ready to go past playing prescribed parts?

“Young Guns”: Alex Hargreaves, Mike Barnett, Eli Bishop, and Greg Byers on how to practice – Creative Strings Podcast Episode 10

Podcast 10_2

How do you practice improvisation and creative music?

This was the question I wanted to ask four of my favorite young improvising string players; players all well-rounded in a mix of classical, jazz, and world music.

Alex Hargreaves, Mike Barnett, Eli Bishop, and Greg Byers live at the Creative Strings Workshop 

Scroll down to listen in with or without your instrument to the 90 minute interview and interactive workshop brought to you by Electric Violin Shop.

This episode is jam packed with amazing value which can help you develop specific practice strategies and gain insights to develop musically including:

-How to practice improvisationCreativeStringPlayersImprovising

-How to internalize harmony and song forms

-Connections between fiddle styles and jazz

-Tone production across different styles

-How to practice playing and improvising faster

-Rhythmic exercises away from your instrument

Visit Electric Violin Shop, your one-stop shop for electric instruments, amps, gear & accessories, and most of all, expertise. Use code CHOWES at checkout and take 5% off of your order.

Visit the Creative Strings Shop for instructional literature and instructional videos from Christian Howes.

EXCLUSIVE BONUS FOR VIOLINISTS: Download a free chart for “Postlude” by clicking here!

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Meet the Young Guns

Eli BishopEli Bishop

From the age of 3 until 11, Eli studied the Suzuki violin method. After completing the eighth book of the method, he began studying traditional classical music under the instruction of Cornelius Heard at the Blair School of Music. At 16, Eli’s interests shifted from classical to western swing and he began studying with Nashville legend, Buddy Spicher to spend the next year mastering western swing music. He later went on to study at the Berklee College of Music. An active freelancer, collaborating frequently with the likes of the Deadly Gentleman and Jazz at Lincoln Center, he recently won a Guinness World Record in speed clapping! Visit Eli Bishop’s Facebook page.

Alex HargreavesAlex Hargeraves

Violinist Alex Hargreaves is an active performer, playing on stages around the world including Austin City Limits, A Prairie Home Companion, Grand Ole Opry, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, Panama Jazz Festival, Bonnaroo, Newport Jazz Festival, and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, as well as venues in the UK, France, Italy, Canada, and South Korea. He is a member of world-renowned mandolinist Mike Marshall’s Big Trio, along with bassist Paul Kowert (Punch Brothers). Matt Glaser, artistic director of Berklee College of Music, American Roots Program, states simply, “Truly, Alex Hargreaves is the best young jazz violinist in America.” Visit Alex Hargreaves’ website.

Mike Barnett2Mike Barnett

“I’ve been having a blast travelin’ and performing around the country and internationally with heroes of mine. Having grown up in Nashville, I have a special place in my heart for bluegrass and country music. Fiddle camps- Mark O’Connor String Conference, Christian Howes’ Creative Strings Workshop, Mt. Shasta Fiddle Camp—have provided a tremendous source of inspiration and exposure to incredible players from a wide variety of genres. The great bluegrass fiddler Aubrey Haynie inspired me to record my first CD ‘Lost Indian‘ when I was 14. One summer at Crystal Plohman’s ‘International Fiddle Camp’ at Vanderbilt, I had the great honor of working with Bobby Hicks, Buddy Spicher, and Vassar Clemens, three of the finest people and fiddlers there have ever been. They willingly showed me everything I could get my ears on.” Learn more about Mike Barnett.


Cross6Greg Byers

Since Greg started playing cello at 2 1/2, he has immersed himself in many branches of music, each cumulative aspect elevating the others: performance, composition, recording, education, entrepreneurship. His debut EP Some Dark, Beautiful Morning was orchestrated jazz fusion, but his newer work finds Greg as singer/songwriter; a nuanced interplay of natural and artificial, nature and technology. The language of music is unique in that it can provide every listener with similar yet distinct messages of truth, beauty, freedom; this has motivated Greg to express his own authenticity through precise songwriting and improvisation. Visit Greg Byers’ website.

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Clips in this episode

Throughout this episode are various exercises and jams played by the Young Guns, Christian and the attendees of the Creative Strings workshop. We’ve also added several clips of the various projects that the Young Guns are involved in.

Don’t forget to visit Electric Violin Shop, and use code CHOWES at checkout and take 5% off of your order.


Creative Strings Podcast explores intersections between creativity, music education, string playing, music business, and culture.


Thanks to our sponsors for supporting the Creative Strings Podcast. Their support makes it possible to invest in the production of each episode and bring you great stories like this.

Visit Electric Violin Shop, your one-stop shop for electric instruments, amps, gear, accessories, and expertise. Use code CHOWES at checkout and take 5% off of your order. Call 866-900-8400 to get your questions answered on “all things electric strings”.

Ask them about the Yamaha Electric Violin,(check out my video review here). 

Are you a string player/teacher interested in exploring improvisation, contemporary styles, and related subjects?

Take a free introductory private Skype lesson (limited avails) Attend an upcoming workshop

If you enjoyed my interview with Andrea Whitt, check out these related posts:

Full Interview with Jazz Violinist Regina Carter Creative Practice Strategies for Violin, Viola, and Cello Full Interview with Jazz Violinist Jason Anick

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“Creative Strings” initiatives with the founding of Camille Catherine, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to the expansion and improvement of music education, with a focus on the development of curriculum and programs for classically trained string players and teachers to expand their skills as creative musicians.