How to play violin with accompany

Edited: June 11, 2019, 5:35 PM · I don’t understand how do people play violin with say a backing track or with the piano? I have horrible rhythm, but how do people play in such harmony? Say if you want to play along with an instrumental piece on YouTube, how do you do it?

Replies (20)

June 11, 2019, 7:56 AM · Inaccurate rhythm is just as wrong as playing incorrect pitches.

So you learn your pieces with correct rhythm. To keep a steady tempo, you practice with a metronome.

June 11, 2019, 8:25 AM · I'd say:

- learning how to set up an "internal clock" that can be disconnected from what you hear, by command

- at the same time a strong listening to what is happening outside of you, in order to put together that and what you are playing.

June 11, 2019, 11:13 AM · Same way you get to Carnegie Hall I am told, practice, practice, practice ;-) It would start with good rhythm, on both sides, and then some awareness of what the other(s) is(are) doing. Easier said than done however, and I certainly struggle with it too. I envy those with a good sense of rythm.
June 11, 2019, 12:29 PM · You might have to do a session with the metronome before rehearsing with your pianist. Good rhythmic control is also learned by playing in ensembles; orchestras, quartets, especially with non-classical bands.
June 11, 2019, 12:33 PM · Probably should start playing awith metronome and then play with metronome and the accompanist todether the first time.
June 11, 2019, 1:18 PM · Yes, the way to do this is to try with a metronome the first time. And the second, and third ... and 50th time as well.
Edited: June 11, 2019, 1:33 PM · To play in any ensemble whether 2 people or 30, everyone has to be able to maintain a tempo. It is also pretty essential to be able to adapt to fluctuations in tempo. I think a string player must be able to do these things to play with an accompanist.

For the past 8 years I've been playing in a conductor-less chamber orchestra of about 30 musicians. That it is not like herding cats is due to the ability of each of us to be able to do these things. (Our sight-reading of Mendelssohn's "Italian Symphony" was so 'surprisingly spectacular' a few months back that we unanimously agreed to prepare it for a concert this past Sunday. (Unfortunately the west coast heat predicted for that day was so bad that the concert was cancelled for lack of AC in the venue).) For the 60 years before that I played under rhythms defined by conductors' batons (or hands and fingers) - and that experience seems to do no harm to the development of consistent rhythmic sense!

I've had my share of trying to play with pianists who could not maintain a steady tempo (self-proclaimed "soloists") - but I did not stick with them for long. Fortunately I've had the good fortune to play with three pianists over 40+ years who were excellent in every respect.

Personally I have always found metronomes very good for setting the tempo but very distracting to play with. But - each to their own!

June 11, 2019, 5:34 PM · How would you work out the rhythm from an instrumental song on YouTube and play along with it ? I think it’s impossible .
June 11, 2019, 5:56 PM · It's not impossible. I do it all the time, and so can anyone with enough practice. Consider: if someone is singing "Happy Birthday", can you sing along in time? Even through the fermata before the last line? I bet you can. That's a starting point you can build on.

The important thing is to listen. Don't play the first time through, but concentrate on picking out the rhythmic landmarks in the piece. Once you can tap your toe in time, start adding in a few notes.

I'll never forget a folk festival years ago where I saw Tony McManus, an outstanding Scottish fingerstyle guitarist, sitting in with a couple of other musicians. They started playing a piece he had never heard before. The first time through he just sat there, concentrating on the rhythm and chord structure. The second time through, he picked a note here and there. The third time around the others tossed it to him; he jumped in with both feet and played full bore. I was so impressed that I resolved to learn how to do it - and in time, I did.

Listen to the music and feel the flow - then you can flow with it.

June 12, 2019, 11:22 AM · The way you improve your ability to "play by ear" which is what you're doing when you try to repeat what you heard on YouTube, is to take simpler pieces first and shorter bits of them.

If you want to write those rhythms (and notes) down on paper, then you need a good prior understanding of written rhythms and how they sound.

June 12, 2019, 3:37 PM · Jo J,

My guess is that you are fairly new to the violin and playing music. Learning how to play in synch with another musician does, as most others have stated, take a lot of practice.

Most of the people on this forum are classically trained and the written music is the basic element of all playing from solo to ensemble. That means that everyone uses music meant to be played together and everyone is reading their music and keeping time. That is the classical world.

Of course there are other genres that don't focus so much on printed music - folk, jazz, country,... While it might seem like their playing is spontaneous, it isn't. There is a lot of practice and ear training that goes into these genres and that is no less difficult than learning the classical forms and styles.

There used to be a company called "Music Minus One" that allowed you to play along with recorded music. That was based on printed music and musicians that played strictly in time. They, unfortunately, went out of business some time ago.

As far as playing along with a YouTube song - without the music and/or the ear training skills it isn't likely that you will find that possible - particularly since you already admitted that you still have rhythmic problems.

You need a teacher that teaches in the style you want to play. There are loads and loads of us classical types, but there are also people who teach other genres and through them, you can learn how to play in all kinds of ensembles.

While the internet can teach you a lot - learning how to play any instrument well requires working with other human beings, live, in person and you have to be committed to the work both in session and at home.

June 12, 2019, 6:49 PM · Well said George...…...
June 12, 2019, 9:45 PM · If you want to have a go with a good backing track that’s just too fast for you as you work out rhythms, check out “The Amazing Slow-downer” iPhone app. One can import any backing track you want, and change the tempo to suit without changing the pitch. There are repeat and looping options too if you want to concentrate on a particular section. I’m using it now to practice Mollenhauer’s “Boy Paganini” using a backing track from the Barbara Barber books. As for rhythm training, consider a (loud) metronome that can subdivide in different meters. Never play a note without it for a few weeks and rhythm sense just gradually gets better.
June 12, 2019, 10:57 PM · Years of practice will do it, OP.
June 13, 2019, 6:53 AM · Many people are talking about the metronome, and I'm 100% sure it's not necessary at all. Why?
Simply look at all the musicians in pop, rock and metal bands. Most of them haven't touched a metronome ever, yet when they rehearse they can play perfectly in time.

Of course, you have to know the rhythm and be good enough to play it correctly. If you're a beginner that can barely play anything in tempo, well, what do you expect?

Once you can play it rhythmically correct, you can play along others. Indeed, I will say playing with other people is many times easier, because you are constantly syncing with the other, so if you suddenly start slowing down, the others will as well. If you have a perfect backing track, you must follow it or it will sound out of sync. You play something with others and you all follow a pulse, a feeling, a rhythm, and you don't have to know about metronomes, music theory or anything, you simply have to understand the song or piece and be able to play it. The better you are at it, the more you can adjust to other's people mistakes and tempo changes, the more you can adapt to others and the more in sync you're all gonna sound, even if it's full of slow downs.

Finally, you must start with very easy rhythms, that's mandatory. You can't expect as a beginner to play triplets and more complex rhythms in time with other beginners, it's not gonna work. You have to develop a good sense of beat, pulse, rhythm, so, first start with monotonous, very simple rhythms, nothing off-beat or up-beat.

June 13, 2019, 8:30 AM · For the easy rhythms recommendation I have found playing along with waltz’s to be very helpful. The strong first beat in the one-two-three tempo is built into nearly all waltzes and helps to lock you in to the correct tempo against an accompanist..

There are many simple waltzes available on you tube. Search for “bluegrass waltz backing tracks “ in the YouTube search box. I suggest playing along with Jay Unger waltz’s.

June 24, 2019, 5:47 AM · For me this is the most fun, the reason i play. Well not to play with youtube, although that's helpful as practice, but to play with others and feel the rhythms together! More than the sum of its parts! Well worth working on/towards.
June 24, 2019, 11:33 AM · You can find digitized sheet music for The Boy Pagainini on MuseScore here:

You can either download it to the desktop MuseScore app and use it to play back the piano accompaniment. There is also a MuseScore mobile app. I prefer the desktop app. For best sound, I hook up my laptop to a bluetooth speaker. The software allows me to easily adjust tempo and volume and provides cue beats so I can come in at the same time as the piano.

There are also other public domain sheet music for violin and piano from the same source:

I have enjoyed playing along many of these pieces. It's a great way to nail down the notes and a steady rhythm. Of course it doesn't beat having a real pianist, but it's better than playing by myself.

June 24, 2019, 11:48 AM · Music Minus One was bought by Hal Leonard. You can still get their stuff.
Edited: June 24, 2019, 5:08 PM · Firstly, I'm sure you can clap and sing along to these clips. This means you have a sense of tempo and rhythm. Trying to keep it going while worrying about fingers and bow and strings and intonation is much harder. You either need to play easier pieces or to slow everything down.

I'll second Charles about the "amazing slow downer" which is still my go-to when I'm learning something difficult, though your computer may have similar software. You won't be able to play in time at full speed. If you slow it down, you have time to listen to rhythm and tempo, and it will also improve your intonation (pitch).

It might also help to play with a guitar rather than a piano - someone who can keep good time with chords a basic strum. James suggestion about waltzes would be excellent in this context.

If you're a relative beginner, also look into a method book that comes with a CD (I like use the fiddle time series which has a good range of styles and goes up to about grade 3; there's lots out there. For suzuki you need a teacher cause it doesn't spell out what each piece is teaching you).

If you can already play, try playalong books. I especially love the Huws Jones fiddler series which has a book for virtually any style you might be interested in (except classical) and includes easy and hard accompaniment parts so it will last a few years of playing. Start with the Fiddler Playalong collections because these books have a couple of pieces from each book in the series and will help you work out which styles you like/ find easy to play with.

Begin with the easy part and when you can play that at speed, try the tune and then the double stoppy accompaniment when the tune is no longer challenging. If you get the accompsmimemt version of the book you'll have a piano part in addition to the chords above d your line.

If you can afford a bit each month, try Red Desert violin who has an online suzuki course for the classically inclined and a fiddle course (mostly American and Celtic) for folkies. Very clear teaching with practice videos at different speeds.

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