As much as I love classical music now, as and adult and after playing the violin for over 20 years, I have to admit that as a young player, I was...less than enthusiastic. While I was practicing Mozart and Bach over and over, I was envious of my guitar and piano playing friends. It seemed like there was more variety to the music that they were presented, and, more recognizable music. Popular music, even. While the school band played “The Peanuts” suite for an excited audience, the orchestra concerts were always labeled “boring.”
What I didn’t know then was that the violin was much more versatile than I realized. Modeled after the human voice, and meant to fill the part of the soprano, the violin can pretty much do anything that the voice can do. More than that, really, because the violin doesn’t have to breathe. Knowing this opens up a world of additional musical choices. Significantly, playing the violin in a genre other than classical will still require mastery of the same techniques.
Like broadway music but can’t find a solo violin transcription? Use the vocal part. Most vocal/piano books are printed with the vocal line in the treble clef- perfect for the violinist. Further, the vocal line tends to be the melody. These arrangements also work really well for a small recital with a friend at the piano (you won’t need to search the accompaniment part!).
In the age of the internet, pop music isn’t out of reach either. Arrangements are readily available online to watch on YouTube by artists like Lindsey Stirling, Taylor Davis, and Daniel D. They also have arrangements of video game soundtracks. Many of these artists make their versions available to the public with downloadable sheet music on their websites.
Other places to get a variety of music: Hal Leonard publishers puts together books of popular music (pop hits, Disney, artist-specific) with a downloadable background track; websites like Music Notes also provide violin versions of such songs through their app (a note about this- not all songs are available in violin version; I recommend piano/vocal versions or lead sheets in this situation).
The world of music for the violin is vast and diverse. While classical music is certainly enjoyable, it’s nice to branch out every now and again. It’s also a lot of fun to play familiar songs.
As players of stringed instruments, we are always made aware of our origins- of Cremona and the Golden Age, of Bach. Much of the first music we learn is Bach, with our lessons culminating in the great achievement of playing his solo works. In taking the initial steps of preparation for learning Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Unaccompanied Violin, and having always been a fan of his violin concertos, I began to wonder, much like others before me, what the music sounded like “as Bach would have heard it.”