July 21, 2006 12:54 PM   Subscribe

How can I rock out like Wolfdog? (or Sabbath, for that matter). One caveat--I prefer the fiddle, thanks.

I was just listening to our own Wolfdog's fantastic music, and thought about sending her an email asking for advice. She doesn't have one in her profile (or a gender listed, either) but it occurred to me that I could just ask everyone here for advice, instead.

I really want to create music in the style of 80's metal--(e.g. Black Sabbath). My instrument of choice is not the guitar, however, but the violin. Now I have plenty of learnin' to do just to play standard Violin-style music, but how should I augment my studies in this regard? I'm taking classical Violin lessons currently (I've been playing for a couple years). I have an electric violin and a distortion pedal, so that's good.

So my question: Any tips about playing lead guitar on the fiddle? (aside from "Learn guitar, dummy"). How important are chords for lead guitar (as that would be rather difficult for me to pull off)? Anyone know of a program to easily convert guitar tab to standard notation / ABC / something I can read?
posted by Squid Voltaire to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You may want to invest in a Line6 Pod to give you a much wider range of amp/speaker/effects tone options.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:02 PM on July 21, 2006

Listen to The Section - they do it with a quartet.
posted by muddgirl at 1:03 PM on July 21, 2006

Not really practical advice on "how" but try listening to people who currently play violin in rock. I recommend Warren Ellis, of the Dirty Three, though the mp3 samples on the site are dreadful examples. Try the album Horse Stories, which is available cheap from emusic. I Remember a Time When Once You Used To Love Me is a stand-out track from a head-to-toe terrific record.

Not metal, but it kicks ass.
posted by dobbs at 1:04 PM on July 21, 2006

Also, traditional fiddling is probably a lot closer to "violin metal" than classical string stuff. So find someone who can teach you to fiddle (besides, fiddling can be a lot more fun than stuffy old string sonatas).
posted by muddgirl at 1:06 PM on July 21, 2006

Best answer: The fiddle is well adapted to playing metal. Metal tends to be constructed like pre 20th century european church and "art" music, much of which was written for violin. Study the standard children's etudes and excersises for beginning violinists, and you'l become fluent in the modes most widely used in the metal genres.
posted by ba at 1:12 PM on July 21, 2006

I've seen pictures, and I can assure you that Wolfdog's all man, baby.

And, speaking of fiddling, you might check out Hayseed Dixie, and their bluegrass-ish metal covers, for inspiration.
posted by box at 1:12 PM on July 21, 2006

Yellowcard are heavy (though not metal) and prominently feature a fiddle as a lead instrument.
posted by wackybrit at 1:14 PM on July 21, 2006

I don't know of any Sabbath style violin players. There are a couple heavier bands that make interesting use of violin. Sleepytime Gorrial Musuem for example. Or for that matter, some of the 70's Mahivishnu Orchestra stuff is pretty heavy.

Rasputina do a pretty good job with cellos, but then, cello seems to work a little for work that originated on heavy guitar.

But, I think a solo violin arrangment of "War Pigs" would be excellent.
posted by alikins at 1:39 PM on July 21, 2006

For other thrash-metal-fiddling, check out Devil In The Kitchen and Therion (well, they're more opera-metal than fiddle-metal). There was an English band in the early 70s called Wolf with a fiddler named Darryl Way. Also King Crimson had violin on their great mid-70s records Larks Tongues in Aspic, Starless and Bible Black, and Red (heaviest of the bunch). Also check Apocalyptica -- 4 Finnish cellists whose 1st album is all Metallica covers.

Looking at your profile, you might get a lesson / gear tips from a fiddler in one of the Chicago-based Celtic Punk bands. The Kissers are close by in Wisconsin somewhere.

[self-links follow] Omnium has put out 2 comp CDs in connection with shitenonions.com - 1 and 2 -- see if any of those bands are playing nearby. And all the releases by my band Boiled In Lead have fiddle; Antler Dance with Joe Kessler has probably the most EFX/sludge. There's an ethereal cover of Sabbath's Behind The Wall of Sleep on the new record by Felonious Bosch (see also a track on MuFi.)

I couldn't tell you exactly why, but I've always loved hearing violin with heavy rock.
posted by omnidrew at 1:51 PM on July 21, 2006

Best answer: If you want to sound classic rock-ish, stick with the minor pentatonic scale. Metal tends to augment that with natural minor and harmonic minor, as well as phrygian mode.
posted by ludwig_van at 2:13 PM on July 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

The Dresden Dolls do a War Pigs on piano and standard drumset which makes the original version sound gently schmaltzy.
posted by felix at 2:25 PM on July 21, 2006

Not Metal, but the late Sugarcane Harris got a very raucous sound on electric violin. Check out his version of "Directly From My Heart to You" on Frank Zappa's "Weasel Ripped My Flesh".
posted by timeistight at 2:32 PM on July 21, 2006

Chords aren't a big part of most guitar leads. The most you generally do is two notes together. Bends are more common, especially bending a note up to unison with a note fretted on a higher string. Think Chuck Berry—I know it’s not metal, but guitar solos tend to use that a lot.

How are you at picking things up by ear? Why not throw on some Sabbath and play along? That’s how most rock guitarists learn to play.
posted by InfidelZombie at 2:51 PM on July 21, 2006

Best answer: Metal leads seems like a natural for violin—with the naturally sustained tone of a bowed violin plus a distortion pedal, you've basically recreated the super-compressed sound of a classic guitar lead.

To learn to play that sort of riff, you're looking at scales and judicious use of hammer-on techniques. A lot of metal riffs can be seen as simple runs on unusual scales, for one thing.

For guitar-style metal power-chord crunching, you'll want to learn to play double-stops, probably mostly on the lower two strings—construct two-note powerchords and practice short, staccatto, rhthmically aggressive sequences of sounds.
posted by cortex at 3:06 PM on July 21, 2006

Check out Judgement Day.
posted by klausness at 3:14 PM on July 21, 2006

The guy on Mahavishnu Orchestra's Birds Of Fire manages to keep up with John McLaughlin. Not quite "metal" per se, but at least good hard rock.
posted by doctor_negative at 3:17 PM on July 21, 2006

You may want to check out Noxagt - they play some very heavy rock, with a viola up front. Apocalyptica, as previously mentioned, does instrumental Metallica covers. Forty Days Longing put out a demo of solid doom metal with A lot of other instances of fiddle in metal involve either tradition folk stuff or classical violin. [Bands like Cruachan that play folk metal for the former; bands that play orchestral metal, like Therion, for the latter.] Another idea: you may want to check out modern psychedelic and space rock. Those kind of bands tend to experiment more with odd instruments than your average rock band - I've seen Kinski play with a flute with distortion, Bright had an electric violinist when I saw them live, Acid Mothers Temple use absolutely everything, etc. Listening to the way other people work violin into the various styles of rock and metal will hopefully give you ideas [and riffs to practice.]

I'd certainly look into fiddle lessons [you may be able to find an Irish fiddle teacher through your local Irish-American organization. I'm sure that there're teachers who focus on American traditions, but I'm not sure how you'd find them.] Fiddle is more geared towards informal performances with some amount of improvisation, which may be more useful for eventually forming a band than your classical training. It may also help you learn to play by ear, which, depending on your classical backgroun, you may not be able to do. I wouldn't give up the classical lessons, though.
posted by ubersturm at 4:23 PM on July 21, 2006

I do have an email address in my profile and I know a few things about fiddle technique and I would love to talk about that. Hard rock / metal guitar has a lot in common with the bravado of celtic and bluegrass fiddle technique but there are interesting things to think about in translating between the two idioms.

TablEdit is capable of handling tablature for most stringed instruments and can render tabbed music in standard notation as well. That's also a standard feature on more sophisticated software like Sibelius, but TablEdit is quite handy.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:02 PM on July 21, 2006

I was going to suggest Judgement Day, but klausness beat me to it.
From what I remember Anton in Judgement Day plays through a variety of guitar amps, or sometimes just with a DI through the house system, with just a Boss Metal Zone pedal and perhaps a reverb pedal.
As for chords, realistically, most metal guitar is done with two or three note chords, which is very doable on a violin.
posted by gally99 at 12:50 AM on July 22, 2006

Kat has been playing metal violin forever. And you could try the old school method of over-driving a tube amp, it truncates the sine wave into a pseudo-square wave, those corners have lots of harmonics. You could experiment with a small tube amp (like a pignose), but it must be tube not solid state.
posted by 445supermag at 8:29 AM on July 22, 2006

Not violin, but cello, certainly good for inspiration: Apocalyptica.

The cello with effects is almost the ideal metal instrument, though I'm surpised that I haven't heard a double bass with a low-C extension used with cellos (or the very rare 5 string double bass, with a low-B string at 30.87Hz.)
posted by eriko at 5:29 AM on July 24, 2006

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