As a violinist, I am immediately drawn to music when I hear a violin/viola/cello used. A good use of strings can add merit to even the worst of songs. Of course, I prefer to listen to the good ones. Regardless of my bias, I enjoy how strings can be used in any genre of music. A stringed instrument does not necessarily make the song country or bluegrass. Rock, punk, pop, metal, and even rap all have songs with good uses of strings suitable to their genre. I love how universal stringed instruments have become.
I’ve compiled a playlist of some of my favorite songs with strings. Initially this list had 33 songs on it; I downsized to make it more “listenable.” I left out songs that are only strings, and concentrated on bringing you five fantastic songs of varying genres that make good use of strings alongside vocals, guitars, drums, and the like. You can find the playlist embedded at the end of this post.
1. Rise- The Frames
The premiere Music Monday post was all about Glen Hansard and The Frames. Naturally, I had to include one of their songs. “Rise” is made complete with the violin part. There is a build that starts around 1:50 that continues for the remainder of the song, and the violin solo is integral- it truly would not be the same without. It is one of my favorite uses of Colm Mac Con Iomaire’s violin skills.
2. Rouse Your Bones- Broadcast 2000
Broadcast 2000 makes good and innovative use of strings in most of their songs. This one is a favorite of mine because of how necessary the violin is. There is not much guitar used, instead there are many layers of violins, plucked and bowed, to make some wonderful fillers as well as the bulk of the rhythm.
3. Mayday!!!- Flobots
The violin in this song is used seamlessly and it adds so much. There are smatterings all throughout under the lyrics and other instruments that add to the movement of the song, as well as some solo fillers that that really stand out and- in the long run- help the lyrics make their point. *please be advised that there is a bit of language in this one*
4. Rocks and Daggers- Noah and the Whale
This song is from Noah and the Whale’s first CD- “Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down,” and it remains my favorite of their three CDs. “Rocks and Daggers” is a good representation of how happy and fun most of the songs on that CD are. It is yet another song that has an integral violin part. Not only is there a nice solo line that gets introduced around 1:50 and repeated throughout the rest of the song, there are also many fillers and rhythm lines to take place of guitar chords.
5. Wagon Wheel- Old Crow Medicine Show
This is my all-time favorite “campfire” song, if you will. It is classic bluegrass- four chords, applicable lyrics, great harmonies, and fiddle interludes in between all the verses. I have played this song more times that I can remember with various groups of friends and acquaintances. So, for nostalgia’s sake, it had to be included. It really is a fantastic song.
6. Of course, if The Beatles were on Spotify- Eleanor Rigby is a definite must add to this list. Trivia- it is the only Beatles song that doesn’t include any of the four on their instruments!
What do you think of this list? Are there any songs with good string parts that have stuck out to you? In what genres do you think the use of strings works best?