Extended Rhythmic Techniques For Violin And Cello
Chopping, strumming, and other techniques for the bow and plucking hand are popular among string players, but rather than focusing on the mechanics of a specific technique, I am more interested in helping you develop as a “creative” musician, by showing you how to create your own rhythmic accompaniment in many different scenarios. Many students and teachers request that I teach them some specific “groovy/funky thing to do”, but learning one rhythmic pattern will only serve you in very limited musical situations, and furthermore, learning “a technique” or “a lick”, is just like studying classical music, and you’ve already got plenty of that on your plate, right? I want to encourage practice strategies that force you to think for yourself creatively to discover new sounds that haven’t been written down and placed in front of you. Therefore, I’m demonstrating and suggesting a process in the video for subdividing rhythm physically with your arm, whether strumming or playing arco at the tip or the frog. This fundamental approach will help you more than any demonstration of one technique such as “the infamous chop”.
One of the most important aspects of accompaniment for any bowed string player should be knowing when NOT to play, and different instrumentations require different approaches to accompaniment. For example, I would almost never use a “chopping” technique while playing with a drummer, since the drummer is already covering the percussive role. Often, even without a drummer or percussionist, a minimal use of percussive effects on the violin, viola, or cello is more tasteful.
Another reason to play less is that it’s so important when playing a percussive or rhythmic role to be playing exact rhythms. Often string players have the luxury within classical music settings to develop a lazy rhythmic sense, playing with a constant give and take of the pulse. Groove-based music requires a higher standard of rhythmic precision, so if you’re a classical player you should retrain yourself to approach these scenarios differently. And by the way, much of classical music is dance music. If you focus on learning how to groove, you’ll make people want to dance when you play Gavottes, Allegrettos, Rondos, Andantes, etc.., and that would be a good thing 🙂
Chopping and strumming on the violin can be cool, but the coolest thing is always to never do harm to the music. So by all means, practice these techniques with a metronome and listen back to yourself to notice and improve your rhythm. In the meantime, on stage, heed the wisdom of jazz musicians and: “when in doubt, lay out”.
Visit for more on rhythmic accompaniment techniques and related subjects for Violin, Viola and Cello.
Visit for more on how to learn extended rhythmic accompaniment techniques for Violin, Viola and Cello.
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