What Are Some Of The Main Styles of Music for Violin?
When you think about the violin, a lot of different images come to mind. I’m going to simplify a bit to paint a clearer picture of the three main styles of violin. Each style could be further divided down into many branches, because the world has many different types of music, but it’s very helpful to keep a top level view, so you don’t get lost in detail.
The main three styles of violin that we are going to talk about are pop, jazz & classical.
Rock & Pop
When we talk about pop violin, we are including other genres such as rock, dance, hip-hop, reggae, and many others.
The most important feature of pop music is sound. The sound that the instrument produces takes precedence over other technical details. That’s why you hear so many “fake”, electronic sounds in pop. That’s not to say technique is not important, it is, but in pop music you are creating an atmosphere. You are accompanying the melody, and your sound plays a major role.
The things you have to master as a pop violinist are melody and groove. If you prefer more sophisticated music, you will need to study harmony. Groove is what keeps the song moving and the people dancing. Study rhythm to develop a sense for it.
Pop violin playing also involves playing by ear.
Playing by ear refers to being able to play, or reproduce, a piece of music just by listening, without reading the sheet music.
You’ll need to have a good ear, able to recognise notes and chords on the fly. With this skill, you can also play tunes in your own style, and shift around in different keys.
This is also the skill required for you to play in a pop band, or serve in your church worship band.
It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing
Jazz violin is another big category. It includes blues, and some world music genres which are more complex than pop. Jazz is known for its complexity, but it can be built up from a very basic blues. The two biggest things to master in jazz are improvisation and swing.
Improvisation encompasses a lot. The first thing is memory. You need to learn a lot of song melodies by heart, and use them as a jumping point for your playing. Technique is also very important because some of these songs can get pretty fast, and you don’t want to struggle.
Without a solid base you will be left behind. You will learn more complex harmony, bigger chords and scales. Swing is the groove of jazz, and you need to work on it if you don’t want to sound “stiff” and unauthentic.
As you can see, pop and jazz playing are quite similar, where the violinist can be flexible to his own style, and mostly play by ear.
However, classical violin playing is very different.
Classical & Orchestral
Classical violin encompasses a huge collection of music, from Medieval European times to the modern pieces of today. This style needs more attention to technique than the others. There are some advanced pieces that require a high level of technical skills for you to play it. That doesn’t mean that classical music is always hard or complex, far from it! But a solid technical base must be in place.
Apart from technique, another important aspect for classical violin is sight-reading. Some pieces are long, and they don’t lead to simplification or improvisation as in the other styles. They have to be played properly, and exactly as written. It’s mandatory that you can read music and play it at the same time. Eventually, you will memorize many pieces, but you will still need to sight read to keep advancing.
Both technique and sight-reading, form the most important aspect of classical violin: interpretation. You need to practice them so they can become second nature, and you can concentrate on the piece of music. If you want to perform solo violin, this is what will make you stand out. Interpretation is that extra thing, that human touch above technical capability.
It’s All Music
This is what every style has in common. You need basic technique, harmony knowledge, rhythm training, and to know the style. But then you have to let it go, and lose yourself in the music. First you learn the violin, then you forget about it and play. It’s all about the music, it always has been.
There is no “best” style, there’s only what you like. It’s all music and it shares similar principles and some variations in their approaches. At the Happy Violinist we have teachers that can help you with any of these styles. Send in your request for the type of violin style you like to learn, and start learning today!