How to Improvise on a Violin

Improvising on the violin is easier than most instruments because you can use the various string positions as a guide to playing in a key. This makes it easy to embellish an already established melody by using appoggiaturas, passing tones and neighbor tones. Appoggiaturas play the note just above the melody, passing notes occur between notes of the melody and neighbor tones play the pitch directly above the melody and then return to the original melody note.

Step 1

Analyze the melody and take note of any places where there are skips in the melody. If the skip is only a third, use a passing note to move between the notes. For instance, if two consecutive melody notes consist of an A and C, then the passing tone would be B-flat or B between the two pitches.

Step 2

Play appoggiaturas when the melody jumps. To do this, simply choose a note above the original melody and add it to the already notated rhythm. If there is an eighth note, then you will turn the written note into a 16th note and place the appoggiatura right before the written melody note.

Step 3

Perform a neighbor tone when the melody holds a particular pitch for one beat or more. To play a neighbor tone, simply move up to the note above the original pitch.

Step 4

Execute a trill when you have a note longer than a half note in duration. Play a trill by rocking back and forth between two fingers while pulling the bow across the string.


A non-chord tone is any note that doesn't fit into a major or minor chord.


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