Pop Violin Practise
When I decided to leave behind the world of classical music (and become a rock violinist), I did so for a very particular reason: I felt that I was just a machine, playing sheet music, in accordance to certain standards from the classical music world. Playing “well” or “poorly” was only a matter of physical prowess, that I though I’d never attain. I was constantly frustrated and under pressure for being “a bad musician“.
After this crisis, I abandoned the violin for months. It was then when I decided to study rock improvisation. Only a few classes in, and I felt fulfilled again. I was in love with music once more, now that the shadow of compulsive practise was no longer over me.
However (and let me be very clear on this), shifting to violin improvisation doesn’t mean that I stopped studying: it was just a different kind of it. I went from the routine of classical scales, to the pop violin practise of pentatonic scales. The same bowing techniques I used before – with major and minor scales – I’m still using over modal and pentatonic scales.
Some Differences to Consider
No matter what style of music you play, one thing is certain: practising scales and sound exercises are a must for playing comfortably and having a well-rounded sound. The difference lays in the way you practise. I no longer play in an obsessive and automatic way: I enjoy each note, each exercise. I feel what I play, how one note connects to the next, and which one is the most important, harmonically, on the scale. There’s a double benefit to that: improving my sound and left hand technique, and the musical aspect of this – which I overlooked before.
Another difference is that when you go from classical to pop violin practise, the guilt fades away. Stop beating yourself up for not studying one day! Here’s a tip for you: if you ever feel like you can’t be bothered to study your scales, try instead to play over a record you love. Experiment and improvise on top of the songs. Many rock guitarists, for example, do this – or even got started this way. Get into the song, reflect on the music and what’s behind it. I consider this studying; do you agree? Picture a rock band (Pink Floyd, for instance) locking themselves on the studio for hours: writing, playing, recording… Isn’t that practise in itself? It certainly isn’t wasting time, from my point of view.
The ideal balance is something we need to find for ourselves: what makes you happy? What makes you feel comfortable with the instrument? Picture a scale with equal weight on both sides: the instrument technique, and musicality. We play violin because we want to make music, so don’t lose sight of it.