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 30 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.

Check out the Jazz Violin Lessons / Creative Strings Academy Program Here with the 30 day Free Trial

A Brief History of Jazz Violin

Jazz is a music genre that originated in the United States in the late 19th century. It is a unique form of music that has evolved over time, blending elements of African American and European musical traditions. Jazz is characterized by improvisation, syncopated rhythms, and a wide range of musical instruments, including brass, woodwinds, drums, and bass. However, one instrument that is often overlooked in jazz is the violin.

The violin has been a part of jazz music since the early 20th century, but it was not until the 1920s that it began to gain popularity as a solo instrument. Jazz violinists played an essential role in the development of jazz music, and their contributions are often overlooked. In this article, we will explore the history of jazz violin and how it has shaped jazz music.

Early Years of Jazz Violin

The earliest recorded instance of a violin being used in jazz music was in 1904 when African American violinist Joseph Douglass played in a band led by the pianist Jelly Roll Morton. Douglass was a classically trained violinist who had played with the likes of John Philip Sousa and was one of the few African American musicians to achieve success in classical music. His inclusion in Morton’s band marked the beginning of a new era in jazz music.

In the early years of jazz, the violin was not a common instrument in jazz ensembles. Jazz music was still developing, and most jazz musicians at the time were playing the traditional jazz instruments such as the trumpet, trombone, and clarinet. However, a few jazz violinists began to emerge, and they would help shape the sound of jazz music in the years to come.

One of the first jazz violinists to gain prominence was Eddie South. South was a classically trained violinist who began his career playing in vaudeville shows. In the 1920s, he began to play with jazz ensembles, and his unique blend of classical technique and jazz phrasing made him stand out. South was one of the first jazz violinists to record, and his recordings in the 1920s and 1930s helped to popularize the instrument.

Another early jazz violinist was Stuff Smith. Smith was a self-taught violinist who began his career playing in dance bands. He was known for his virtuosic playing style and his use of amplification, which allowed him to play with greater volume and intensity. Smith was a pioneer in the use of the violin as a lead instrument in jazz music and was one of the first jazz musicians to use a pickup on his instrument.

Swing Era and Beyond

In the 1930s and 1940s, jazz music underwent a significant transformation. This was the era of swing music, and jazz bands were larger and more sophisticated than ever before. The violin began to play a more prominent role in jazz music during this time, and several prominent jazz violinists emerged.

One of the most significant jazz violinists of the swing era was Stephane Grappelli. Grappelli was a French violinist who began his career playing in gypsy jazz ensembles. In the 1930s, he teamed up with the legendary guitarist Django Reinhardt, and together they formed the Quintet of the Hot Club of France. The quintet featured two guitars, a bass, and two violins (Grappelli and another violinist). The group’s sound was unique and innovative, and they were one of the most popular jazz ensembles of the time.

Another prominent jazz violinist of the swing era was Joe Venuti. Venuti was a classically trained violinist who began his career playing in vaudeville shows. He was known for his virtuosic playing style and his use of effects such as tremolo and pizzicato. Venuti was one of the first jazz musicians to use the violin as a lead instrument, and his influence on jazz violinists that followed him was significant.

During the swing era, jazz violinists also played an important role in the development of bebop music. Bebop was a style of jazz that emerged in the 1940s and was characterized by fast tempos, complex harmonies, and intricate melodies. Jazz violinists such as Stuff Smith and Ray Nance were known for their bebop-infused playing styles, and their contributions to the genre were significant.

In the 1950s and 1960s, jazz violinists continued to push the boundaries of jazz music. Jean-Luc Ponty was a French violinist who played with some of the most significant jazz musicians of the time, including Frank Zappa and Mahavishnu Orchestra. Ponty was known for his use of electronic effects, which allowed him to create unique sounds and textures.

Another influential jazz violinist of this era was Leroy Jenkins. Jenkins was a member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), a Chicago-based collective of musicians who were dedicated to exploring new forms of jazz music. Jenkins was known for his use of extended techniques, including playing the violin with a bow made of fishing line or attaching a kazoo to the bridge of his instrument.

In the 1970s and beyond, jazz violinists continued to experiment with new sounds and techniques. Regina Carter was one of the most significant jazz violinists of this era. Carter was known for her virtuosic playing style and her use of diverse musical influences, including blues, classical, and world music. Carter was one of the first jazz musicians to use the violin as a lead instrument in a jazz quintet, and her contributions to jazz music were significant.


Jazz violin is a unique and important part of the history of jazz music. Jazz violinists have played an essential role in the development of the genre, from its early years to the present day. Jazz violinists have used their instruments to create unique sounds and textures, and their contributions have helped to shape jazz music into what it is today.

Although jazz violinists have often been overlooked in the history of jazz music, their contributions are significant. Jazz violinists have been pioneers in the use of the violin as a lead instrument in jazz music, and they have helped to break down barriers between different musical genres. Jazz violinists have been essential in the development of swing, bebop, and other styles of jazz music, and their influence on jazz music will continue to be felt for generations to come.

How to Practice Jazz Scales: Violin, Viola and Cello

Have you ever wondered how to practice jazz scales?

Christian Howes details how in his new book, “Jazz Scales for Violin, Viola, Cello.” Find it here!

If you’re a classically trained string player, you probably practice scales off the page. I bet you have Carl Flesch right there. Don’t pretend like you don’t.

You’ve probably seen scale methods help you with technical skills like intonation, vibrato, facility, and tone production.

But jazz musicians and other creative musicians don’t practice off a page. They often play scales from their heads so they can memorize or internalize melodic and harmonic relationships.

Want to learn how? Here are 4 ways that you can practice scales like a jazz musician. These steps will help you consolidate and generate more benefits from your precious practice time and still improve your technique.

1) Play the Scale in Root Position

For example, if you want to play a D melodic minor scale, simply start on D. Play the scale up to the next highest octave and back down. You’ve probably done something like that before.

2) Play the Scale in Extended Range

Don’t start on the root this time. Find the lowest note in the scale on your instrument and go to the highest note on the scale in first position.

For example, if you’re a violinist, you’d start on open G for D melodic minor. Then you’d play all the way to 4th finger B on the E string, and then back down. That’s extended range. Every possible note in at least 1 position.

It might help to visualize a key signature. In D melodic minor, there’s only 1 sharp. It’s C#. So you’d play every natural note in first position except sharp note C.

3) Start the Scale on Different Notes

In other words, start each scale repetition on a scale tone. For example, the first time through, you might play D melodic minor starting on your lowest possible note (open G for violins). The next time though, you might start on 1st finger A on the G string. The next time, you might go up another step and start on second finger B on the G string. And so forth.

The key is feel comfortable playing the scale starting on any and every scale tone.

Essentially, you’re playing all the modes of 1 scale.

Pro Tip: Still play in extended range, but in EVERY position.

For example, start D melodic minor in 2nd position (1st finger B on the G string for violinists), and play all the way up to 4th finger C# on the E string. Then, alternate starting notes just like you would in 1st position. Try it in as many positions as you can!

4) Play Sequences and Patterns

The next step is to vary the scale pattern. These can be 2 note patterns, 3 note patterns, and really anything else you can think of! Start simply and then try harder patterns.

For example, here’s a simple one. If you assign a number to each degree of the scale, a simple 2 note pattern would be 1-3, 2-4, 3-5 etc. Play that pattern up and back down. Then (you guessed it!) start from every degree of the scale. (see video for example)

So with that, you have the first 4 strategies for practicing scales!

Bare in mind that these exercises are important not just for developing your understanding of these melodic relationships, but for your listening. You’ll be able to hear and recognize what each scale sounds like.

Ultimately, you’ll want do do all this from your head. However, if you want something to read off of to get started, check out the book Jazz Scales for Violin, Viola and Cello.

In the meantime, please leave a comment about what helped you or anything Christian can help you understand!

Posted by: Susie Hofheins

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/