How to play Thrash Metal on violin? Please share your techniques?

January 18, 2010 at 09:17 PM ·

Can a 4-string fiddle be used to chug low-down and heavy thrash metal riffs?

What do you think?

Hi everyone, I did a little experiment. hahaha. 

Please click here to watch it on Youtube


Any there any other violinists / bowed-string players who have tried distortion effects? 

Most of the shops in Singapore that sell distortion pedals usually only cater to guitar players' needs. 

The main problem is: most of the guitar distortion pedals in the market only work well if the player strikes / twangs the strings. The distortion effects don't sound good if the string is bowed; too much sustain and too little twang.

I need to find a distortion pedal that is modded/calibrated for bowed strings. hahaha. 

Can someone please share bow hold or bowing techniques for playing heavy metal / thrash metal / heavy blues / rock music? I am trying to hold the bow the so-called wrong way (on the stick away from the frog just like a fiddler) but it isn't yielding the results that are effective enough for playing thrash metal. 

I have also tried using the Coda Joule carbon bow, but it's not really working for pulling low octave baritone strings. Hmmm... maybe it's just me. Or maybe I should buy a cello bow instead. hahaha

Please feel free to comment. (-:

Any comments from anyone would be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much!


(from Singapore)


Replies (20)

January 18, 2010 at 11:17 PM ·

Interesting, who knew you could make a violin sound just guitar a guitar?

Firstly, Wow! It sounds just like a guitar, but, whats the point? I suppose it gives the violinist something to do during the song, but if that were the main use I were putting it to I would prefer a guitar for that sort of thing..The violin lends itself more naturally to melodic passages. Admitted, a riff is just a short, repeated melodic/rythmic passage, but the violin is also  a soprano instrument. Yes, you can use effects to lower it but why fight nature?

Secondly, using distortion to get sustain for guitar solos (i know, that's not what  you're proposing-see point #1) makes the guitar sound like a violin, so if that's the sound one wanted out of a violin, he's already got it!

By the way, have you seen this?

Having said all that, it really is quite interesting.

January 19, 2010 at 02:11 PM ·

Hi David

Thanks for your very kind comments. And thanks for enduring my horrible noisy video. (-:

Actually, I was inspired to try things out in the Metal genre after listening to Miss Pine's podcast on iTunes last year! hahaha. (-:

I was also very inspired by these gentlemen violinists:

Earl Maneein of Resolution 15

Mark Woods (the world's finest and most awesome rock violinist and greatest electric violin maker)

I guess I wasn't really striving to make the violin sound like a guitar. I was trying to make the violin sound "evil" and "disturbing" -- just like what Miss Pine was doing in her video -- the qualities which metal fans measure the noise/music that they enjoy so much. LOL (-:

One of the easiest ways to do that just happens to involve the use of distortion pedals. Unfortunately, almost no manufacturer make distortion effects pedals exclusively for violins, so I was forced to explore the use of guitar pedals (except for Mark Woods' violin amplifier which has a distortion channel that goes to 11!).

Every night, I play Suzuki songs together with my 4 year old daughter (I sent her for Suzuki lessons since she was 3), so I do enjoy listening to the classical, jazz, blues and even bluegrass music of violins.

That said, I don't think my daughter is going to be another Midori or Rachel Barton Pine or Vanessa Mae or Bond. Her teacher has already remarked that she is not talented. LOL. So, if she cannot pursue the path of a classical violinist, I'd still encourage her to enjoy making music on the electric violin / fiddle in the metal / rock / blues genres. LOL

Perhaps what drives me to insist on using the violin / fiddle to play noisy loud metal riffs is the love for the violin itself (something that we can all identify with). haha. LOL.

Take care now! Happy fiddling! (-:




January 19, 2010 at 02:15 PM ·

Rachel Barton Pine can answer all your questions.  She is on Facebook and also has an Artist page there.  She is in Finland for the next week or so and probably won't be able to respond to you until next week.

January 19, 2010 at 05:12 PM ·

Thanks Roland!

Happy fiddling! (-:



January 21, 2010 at 11:26 AM ·

 Another thing : maybe you should find another teacher for your daughter? It sounds judgmental to me to call a 4year old "not talented."  Maybe she is not interested, that could be because the teacher does not have the ability to awaken the love for music in her.

January 21, 2010 at 02:17 PM ·

 check out

the ultimate rock fiddler  starts his work at 4:00 min in
the tricks for acoustic rock violin

January 22, 2010 at 01:41 AM ·

Thanks for the links Charles! (-:

January 22, 2010 at 02:08 AM ·

Hi Sara

Thanks for your comments.

Interestingly, I have never considered changing my daughter's violin teacher just because she is criticized every week. LOL. Maybe that's because her teacher also constantly criticizes the other children in her group -- about their bowing technique and posture. He will only accept nothing but absolute perfection. LOL (-:

He is supposed to be one of the top Suzuki method violin teachers in Singapore. haha. So far, he has produced many skilled young violinists who can win competitions in Singapore. It's more of an Asian style of teaching I guess..... strict and regimental -- like the China Olympic style of training little children. They are looking for the best. The weaker ones can just quit.

Admittedly, there are also many more children who have dropped out and quit violin.

Strangely, I do like the violin teacher's attitude, because he is not treating the little children as hobbists. He regards them as little career violinists-in-training. That's why it's such serious business. LOL

So, I told my daughter to be thick-skinned and continue to bring her there every week. I don't hope that she will become a career violinist. I just hope that she can learn a skill that she can use and enjoy for the rest of her life. (-:

Every night, I would reward my daughter with some little snacks or ice cream or let her play some video games on the Wii after she completes playing at least 10 times (of any song) on her violin. She can now read Suzuki tablature and learn to play new songs on her own after a year of playing just Twinkle twinkle little star. hahaha. (-:

I do try to awaken the love of the violin in my daughter by letting her watch DVDs of Midori and Bond performing. She told me she likes Midori but she likes Bond more. LOL. (-:

Maybe I'd try to find her some Vanessa Mae DVDs. LOL (-:



January 23, 2010 at 01:43 PM ·


 Hello again!

I too think that it need not be a bad thing to be criticized if it is done in a respectful way, i.e. concretely "you are holding the bow too tightly",  and with the intention to help. Then again people, even young children, are different and some students go better with some teachers.

Obviously I do not know your daughter´s teacher  and his teaching methods, nor what he is like when with his students. Hopefully he has not told your daughter she is "not talented."

As long as your daughter is enjoying playing her violin and feels good about it, then there is no problem. I just got concerned that she would be getting feelings of not being good enough, if the teacher lets that attitude show in class.

You can probably help by telling her how good she is when she is making progress and how much you trust her ability to keep getting better, I am sure you already do that!  Positive feedback and positive expectations transforms people and helps them grow. There are scientific studies of this, though I have forgotten where I read it.

I believe talent is to great extent INTEREST in what you are doing, to pay close attention and be faschinated by your subject, be it playing the violin or mathematics or cooking... 

Good luck to your little girl. It is wonderful that you are giving her the chance to learn an instrument to enjoy!

January 23, 2010 at 01:51 PM ·

 About your initial question, sometimes the worse quality pedals for guitar that noone wants work better for a violin. And if you want to play heavy metal, think a good fiddler sound, not classical sound, i.e. straight tone without vibrato and heavy, almost scratchy bowing but not  pull the bow too fast. Though it sounded like you already had a good heavy metal sound in the video! 

January 23, 2010 at 03:08 PM ·

One thing that's overlooked is to have a good amp. Unfortunately, good amp always have a big loud sound (and doesn't mean it's noisy!).

Very often a lot of the signature sound of particular genre is determined by the amp. Different amp give different "driving" sound. A lot of very nice sound on metal tracks are done by recording a big amp with a mic.

Fortunately, there're some fantastic amp modeling in the computer software region, which is by far out perform most of the hardware amp modeling (Pod XT, Roland GT-10 etc etc) which also known as "multi FX unit". For example, check out "Revalver MkIII" by Peavey.

January 23, 2010 at 05:50 PM ·

about original posting--

I've gotten a lot of mileage on amplified violin and viola with a sul ponticello stroke that is very steady and extra long and heavy in the bow stroke--  I often demonstrate it in lessons kicking out a heavy-metal like passage, PRETENDING that I'm stomping on a distortion pedal.  Meanwhile, I'm playing acoustic, no amp, no cords, no pedals, and yet the sound is TRANSFORMED and gutsy when I stomp (the floor).  I've consistently lit up faces and usu. get agreement with this move, that, yes, it sounds like a distortion pedal. 

My bow is my distortion pedal.  No batteries dying, no extra cords, utterly dependable, instant, and controllable--  runs good !

It takes some practice !  It's not quite the classical sul ponticello sound--  it's just a little further off the bridge, heavier, grainier, and more solid.  Even acoustically, it's cool.  Through an amp with just a little bit of messiness [which is how I  like to set it--  I don't aim for perfect acoustic sound when amplified--  I mean, I have reverb and distortion and 'bright' up about 15 or 20%, around 2 out of 10 (or 11), it's awesome].   Actually a good exercise for steadiness in weight and speed and soundpoint throughout a long, sweeping bow stroke, and with the slightest adjustments you have lovely, big, warm general good tone--  another reason I show this to students and encourage them to try:  it's fun, it's cool, and they're actually gaining better bow control for good tone as well as  for the good 'distortion' sound, maybe without even realizing it.

Just for context, I don't aspire to heavy metal or thrash style in my playing, but I was mosh pit punk back in high school in the '80's, and I do / have done a decent amount of mad-free improv, wherein I usually like to maximize my range of expression in an event from the most sweet and lyrical bowed string stereotype all the way to pretty dang aggressive, aggressive enough to slap the drums and saxophones back !!   

btw, I love earplugs--  I love my hearing--  I've had a great time lately with the HEAROS designed for more equal frequency response (they really do have that !) and only maybe 10 or 12 dB avg. attenuation, as opposed to the lose-yourself-and-all-treble, everything down 28 dB foam rubber things....


January 27, 2010 at 02:50 PM ·

Hi everyone,

I've posted another video on youtube. This time, I experimented playing Thrash Metal using a Coda Diamond GX Cello carbon bow. It feels much better than using fingers to strum. (-:

Remember to turn your volume up to 11!!! Hope you'd enjoy it. (-:


February 17, 2010 at 09:58 PM ·

My stupid computer is too slow for you tube. Im gonna smash it with an ax.

Have you ever seen Bobby Yang play Van Halen's Eruption on acoustic violin on you tube? Thats awesome. I was surprised that you can make a violin sound that wild by bowing near the bridge and slides... Like you can imitate almost any electric guitar sound with an acoustic violin except the neck pickup tone and tapping.

I keep meaning to do those things but I get so into the Tchaikovsky and Mendolsohn concertos I lose track of time and never get around to it.


February 18, 2010 at 01:38 AM ·

Got a Zoom707II effects box and Marshall amp I picked up while in Malaysia.  I particularly like playing  Bach with the VanHalen effect :)  Unfortunately, my pickup is one of those suction-cup types (an acoustic viola).  Need to get one that attaches to the bridge.

February 18, 2010 at 03:45 AM ·

I appreciate your gumption to take the violin into a realm that you enjoy. That is the trademark of both a true artist and a progressive musician. Remember, when others may condemn you for playing your music, you are really doing the same thing as Paganini did when he was dazzling the world--something different that no other violinist has done. Paganini had the same types of critics in his day! I may safely say that revolutionary playing methods have yet to be done again on that level. Yet, there are artists today that will be remembered long from now for being revolutionary with an instrument that seemingly seems stuck in a limbo.

I used to play some heavy metal tunes in my younger professional days, but never thrash metal. I suppose that is because it was not thought of yet. I used a ZETA jazz model electric violin that cut through the loudest volumes on stage with precise clarity, no matter what wild effect I used.

One secret of getting a decent, fat distortion is to add a bit of limiting and reverse reverb with the distortion. The violin has no frets to stop the string, so this compensates for it. You probabally will just want to experiment, and find the right settings, according to your own taste.

In regards to your bow hold, the fiddler has an edge up on the classical violinist: a higher bow hold lends itself to producing much quicker notes in rapidity and precise articulation. You should maybe try a baroque bow itself. You would be amazed. It aids in a more aggressive attack. It is an old baroque hold that worked for centuries, and even Paganini used it. It was becoming outmoded in his time, but then again, he was noted for his lighting fast technique. He possessed complete confidence in his own talent, thinking little of the critics, encouraging the darker side of show business rumors and a great deal of the vast fortune he was making quickly. I often wonder why it is so condemned by modern teachers when it works so well, even today.

At any rate, I hope I was of some help. Keep up the violin evolution with revolution!



February 18, 2010 at 05:15 AM ·

 Talking of bows I know that Tracey Silverman uses a quarter size violin bow to play his six string electric violin.  Check it out here:

He explains that the small bow helps him do the guitar style articulation.

February 18, 2010 at 05:21 AM ·

 Actually I just had another look and he isn't using a quarter size bow here but I know he usually does!

February 18, 2010 at 12:08 PM ·

Thanks Martin, I enjoyed that. Now that's a guit-fiddle!

Deffinately a short bow, 3/4 size if not a 1/2 size.

February 18, 2010 at 02:23 PM ·

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thanks for your comments and words of encouragement! (=

Here's a short video clip of my 4 year old daughter (and future Heavy Metal violinist!!!) playing a simple Happy Birthday tune to my wife. She has been learning with the Suzuki method since 3 years old. Hope you'd enjoy it. (=


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