Feb. 3, 2023Print | PDF
Combining the creative and the technical in a way which makes the art of improvisation more accessible to string players.
As string players, we are often very dependent on sheet music. If you take the sheet music away, many of us have no idea what to do next! If we are put in a situation where we need to improvise or “jam” with other players, we have a hard time. Why is this?
The violin/fiddle is such a melody driven instrument. Many of us have never been put in the position where we’ve needed to know anything beyond the melody or harmony written for us. We aren’t required to be aware of the chord progressions, voicings and grooves we need to be able to become a more cohesive member of the band. These things are often left up to those accompanying us.
This is one of a series of workshops developed to help string players develop skills in improvisation using alternative string methods. This includes aural learning and ear training, following groove and the harmonic (chord) structure of a song, how to listen for and incorporate stylistic traits for authenticity, and being comfortable taking risks and thinking creatively in real time through melodic variation and improvisation. In this case, alternative strings music is any style of music played by string players outside of traditional western classical music. This would include jazz, swing, blues, rock, and the broad umbrella of fiddle music and its many sub genres such as old time, bluegrass, Celtic, etc.
Improvising helps teach students how to use their instrument in a way they may never have before and give them the confidence and ability to give their own voice to their instrument.
The art of improvising often helps other areas of playing as well, including timing, intonation, aural learning skills, and understanding applied theory.
Specific areas of interest to the beginner improve student will include the following topics
Review from a past participant:
“As a music performance graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University, I found Shane Guse's improv course for strings extremely rewarding. While I had some experience already improvising with lead sheets, Shane's course provided me with invaluable new strategies with which to approach them both as accompanist and soloist, as well as the opportunity to study several genres of music in a structured context with a master improviser. In particular, learning how to chop, and how to combine it with chordal playing over a harmonic progression, has revolutionized my approach to improvising. The experience of playing in ensemble with Shane and the other workshop participants was also extremely helpful in developing my conception of rhythm and my comfort with soloing in a group, and the challenge to learn songs and extract parts by ear has improved my aural and transcription skills too. I would recommend Shane's workshop to any bowed-string player interested in developing the skills necessary to be a well-rounded musician.” - Erik Johnson