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Violin Improvisation Lesson: 14 Practice Tips

violin improvisation lesson christian howes

Discover 14 of Christian’s best practice tips in this tutorial on violin improvisation   

In this video I cover some of my best practice tips to improve your improvisation skills on the violin.  Whether you’re looking to make your own violin covers, arrange your parts to play violin in a band, or develop deeper skills in improvisation in any style, you’ll take away new insights into creative violin practice from this video. The song used in this video to demonstrate my approach to practicing violin improvisation is “Hasta Siempre Comendante.”

Here are some of the key points:

00:47 – Write down the chord progression of any song you’re beginning to practice improvisation on

1:00 – Come up with & play a simple, functional bass line on the violin, viola, or cello

01:25 – Diagram the voice leading in first position, extended range, on the violin

1:30 – Play the arpeggio of each chord in root position

1:40 – Internalize each arpeggio in all inversions on the violin

02:14 – Play the chords as double stops & triple stops in spread & close voicings on violin

02:30 – Connect arpeggios with voice leading

The failure to internalize voice leading is the most common problem for classical musicians related to improvisation. To overcome this, you can easily diagram the voice leading on violin, viola, or cello.

I show you exactly how to do this in my eCourse below. 

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03:50 – Choose a scale to use for each chord

4:00 – Tip: Any chord scale should always contain the notes in the chord

4:10 – Tip: Choose scales with as many common tones as possible across the chord progression

04:34 – Pair two chord scales using voice-led sequences in extended range, first position on violin

For deeper study on these subjects, consider the Violin Harmony Handbook:

Violin Harmony Handbook (eBook)
  • Learn to build chords on your instrument and navigate the fingerboard harmonically.
  • This 70-page handbook packed with practical theory, practice exercises, and even solo violin transcriptions and charts.
  • Includes conceptual, intuitive, and analytical tools for dealing with harmony, along with chord glossaries.
  • Skill Level: Intermediate and Up
Also included in our Creative Strings Academyand our Jazz Violin Harmony Fundamentals Multimedia Course below
Price: $34.95
Price: $29.95


4:56 – Tip: Try writing down the key signatures on a staff and look at them when you practice

05:52 – Play a chord tone on the downbeat of the chord, or on strong beats

06:10 – Use chord tones to create a skeletal melody

06:17 – Embellish the core melody

06:48 – Choose a melodic rhythm & change the notes

07:55 – Play constant 8th notes

08:30 – Use constant triplets or 16ths 

8:35 – Mix rhythmic values, such as combining 8ths & 16ths, halfs & quarters

08:40 – Combine rhythmic values such as 8ths and/or 16ths with rests!

08:57 – “Micro-improvisation”- Repeat a melody, making different, tiny changes each time

09:59 – Write out a solo (with or without the violin in hand)

10:24 – Transcribe ideas from other recordings

11:24 – Vary phrasing (long/short, dense/sparse, etc..)

13:02 – Vary techniques, register, & articulations (specific to violin improvisation)

13:30 – When practicing improvisation on violin, be conscious of the framework, structure, constraints, or parameters

13:55 – My Best Violin Improvisation Tip: Record yourself, listen back, take notes, & eliminate your least favorite material in the future. (See my post on the best way to improve as a musician)


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More tutorials related to Violin Improvisation

Beyond “The Chop”: How to develop rhythmic grooves on violin and cello

Brazilian Music- a Gateway for Classical Musicians; How to Play Bossa on Violin

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