment with that.

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    Default Re: Absolute Silence

    I play my mandolin often with just my thumb and fingers for chords and single notes, a nice mellow sound/tone but then I don't play barn burners and strickly a couch/porch player
    Last edited by CBFrench; Apr-03-2021 at 9:32am. Reason: spelling

  5. #5
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Absolute Silence

    Quote Originally Posted by Sherry Cadenhead View Post
    I'd like to have the ability to practice some techniques in absolute silence.
    I know you probably realize that you can't possibly practice in absolute silence. Maybe just play only the rests?

    On violins you add mass to the bridge and you can try doing that to your Harmony. Even simple wood clothespins work on fiddles.

    I also looked into adding soundproofing material to my practice room. You can get some foam soundproofing online. I still don't think it would give you absolute silence.

    You could just play left hand stopping the strings but then you would have no feedback in terms of your tone.

    Perhaps you need to have a direct conversation with the complainant? Schedule your practice sessions accordingly. Making music is making sound. Eventually you have to do so.
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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Absolute Silence

    Probably the closest to a silent mandolin would be a solid top electric not plugged in but it will still make some noise but not much. If you have a friend with a solid body electric guitar mess with it a little not plugged in. That will pretty much be the same on a solid body electric mandolin. You can find them cheap on eBay. That doesn't mean they are stellar instruments but it will probably get you close to where you want to be.

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/NEW-8-strin...cAAOSw~cRe1SGe
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    Default Re: Absolute Silence

    Or there’s always this

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Absolute Silence

    You could probably damp most of the sound by weaving a thin strip of leather or paper towel between the strings, both behind the picking area near the bridge and above the picking area near the neck join. Something like the "damper" strips some players use between the bridge and tailpiece. It won't completely silence the instrument, but should get you most of the way there without affecting the normal feel of fretting and picking.

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  13. #9
    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Absolute Silence

    Quote Originally Posted by NDO View Post
    Or there’s always this

    Click image for larger version. 

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Views:	18 
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ID:	193331
    There's always a comedian in the group! Might have known it would be you, Don!

  14. #10
    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Absolute Silence

    Quote Originally Posted by Sherry Cadenhead View Post
    I'd like to have the ability to practice some techniques in absolute silence. There are threads with suggestions for playing quietly: electric mando, rags stuffed under the strings, foam filler, felt picks.

    About 20 years ago I bought a Harmony A style at a pawn shop and would love to transition it over to a silent practice instrument. Would replacing the strings with actual "string" (cotton or whatever), accomplish this? Any other suggestions not mentioned above?
    So, here's where I'm coming from. I'm able to practice an hour each day in my home office, and as loudly as I like. If you've seen me in other threads, you know I'm working on LOTS of different things, so one hour doesn't cut it very well. When I join my husband in front of the television, I'd like to work on crosspicking, strum patterns, etc., establishing muscle memory. But I must do it quietly. So, that's my story.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Absolute Silence

    1. I'd think you'd want to hear at least a faint sound, so you could tell if the techniques you're practicing will produce the sound you want when transferred to a regular (noisy) mandolin. A solid-body electric mandolin -- like this black "Johnny Cash" Mandocaster on eBay for $135 -- would be nearly noiseless when picked, and even the faint sound of its unamplified strings could be further muted with foam stuffed in front of the bridge.

    2. Doubt that replacing the steel strings with some fiber substitute would give you what you want. The "feel" of resistance to the pick would be totally different from that of "real" mandolin strings.

    3. When I was having a local luthier build me a five-course, fanned-fret mandolin/dola, he gave me a "mock-up" of the instrument he planned to build, made entirely of foam, to see if I was happy with its size and shape. (I was.) The "foam mandolin" hung around in my garage for a couple years, but I think I finally discarded it. Too bad; if I still had it, I could send it to you. Of course, it couldn't actually hold strings, but I enjoyed the concept of having a completely noiseless mandolin. Couldn't hear all my mistakes...
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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Absolute Silence

    Quote Originally Posted by Sherry Cadenhead View Post
    So, here's where I'm coming from. I'm able to practice an hour each day in my home office, and as loudly as I like. If you've seen me in other threads, you know I'm working on LOTS of different things, so one hour doesn't cut it very well. When I join my husband in front of the television, I'd like to work on crosspicking, strum patterns, etc., establishing muscle memory. But I must do it quietly. So, that's my story.
    Okay, so you're looking for dead silent playing. It's just my $.02 opinion, but I don't think dead silent picking will help your advancement as a musician. Even just for strumming, you need the aural feedback to know if you're hitting too hard or too soft. For crosspicking you need to know how accurately you're hitting the strings so the notes are clear and distinct. You can't really separate the mechanics from the sound. The sound is the feedback on how well you're using the mechanics.

    So, what about turning the situation around? Get your husband to use some Bluetooth earbuds or wireless headphones when watching TV.

  18. #13
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Absolute Silence

    Well, I have a solid-body electric mandolin. Without plugging it in, it's rather quiet, but as the player, you can still hear yourself picking on it, and know exactly what tune is being played. Yes, it's much quieter than an acoustic mandolin, but it is definitely NOT a silent instrument.

    I also have an acoustic mandolin. I can dampen its strings altogether by shoving a microfiber rag between the strings and the body. This makes it very quiet, and I can scarcely hear whatever I'm playing, but I still hear plenty of soft noises, and especially, a dull "thud" every time the pick contacts a string. You can very easily try this yourself at home and see what I mean. Nope: not "silent."

    If I were sitting on a couch next to someone playing either of these instruments, while trying to watch TV, the noise would distract me and drive me absolutely crazy.

    What the OP wants seems unreasonable to me, and it's just not feasible, at least as presented. Furthermore, as foldedpath aptly noted -- and he raised a very important point -- you require sonic feedback from your playing in order to learn! That is, you need to be able to hear if you hit the right string and depressed the right fret at exactly the right time. You need to hear your mistakes!! On top of all that, you also need to experience the mechanical resistance of the strings against your pick, and you need to build up muscle memory. A "silent" mandolin would provide none of this essential feedback. Such a thing would be well-nigh useless as a learning tool, in my opinion.

    What to do? Easiest: Just give up the boob tube, stay in your home office, and practice there. Or, as foldedpath already suggested, get some hearing protection for you spouse as he watches TV. Bluetooth earbuds or wireless headphones might work to let him listen to the TV with you sitting next to him and playing very softly, especially if he uses noise cancellation devices (expensive), and especially if usually listens to the TV at a very high volume level! Even then, though, he will hear enough of your practicing sounds bleeding through his headphones that it might become a distraction. Also, the headphone solution will not allow you to hear the TV yourself. But if you don't need to hear the TV yourself, then why not just stay in your office to practice?

    There is simply no such thing as a silent mandolin that provides a good practicing solution.

  19. #14
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    Default Re: Absolute Silence

    On the old plank, the Harmomy, try Aquila 1M mandolin strings , they are synthetic made for Baroque ensembles..
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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Absolute Silence

    I was thinking along the same lines as foldedpath - deadening the strings near the bridge - but using a rubber band or masking tape. This would blunt the sound but not affect the intonation much. Though yeah, no, it won't make them completely silent. Maybe you should just separate the activities, practicing and watching TV with husband. My experience trying to multitask the way you are suggesting indicates the quality of both suffers. It's impossible to concentrate enough on either one. So why not take a break from practicing for an hour, watch something together, and after the shared experience go back to practicing?
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    Registered User Tom Haywood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Absolute Silence

    Take the strings off. You can get some decent practice making those three finger chords and moving your left hand through the I IV V positions with them. You can even practice chop chords. A lot of the ability to play those chords comes from getting the hands and fingers stretched out and relaxed reaching those frets, and that comes from repetition. One of the most important piano lessons I got as a child was to practice the fingering without a piano. With my repair work, there is just about always a mandolin sitting around here without strings. They get "played".
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  22. #17
    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Absolute Silence

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Haywood View Post
    Take the strings off. You can get some decent practice making those three finger chords and moving your left hand through the I IV V positions with them. You can even practice chop chords. A lot of the ability to play those chords comes from getting the hands and fingers stretched out and relaxed reaching those frets, and that comes from repetition. One of the most important piano lessons I got as a child was to practice the fingering without a piano. With my repair work, there is just about always a mandolin sitting around here without strings. They get "played".
    Thanks, Tom. Looks like a good starting place.

  23. #18
    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Absolute Silence

    Removing the strings might not affect left-hand exercises. But it would affect right-hand exercises, such as the cross-picking you mentioned. Being unable to contact the strings with your pick will not help you improve your technique as much as you would with strings. You need those exact spatial reference points in order to develop your muscle memory in this area.
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  24. #19
    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Absolute Silence

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    Removing the strings might not affect left-hand exercises. But it would affect right-hand exercises, such as the cross-picking you mentioned. Being unable to contact the strings with your pick will not help you improve your technique as much as you would with strings. You need those exact spatial reference points in order to develop your muscle memory in this area.
    I had decided to try to mute the strings first, using one or more of the ways suggested. Maybe I won't need to remove the strings.

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    Default Re: Absolute Silence

    Pretty sure what you seek is called a banjo.

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    Registered User EvanElk's Avatar
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    Default Re: Absolute Silence

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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Absolute Silence

    Quote Originally Posted by Josh Levine View Post
    Pretty sure what you seek is called a banjo.
    Absolute silence with a banjo can be achieved very rarely, if at all. One method is not only removal of strings, but also skin. Then rim and neck. The most effective method of achieving silence with a banjo is burning. For the proposed exercise, that would be counterproductive.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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  30. #23

    Default Re: Absolute Silence

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    Furthermore, as foldedpath aptly noted -- and he raised a very important point -- you require sonic feedback from your playing in order to learn! That is, you need to be able to hear if you hit the right string and depressed the right fret at exactly the right time. You need to hear your mistakes!!
    In order to learn, yes. In order to maintain muscle strength, dexterity, callouses etc, no.

    I toured for years with an old Pratt Read dummy piano https://www.worthpoint.com/worthoped...-tru-135503643, and an unamplified no-headphones couldn't-hear-a-note-on-that-noisy-bus electric mandolin, and felt super-warmed-up when I got to the next gig.

    Seems to me that, musically at least, that is all that Sherry is asking for.

  31. #24

    Default Re: Absolute Silence

    Raising the *noise floor works wonders. Turn on the AC.

    *In signal theory, the noise floor is the measure of the signal created from the sum of all the noise sources and unwanted signals within a measurement system, where noise is defined as any signal other than the one being monitored — Wikipedia

  32. #25
    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Absolute Silence

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Bevan View Post
    In order to learn, yes. In order to maintain muscle strength, dexterity, callouses etc, no.

    I toured for years with an old Pratt Read dummy piano https://www.worthpoint.com/worthoped...-tru-135503643, and an unamplified no-headphones couldn't-hear-a-note-on-that-noisy-bus electric mandolin, and felt super-warmed-up when I got to the next gig.

    Seems to me that, musically at least, that is all that Sherry is asking for.
    Yeah, but ... I'm going to go, eh, just a bit out on a limb here, and guess that, as a touring musician, you were a bit further along in your musical development then than Sherry is at this point.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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