How to make the violin [fun]ky

by Angelina Barrett, instructor at Metro Music Makers

OK. I can imagine what some of you are thinking. “The violin? Funky? Wow. I’ve never heard of that before!” Since the violin is most known as a classical music instrument, many people don’t really know some various ways the violin can be played. The violin can be played in different genres, such as country (fiddling), rock, hip-hop and jazz. In playing these genres on violin, it takes a lot of listening and playing it back, relying on your ear more than the sheet music. You have to hear where the chords of the song change and be able to follow those changes with your ear so you know what comes next in order to conjure up your funky solo.

Learning certain note and finger patterns can help with making your violin funky, like the blues scale and pattern. The blues scale is comprised of adding flat or sharp notes (depending on the scale) to create a jazzy/funky sound. Making the violin funky takes a lot of improvising and experimenting. It’s important to start simple and build from there. As you learn different scales, bow rhythms and finger patterns, you’re on your way to grooving.

You can also do a finger trick called the slide, where you slide your finger from one note to the next – like from B flat to B on the violin’s A string. It makes a cool sound if you use your pointer finger (also known as 1st finger) to do that slide. You can also experiment by sliding with other fingers, like using your 4thfinger to slide from where your index finger (3rd finger) usually goes but putting your pinky (4th finger) there instead and slide from the 3rd finger note to the 4thfinger note with your 4th finger (example: sliding from notes D to E on the A string with your 4th finger). You can try this with all fingers and experiment to see which one you like, creating your own patterns.

Once you understand finger numbering, you can play a funky, jazzy violin pattern such as 1-3-4-4 (sharp) -1-3-4, which can go from string to string on the violin and can be used for all twelve scales. For instance, this pattern is a blues pattern that can go well with the E scale because the 1st finger would be on the E note (on the violin’s D string), and you would follow the pattern from there. The 4 sharp would just be your 4th finger sliding to the sharp note on that scale. So with any scale you can use that pattern and you will hear a jazzy sound.

If you’d like to see a demonstration of these techniques, you can watch my video here.

There are many funky violinists out there, such as Noel Pointer, Jean-Luc Ponty, Regina Carter, Ken Ford, and – my personal favorite – Christian Howes. If you check out any of these violinists on the Internet, you will hear how funky a violin can get. If you use some of the tricks above and work to improve your ear training and listening, you too can make the violin funky! It’s all about finding your groove and making it your own. Happy playing!

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