Creative violinist workshops

Creative violinist workshops

Improvisation for string players is on the cover of Strings Magazine, in the MENCE National Standards in Music—it is in the air.

Your string students can start improvising right away in an hour-long workshop I am offering. This workshop focuses on students playing, without long-winded explanation. It is not based on a particular style, but rather builds from what the students have to offer right now.

Here is a photo showing me coaching string students at Hempfield High School, Hempfield, Lancaster County, PA.

coaching strings at Hempfield High School

Typical outline

All groups are different, but the following outline would be typical:

  1. Tune everyone (we use a lot of open strings).
  2. Explore textures, dynamics, rhythm, meter, 4-bar phrases, and silence with the whole group.
  3. Succinctly define the raw material for solos (in other words: play a D major scale together).
  4. Suggest how to manage “wrong” notes. We all play them.
  5. Create a group accompaniment on a D major chord, and encourage as many students as possible to take a shot at creating a solo (it could be just open strings).
  6. Repeat with a I IV progression in 4 bar phrases. The nice thing about this progression is that pretty much any note in the scale works.
  7. If there is still time, move on to I vi ii V (the fifties progression), introducing the dominant chord.

More advanced material

More advanced groups may be able to cover more material, for example:

    • More complex rhythms or meters
    • Chord progressions from the literature, for example, from the Bach Solo Violin Sonatas.
    • Blues progression
    • Free improvisation. It’s nice to do this first in pairs, then as a whole group to avoid descending into aural chaos.
    • Developing more layered and articulated accompaniments, exploring bass, rhythmic figures, arpeggiated inner voices, and counter-melodies.
    • More refined work on developing improvised solos

These are workshops in improvisation, so some adjustment to this outline is likely.

The sessions are recorded and posted in Dropbox so that students can enjoy the results.

coaching orchestra class at Lampeter Strassburg HS