Guitar + Violin = ?

October 12, 2009 at 03:15 AM ·

Must be some sort of midlife crisis but I suddenly find myself jonesing to play electric blues guitar.  I realize that Paganini played and wrote for guitar but I’m pretty sure maestro Nicolo could do many things I’ll never be able to.  So the question is, for us mere mortals who study and love the violin, is playing the guitar an especially bad mix in terms of habits/technique? 

Replies (24)

October 12, 2009 at 05:35 AM ·


this is a fine idea. I play both instruments, and in 30 years I found no other problem than the time - seriously playing the violin simply needs regular practising a certain time every day. Playing the electric guitar is easy, compared to the violin, but for a beginner this nevertheless means practising at least 30 minutes a day, if you want results. Solo guitarist have to master string bending and sideways vibrato, and getting this done with a clean intonation and a relaxed timing isn't too simple.

I don't know how you want to learn it, but the grandmaster of the electric guitar, Larry Carlton, has a DVD course out, and many free video lessons are on this web site (via

Good luck!

October 12, 2009 at 02:56 PM ·

Thanks Tobias, you made my day.  Larry Carlton's CD-ROM course looks fanstastic - I really appreciate the link.  I feel a little guilty about stealing time from the violin, but life is short and I've always had a thing for electric guitar, especially blues.  Methinks it's time to indulge.

October 12, 2009 at 03:25 PM ·

My husband is a good electric guitar player....violin...not so much lol. He said electric guitar is a lot easier than violin.

October 12, 2009 at 04:25 PM ·

It is.... I played bass and guitar in high school, building on my elementary school obligatory music courses. (singing and some theory). Internet just became available at that time, so I absorbed blues and jazz theory like crazy :)

October 12, 2009 at 04:28 PM ·

My mother had bad experiences learnin violin as a kid, so my inquiries of the possibility of playing violin (and any other serious instrument like piano) were turned down with a categorical no in kindergarden... :(

October 13, 2009 at 01:40 AM ·

       Ah yes, good ol' electric guitar. I played the blasted thing on and off for twenty-odd years without much semblance of success. After several bouts of going for weeks or months without playing, I finally had to admit to myself that I had fallen out of love with instrument, and I simply stopped playing. Right now I don't even own an electric, just an unplayable Yamaha dreadnaught. One of these days I may take it up again, but I doubt it'll be anytime soon.

       What kind of guitar do you want to get? You should get a big orange Gretsch! Not the 'bluesiest' of guitars of course, more like a rockabilly guitar, but they look far too awesome. 


October 13, 2009 at 02:02 AM ·

Ever since I was a sprout I've always had a special affection for the Gibson Les Paul - favored axe of Duane Allman and countless blues rock icons.  Anything else will have to be my second guitar (I predict there may be a Fender Stratocaster in my distant future).  Fun times.  Thanks for the input. 

Rock on!


October 13, 2009 at 02:41 AM ·

I play guitar and violin. Used to play electric blues, but now I just play acoustic guitar which I mostly use to lay backing tracks for my fiddle

October 13, 2009 at 08:40 AM ·


if you are looking for the best guitar, consider forgetting about those industry guitars with big names. You get the best made and best sounding guitars from small makers, and they often cost less.

For a Les Paul style guitar check, the duke model or the new unicorn (found under news). After many years of search I play a custom ordered duke, and I have never seen a better guitar.

There are many other fantastic makers, and most of them make better gibson guitars than gibson ;-)

October 13, 2009 at 10:53 AM ·

I play both, and they are both very difficult, it just depends on your goals. Electric guitar is a very new instrument compared to the violin, and unfortunately is known for being played by non musicians (see the charts...none of them can be considered seriously guitarist, since they barely know the basics). But on the other hand, the top technique in electric guitar has been already achieved by some very unknown artists like Steve Morse, Yngwie Malmsteen and Eric Johnson, these are the Paganini of the electric guitar, and playing their stuff is as difiicult as playing Paganini on a violin. Violin has got centuries behind its back, electric guitar it's got just some decades and its approach is completely different from classical guitar.

October 13, 2009 at 03:44 PM ·

@ Pold Poldi...that's what my hubby said....that most electric players don't know much and can't really play...lots of them can't even read sheet music. LOL

October 13, 2009 at 05:52 PM ·

"...lots of them can't even read sheet music. LOL"

Lots of them violin players can't even improvise. LOL

(Sorry, could't resist)

October 13, 2009 at 06:31 PM ·

@ Tobias LOL I hate it when that happens.

October 13, 2009 at 06:43 PM ·

Django Reinhardt also played (and recorded) on violin and Grappelli knew some guitar chords.

October 13, 2009 at 09:14 PM ·

 Playing both instruments shouldn't be a problem as long as you use the technique appropriate for each one.  Being a guitarist who later came to the violin it has taken me a long time to adapt my left hand position for violin.  I think it would be easier going from violin to guitar, just don't be in a hurry to be able to play difficult things at tempo.

Electric guitar can be a lot of fun and a great way to blow off steam.  Just remember that there are a few things for the left hand (bar chords, bends, slurs) that take a while to develop the strength to accomplish.  If you try to do too much too soon you could hurt yourself.  Otherwise, I think you're going to find it pretty easy once you get the hang of playing with a pick.

October 14, 2009 at 10:15 PM ·

 Thanks to all for the helpful responses.

 Tobias – Thanks for Ruokangas link – their guitars look stunning.  I elected to go with a Gibson Les Paul Studio purchased at an appreciable discount, which should serve me quite well as a first guitar.  J


Mike wrote "Electric guitar can be a lot of fun and a great way to blow off steam."  That's exactly what I'm hoping.  It's funny, I actually feel a bit guilty, as if I'm cheating on my violin (and teacher).  The truth is I have no intention of easing up on my violin study.  I enjoy practicing (I average about 2 hours per weekday/ 4 hours on weekends) but am sometimes guilty of random goofing around on the instrument instead of attacking the work that needs to be done.  It's quite possible that taking on a second instrument may make violin practice more efficient and effective.  And there's an undeniable appeal to the world of improvisation that guitar promises.  The equipment has been shipped and should arrive next week - I can't wait to get started. 

Rock on!


November 2, 2009 at 03:43 AM ·

I just bought an electric guitar myself. I've been playing the violin for about a little over 15 months now and have advanced quite nicely as well as really enjoyed it. It's definitely one of my favorite instruments. I've tried learning guitar several times in the past with limited success, but my past guitars were acoustic. I am hoping to, by employing new learning strategies I developed with the violin, learn the guitar and advance to a much better level.

My take on it is that it definitely would not be a bad thing to learn both instruments as many aspects of music can cross over to many different instruments and improving in one should help with yielding better results in the other. One thing I would like to do soon too is get into some song writing, which is something I've been wanting to do for years. :) I've done musical arrangements with the violin and the next logical step would either be music composition/songwriting, which is something that can apply to either instrument.

November 2, 2009 at 07:08 AM ·

Hey, cool maybe you can play this! :D

November 2, 2009 at 06:19 PM ·

i'm a fulltime guitarist..

The most comment mistake I see is that violinists try to approach the guitar the same way as far as hand positions, posture, movements go..... ie using the arm instead of the wrist  to strum/pick, thinking in terms of positions, etc....

Anyway, playing blues guitar is all about articulation and dynamics ... If you're a relatively accomplished violinist with good ears, you should be able to play some convincing blues within 3-5 yrs of regular practice...

Oh yes, contrary to what someone was saying (with which I respectfully disagree) , DO go for a brand name guitar, they make budget guitars (ie the Squier series from Fender, Epiphone series from Gibson, etc...) ... They'll have a MUCH better resale value than a guitar no ones ever heard of.

For blues, you can look into getting: 

A Squier stratocaster by Fender.

A Made in Mexico Stratocaster by Fender (more expensive than the squier but the quality is practically just as good as a made in USA strat which is the top of line)

etc.... good luck and have fun


November 2, 2009 at 08:18 PM ·

Yes, the brand guitars. You're not wrong when you talk about cheap instruments in the price range under 1k. I was talking about high end guitars above 4k. There's quite a difference, I think. But for a beginner, a squier guitar or something similar is ok.

November 3, 2009 at 01:21 AM ·

 Believe it or not, you CAN go wrong with certain models of the Epiphone and Fender entry level instruments.  The ones at the very bottom are pretty dreadful--as a teacher, I've seen a few of them.  Pieces seem to simply fall off of those guitars at times.  I recommend you buy a better model, used.  A Mexican Fender is typically appreciably better than the Asian ones.  And, you can find a used American Fender starting around 600.00.

There are some good Asian guitars, a little more expensive, from some other makers.  The Paul Reed Smith SE is good for the money.  The G&L Tribute line is very good.  These are in the 500.00 range new.

If you only want to spend in the 200 to 300 range I recommend a used Mexican Fender.

November 3, 2009 at 03:03 AM ·

oh yes, you can definitely get BAD brand name guitars... essentially, you generally get what you pay for!... i was just saying that brand names have better resale value....


November 3, 2009 at 10:58 PM ·

Status update:  I'm completely in love with my new guitar. I was initially concerned with intonation problems on violin while the left hand adjusted to the fretboard spacing of the guitar but haven't found it difficult to switch gears between the two. 

Dennis wrote: "If you're a relatively accomplished violinist with good ears, you should be able to play some convincing blues within 3-5 yrs of regular practice..."
I'm reasonably certain no one would use the words "accomplished violinist" in a sentence about me, but my ears are certainly better than they were 5 years ago and I would be thrilled to be able to play some "convincing" blues within 3-5 years.
In the meantime I plan to enjoy the ride.
Thanks to all for your comments.

November 18, 2009 at 09:54 PM ·

I must confess that I tried this, to add guitar teaching to my studio and my professional life.  I found it nearly impossible, and I'll tell you why.  Playing any instrument well (as probably everyone on this forum knows only too well) is enormously time consuming.  After whizzing through the first few Suzuki books and some other method books, and learning some chords -- enough (I suppose) to teach beginners, though I don't really think it's appropriate -- I found that deep and serious practice interfered with my work on the violin.  I just couldn't serve two masters.

Additionally, despite all the remarks about Paganini being a guitarist, I found that--for me--the callouses formed from serious practice on the guitar re-shaped and mal-formed the tips of my fingers in such a fashion that my violin and viola playing was affected. 

As a result, I sold most of my guitar stuff.

I'm not at all unhappy about the time I took to learn about the guitar, about jazz and about popular music.  I'm also a conductor and I find the knowledge useful.  But it's not my path.  These are very disparate fields of endeavor. 

My .02





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