MUTE (Lat. mutus, dumb), silent or incapable of speech. For the human physical incapacity see DEAF AND DUMB. In phonetics (q.ii.) a "mute" letter is one which (like p or g) represents no individual sound. The name of "mutes" is given, for obvious reasons, to the undertaker's assistants at a funeral. In music a "mute" (Ital. sordino, from Lat. surdus, deaf) is a device for deadening the sound in an instrument by checking its vibrations. Its use is marked by the sign c.s. (con sordino), and its cessation by s.s. (senza sordino). In the case of the violin and other stringed instruments this object is attained by the use of a piece of brass, wood or ivory, so shaped as to fit on the bridge without touching the strings and hold it so tightly as to deaden or muffle the vibrations. In the case of brass wind instruments a leather, wooden or papier mache pad in the shape of a pear with a hole through it is placed in the bell of the instrument, by which the passage of the sound is impeded. The interference with the pitch of the instruments has led to the invention of elaborately constructed mutes. Players on the horn and trumpet frequently use the left hand as a mute. Drums are muted or "muffled" either by the pressure of the hand on the head, or by covering with cloth. In the side drum this is effected by the insertion of pieces of cloth between the membrane and the "snares," or by loosening the "snares." The muting of a pianoforte is obtained by the use of the soft-pedal.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)