Jazz Violin After 1930-Getting Started with Chromatic Lines, Part 2

Paul Elliott

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This is the second of a 2-part article on how to incorporate more modern-sounding chromatic lines into your solos. Part 1 illustrated the basics of "enclosure" - playing from one note in a chord to another, but delaying getting to the second note. This article will give you some tips on how to practice building lines based on this idea plus some more examples of solos that use such lines.

First you'll need to get the basic patterns - root to third, third to fifth, fifth to root - under your fingers. Be sure to get comfortable starting them on different parts of the measure, as shown by these four root-to-third examples:

Now try playing into and out of one of the patterns. Start by adding a note to each end of the pattern and see what it sounds like. Add a couple more notes in front of the pattern, then try some more on the end.

You'll notice I'm not telling you exactly how to play into and out of all the patterns. This is because it's important for you to find your own variations - that's how you build your skill as an improviser. You'll find that some variations you come up with sound more interesting to you than others. When I'm doing this kind of practicing I like to mess around until I find a variation I like, then run over it enough so that I have it down.

Once you're starting to get comfortable playing into and out of all the basic patterns it's time to start stitching them together. Take two adjacent patterns, for example root-to-third and third-to-fifth. To start with it will be easiest to use the same variation of the first pattern each time but try to vary the second one, like this:

If you try this for a little while you'll find that the more you do it, the easier it gets. Your fingers get used to the chromatic movement and your ear starts guiding you toward the type of lines you're looking for. As in everything you play, your ear should have the final say. In this article I gave examples of basic patterns using specific notes above and below the target notes. You may experiment with different notes and find you like the way they sound better, or find you like enclosing other notes in a chord such as the sixth, seventh, or ninth. Go for it - it's your solo.

To finish, here's a sample solo using these types of patterns over the first nine measures of a set of chord changes that occurs in several jazz standards, such as There Will Never Be Another You or A Weaver Of Dreams.

A note on fingerings and bowings-as in the first article, the suggested fingerings and bowings are just that: suggestions. I think bowing and fingering decisions are up to each individual player, and should be developed to suit each player's individual style and technique.

Paul Elliott is one of the most respected and versatile fiddle players on the West Coast. He has performed with The Good Old Persons, John Reischman, Michelle Shocked, Alison Brown, Buell Neidlinger, and others. His recording credits span film, television, and radio, and a long list of CDs including Scott Nygaard's No Hurry on the Rounder label. He currently lives and plays in Seattle, Washington.

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