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Fielding Banjo Mute

26 Mar 02 - 05:27 PM (#676860)
Subject: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: Steve Latimer

I first heard Jed Marum mention that Rick makes a wonderful banjo mute. I picked one up today. I had a different style of mute before and lost it. I have to say that I'm with Jed in endorsing this marvelous little piece of Hardware, it's much better than my old one. It installs very easily and really mutes the banjo. I've been trying to practice when herself is in bed and I've been trying to pick really lightly. With Rick's mute you can pick the hell out of it. You can still hear the banjo well, but the sound doesn't carry.

Imagine the relationships that this device can save, starting with my own.

If you're interested in one you can PM Rick.

26 Mar 02 - 06:38 PM (#676931)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: Rick Fielding

Well it saved MY marriage! Sometime mudcatter Bob Cutler helped big time with it. We were gonna market the darn thing, but for me, the "inventing" is the fun Nyahhhh.


26 Mar 02 - 06:43 PM (#676937)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: gnu

Cashing the cheque... priceless.

26 Mar 02 - 06:44 PM (#676938)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: Midchuck

Banjo mute? Why do you think they invented the 12-gauge shotgun? (Nyuck, Nyuck)


26 Mar 02 - 07:05 PM (#676959)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: Anahootz

I also make Banjo mutes...This is a picture of a stack of them, ready for shipment to loud banjo players the world over.

26 Mar 02 - 07:26 PM (#676973)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: rangeroger

Anahootz that is great!

And all this time i thought a banjo mute was the same tool one uses to tune a bhodran.

A razor knife.


26 Mar 02 - 07:30 PM (#676974)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: Steve Latimer

I just demonstrated it to herself. She loves the sound it produces when the mute is on (yeah, yeah I know).

Naysayers and Banjo haters, take your best shot, but it has a beautiful, soft tone with the mute on. I think some of you might actually find yourself liking the sound of a banjo.

26 Mar 02 - 09:29 PM (#677076)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: Charcloth

Where can I order one

26 Mar 02 - 10:20 PM (#677098)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: Steve Latimer


PM Rick.

26 Mar 02 - 10:23 PM (#677101)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: Rick Fielding

Anahootz, that is priceless! Jeesus, the money I could have saved on brass....and all that milling and shit!


26 Mar 02 - 10:28 PM (#677103)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: dick greenhaus

Back in the prehistoric days of calfskin heads, a wet sponge did wonders. And I've met banjo players whose only reason for carrying a change of underwear was to have something to stuff in behind the head.

26 Mar 02 - 10:34 PM (#677105)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: Steve Latimer

I demonstrated it to another picker tonight and he was quite impressed. He said that unlike the clip on ones this won't knock it out of tune.

26 Mar 02 - 10:40 PM (#677108)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: Rick Fielding

And Dick...don't forget that in the old days when ANOTHER change of underwear was needed.....a wet sponge and calfskin head could really fill the bill.

Damn it I remember when Earl Scruggs had too much to drink one night and played Foggy Mountain breakdown on his THAT was folkmusic!

26 Mar 02 - 10:42 PM (#677109)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: Steve Latimer


I've never tried the wet sponge, but I have taken the resonator off and I've tried sliding one of those cheap cloth and plastic capos under the strings near the bridge, at tip I got at a Banjo Hangout link. It helped to mute it a bit, but it knocked it out of tune.

27 Mar 02 - 12:35 AM (#677151)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: Knitpick

I can't see the damn thing, so can someone describe how it works? I've seen various ones over the years, and think I still have one or two wooden ones which wedge down on the bridge (with cutouts for the strings, of course). Something approaching the gizmo fiddlers use (a wire contraption with a bit of rubber tubing that, when needed, is slid up over the top of the bridge, and when not needed, is slid back down the strings behind the bridge) is what I'd envision. I've used pinch clothes pins on the bridge feet, and the solid brass bridge someone made me once is a very effective mute, though it isn't "quick-change" in the least.

So, a description, please.

Bob Clayton
(posting on Jennifer's dime).

27 Mar 02 - 12:58 AM (#677160)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: Anahootz

Ok, Bob, the Mute that I make is really easy to use. Take your banjo out of the case and lay it on a hard surface. Take the mute firmly between two hands, and raise it above your head. Try to aim for the bridge on the downstroke, as it is sort of the "nexus" of banjo evil...Most times, the mute only needs to be applied once, but for good, solid, American-made banjos, sometimes a second application is needed.

As for what it looks like, I'll try to send it, but it might come out here goes nothin'

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27 Mar 02 - 07:43 AM (#677269)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: Steve Latimer


This is a solid brass bar with two sort of hooks and a couple of thumbscrews. The hooks go through openings of the bridge, the bar lays on top of the bridge and you tighten it up with the thumbscrews. I practiced for about 40 minutes last night and didn't disturb anyone who was sleeping.

27 Mar 02 - 10:14 AM (#677360)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: SharonA

Oh, my gawd, you scared me! I was afraid this was an obit for Rick!!! (I interpreted the thread title as: Fielding's banjo is mute because he's not with us anymore...) Jeez, what a relief to find out it's about THE Fielding Banjo Mute! *whew*

27 Mar 02 - 10:24 AM (#677372)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: Steve Latimer

Nope, He's alive and well and pickin' up a storm. I don't know how he's feeling after the Curry I brought him yesterday, but I'm sure he's survived it.

27 Mar 02 - 12:38 PM (#677453)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: Rick Fielding

I love this! Two good belly laughs from a technical thread! Thanks Sharon.

Actually the Roti that Steve brought over yesterday IS still in place.....somewhere between my esophagus and spleen. A gastronomical gift that just keeps giving.

Steve has written me a couple of good PMs asking why I haven't patented the mute and tried to market I thought I might respond here. I certainly appreciate that folks really have liked the device over the last couple of years, and that it flat out works. ...but...

Bob (who helped putting these things together) and I DID go to a patent office (at his suggestion). The cost would have been prohibitive (over 10,000) and it was pointed out that we'd only be protected if we DID go to court to try and prevent someone else from marketing the thing EXACTLY as we made it. I've also spoken extensively with Rick Shubb (THE great capo inventor) and he told me that despite having a serious company and all the paperwork done..his idea is CONSTANTLY being pirated. Simply put...if you've got a good idea that someone else can market more cheaply...they will....and get away with it. Go to ANY "Everything for a Buck" store in North America and you'll see nothing BUT good little inventions selling for a fraction of what 'the real thing' costs in specialty stores.

But there's another reason why I would never want to take this any further than keeping a few in my case and selling them to anyone interested...usually at a Festival or club, or to a student with babies who are trying to sleep while daddy or mommy practices. I simply chose (about 15 years ago) to never submit to un-needed and self-imposed stress again...even when it means I might lose some money. That means being highly self-indulgent on a daily basis. If I went into the "mute marketing" business seriously, I'd have to cut out some of my "music playing", Mudcat-hobbying, Leather-carving, and teaching. These things bring me enough dough to survive on and are generally stress-free fun. If I had to deal with Lawyers or distributors as part of my daily routine...I'd be back in the emotional soup I left almost twenty years ago...and I'd be even less able to deal with it now, than I was then.

By the way Steve, I may have given you the prototype by accident. It doesn't really matter but the rest are much better cosmetically. I'll trade you when I next see you get the neat little package with the banjo logo that says 'Fielding/Cutler improved banjo mute'.



27 Mar 02 - 01:26 PM (#677483)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: Steve Latimer


Maybe I'll just keep the Prototype and donate it to the Smithsonian when I no longer need it. Perhaps you can bottle a few Tony's Roti belches and we'll add it to their Fielding display. Perhaps you can donate your four music stand table while you're at it.

I'm surprised that the patent costs would be so much. You'd have to sell an awful lot of mutes to cover that. However, I'm sure that you could get these fees covered by "Spouses of Banjo Players Anonymous".

I'll just keep on showing mine to people and telling them where to get one.

I'll swap for a packaged one when I see you next. That will be sooner than usual, Karen is already missing the Kitchen Syncopators CD.

27 Mar 02 - 02:07 PM (#677522)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: Fortunato

Ah, the Fielding Banjo Mute.

That's the jacket with the extra long arms that tie in the back?

"Lets see you play "Rocky Top" now, Houdini!"

27 Mar 02 - 02:59 PM (#677556)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: GUEST,Al

I propose federal legislation requiring that all banjos manufactured or sold in the U.S. be supplied with a permanently mounted mute. Should be good for the mute making industry. Rick, you could retire early. Al

27 Mar 02 - 08:08 PM (#677739)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: Marion

Rick, your 12:38 post reminded me of a poster I've made (actually, the one I gave you a copy of - you too, Willie-O, if you're reading this thread). Some of my friends tell me that I should be making a more polished version of it and trying to sell it. One guy seems to nag me about it every time we talk.

But I'm not willing to undertake the risk and bother of seriously marketing the things - giving them away to my friends is more my kind of business plan. So I finally told this guy that if HE wanted to be my publisher, he had my blessing. He can redo it nicer and make copies and figure out how to sell them, and give me a modest royalty if they sell. So now when we talk he goes on and on about how he should do this someday rather than how I should do this someday, which I figure is a step in the right direction.

My point - actually I have two - is that maybe you could tell Steve, or anyone else who seems to feel that banjo mutes are the next boom industry, that if they're willing to do the annoying business stuff, you'll sell them the design. My other point is to ask how those illustrations are coming along. Maybe we can get you a royalty too on my poster sales.

Oh, and Sharon - maybe we need a new thread prefix, DFY (for Dinna Fash Yeself) to be used when a thread title mentions a Mudcatter's name, so everyone doesn't automatically assume that the person is dead. You think?


28 Mar 02 - 09:32 AM (#678073)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: JedMarum

You know I actually love the sound this thing creates - not just the mute effect! Since my banjo has a pick-up I've been able to play with the muted banjo through the system and fool with it, as if it were an electronic effect; fascinating results!

I haven't used it yet, on-stage - but I were Bella Fleck ...

28 Mar 02 - 11:12 AM (#678185)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: Uncle_DaveO

Actually there are two mutes you can make yourself, that cost little or nothing, and do a good job.

You know those flexible-magnet refrigerator-door stickies? Black on one side and often an advertisement printed on the other? Get some of that stuff--with or without advertisement. Cut two strips, about 3/4 inch by a little (say a quarter inch) longer than the width of the strings just tailpiece-ward of the bridge. Put one strip under the strings in that location, black side up, and one on top, black side down. They hold each other in place and mute the banjo admirably.

Alternative approach: Cut similar-sized strips of Velcro, one from the pile and one from the hooks. Put one under the strings, the other to meet it on top of the strings. This also does the job.

Price? Cheap to free, depending on your source of material.

Efficacy? Pretty good.

Dave Oesterreich

28 Mar 02 - 11:29 AM (#678216)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: Steve Latimer

Jed, they sure pretty up the sound, don't they? I'd love to hear the "effects".

Dave, I guess the only problem that I see with that is that you have to re-tune and probably reset the bridge everytime you wish to install or remove it. I use the mute when I don't want to disturb anyone, but when they're not there I want to play unmuted. Rick's can be added or removed in no more than five seconds.

28 Mar 02 - 06:04 PM (#678530)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: Mark Ross

Try using a couple of clothespins on either side of the bridge. This works on fiddle and mandolin also.

Mark Ross

28 Mar 02 - 06:39 PM (#678567)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: Rick Fielding

You can always just stuff Kleenex under the bridge, if you wanna cut the sound down to nuthin'. I did that for years. What I was after with the mute I put together was an actual clarity of tone....but much quieter....sort of dulcimer like. Went through several thicknesses of brass to get a timbre I liked.

Another good trick is a chunk of foam rubber, and don't forget Pete's advice from his book for an OPEN back banjo...a diaper!


28 Mar 02 - 09:26 PM (#678666)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute

Hi Rick,

Since having the bad taste to make numerous banjos under the name 'Mount Lebanon Banjo Company', I've been doing community service ever since in an attempt to rehabilitate myself. I'd love to have one of your mutes, too. That way my addiction would be obvious to fewer people in my vicinity.

Thanks, Ray Frank

29 Mar 02 - 01:03 AM (#678777)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: JedMarum

a diaper's not a bad idea ... used it years ago when the kids were small. I found out clean, dry ones work best.

20 Oct 02 - 01:04 PM (#807272)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: Steve Latimer

Rick now has pictures and information on his Website.

20 Oct 02 - 01:07 PM (#807273)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: DonMeixner

I own and endorse the Rick Fielding Banjo Mute. It makes my life a little better around practice time.


20 Oct 02 - 01:57 PM (#807292)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: X

Now that I've seen it I guess I'm going to have to get one.

20 Oct 02 - 03:36 PM (#807323)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: John Hardly

wow. imagine a world of banjo players that I (as a guitar player) can duet with...
...and still be heard.

Sweet dreams tonight.

21 Oct 02 - 06:07 AM (#807644)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: banjoman

I bought a Rolif banjo mute about 20 years ago & it has adorned every banjo I've had from a windsor - Vega- Deering- Gold Tone plus a few of dubious make. It is simply two stainless steel bars with a bit of green felt stuck on and two knurled bolts that go through both passing thro the strings behind the bridge- Instantly variable from full tone to total mute just by sliding it up & down the strings - I was told that these are no longer made, but anyone with basic DIY skills could knock something similar up in no time at all. It also looks pretty good as it is very highly polished.

21 Oct 02 - 09:51 AM (#807737)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: Mr Red

In the UK we have health and safety legislation which includes annoying noises - could we apply for a gov subsidy?

Mr Red - who "uses" a bodhran with no neck and a lot of brass (bold as).

21 Oct 02 - 12:12 PM (#807854)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: GUEST,Arnie

The muted plinky plunk beats full blown boing twnag any time - don't you think?

22 Oct 02 - 03:46 AM (#808321)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: Roger the Skiffler

Rick, if you invent a kazoo & washboard mute the world will beat a path to your door with my lovely wife elbowing everyone out of the way to be first in line!

02 Jul 04 - 11:05 AM (#1218384)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: Jeri

Rick ran out of these. Heather's got some more in, in case anybody who didn't get one before still wants one. The web page for the mutes is at

There are pictures AND mp3 sound samples.

02 Jul 04 - 01:36 PM (#1218490)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: katlaughing

Not having ever needed one, I'd not heard the examples, Jeri. Thanks for the reminder about these and the link. It does a great job, as expected. If my dad was still playing, I'd buy him one.


02 Jul 04 - 04:09 PM (#1218566)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: Once Famous

Muting a banjo is a tragedy.

Why mute something so perfect, so cheerful.

I've never seen a bluegrass banjoist mute a banjo.

Play it loud. taking the ring out a banjo is just so..............folky. Yecchh!

07 Jul 04 - 10:23 PM (#1221063)
Subject: RE: Fielding Banjo Mute
From: Steve Latimer

I just got mine back. I'm off to Woodshed!!!