Music is Music is (Pop!) Music

So… you’re a violin or viola player. Or a cello or bass player. What genres of music do you see your instrument as playing? If you immediately concluded some type of classical or, maybe, fiddling… you’re correct. You’re also only seeing a few of the wide variety of choices you have as a musician. While you’re in school orchestra, these may comprise the majority of genres you explore, but it by no means defines the scope of your potential on your instrument. I was personally blessed to be a part of an orchestra whose conductor loved to arrange rock/ pop/ hip hop/ jazz pieces for string and full orchestra, and we’d regularly play them at the final concert of the year, the Festival of Strings. At first it seemed like an interesting idea, but let me tell you- it’s inspiring to hear your own instrument being used to rock out to Led Zeppelin or Queen. Have you watched some of those “talent” shows and seen some of the interesting acts who play different genres on stringed instruments? This is no outlying incident. You are not just a “violin player” or “viola player”- you are being trained to be a musician. What’s the difference? As a musician, YOU have control over how you express yourself through your instrument. You can hear the common ground between vastly different styles of music, and you don’t have to be limited to one or two “types” of playing. Here are just some examples of some non-typical orchestra and ensemble pieces to peak your interest…

If I’m not very mistaken, that tall man conducting on the left is my former teacher. He’s pretty great…
Final Countdown- Cello and Orchestra
Super Mario Brothers- Eminence Symphony Orchestra
Here’s one of my favorites from playing in my HS orchestra…
Live and Let Die- LSWHS
(Yep… my former teacher again…)

You don’t have to be a part of a large orchestra, however, to achieve the same experience. I know, it’d be pretty awesome- but sometimes such an experience just isn’t feasible. Here are some smaller ensembles- and even solos- of folks rockin out to some pretty interesting genres. I hope these videos give you some ideas as to how to go about creating your own arrangements!
Vitamin String Quartet- Viva la Vida (tribute to Coldplay)
Paul Dateh & Inka One
Jazz Viola- Steffen Drabek
This post wouldn’t be complete without a nod to one of the most prolific musicians who ever turned the string world on its head: Mark O’Connor. If you haven’t heard of him before, you owe it to yourself to look him up!
Mark O’Connor- “In the Cluster Blues”
The theme from “Cheers”, anyone?
I think this guy got bored of playing backup. Listen to that crowd cheering him on!
This girl didn’t have any friends to play with her, so she played along with her own recordings. With a computer and some free software (and a microphone!), this method makes a great exercise in composing and arranging.
Have fun watching these, and feel free to do your own video digging on your favorite video aggregation site. Better yet… make your own video!
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