Pop Music on Classical Instruments - Even Better Than It Sounds / by Edward Stevens

Welcome everyone to the site and thanks for taking the time to explore a bit more about what we are doing over here at String Shift. In this first entry I want to shed some light on one of the unique things about this group - why a bunch of classical musicians want to play popular music.

Many classical musicians will tell you about the time they caught “the bug.” They heard a certain sonata by Beethoven, symphony by Mahler, or aria by Verdi that knocked the air straight out of them. The depth of emotion heard in the music swallows them whole to the point where they can’t imagine doing anything else in life except trying to recreate that indescribable experience of hearing great music. I eventually caught “the bug” as well but it was never just classical music that made me feel that way. I wanted to explore all music that communicates something more than just notes on a page. I wanted to pick it apart and find out what makes it tick. So as fate would have it I had a cello in my hands to do the picking. Luckily, there is no better weapon of choice out there.

Chances are if you have turned on a radio within the past 10 years you may have noticed that the lush sounds of violins, violas and cellos are being heard more and more in popular songs. Some bands have even made a violin or cello a staple in their usual make-up. And why not? String instruments can achieve an incredible variety of sounds and blend well with about any other instrument. This also means that just about any song can have a string layer added to it or be re-imagined by a string orchestra and you will experience the song in a whole different way. The best way I can describe this is to imagine a really kick-ass painting that has some nice flowers, cool-looking trees trees and some frollicking kids or whatever. The painting by itself is pretty great, but then you add some sweet mountains in the background with snow caps and crazy lava coming down the side and you have a whole new experience on your hands. The mountains are your string instruments.

So that’s what we do here at String Shift, we take an already amazing song and add some awesome mountains to it by re-imagining it with a string orchestra. Think of your favorite song by a band like Radiohead or Coldplay and hear it instead with the fullness of a string section--the end result is you going to a happy place. Or take the intensity of Metallica and match that with the ferocity and energy from a bunch of bad-ass string players and you will think it was always meant to be that way. There’s a saying we use around here: “once you go Bach, you never go Back.” **

** Editor’s note: we do not, and have not ever actually said this

Don’t get me wrong, you will hear some classical music at our concerts, mainly because it’s great music and can be just as engaging, if more so, than any pop song. But at a String Shift show I promise you one thing: whatever we play, whether Metallica or Mozart, you are going to have an incredible time.

Check back later and often for further updates about what is happening at String Shift