One of the coolest things about playing an instrument in this day and age is that anything is possible! Thanks to the Internet, you have a world of options available to you for accessing sheet music, recorded songs, accompaniment tracks, and tons of other ways to find new and interesting songs for violin. This article is here to offer you a fresh and exciting perspective on how versatile the violin is, by guiding you through five examples of contemporary music to explore, encompassing a variety of genres . No matter what kind of music you like, you’ll find something to be inspired by and jam along with!
The violin was invented to be as versatile and expressive as the human voice – in fact, “lyre” (the instrument from which the violin evolved) and “lyric” stem from the same root word. There’s practically no end to the ways you can explore music by learning new songs for violin, so read on and let’s get to rockin’ and bowin’!
Folk and Country
The violin is an indispensable instrument in any bluegrass, folk, or country band. For a classic jam – one that isn’t quite as tough as “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” – check out Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line”. This song is great for playing your violin in different ways for different lines, with its bouncy guitar part that can be played plucked, or pizzicato, compared to the usual bowing style appropriate for a typical vocal line. (Check in with your violin teacher to learn about playing pizzicato if it’s not familiar, and to find some examples of its applications in familiar classical repertoire!)
For another example, check out “Long-Haired Country Boy” by the Charlie Daniels Band. If you’re loving the Johnny Cash groove, you might also try his song “Long Black Veil”.
Mumford & Sons are a great example of how bluegrass has influenced contemporary radio rock. Their song “Little Lion Man” is a great start for exploring their music on violin, and has been covered by many other bands and artists. It’s a great one to play with friends on various instruments!
Simply turning on the radio is a great way to find new songs for violin. You’ve probably heard “Dog Days Are Over” by Florence + The Machine, which demonstrates her atmospheric and theatrical production style, and makes a great jumping-off point for learning a new instrument. You can also play with style and tone by checking out the band Fun.’s song “We Are Young”.
Hip-Hop and Soul
Virtually no instrument besides violin can compare to the expressiveness and emotive range of the human voice, and from jazz onward, soul and R&B music exemplify some of the most subtle and dramatic ranges of what human voices can do. For a mind-opening look into some indie hip-hop/”folktronica” music, check out violinist and general instrumentalist Emily Wells, starting with her song “Symphony No. 5 – Was A Surprise”. She’s just one of many new artists developing exciting new applications for the violin across genres.
For fans of the more traditional, slow soul sound, a true staple of contemporary music is “Kiss From A Rose” by Seal. For a different direction of genre-blending fun (and some practice for your arpeggios!) check out “Handlebars” by the Flobots.
The Beatles or the Stones? Or… why not both? Some of the best arrangements for string quartets floating around in contemporary musical literature are Beatles tunes. Check out the Manhattan Project String Quartet’s performance of an arrangement of “Eleanor Rigby”, for example. If you’re a Rolling Stones fan, you have an equally wide range of songs to explore that can be adapted to violin; “Angie” is a popular place to start.
Rock offers all kinds of levels of complexity, for any violin player. One classic band with a number of accessible arrangements for violin is Queen. But don’t feel bad if you love “Somebody to Love” but hate playing it – even the best violinists find playing in certain keys difficult! Talk to your music teacher about options for adapting songs that are in weird keys, by perhaps transposing them or changing your hand position.
Heavy metal music has a great deal of shared instrumentation and musical structure with classical music, and can be great material for exploration with traditional instruments. To start with some accessible but challenging music by metal group System of A Down, check out the Meytal Cohen cover of their hit “Toxicity”. (Meytal is the drummer, so be sure to look up her violinist friends’ work as well!) This song is an amazing example of how music employs many kinds of rhythms within a singular simple external structure, by using different subdivisions.
Traditional heavy metal, like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, offers boundless discographies of virtuosic vocal work that make for great songs for violin. Start with “Fear of the Dark” if you’re a Maiden fan, or if you like more highly technical progressive stuff rather than just playing quick riffs, check out bands like Dream Theater. Even if you don’t think you like metal, you might like bands like Blind Guardian and Judicator, who explore historical and literary themes and create truly theatrical works. Check out Judicator’s twelve-minute epic “Elan” to play some violin about the adventurous spirit of Napoleon Bonaparte.
For those who are mourning the lack of musical theater songs for violin in this thread, you are not forgotten – check out Lindsey Sterling’s violin medley of music from the Phantom of the Opera. Adele is another popular artist today who is great for you to check out – let YouTube star Jun Sung Ahn’s violin cover of “Someone Like You” tell you all about it.
We hope your fire for violin is reignited today – there’s no end to the amazing songs for violin out there that you can explore. Remember, you’re never too old to start learning or keep learning, especially when it comes to songs for violin. You owe it to yourself to have a little fun, make something beautiful, and flex your creative skills, so stay sharp (well, stay true to pitch, as it were) and play on!
Photo by Bruno Caimi