Question by : antigrav
I’m looking for a little help in developing a decent practice routine for learning Jazz style (gypsy and modern) violin. I’m a full time piano player (Berklee ’89), so I have good understanding of jazz harmony and improv. I have intermediate violin technique and terrible vibrato! Practicing has been a bit unorganized. Any suggestions in helping to build a practice routine would be greatly appreciated! Thanks.
Reply by: Vi Wickam
I think that based on your background getting familiar with the violin fingerboard is going to be one of the things that you need help with. You have the music in your head, but the mindset of violin is very different from that of piano. The series on Simple double stop scales would be a helpful series for you. It helps with hearing the harmonization of the notes and feeling where they are on the violin. The closed position arpeggios and really all of the other scales and arpeggios are useful in this endeavor.
Additionally to that I’m a big fan of Jamey Aebersold’s Blues in All Keys. You can use these slow blues patterns to start applying the notes that you hear in your head to the context of the violin. I would pick one key and play in it for maybe 5 times through the song and repeat that daily for a couple of weeks. Then take on another key, up or down a 5th from there.
I think of piano as being very linear, and violin as being a circular instrument structurally. The patterns repeat by string or by pairs of strings. Improvising on violin will take a shift in mindset from improvising on piano.
Perhaps one of the exercises you can do is slowing down one of the pieces that you are very comfortable with on piano, and try to translate the notes that you hear in your head onto the violin. I’m sure that you will find some things that you can do on the piano that don’t translate to the violin, but this might be an approach that works well for you.
Finding those fingering patterns that work on violin will probably be another key for you. I have a lesson/e-Book called Fast Fiddle Fitness. In this, I have an exercise called Mastering the G Scale. It’s really just a G Scale standard, with some patterns that follow the scale in G after it building. This might be a good exercise to play with for you. Also, you might find the practice session structure that I outline in Fast Fiddle Fitness to be useful to you as well.
Finally, for Vibrato, I would recommend Dr. David Wallace’s Vibrato Fundamentals lesson series, which covers all of the ins and outs of vibrato. Before you approach vibrato, I would make sure that your left hand is relaxed and that you are not squeezing the neck. Tension is the bane of good vibrato.