We all know that rock has become one of the most popular genres to ever grace the world and that it comes in many different forms. From the origins of rhythm and blues in the 1950s to AC/DC and beyond, rock uses real experimentation to create a rich and punchy sound every time.
But what happens when you blend the kick of rock music with the grace of an orchestra, or a symphony? Or even the elegant violin? The short answer: heaven. The simple addition of one instrument can transform a song entirely, and with it carve a new path for experimentation.
So without further ado, here is my list of the 10 best rock songs with violins!
1. Baba O’Riley – The Who
Album: Who’s Next
Carving the way for our list of the 10 best rock songs with violins is the iconic anthem “Baba O’Riley”, which became a cornerstone of British rock. It has such immense energy thanks to the quirky electronic introduction before it erupts into bellowing riffs and singalong choruses.
What makes this track stand out even further to me is the rather unexpected strings section towards the final hurrah of the track. It makes an already exciting song suddenly rather emotional, adding a new level of depth to this legendary tune.
2. Kashmir – Led Zeppelin
Album: Physical Graffiti
If you know rock, there’s no doubt that you’ve heard this golden classic from another British outfit who also founded their sound in the blues. Despite this, they became a bespoke name in the rock and metal communities instantly, and are still highly revered to this day.
The guitar stomp of “Kashmir” is only heightened by the incredibly dramatic strings accompaniments that elevate this track from one plane to another. The intensity of the violins creates a huge atmosphere that struggles to be beaten today
3. I Don’t Care – Apocalyptica
Album: Worlds Collide
Jumping to the early 2000s now we have the gothic collaborative project Apocalyptica, who have worked with some of the biggest names in rock and metal over the long course of their career. Their blend of traditional metal aspects with the grace of symphonic compositions is a unique blend that went unparalleled when they burst onto the scene.
“I Don’t Care” is a powerful breakup ballad that is only elevated by the vocals of Adam Gontier of Three Days Grace fame, who provides guest vocals on this track.
4. Smells Like Teen Spirit – 2Cellos
It’s not often that I’ll include covers in these kinds of articles, but to ignore the majesty of 2Cellos in a piece about rock songs with violins would be a sin. Yes, cellos and violins are technically different, but they are a vital outfit that demonstrated that the lines between genres can indeed be blurred successfully.
This cover of Nirvana’s magnum opus is powerful, exciting, and also a pure demonstration of compositional talent from this duo of cellists.
5. Sancta Terra – Epica
Album: The Divine Conspiracy
Moving into metal territory now, we have the symphonic metal outfit Epica, who quickly became a household name in the genre alongside Nightwish. Fronted by Simone Simons, the band blend the force of death metal and the grace of orchestral compositions with the elegance of Simons’ operatic vocal qualities.
“Sancta Terra” is an anthem through and through, with the strings sections offering a seductive sway between choruses.
6. Bitter Sweet Symphony – The Verve
Album: Urban Hymns
The Verve quickly became a hugely popular name in the UK thanks to their iconic anthem, “Bitter Sweet Symphony”. It paired with a slightly melancholic vocal melody from frontman Richard Ashcroft as he sang of the beautiful tragedies that can happen throughout our lives.
The element that elevated this track to its immensely popular status however was the unmistakable string additions that provided a sense of hope and light to “Bitter Sweet Symphony”. Even today, it’s still played all through its home of Greater Manchester.
7. Venus In Furs – The Velvet Underground
Album: The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground became an immediate hit in their hometown of New York City before quickly becoming a household rock name all around the world thanks to their unique songwriting style.
“Venus In Furs” is about a man subjecting himself to domination by a woman he loves, and the sultry violin strokes that play all through this track only add to the seductive nature of this legendary rock track.
8. Dust In The Wind – Kansas
Album: Point Of Know Return
Kansas became immensely well-known for its upbeat, feel-good anthem “Carry On My Wayward Son” which could elevate the spirits of anyone. What showed the world that they’re a mature band capable of grace and subtlety however was the gorgeous acoustic-led track “Dust In The Wind”.
If the beauty of this track’s acoustic passages weren’t enough to get the tears flowing, the electric violin contributions of Robby Steinhardt would surely pull the heartstrings enough.
9. November Rain – Guns ‘n’ Roses
Album: Use Your Illusion I
Anyone who knows rock has surely heard of Guns ‘n’ Roses. The iconic American hard rock outfit has become a central name within the genre since its origin, with its popularity only growing over time as they continue to perform sell-out tours across the world.
“November Rain” lets the thrashing guitar take a back seat, as its piano-based ballad style lets frontman Axl Rose’s vocals truly shine. The violin section that accompanies him only makes this track more beautiful.
10. Forget Not – Ne Obliviscaris
Album: Portal Of I
The final offering on this list is, I believe, the best use of a violin in a rock song. While Ne Obliviscaris are technically metal, this song is slightly softer than their other offerings and pairs decadently with the powerful strings that accompany the simultaneously delicate and thrashing guitar tones.
If this band is new to you and you’ve enjoyed the blend of guitar and violin, I would highly recommend Ne Obliviscaris to be your next discovery.
Justin is an audio engineer with years of experience in the field. He has been creating and playing music his entire life, but he really found his passion for engineering when he was introduced to Logic Pro at age 10. Justin has spent countless hours perfecting his craft and now works as a freelance engineer out of Boston, MA.