Magazine article Strings

No Fear! Learn Jazz Violin in 3 Easy Steps

Magazine article Strings

No Fear! Learn Jazz Violin in 3 Easy Steps

Article excerpt

Don't let your classical training stop you from exploring improvisational jazz

mprovisation is one of those words that can strike fear in most classically trained string players. Without that sheet music to read, you can feel exposed, and most people interested in exploring improvisational jazz ask me with a trembling voice, "What am I supposed to play?" As a classically trained violinist, I can relate. 1 went through the improv transformation at a young age, and know that you can feel as though a rug has been pulled from underneath you.

The good news is there are ways to fight the fear and come out on the other side as an improviser. Here are three tips that can get you improvising right out of the bag.


Being a good improviser means listening. Learning how to improvise is a lot like learning a new language. You have to listen to the words a few times, before you attempt to imitate them. There is no bypassing this step. If you want to learn jazz, the best thing to do is to put on some Miles Davis, Bill Evans, or Charlie Parker recordings and just listen for a while. Soon the body absorbs the nuances and feeling in the music-little by little-and by the time you pick up your instrument, you already know more than you think. This requires a genuine love for the music, so find something you really dig.


From the recordings that you just listened to, try to take a few melodic lines that you particularly enjoyed, and see if you can play along, but without "breaking your neck." The process can be time consuming, especially in the beginning, because the point is not only to pick up the notes, but rather the feel and rhythmic nuances. I realized how untrained I was doing this, because 1 was so used to reading everything. There is no way you can truly nótate feel and rhythmic intensity on a piece of paper, so all the information instead will travel directly through the ears as opposed to through the eyes. …

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