Frontman or Fluff?
The violin, as well as other classical instruments, has been used in rock music for decades. Sixties’ bands such as It’s a Beautiful Day, The Velvet Underground (although in this case, it’s a viola), King Crimson, or Frank Zappa, had experimented with the addition of this beautiful instrument in the lineup, or as an occational guest.
Often, violins and other string instruments are used as a filling or background. Baroque-pop bands such as The Left Banke or artists like Colin Blunstone are a couple of brilliant examples. However, when I first decided to try my hand at playing rock in the violin, I asked myself: will I be a part of the song’s background or atmosphere, or will I be a rock band leader?
Both roles can be a tonne of fun and bring much happiness and satisfaction, but they are inherently the opposite. If you have the opportunity to join a band that’s already stablished – that’s fantastic, and there are loads you can contribute with.
First, you should avoid competing with the main melody – which is usually the singer’s turf. There should be a dialogue between the melody and what you’ll add with the violin, making sure it never overpowers the leader.
For example, try playing the guitar’s main riff in a different octave, in thirds or fifths (in the song’s key, of course). Sticking to the root note or creating coy licks are good alternatives. Remember not to overshadow the core melody.
Whenever the vocals are absent, you can jump in and show off with a cool riff or even improvising! If it fits the song, feel free to shine. It’s important to mention that, if there’s a lead guitarist or another prominent instrument, then you’ll have to find some balance and share the spotlight. If you’re up for it and everyone is OK with it, why not play a solo?