Author Archives: elancan

Improv Rhythm

More than a Steady Beat

Subdividing the beat is basic to all music, whether legit or improv.If you haven’t mastered this ability, here is a very basic overview of dividing a beat into two, three, or four micro-beats.

You may have noticed in the video that the Ultimate Metronome is no longer available. It was a good software product with some interesting bells and whistles. But, online metronomes are now so widely available that it could not hold its own as a marketable item.

In my music teaching I use a metronome app on my iPad. In my home studio I often use my Wittner metronome. It has the great advantage of not needing batteries or an adapter.

The short answer is, an metronome can work if you get used to it by practice.

Subdividing into four is a necessary step to mastering the dotted rhythm. Suzuki introduces this rhythm in the May Song of book 1. Legit music, classical music, serious music and any music that fits into a category of the kind that begins on a music stand, all use the dotted rhythm extensively.

In folk fiddling it may not be so prominent. So much is played with a swing feel that the dotted rhythm gets rounded off into a triplet. But the situation is optional. As an improviser you can jolly well do whatever you want.

Violin Improv in Folk Music

Violin Improv–Can Anyone Learn How to Improvise?

At first, violin improvisation may seem mysterious and unattainable. But, really it isn’t. The key to getting started as an improviser is to choose a style. Then, find the easiest pathway to that style.

Some easy choices could be folk music, blues, rock or yoga music. A tough choice would be jazz. That has a much longer pathway to success. If you like jazz, you may as well start with blues. It’s a good stepping stone on the way to playing almost any jazz style.

This writer, and violinist is best acquainted with folk and blues improv. Included in folk would be bluegrass, Irish fiddling, and old time fiddling. The improv is limited in these genres. From folk the opportunity to really stretch out and play some improvised lines shows up in “hillbilly jazz.” Or, “cracker jazz” as it’s called in Florida.

Let’s take folk music as a launching vehicle for our improv learning program. There are two elements that can help out right from the beginning.

One, learn to play the simple folk song melodies by ear. Choose some that you may have heard from childhood. “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain” is a good example. Or, “Red River Valley.” Or, “I’ve Been Workin on the Railroad.”

Another source of folk songs are the Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger classics like, “This Land Is Your Land.”

The other element is more intellectual. You rely on the knowledge of music theory to develop improv licks. These short improvised figures can be applied to many tunes and songs. Your choice is driven mainly by your taste.

One example of a repository of hot licks can be found in the performance of the Orange Blossom Special. The video of Vassar Clements and a number of young fiddlers shows how this is done.

Violin Improv–Can Anyone Learn How to Improvise?

At first, violin improvisation may seem mysterious and unattainable. But, really it isn’t. The key to getting started as an improviser is to choose a style. Then, find the easiest pathway to that style.

Some easy choices could be folk music, blues, rock or yoga music. A tough choice would be jazz. That has a much longer pathway to success. If you like jazz, you may as well start with blues. It’s a good stepping stone on the way to playing almost any jazz style.

This writer, and violinist is best acquainted with folk and blues improv. Included in folk would be bluegrass, Irish fiddling, and old time fiddling. The improv is limited in these genres. From folk the opportunity to really stretch out and play some improvised lines shows up in “hillbilly jazz.” Or, “cracker jazz” as it’s called in Florida.

Let’s take folk music as a launching vehicle for our improv learning program. There are two elements that can help out right from the beginning.

One, learn to play the simple folk song melodies by ear. Choose some that you may have heard from childhood. “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain” is a good example. Or, “Red River Valley.” Or, “I’ve Been Workin on the Railroad.”

Another source of folk songs are the Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger classics like, “This Land Is Your Land.”

The other element is more intellectual. You rely on the knowledge of music theory to develop improv licks. These short improvised figures can be applied to many tunes and songs. Your choice is driven mainly by your taste.

One example of a repository of hot licks can be found in the performance of the Orange Blossom Special. The video of Vassar Clements and a number of young fiddlers shows how this is done.

To learn more about playing this tune, if you are a fiddler, try the website dedicated to the National Anthem of Fiddle Players, as Vassar calls it.