Playing the violin with accompaniment can be difficult, as it requires different skills. Below, violin teacher Julie P. shares some expert tips on how to play the violin with accompaniment…
If you want to play the violin with an accompaniment, you might find that there are a few new skills you need to develop.
When you play the violin by yourself there’s no one you need to coordinate with for tempo, dynamics, and rhythm. But as soon as you add someone else to the mix, things can start to get complicated.
Not only do you have to listen to what you’re playing, but you also have to be cognizant of what your partner is playing. Sometimes it’s tricky to line up both parts and make it sound like one cohesive song.
1. Setting the Tempo
I’m Yours — Jason Mraz
The first thing you need to determine with your partner is tempo. Oftentimes, the accompanist will begin the song alone with a short intro.
However, if you’re planning to start the song together, you must communicate your tempo beforehand.
The musicians playing this fun Jason Mraz cover demonstrate one straight-forward way of counting off a tune.
Some people count off quietly, while others are so used to playing with each other that a simple breath before the downbeat is enough.
2. Playing to Strummed Chords
Shake It Off — Taylor Swift
One of the most difficult things to learn how to do is play along with the rhythm of strummed chords. Guitarists have different strumming patterns that create different rhythms.
Each song gets its own strumming pattern, which helps create the atmosphere for the music. It can be difficult to know where your violin fits within the strumming rhythm.
To practice this, have your accompanist play his or her part along with a recording of the actual song. This way, you can hear how it fits with your melody line.
You can also ask your accompanist to make a recording of his or her part so that you can practice with it and get used to hearing the two parts meshed together.
3. Using Guitar as a Percussion Instrument
Royals — Lorde
Guitarists can create rhythmic accompaniment by using their instrument as a drum.
In this cover of Lorde’s song Royals, the guitarist uses the heel of his hand to hit his guitar as part of his strumming pattern, which creates a different texture from the times when he’s just strumming.
As a violinist, make sure you lock into the rhythm of this percussive strumming pattern. If you’re having trouble with this kind of pattern, ask your accompanist to make a recording of it for you so you can listen to it and get it in your head.
4. Strumming Without a Chord
Happy — Pharrell Williams
Guitarists can also create rhythmic interest by strumming without fingering any specific chord.
They simply rest the fingers of their left hand on the strings without pushing the strings down. This keeps the strings from vibrating, giving them a metallic sound when strummed.
The guitarist in this video uses a few different patterns with this kind of playing. As a violinist you may feel that there is less harmonic support for your playing when a guitarist isn’t playing a chord, so make sure you’re confident on your part.
5. Broken Chords
Dust In the Wind — Kansas
Sometimes your accompanist will not play strummed chords, but will break up the chords into individual notes plucked one at a time.
There is less rhythmic intensity with this kind of playing, which is perfect for the above cover of Dust in the Wind.
6. Trading the Melody
Stay With Me — Sam Smith
When playing with an accompanist, it’s often effective to step out for a while and let the accompanist take the melody.
For example, pianists can easily play melody in one hand and accompaniment with the other.
A talented guitarist can also do this effectively. The above video shows the pianist taking a turn at the melody in the middle of the song.
7. Creating an Interesting Arrangement
Game of Thrones Theme Song
If you’re covering a recording made by a large group, you won’t be able to recreate all of the musical colors and textures with just two instruments.
However, there are a number of things you can do to make your arrangement interesting and true to the spirit of the original.
The two sisters in the video above do a great job of this. The violinist plays the initial melody first in her low octave, and then on the repeat she plays it up an octave.
In the middle section, the guitarist changes to a broken chord accompaniment pattern to lessen the rhythmic drive, which also brings down the dynamic level. Later on in the song, the violinist uses double stops to create more interest and a thicker texture.
8. End Together
Yellow — Coldplay
There’s nothing worse than hearing a great duo give a fantastic performance and then watching them fall apart at the end because they never decided on an ending!
How you end the song is just as important as how you begin. Oftentimes, a simple ritard at the end of the song is all you need, as shown in the video above.
If you want to get creative, write your own ending or have your accompanist finish with a vamp of the strumming pattern.
Now that you’ve seen what’s possible, go find an accompanist and try one of the above songs. If there’s some other songs that you’ve had on repeat for a while, try your hand at making your own arrangement.
Photo by Ctd 2005