V.com weekend vote: Do you play non-classical violin?

July 7, 2018, 3:22 PM · With so much wonderful music written for classical violinists, violists and string players, many of us spend most of our lives training in and performing classical music.

But there are so many kinds of music that one can play, as a violinist! There is bluegrass and fiddle; jazz; rock 'n' roll; hip-hop and popular music; klezmer; Celtic; Indian classical -- the list goes on and on.

violin genres

Some people begin in a non-classical genre, such as fiddle music, and then remain in that field. For those that start in Western classical music and wish to play another genre, this can be a humbling adventure. In our interview this week with Tessa Lark, she made an astute observation about exploring new genres of music:

"You have to throw yourself into uncomfortable situations to get to know a different style of music, especially if you have become fluent in another style," she said. "And it gets harder and harder, the older you get, to put your ego to the side and jump in and -- to be bad at something! in order to improve."

Last year I went to Creative Strings Workshop with Christian Howes (in fact, this year's workshop is just wrapping up in Columbus, Ohio). I found myself in plenty of unfamiliar situations, trying to read jazz charts, improvise to pop music.

I'd need a lot more practice to get comfortable or good at playing in any of those genres, but it gave me the idea that there is just so much music waiting to be explored.

Do you play non-classical violin? Do you wish that you did? If so, what genre of music do you play, and how did you get started with it? How did you get good at it? If you could explore another genre, what would it be? Or perhaps you are a classical musician who is happy to stick with classical? Please participate in the vote and then share your thoughts about playing non-classical music on the violin.

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Replies

July 7, 2018 at 09:11 PM · Hymnody which has some classical roots but in the newer hymnals its mostly modern tunes. Also some themes from films, some popular music,... an eclectic mix.

I also play "classical" music but mostly duets.

July 7, 2018 at 10:51 PM · For me it is Irish and English folk music, almost exclusively that intended for dancing. The number of Irish dance tunes out there runs into 5 figures, likewise Scottish tunes (but I don't play many of them). English tunes are a lesser number, running into a mere (!) 4 figures; I've been told the reason for this was that a lot of native English folk music was lost in centuries gone by due to the Puritans and others clamping down on folk music, especially music for dancing which was deemed sinful.

See www.thesession.org for a fairly comprehensive list of Irish tunes.

July 8, 2018 at 01:07 AM · I play fiddle in a bluegrass band. We mix it up with some gypsy jazz, swing standards, blues and original songs. I also play Celtic with another bunch of pickers.

July 8, 2018 at 02:43 AM · Our string quartet, Zene Strings, is known for its large repertoire of pop and other non-classical favorites. We've played Anime (video game) selections, lots of soft rock and pop favorites, show tunes -- you name it! Music needs to speak to the listeners, and we do all that we can to draw them in and love what they are hearing!

July 8, 2018 at 03:59 AM · In addition to classical, I play bluegrass, celtic-mostly Scottish, have done improv, swing, looking forward to learning Klezmer this summer, - some "pops"- music - as long as it is good music of its kind.

July 8, 2018 at 04:04 AM · I'm a fiddler first (both American and West Irish traditions), and have in the last five years dived into the Bach solo violin music, so I've sort of gone in the opposite direction from most of you. A pet peeve-- I would vote for a moratorium on the term "Celtic" fiddle. There is no style called "Celtic." You either play one of the varieties of Irish traditional fiddling, Scottish, Cape Breton, etc., or you don't. People who play "Celtic" fiddle are just reading tunes out of books. I mean, do that if you like, but don't confuse it with actually respecting, understanding, and playing within an actual tradition. Thus endeth the rant.

July 8, 2018 at 04:12 AM · My yes is really "some". In addition to classical I'm in a klezmer band on the side.

July 8, 2018 at 06:15 AM · Yes!!!! Play most Concert violin major Concerti, Sonata's for Violin/Piano, more contemporary works, Cadenza's of one's own, (some recorded & accepted by serious classical/ forward to 21st Century composer's & a touch Stravinskian) plus strummed chording without the Bow on new frontier's of Violin-pizz ~ (Deliberately vague until a recording of first Award winning piece is brought out on CD/DVD for online transmission, and far from strictly Solo Violin repertoire yet Fun!)

It is very important to experiment once one knows the major violin repertoire to renew curiosity, will to improve & invent, but as my mentor said, "Pupil's, there are No Shortcuts "(Heifetz quote) My 'other' mentor greatly encouraged "experimentation on the violin", doing so throughout an 8 decade global Concert performing/recording career! And most importantly, delve into spiritual music of Masters ~ Bach, Brahms, Mozart, Faure, Verdi, & Catholic 'Litany of Saints' Vatican version w/ Organ harmony so poignant it tears the heart out & reaches Heaven's emotions) ~

Too lengthy, I'll leave off to Log In, which I forgot to do, and will now sign my name in case this might be lost ~

A great Question for this Week end Vote, I remain ~

Yours musically from the U S of A,

Elisabeth Matesky *

July 8, 2018 at 06:24 AM · Re: Week end Vote / Subject ~

I had forgotten to Log In & posted a few comments which may have been deleted but hope to see with a number identification above as I quote my violin mentor, Jascha Heifetz, which adds

more authenticity to my post of a little bit ago ~

Thank you for posting my numbered Post of about 25 - 30 minutes ago!

Elisabeth Matesky *

*Original pupil of Jascha Heifetz Violin Master Class, USC -

Khachaturian, JH-7, Elisabeth Matesky (Russian version,

Library of Congress Master Performers) on YouTube

* Violinist.com Biography www.linkedin.com/Profile, EM ~

www.slippeddisc.com (Norman Lebrecht, London based)

July 8, 2018 at 09:16 AM · If you are a freelancer you will play anything for money. When I was that variety of musician in NYC, I played broadway shows like Annie, Phantom of the Opera, a caberet show with Peggy Lee (It was really interesting when she asked the synthesizer player what instrument he was playing and she said, "Unplug it!) ; recorded Hassidic rock and roll for radio Israel (quite a sight to see the recording engineers with the black hats, beards and curls); Thomy A latin rock opera (in Carnegie hall); jingles like the one for Folgers flaked coffe that paid over $1000 in residuals for 30 min. of work; mov.ie soundtracks; and the list goes on, and on.

July 8, 2018 at 06:09 PM · I played lead violin for several Broadway musical shows, starting in high school. Beyond that, I haven't performed in other genres besides classical, although I have done a bit of Irish fiddle on my own time. It's a type of music I've always liked hearing. I'm a fan of country music, too, although I don't recall any particular specimen of it that I've tried playing.

July 8, 2018 at 10:02 PM · In 2012, I ventured into rock/fiddle after Adam DeGraff invited all amateur violinists to enter The Rockin' Fiddle Contest here on V.com. I had a blast learning his arrangement of Journey's Don't Stop Believin' for solo violin (but I have to admit, I never quite mastered the "chop"!). I spent the next two years experimenting with amps, pickups and loopers.

Here is me impersonating David Garrett. I like his classical stuff as well!

July 9, 2018 at 03:02 AM · I have only just started to play voils and have not yet decided whetherviola or violin is for me and now i read in your posts all the different types of music there is out there so i am hoping that if ilearn classical well enough the others should not be to hard john a

July 9, 2018 at 12:26 PM · Occasionally I have tried my hand at improvising with jazz players, but mainly for me it's the range of Christian worship or proclamation music, including Phrygian Mode West Asian worship music.

July 9, 2018 at 01:55 PM · I've only been playing for 14 months, therefore, I can't say I've landed into any particular style or genre with enough confidence and experience to go one way or the other. I just dive into whatever my teacher feels I should be learning, since proper technique and correct intonation seem to be the primary focus of the work at this stage. Right now, it's all challenging and fun.

July 10, 2018 at 04:56 AM · In the past I spent serious time playing Scottish fiddle (with a few other countries' fiddle) music and Klezmer. But my current group plays all classical and I don't have time to do any other.

July 10, 2018 at 05:08 AM · I just reread the "Black Violin" article in Laurie's list, and was astounded at the comment I had written after reading it the first time. The first time, I was reading it as a violist. The second time I read it, I was coming at it from the viewpoint of a mother who sat through many dance performances at my daughter's high school last year. My daughter participated in a pretty intensive modern dance program where some of the students got to choreograph dances set to all kinds of popular music, including hip hop. It was the dance analogue to what Laurie's interviewees were describing: take a basis of classical dance and apply it to all different popular music styles.

July 10, 2018 at 03:15 PM · I only play non-classical when I'm playing in a pit orchestra. My school has a musical every year, and the pit orchestra is the only place that I play non-classical music. Besides that, I only play classical.

July 10, 2018 at 11:14 PM · I've tried fiddle music before. The music school I attend offers fiddle classes. I took all three levels but got bored of the classes so I stopped. Non-clssical violin is really fun, and I love to improvise. I've played at campfire sing-alongs and I've recently started playing in our church band. I hope the band lasts long. I love non-classical violin playing, but I just find it hard to get my hands on playing opportunities.

July 12, 2018 at 10:37 PM · I play bluegrass fiddle, although occasionally we'll veer off into '40s swing or even a bit of Antonio Carlos Jobim. It's all improvised - when my turn comes I might have an opening lick chosen, but after that I have no idea what I'm going to play. Something good usually comes out, though.

Many bluegrassers - and I play with some good ones - can't read sheet music at all.

Q: How do you stop a classical musician from playing?

A: Take away his sheet music.

Q: How do you stop a bluegrasser from playing?

A: Put sheet music in front of him.

Occasionally I'll bring my viola to a bluegrass jam. That turns some heads.

July 14, 2018 at 03:40 AM · I have a jazz trio with a guitarist and a percussionist.

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