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

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”.

Cool Venue for String Players on Tour – A Legit Opportunity for your Act

Christian Howes-Live Shot
I’ve been touring for years, and it’s a hard thing to get going. It takes building on each connection you make.

It’s a real blessing, especially for instrumental acts, when a venue like Jim comes along, (see below) opening the door for you to play on the road. This sounds like a great gig en route to Nashville, Atlanta, Louisville, Durham, et al. If you’re looking to tour down south, give him a call and tell him I sent you. (Seriously!)

You might be thinking, “but it’s just a gig for tips”. But I’ll bet you might be able to convince Jim to charge something small at the door, and if you advertise to local teachers and players, you might pull off a clinic. Maybe a couch to stay on…. It all adds up. Touring isn’t easy, but it’s one way independent musicians do it, and you have start at A to get to B.
See Jim’s note, and offer, below:

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Reverb vs Delay – Getting a Good Amplified Sound for Violin, Viola, or Cello


A great young creative violin player  named Rob Flax (he’s also an alumni of my annual Creative Strings Workshop) recently sent me his audition tapes for grad school to get my feedback, and one of the first things I noticed was that, although the violin was loud enough in the context of the jazz combo, it didn’t have the depth of sound that I  know he creates when he plays acoustically. I think this was largely attributable to the fact that his sound was “dry”, i.e., lacking reverb. Although Rob delves into everything from straight ahead jazz to fusion, free jazz,  rock, and fiddle styles like bluegrass, his tape was mostly acoustic and straight ahead.




The obvious question from Rob to me: What’s a good way to get the reverb I need? An amp or a pedal? Any tips from your own experimenting?

My answer: It depends. Some amps have good reverbs, some pedals have good reverbs, and sometimes you’ll want to rely on the p.a. (when you have one with a soundman you trust) for reverb.

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A Tribute to Zbigniew Seifer

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Use the widget above to check out one of my latest recordings, “City of Spring”:  Jarek Smietana Band featuring Christian Howes from the album “A Tribute to Zbigniew Seifert”

Other featured violinists on this album include Jerry Goodman, Mateusz Smoczynski, Didier Lockwood, Krzesimir Debski, Mark Feldman, Maciej Strzelczyk, Adam Baldych, Pierre Blanchard Continue reading