What violin pieces should I study to improve technique?
February 8, 2022 10:00 PM   Subscribe

I'm a violinist and fiddle player who's now in my mid-thirties and has been playing violin almost continuously since I was 3 years old. I've mostly played folk, country, and bluegrass for the last decade or so but have recently committed to practicing a wider variety at home including classical. What are some good pieces that might be new to me and would be reasonable to learn on my own as a fairly advanced player? I'm very open to a challenge, but don't necessarily want something with such a steep learning curve that it's demoralizing.

Some selections I've been playing recently and how I feel about them for a baseline:
  • Czardas — having a lot of fun with it, struggling more with the slow parts
  • Bach G minor violin sonata — the first and last movements are an old favorite, I can barely get through the fugue, and the other middle parts I've never really tried
  • Butterfly Lovers Concerto — I can play the first page
Thank you in advance!
posted by OverlappingElvis to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I really like the Barbara Barber Solos for Young violinists books- it’s a graded series with 6 volumes of interesting stuff (solo and accompaniment CDs available, as well). Czardas is in Book 5, so maybe look at the last 3 in that series for starter ideas? They’re fairly inexpensive and well-edited.
posted by charmedimsure at 10:33 PM on February 8, 2022

I used to play violin between the ages of 8-12. We only played classical. I always enjoyed 'Canon' by Pachabel. It isn't too difficult, but for a few long strokes and perhaps one split stroke? We played many others, but that one was my favourite.
posted by itsflyable at 10:35 PM on February 8, 2022

On the harder side, you can look up violin orchestra excerpts for auditions for a college orchestra. I play clarinet and there's a standard group of 20 or so excerpts that pop up over and over. They're hard (by design) but they test specific facets of playing your instrument. Two off the top of my head test fast tonguing and musicality over long sustained notes. You could take a look at those as a way to refine what skills you want to practice. (There also are lists of freshman in college Clarinet Major repertoire, which I think would be a good level to start messing with if you just look for the violin version).
posted by clarinet at 10:42 PM on February 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Before I stopped playing violin, I was making my way down Dorothy Delay’s concerto sequence along with the suggested etudes, and some group and orchestral pieces. There are other various sequences that people have put together that are interesting to draw inspiration from. Good luck!
posted by sincerely yours at 12:20 AM on February 9, 2022 [3 favorites]

I play a lot of Hungarian, Klezmer and Romanian traditional music, which was very hard to pick up after I began with a background in bluegrass and Appalachian fiddle in my youth. The level of virtuosity required to even begin is a challenge, but - if you ignore the unintelligible languages - there are loads of instructional videos out on Youtube (this guy's channel is amazing)
posted by zaelic at 8:19 AM on February 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

I used to play the violin. One suggestion would be Bach's Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor, otherwise known as the Bach Double. As advertised, it's meant as a duet, but both parts are equal in difficulty -- it's kind of like playing a round, where you're mostly playing the same phrases of music but starting at different times. I was never a good enough violinist to be able to play "serious" solo repertoire (like, say, Mendelssohn's Violin Concert in E Minor), but the Bach Double is totally playable AND a lot of fun, especially if you can find another violinist to play the other part with you!
posted by leftover_scrabble_rack at 3:55 PM on February 9, 2022

Much of the list from the comment you favourited lists Suzuki books. Since you're learning on your own, I would actually suggest that you buy the Suzuki books, because the books contain a section that walks you through how to practise all the bits you might have trouble with in the pieces.

Just giving you a heads up on a situation you might like to avoid: I would not recommend actually going to a Suzuki School class. I'm not sure how Suzuki is taught where you are, but around here the younger book levels are taught in group lessons. If you're learning Czardas you would be playing among a group of around 7-10 year olds (probably younger in the US?). So if you feel like you're stuck and would like to talk things through with a teacher, I would go to a non-Suzuki School teacher with your book, or specify that you want individual lessons.

Since you have a background in fiddling, I would recommend keeping an eye out for any Kreisler and Mendelssohn pieces (some are in the Suzuki books) - beautiful (but not slushy) parlour songs essentially but with frills. From what you've written in the OP I feel you might prefer the minor key ones.
posted by womb of things to be and tomb of things that were at 4:29 PM on February 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Do you have the book of all 6 Bach sonatas & partitas? I think that's probably the best answer to your stated question - just work through random movements from those (fugues aside); most are doable. The E major is a standard student piece, in particular, and the D minor. And they're probably the furthest afield from what your previous experience is, to stretch your ear a bit.

Some other random suggestions: Sarasate - Zigeunerweisen and Malaguena will feel lyric and folksy but give your fingers a run. Hindemith solo sonata. Ysaye - similar to Bach, just pick random movements. Beethoven F major Romance is also a solid thing. Paganini caprices might be a stretch, but some are ok.
posted by Dashy at 6:31 PM on February 9, 2022 [3 favorites]

(and if you want me to be super specific about which Bach movements in order, drop me a mail here, I can do that).
posted by Dashy at 6:32 PM on February 9, 2022

Oh, and I second the rec for orchestral excerpts. There are two books of them for violin.
I'll stop now.
posted by Dashy at 6:34 PM on February 9, 2022

Response by poster: I did Suzuki through Book 8 as a kid and still have all of them somewhere, so I might just pull those out.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 8:01 PM on February 9, 2022

« Older Failed expectations   |   How Can I Access LexisNexis Public Records? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.