Lorrie Gunn - children's lessons & play-along videos expert

Learn to play Kum Ba Yah with your violin

Take the leap with double stops and singing while playing!

In this video, Lorrie teaches you how to play Kum Ba Yah with your violin... with a touch of nature, singing, and double-stops!

Released on April 7, 2021

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hello, fellow violin lovers. I hope that you will join me today to learn how to play a beautiful tune called Kum Ba Yah. Now this tune is not as old as I thought; the earliest found recordings and written music of this piece was found around 1920s, 1924, but it is so beautiful to play. And a lot of times you sing lots of verses to this piece. So what I will do is show you several different ways you can play this beautiful song. So let's get started and learn the very basic melody. To do this, I'm going to start on the A string and I'm going to play an A, and then put two fingers down.

Two, and then the E string. E, E, E. Then I'm going to put my first finger down. And I'm going to play an open E.

So that is the basic melody; that's going to happen three times. Okay. So let's go back to the beginning and play through A, two, E, E, E, one, one, E. Okay, we're going to do it again.

A, two, E, E, E. Now here it's a little different. We'll go to the A string, put three fingers down, play three, two, one. We're going to play like the beginning again, A, two, E, E, E, one finger on the E, one, E. Here we come to the A string. Put three fingers down, three, two, O, one, one, O.

And that's it. That is the entire beautiful melody of this piece. Now the words Kum Ba Yah; people believe represents "Come By Here". So I thought I would teach you the song out at this beautiful place on the Clinton river here in Michigan, a place that I would want to "come by here".

Now this piece has three chords in it. So a chord is a group of notes that sound beautiful together. And we have the A chord in this piece, we have the D chord in this piece and also the E chord in this piece. Well, it happens that, hey, we have open strings for all those chords. So one thing you can do during one of your many verses of this piece is to play a sort of a descant and sing along with yourself above. So let me show you how I'm going to do that.

I'm going to start with the A chord and I'm going to play my open A string. And now I could play an open D string for the next chord, but what I'm going to do instead is play a third finger on my A string. I just think that will sound prettier and then I will play my open E string. Okay. So what I'm going to do is as I play, I'm going to play those notes.

Here we go. I'm going to sing along and play the A string. (singing) Now here, I'm going to change to the third finger. (singing) And then I'm going to just pick up and go back to the A string. Like you saw me do there. Okay, now I'm going to repeat. (singing) Now I'm going to play the three again, (singing) But then for the "Yah", I'm going to go to the E string. (singing) Okay, like the beginning third finger, open, third finger, and now I'm going to play an E, and an A. So let's go through and give a smooth try of that. (singing)

Now you may have noticed that at the end there I left no sound, no descant for the Lord. Because sometimes it's really beautiful to just have quiet and come in on the last note. So the next thing we want to do to make yet a different way of playing this piece is to add some harmony. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to show you a second part that you can play along at the same time as the first part.

So you need to be able to do a couple of things with your left hand technique in order to do this. One thing you want to be able to do is to play your first finger on the D string and then tunnel over your A string, because we're going to put the bow on both of those strings and make them sound. So here we have this. So that's a one on the D and an open A. Then we want to be able to hold everything really still and set down our second finger. And that will make a beautiful harmony for the second note of the piece.

Now, keep everything the same here and make sure that the back of your second finger doesn't touch the E string. Okay, because it will squeak. And what we want to do now is play the open E, together.

And after that, we want to get our fingers ready, the three and the one, and we want to set the three on the D string and the one on the E string. Okay, making sure I tunnel over the E string, so it sounds good. And now we're going to lift up the three and the one and play the two and the zero again. Let's try that from the beginning and see how it sounds together.

Awesome. So the next thing we're going to do is we're going to repeat that, we're going to play.

Okay, and then we're going to come to the third finger on the A string, and we're going to play the open D string with this, we're going to play three, two, and then I'm going to put my first finger on both strings, the A and the D at the same time, and play that. That's going to sound so beautiful for the E chord.

Okay, can we play it like the beginning again? Two, E, place the three and the one, lift them. Okay, and the ending, we're going to do the same thing we get before when we play the three and the zero, two, O, place the first finger on both the A and the D string, and here. Watch what I like to do at the end. I like to put my four down here and my A, so I'm going to make sure I'm tunneling over that, and I'm going to play those together.

It's such a beautiful, beautiful sound when those two sound together and almost like two violins are playing together off in the distance. I really, really like it. So let's give one final run through playing with the two notes at once. In violin playing, we call that double stops. Okay. So here we go, playing both parts together.

So there you have three different ways to practice singing with the descant, the melody all alone, and the melody with double stops. Those are just a couple ways you can play it, and I hope that you discover even more ways to play this piece.

If you want, there is a free sheet music download for the music in this video from virtualsheetmusic.com.
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