Can Suzuki lead to playing the blues?

Edited: March 25, 2019, 8:34 PM · Not to get into an O'Connor vs Suzuki battle, please, no.

And sorry for the long post, but felt I needed to explain. TL;DR.

I started on Suzuki latter part of last year, then had to leave that teacher when my job in that area ended. I found another teacher near my home. She started me off on All for Strings and reading exercises. I've come along, but it certainly was not any fun.

I have a couple of bands I front that play Cajun and Zydeco music, with some up-tempo blues thrown in (which I currently only sing on, as I cannot play blues on any instrument I currently play, diatonic accordion and fiddle, and I'm not playing fiddle with my main band anyway because I'm not good enough).

In order to be more flexible, and able to play some of the off-genre stuff (market forces are requiring me to diversify), I've rekindled my violin studies.

I liked the structured progressively building process of the Suzuki books (only got up to the minuets in Book 1 before having to drop that teacher). With my current teacher, there was some progressive reading stuff with All For Strings, but then the assignments got unstructured as my reading got better.

I tried some O'Connor stuff, but a lot of it didn't enthuse me. I have some other blues and bluesy oriented books that are not progressive methods, but might be used as a tool.

I told my teacher I needed to return to some sort of structured approach as, given my own tendencies, I can get too pulled in too many non-constructive directions with my own tendency to get scattered.

If I could ever read and play well enough for a low level community orchestra, that might be titillating, but, I already have some bands to play with.

Teacher now is suggesting returning to Suzuki, after I asked for more structure. This was after she pulled Devil Went Down To Georgia out of nowhere on me. Not a song I would play in my band, but could be an instructional tool. She's a classical player, but I guess is trying to meet me half way.

So, how much Suzuki will I need to begin approaching blues numbers. I know that's possibly like comparing apples and aardvarks, but just wondering if there is a dovetail in there anywhere. I know dexterity, intonation, double stops, and some scale knowledge will help, but, other than that......?

Or am I S.O.L.?

Replies (4)

March 25, 2019, 7:06 PM · If you can learn to read music on violin well enough to read some of the blues books for violin (and it won't take a lot and you already "know blues") you should be able to put the two together.

But unlike Robinson Crusoe, it's not something you can get done by Friday!

March 25, 2019, 8:09 PM · The way to learn to play the blues is to listen to a lot of blues and imitate it. There are hundreds of great guitar players, but also singers, harmonica players, sax players. For actual violin players, I think it is a little tricky but bluegrass fiddle players can have a lot of blues in their style, especially Vassar Clements for example. The right hand in your blues playing will probably be closer to bluegrass performance practice than anything else. Sit down with recordings and play a riff off the recording, copy it on the fiddle.

Eventually, whatever you are doing with formal violin study will connect with playing the blues--although I would say that you might need a more flexible approach to vibrato (including using none at all) than classical players usually use. But you won't learn the blues out of books. It's by ear. And playing a lot...a LOT of it! All the time.

March 25, 2019, 8:33 PM · @Paul, Granted I have to "play it" to learn it, but I've listened to the blues for a long long time and feel it to some degree. But, agreeing with you, no replacement for trying to tackle it. Cajun has a lot of bluesy licks and/or songs in it too. Cajun plays in way too few keys though to really give me command of the fingerboard. Ok, I'll carry on. Thanks.

@Andrew, nice Friday quip.

Edited: March 26, 2019, 9:23 PM · The "blues scale" is just a minor pentatonic scale with an additional note.

In the key of D, that pentatonic would be D-F-G-A-C-D. In between the G and A you will find A-flat. Many tunes are built on this scale such as "Work Song" (Nina Simone or Cannonball Adderley versions on YouTube). Not surprisingly, those tunes have a bluesy feel.

If you want method material, my suggestion is Jamey Aebersold. He has three or four books that are blues-oriented and they come with backing CDs I believe. One word of warning is that Aebersold material is oriented toward horn players (the tunes will mostly be in flat keys).

You can get an app like iRealPro which will play accompaniment for you while you practice, and there are several great blues-oriented tunes in there, and the app will transpose into any key of your choice. The only problem with iRealPro is that the melodies are not provided -- for this you need The Real Book (a standard jazz fake book now published "legit" by Hal Leonard).

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