Category Archives: Violin Improv

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.