Jazz Violin Solo: Mark Feldman with John Abercrombie

Mark Feldman is an exceptional jazz violin player and improviser, and his solo here with John Abercrombie (a world class jazz guitarist) is worth listening to multiple times. Mark uses a lot of musical devices here that are important for all jazz players to understand, as well as a number of expressive devices that are unique to the violin.

This composition is called “gimme 5,” a reference to the 5/4 time signature. The tune has extended sections on one tonality, as well as some harmonic changes, and each present their own unique challenges for jazz violin improvisation. When there is a vamp like where this video clip starts, which is a repeated section on one chord, the player has to generate interesting content and tell a story – and cannot fall back on simply playing the changes.

Mark’s Jazz Violin Solo: Things to Notice

Notice that Mark uses really clear ideas, and emphasizes notes that create a strong tonal color against the vamp. An example of this is his use of both major and minor thirds of the key of the moment, emphasizing some major thirds at the beginning of the solo with different 7ths and chromatic tones. The idea here is very clear “tonal” ideas in jazz violin improvisation in addition to rhythmic and melodic ideas. Mark knows the different colors that certain notes will create, and emphasizes / introduces different ones at different times to keep things interesting and exciting.

This type of command requires ear training as well as an understanding of harmony. This is a far more engaging way to play than to simply follow the “play the scale of the chord that the vamp is in” that many who take only a scale-chord approach to improvising will use. Of course, it is important to learn the scales associated with chords, but to do what Mark is doing, it requires an understanding of the impact of these various notes including those “outside” or not included in the scale. This is a mixture of intellectual knowledge and experience, but is not purely academic. It is fun and interesting to learn these details of the music, because it creates such an emotional impact and is more rewarding both to play and to listen to.

Mark also uses a lot of stylistic inflections that take full advantage of the unique sounds that jazz violin can make – scooping the notes, varying vibrato amounts, and a mixture of trills / slides. In this case Mark uses this in a very “eastern” sounding way at times, in combination with scales and note choices that also reflect that style of music. There are some gypsy elements mixed into this, without keeping that flavor throughout the whole solo. This is another aspect of jazz violin improvisation that comes with experience: awareness of other styles of music and incorporating them in a way that is still your own voice.

Also take note of how the full range of the violin is used to keep things interesting and exciting. There are surprising large leaps and shifts of octaves at times – not always straight up and down ascending and descending lines. Mark also makes use of rapid arpeggio themes, such as at 1:02.

Variation – What you can use right now

One of the most important things to notice about this solo, which you can incorporate into your jazz violin playing right now regardless of how much theory or technique you have, is the variety here. Sometimes there are long singing tones held out, other times it is streams of fast sixteenth notes. Other times there are repeated notes used to emphasize rhythmic ideas vs. melodic ideas. Some notes have inflection while other times they are straight. The combination of all these factors, musical, technical, and emotional, really create the full picture here.

There are lots of resources for learning harmony – as a violin player, you will probably enjoy the harmony PDF book for strings included in this improv program. Otherwise, there are many books you can turn to.

For the other elements that make this jazz violin playing so great, keep listening closely, and transcribing the things you love! Stay tuned for more jazz violin lessons.

Visit Mark Feldman on the web

Free 3 days of video improv course and harmony guidebook for strings here


5 Things to Look For in a Jazz Violin Teacher

It can be difficult, if not impossible to find a live jazz violin teacher depending on where you live. While there are many aspects of the music that can be studied independently, t is best to have the feedback from someone who has dealt with playing jazz violin specifically. Only a real player knows the technical specifics of how to get the right phrasing with the bow, how to get different sound colors from the instrument, creating a groove, and more.

Jazz Violin TeacherNow that the internet and technology like Skype has connected the world to free live video conferencing, it is possible to connect with a “live” teacher this way. There are also a few pioneers in the jazz violin teacher world putting out video lessons for jazz violin. Here are a few things to look for when looking for a jazz violin teacher:

1) Actual experience playing with jazz greats
This may sound obvious, but you would be surprised how many people pass themselves off as an expert jazz violin teacher without having done this. So much of jazz is an “aural tradition” and the subtleties are learned on the bandstand, especially the skills like how to play with a rhythm section, lead intros and endings, and so on.

2) Solid classical / technical background
In order to give the melodies and difficult lines the right phrasing and rhythmic feel for jazz violin you will really have to have the technical aspects of the instrument down, so you will want someone who can show you these things. Do not be fooled into thinking that jazz violin or improvised music allows room for sloppy technique. It demands creating new melodies and lines with the same precision as a written piece when done correctly.

3) Can improvise / play songs by memory and by ear without written music
Much of jazz is performed this way and requires the ears to be able to react musically to the other musicians in the band. The skill set for this is a bit different than memorizing classical music, as it involves having a strong command of the harmony of the song and being able to create new melodies that work on top of them.

4) Understands jazz rhythm and harmony
Jazz has a specific rhythmic feel that has a lot of flexibility, but requires precision. It is an art form to make it feel relaxed yet swinging, and there is much more to it than the common description of a “triplet feel.” A lot of this is passed on by ear and feel, and there is no better way to absorb it than working with someone who has it, and can feel what you are doing that sounds stiff or unmusical. There are similarly specific things with jazz harmony that require experience and knowledge.

5) Is able to communicate what they do
There are some musicians who are so natural that they do not really know how to explain what they are doing, or understand the theory to be able to break it down. Ideally you want to study with someone who not only knows how to play and improvise, but can explain what they are doing with at least enough clarity for you to be able to take it and run with it.

You will want to look at the biography, resume, or ask a teacher you are interested in studying with to make sure you will be led in the right direction. A good teacher can skyrocket your progress, while being misguided can actually cost you money and teach you bad habits.

Because of the digital age, some jazz violin teachers offer skype lessons. As you have probably seen on this site, Christian Howes who meets all of these criteria offers some free jazz violin lesson videos which you can check out here for 3 days. Skype lessons are also offered here . However, whatever you decide to do, be sure to keep these points in mind so you can make an informed decision.

*If you are jazz violin teacher who would like to mention what you do, please feel free to do so by leaving a “comment” on this post so people can get to know you!*


Traditional Jazz Violin Lesson – Melody On a Standard

This jazz violin lesson is a demonstration from Tim Kilphuis playing the melody to “I can’t give you anything but love,” – a classic standard that is  good to have in the repertoire. Learning the chord changes and melodies to classic standards is an important part of building your understanding of the music and developing jazz violin vocabulary.

This is an example of an earlier jazz violin style –  the feel of the rhythm section, with the banjo strumming and half time feel in the bass, is closer to a dixieland feel as well as the “gypsy” jazz feel. While there have been a lot of evolutions in the feel of the music from bebop to post-bop and more modern styles, good jazz violin lessons and study of the music should include the tradition. The phrasing of the melody here is a good example of this particular feel for jazz violin.

It would be valuable to hear one of the great jazz singers perform this song, so you can hear the lyrics and the way it is phrased. Then you will have a better understanding of the embellishments and the way it is being adapted for jazz violin.

The video has a link to download the backing tracks for free, which is very cool and a great way to practice jazz violin. The link from the youtube video to  get the tracks is: http://www.dc-musicschool.com/catalogue/playalongs/free-beginner-gypsy-jazz-playalongs/


Jazz Violin Lesson – Blues

Here is a video from Christian Howes’ Membership Site, which he generously allowed use to share with you. It is on the subject of improvising over a blues progression. He uses his looping pedal to create the chord structure and bass line, showing how you can create your own accompaniment for yourself.

If you have your violin handy, this video gives you an opportunity to play along with Chris’ accompaniment with him guiding you.

Jazz Violin Lesson – Blues Video:

To give you some theory background, the blues chord progression in this jazz violin lesson is called a “one four five” progression, G being one, C being four, D being five. Each of the chords is a dominant 7th chord, meaning it has the root, third, fifth, and flat 7th.

So when Chris says “G,” “C” and “D” he is referring to dominant 7th chords. This video is part of Chris’ membership site where that material has already been covered, so this video focuses more on the phrasing and ideas for improvisation – which are extremely valuable points to cover in jazz violin lessons. This is what makes it sound like true melody improvisation instead of just running correct scales over the instrument.

Notice the way he scoops certain notes and embellishes the melody in a way to give it an authentic feel.

To view the complete video series, you can take Chris’ 3 day free trial of his membership site


Jazz Violin Lessons

Authentic jazz violin lessons online can be hard to find, so jazz violin lessons dot com has been created to help those of you out there looking to really apply the language and rhythmic feel of jazz to the violin.

jazz violin lessonsThere are lots of great resources out there for improvising violinists, but relatively few that deal with true jazz language, harmony, vocabulary, repertoire, phrasing, and the other nuances that make jazz the unique artform it is. This is probably because there are relatively few violinists (compared to other instruments , such as saxophonists) who have really dedicated themselves to learning jazz on their instrument… let alone also giving jazz violin lessons online or in person.

It is always possible to study jazz theory, rhythm, improvisation and more with other instrumentalists, but for things like phrasing with the bow, fingering patterns and the physical technique of really making the theory come alive, it’s best to have true jazz violin lessons with a teacher who has mastered these things. Luckily for us, the internet has made it possible to learn from and interact with the best in the world, wherever you are. Our intent is to get you in touch with them.

We will post resources for you here, including good jazz violin lessons on video we come across. Some have even given us special content for you. Also be sure to take a look at:

Jazz Violin Lessons Membership site loaded with videos, live broadcasts, skype lessons and more.

Christian Howes, a world class player who has worked with a large variety of world class jazz musicians (Bill Evans, etc,) created his own recordings, produced, arranged and performed string parts for numerous recordings has created a membership site that represents the future of jazz violin lessons.

For a monthly cost that is far less than a single lesson from most teachers, members get access to a library of videos, Q&A, live broadcasts from Christian, even discounted Skype lessons if desired. Christian has shared with us a sample of the jazz violin lessons from inside his forum which you can check out here:

Christian is also running a free 3 day trial so you have nothing to lose by checking it out. The “subscribe” button- just be aware that you will have to cancel before the end of the trial if you do not want to get billed.. but from what we have seen we believe you will want to stay.

Christian Howes Creative Strings Academy

Check out the Jazz Violin Lessons / Creative Strings Academy Program Here with the 3 day Free Trial