Bach is already perfect, but having fun with it is hard to resist (see video below). Although Bach’s Fugue for unaccompanied violin could be treated with a walking bass line, I tried a half time feel bass line to allow space for fugue-like countermelodies in the inner voices. The difference between foreground and background becomes blurred this way, rather than assigning the bass, comping, and melody their typical places in a swing-type rendition.
I hope classical musicians can use case studies like this to inspire them to improvise with classical material in other ways. After you check out the video below, please leave a comment below and let me know what you think.
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Before I got heavily into jazz, I improvised using the only vocabulary I knew. Jazz has a history of drawing from classical composers, but I predict an explosion of new music once improvisation is taught to classical musicians from an early age.
In this performance, I hear a bit of “everything” (jazz and classical vocabulary), and “nothing” (stylistically neutral material). That’s partly why I decided to share it.
At the risk of being redundant, I think the single best way for musicians to improve is by recording and listening back. That’s one reason the loop pedal is more than a gimmick. A great practice tool, looping provides the ability to immediately review my timing, rhythm, ensemble, ideas, phrasing, intonation, and more.
Intonation always needs work, and for this I plead “guilty” as charged. As Yo-Yo Ma once told me in a master class (paraphrasing), “Learning to play in tune is a lifetime project for every string player.” Yo Yo Ma is totally the man.
But the loop pedal reveals a flaw in my playing that’s harder to pin down than intonation, something most classical musicians rarely spend time honing, and in this performance it’s so blatant, I almost didn’t post the video. Hint: anytime you’re working with a longer form, this will be harder to perfect, and it becomes apparent at one moment each time the form loops around. Leave a comment and let me know if you figured out what I’m referring to, and if it bothers you.
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Credit for the idea of truncating the form of the Bach Fugue in G Minor goes to Billy Contreras. We recorded a duo version of this arrangement on “Jazz Fiddle Revolution”.
All my gear is supplied by the Electric Violin Shop.
Yamaha Silent Violin 250
D’Addario Helicore Strings
Boss ME-70 (multi effects signal processor)
Ditto loop pedal
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Support for this case study is brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council and city of Columbus.