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I played the violin as a child, and now I'm trying to pick it up again. However, most of the music and notes I have are for classical music, which is what I played back then. So for instance I have been working on Franz Wohlfahrt's "Sixty Studies for the Violin" under the assumption that it is useful no matter what I will end up playing.

However, I really like the sound of bands like Pentangle and Ygdrassil, usually described as folk with jazz/rock/blues influences. These two groups don't use the violin a lot, but for example in Open the Door of the Pentangle the violin is somewhat prominent.

I'm definitely not ready to play with others yet, and we're quarantined due to COVID-19 now anyway, so my question is: is there any way I could learn to play this kind of music on the violin that makes sense to do on my own? Or is the violin simply not suited for this and should I stick to another genre / try the guitar (for example) instead / wait for times to improve to join a band where I could have a more supporting role?

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Of course. Get tabs and practice what kind of double stops on a lower string make for a good fit with the chord symbols written above the melody line (which you also play). That's way what contributes to a folksy sound and much material to play from will be in the form melody+chords. So it's a pretty useful skill to not need written-out double stops for that kind of thing.

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Personally, I think there's a lot of fun to be had playing folk music solo on the violin - a lot of British/European folk music contains double-stops, and melodies with a strong emphasis on chord tones, that mean the violin part carries the chord progression — and likewise the rhythmic feel of folk violin means that you can play up a storm in the kitchen on your own (or with the people you are self-isolating with!)

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There’s a huge tradition of violin (often aka fiddle) music in the various British folk musics and in many other traditional musics worldwide. Pentangle and Ygdrassil are as good a starting point as any, and you’ll be preparing yourself for a lifetime of happy & & fulfilling playing if you put the starting work in now.

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  • I found out about the 'aka fiddle' bit (and the fact that I should refer to songs as 'tunes') earlier today, and this has indeed opened a whole new world :) – user69667 May 21 at 19:21
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I think it's a great idea! And there are tons of public domain tune books online. One thing to consider is some folk music uses alternate tunings. Maybe some of the music you like uses such tunings. Or, you might be curious to try it out. I can't play violin, but I get by on guitar. I've tried alternate guitar tunings and it's a nice way to get a fresh view on the instrument. Helps you think a bit deeper about standard tuning.

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