What to Play for Solo Violin Gig?

October 31, 2022, 10:31 AM · Hi,

I was asked to play solo violin for three hours for a small networking event nearby. They don't have the budget or space for anything other than one solo violinist, so it'd just be me playing solo violin for the whole time... any suggestions on rep for that?
What music would be easy enough to sight read / learn in a week, pleasing background gig music (with just solo violin) and be able to last me for 3 hours by myself?

Appreciate any suggestions!


Replies (17)

October 31, 2022, 10:54 AM · Free Bird
October 31, 2022, 11:35 AM · Book of pop standards. Hopefully one that includes Free Bird.
October 31, 2022, 11:40 AM · Sounds like a nightmare. Can't they find an electronic pianist?
October 31, 2022, 1:16 PM · Okay, so getting serious here, there are a few options for you.
(1) Call them and back out of it. Apologize and tell them you must have been entirely out of your mind when you accepted a three-hour solo violin gig. But -- give them a couple of solid references for people who can take the job solo. A pianist, a guitarist, etc.
(2) Probably not enough time to figure out how to amplify yourself and mix in backing tracks. But ... if you want to play these kinds of gigs, that's something to consider for the future.
(3) Show up with a pianist who is adept at jazz or pop music. Explain that you're splitting your wage with the pianist. Then play through book after book of pop tunes (Hal Leonard is your friend here) and improvise very very lightly. Then pay the pianist your entire guarantee and chalk it up to experience.
October 31, 2022, 1:18 PM · The Artur Schnabel Violin Sonata goes on for about an hour. Add a few repeats, and you might get there.
October 31, 2022, 1:28 PM · Philip Glass...
October 31, 2022, 1:38 PM · I have done gigs like this. Please do not think of this as a concert that you need to fill with serious music. Also, three hours is very long. See if you can talk them down to two or 2 1/2 hours, and make sure they understand that you will be taking a 10 minute break per hour.

Fake books were made for this sort of gig. Pops standards as Paul said, Broadway, movie, TV themes, Beatles tunes are perfect as everybody recognizes them and they are extremely melodic. If people are coming in and out, you can repeat things after about an hour.

October 31, 2022, 2:19 PM · I don't know if this would be appropriate for the setting, but could you just repeat three 50 min. sessions and as Mary Ellen suggested, a 10 min. break every hour? If it's just background music you could get away with it.
October 31, 2022, 2:41 PM · Offer a prize for the first person to call "repeat!". And of course extract a penalty for premature interventions.
Edited: October 31, 2022, 3:33 PM · I wouldn't repeat unless there's obvious significant turnover in the audience. The kinds of strategies KC will need to play for 50 minutes can easily extend to 150. By the way "ten minutes per hour" in my view translates to two 15-minute breaks between sets for a three-set gig (30 minutes off in total). Still, it's what you're comfortable with or (ideally) what's in your contract that counts. I've played gigs with musicians who abuse their break time and that makes me VERY uncomfortable. I'm usually the pianist so in this situation I return to the bandstand after the allowed break time and play something solo ("Peace" by Horace Silver or "Sweeping Up" by Steve Swallow), and I set my keyboard to transpose up a half step so that my band-mates cannot easily join in, and I can finish the tune solo. If I am playing a three-hour piano-trio gig (with bass and drums) then that is very demanding for me as the pianist (also my favorite kind of gig, I've got one later this month), so I really need those 15 minute breaks otherwise by the middle of the third set my hands feel like [dog food].
October 31, 2022, 10:13 PM · A ten minute break every hour? For many years I played guitar in various R&B bands in Chicago. The standard back then was 40 minutes on 20 off. 50/10 has to be brutal. Especially playing Classical music, most especially playing violin!
October 31, 2022, 10:56 PM · I thought the same about the breaks...when I played rock in clubs, we scheduled a 15-min break each hour, and then it took 5 mins milling around getting set up again... If someone asked me to play somewhere and I didn't already have a few sets worked up, I'd just say "no, thanks."
November 1, 2022, 11:11 AM · Depending on the social context; Fiddle tunes from multiple countries can sound good without accompaniment. I have done that several times.They are easy to memorize or sight-read. It is legal to use the sheet music on a stand. Also Playford's collection of British Country Dance tunes, which blur the distinction between Baroque era dance tunes and folk music.
November 2, 2022, 9:58 AM · https://imslp.org/wiki/Violin_Pieces_the_Whole_World_Plays_(Wier%2C_Albert_Ernest)

I used a lot of these for a two hour solo violin Valentine's Day gig. I also used pop, broadway, and Disney songs (I just figured out the themes by ear and put them in an easy key like A or D major) and some early Suzuki book pieces.

November 2, 2022, 1:25 PM · American Pie lasts about the length of an average Ken Burns docu.
November 10, 2022, 3:15 PM · And then you can follow it up with Ashokan Farewell.
Edited: November 16, 2022, 4:49 AM · That's a LOT of playing. I've done a few weddings as the sole violinist, playing some classical music when I had a break, but I spent several weeks learning and recording the piano accompaniments to everything I was going to play, which ranged from a few popular numbers to whole ( Brahms) sonata movements and a whole Vivaldi concerto out of the Four Seasons with a CD orchestral backing. I ended up with four entire CDs of music.

Nowadays it's possible to cheat quite a bit and find and either buy ( or download ) pre recorded piano accompaniments, you just need USB or phone, and a good speaker to be able to play along karaoke style. I used a Bose Wave CD player to start with, which will still give enough sound to play at the same volume level with an un-amplified violin. My newer Bose bluetooth speaker works equally well.

Still a mad thing to accept to do..unless it's well paid. If you're playing short tunes, it's going to be almost impossible to fill that time.

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