16 Best Violin Bows in 2024: Ultimate Buying Guide for the Right Violin Bow

Buying the best violin bow is at least as important as the violin you buy

If you have a fantastic violin, but your bow is wobbly, the hair doesn’t respond to the string and it never seems to do what you want, you will be discouraged in your violin playing.

For example you could notice the violin bow jumps or shakes when you want to play legato or just doesn’t want to jump when you want to play spiccato. Also you might have the idea that your violin doesn’t sound that good with the bow that you have.

The violin bow makes an enormous difference in the sound you make, how you tackle fast runs, the bowing techniques you can perform and the overall ease of playing violin

Violin bows cost from $ 6 (see review here) up to $ 288,960 (more info below). In this article I will discuss what to look for when buying a violin, how much a violin bow costs and my reviews of beginner, intermediate and professional bows of different prices.

Table of contents:

Top 3 violin bows in 2024

Let’s start with what I think are the best violin bows for beginner, intermediate and advanced players. Then I will discuss what difference a bow makes and what to look for when buying a bow. After that I will continue with the promised 16 best violin bows on the market right now and more depth violin bow reviews.

Best violin bow for a beginner violinist

Do you feel the violin bow that ‘came with’ your violin set just doesn’t seem to do what you want? Do you want to sound better, tackle fast runs and perform different bow strokes?

A good violin bow doesn’t have to be expensive. While good pernambuco wooden bows start around $ 600, these days carbon fiber bows make it possible to get a good violin bow at a very low price.

I think this bow is the best under $ 100:

Fiddlerman carbon fiber violin bow

Best all-round violin bow for intermediate to advanced players

As an intermediate player you want a bow that not makes your violin sound great, but also can perform all different violin bowing techniques.

CodaBow Marquise GS violin bow

This bow gives a warm, but full sound on almost every violin. It feels like it follows your hand beautifully and subtly. The stick is round and a little flexible making it easier to switch between detaché and spiccato. Still it’s stiff and punchy enough for a crispy staccato or ricochet.

Top violin bow for an advanced or professional player

In the price range for advanced and professional players (say from around $ 3,000 for a violin) one often speaks more of individual bow makers of the past and present more than brands and types. It’s important to select a unique bow that suits your playing style and violin.

Arcus S9 round violin bow

This bow has an extremely light weight (49 grams), which makes it very agile and light and easy to play with. Switching between all different bowing techniques is a breeze. It allows the maximum resonance from your instrument and you’ll have a large brilliant sound without it being too harsh.

What difference does a violin bow make in your playing?

You might be wondering: Does a violin bow make a difference? It looks like a simple stick with some hair, right? Why do violinist pay thousands for a special bow?

Certainly as you’ll learn different violin bowing techniques, a good violin bow will make it a lot easier to perform a smooth detaché or legato, a jumpy spiccato or ricochet and a crispy staccato.

A good violin bow will help you make a beautiful sound on your violin, make it easier to play difficult pieces and give you a lot more confidence in your violin playing.

Professionals will agree that they’d rather play a mediocre violin with a top range bow than the other way around.
‘Le violon, c’est l’archet.’
(the violin, it’s the bow) said the famous bow maker François Tourte around 1800. Most bows are still made after the design he developed.

To show an extreme difference between violin bows, check out this video review I made with a $ 29 bow vs a $ 8,000 bow.

Sure, Zlata, now we know the violin bow is extremely important for your violin playing, but…

What to look for when buying a violin bow?

How are different violin bows different?

Before I go into the reviews of violin bows, let’s discuss what differences you can notice between violin bows. When you are choosing a violin bow to buy, there are several characteristics to look out for.

#1 How the violin bow makes your violin sound

When you play with different violin bows, you’ll start to notice that your violin produces a different sound depending on the bow you use. Some bows will make it sound warmer, mellower and softer, while other bows will make your violin sound more brilliant, louder or even shrill.

It’s important to consider where you will use the bow for. Are you a soloist who needs to carry the sound over the orchestra in a large concert hall? Or are you second violinist who wants her sound to blend in the orchestra? Maybe you mainly play chamber music.


Response might seem like a vague term that’s hard to imagine if you haven’t experienced differences in it yourself when trying out different bows. In essence it means how the violin bow reacts when you start a note. Is the sound there right away? Or do you very consciously need to start the sound? Or do you feel the sound starts delayed? It’s pleasant when the sound starts right away as you make the bow stroke.

Dynamic range

When you’re testing a violin bow try out playing pianissimo in all places of the bow (for example also at the extreme tip) and playing fortissimo. You’ll discover that some bows can play very very soft and still have sound, while other bows seem to respond less and have a smaller dynamic range. To play the violin expressively, it’s important that you can play all dynamics easily with your bow.

#2 How it feels to play with a violin bow

When you start trying out different violin bows in your quest to buy the right one, you’ll quickly notice the bows feel differently while playing.

Weight (light vs heavy)

Some bows are extremely light like the Arcus bows of 49 grams. Other bows feel quite heavy, some even over 60 grams. This might not seem like lot, but you DO feel it a lot when playing.

Balance (stable vs bouncy)

A violin bow could be heavier at the tip or heavier at the frog.

Pros and cons of a heavy violin bow

When the bow is heavy at the tip it feels very secure, you can easily do a smooth legato, but jumping bowing techniques might take more effort and might seem more difficult. Also your pinky needs to do more work.

Pros and cons of a light violin bow

When the bow is relatively heavy at the frog OR particularly light at the tip (or both) the bow can feel a bit more nervous and jumps easily. This is an advantage for jumping bowing techniques like spiccato, sautillé and ricochet, but it can make smooth bowing more difficult. If the bow is too nervous for you, it feels like you can’t control it. Obviously a light bow is agile and fast runs can be easier. In general with a light bow you feel more ease in your playing and it’s less strenuous for your arm, hand and fingers. In wooden bows a very light weight often means that the bow is soft and can feel wobbly. In carbon fiber bows, like Arcus, it’s possible to make very light bows that are also stiff.

Stiff vs flexible

With a stiff bow it’s easier to put weight into the bow. When you press your index finger into the bow while playing, this pressure (or weight) will transfer through the bow and the bow hair into the string. If you have a soft or flexible bow, you will see that the bow easily bends in the direction of the hair (or even almost touch the hair) when you put pressure on the bow.

The pro of a stiff bow is that you can easily transfer weight, have a good response and play jumping bowing techniques like spiccato and ricochet. However, a stiff bow might also feel a bit nervous and miss a certain nuance. A more flexible bow can feel like you’re more in control and can make more subtle jumps in spiccato and a smoother legato. When a bow is too soft, it doesn’t function and is really hard to manage.

Isn’t the stiff vs flexible a matter of tightening the bow? Yes, when the bow is tighter it will feel a bit stiffer. This is why it’s important that you know exactly how much to tighten your violin bow (watch the video here). However, the stick itself has a certain resilience and even if you tighten a very soft bow a lot, it will still be soft.

#3 Types of violin bows and what they’re made of

Carbon vs Wood violin bow: what is better?

Carbon fiber violin bows are good news for a few reasons:

  • It’s possible to make very good bow for very little money as you don’t need rare types of wood
  • You can manufacture types of bows (also higher range) that have benefits that wood bows can’t have (like the very light Arcus bows that are still stiff and offer the advantages of both baroque and Tourte bows).
  • Carbon fiber violin bows are far less sensitive for wrapping due to humidity and temperature changes. The are more durable.
  • Pernambuco is an endangered type of wood, so good quality wooden bows will become more and more expensive in the future.

Some violinists think the cheap carbon composite bows from Chinese factories are what carbon has to offer. However, these days in carbon as well as wood there are so many quality levels and types of bows that one cannot say something general about either of them.

Lots of violinists still like the charm of an individual wooden bow and love their precious pernambuco bow from a certain (maybe antique) bow maker.

Read more about wood vs carbon violin bows in my article right here.

Read here about all the different materials the parts of the violin bow are made of.

Octagonal vs Round violin bow: what is better?

The part of the violin bow at the frog is always octagonal (so the wood has eight edges). The stick of the bow can either be round (smooth) or octagonal. In general octagonal bows are stiffer, more agile and jumpier. Round bows are smoother, more flexible and peaceful.

Violinists play for 50% on round bows and 50% on octagonal bows, which proves that one isn’t better than the other. It’s a matter of personal preference. You can be a ’round bow person’ or an ‘octagonal bow person’ and you can switch during your career.

Please also know that the characteristics of each bow differ a lot and the fact that they are octagonal or round doesn’t say everything. When you’re looking to buy a violin bow, don’t limit yourself to one bow.

Watch this violin bow review video to find out more about round vs octagonal.

Now you know what to look for when buying a violin bow

How much does a good violin bow cost?

There are beginner level bows that cost under $ 100 and are still great bows to start out with. Intermediate bows cost between $ 500 and $ 2,000. Professional level bows start around $ 3,000 and cost up to six figures. I will review some great violin bows in each price range below.

Let’s get started with my bow reviews, so you can pick the right bow for you!

Top 16 Violin Bows of 2023: reviews by a violin teacher

I will review violin bows from cheap to expensive and will start with some bows that are great for beginners and a good ‘bang for your buck’. After that I will continue with bows for intermediate, advanced and professional players.

Selecting and buying the right bow for you is very personal, which is why it’s important to try out different bows for yourself if you have the possibility to. You can do this in a violin shop or have a selection of bows shipped to your home if you’d like to buy your violin bow online. I hope my reviews can help you make your selection.

Best violin bows for beginners

Price range $ 63 to $ 400

What are good violin bows for beginner violinists? Check out these top picks:

P&J Fiberglass violin bow you can rehair yourself!

Price: $ 63

Features: fiberglass stick, easy rehair system you can do yourself at home, Parisian eye, mother of pearl inlay, available in lots of sizes and colors (fun for kids)

So your kid is a budding violinist and one day while playing the bow hair gets caught up in the finetuners of the violin when he’s not looking. Then he tries to get the bow lose himself and SNAP… the bow hairs are broken.

Or you’re an adult, want to take your bow out of the violin case and EECK… the bow hairs get stuck behind the bow holder and break. Noooo!

For bows under $ 100 there’s no point in getting a rehair that can cost the same as your bow except if you get a P&J bow with the easy at home rehair system. Yes, you can rehair this bow yourself!

Of course that’s a big advantage, but also know that this bow is fiberglass (not carbon or carbon fiber) and will not have the sound and characteristics of bows made out of better materials.

However, for schools this bow is ideal!

Fiddlerman carbon fiber violin bow

Price: $ 69

Weight: 60 grams

Features: carbon fiber stick, ebony frog, circle eye, horse hair

This bow is truly the best bang for your buck and the bow I recommend to everyone with a tight budget looking to upgrade from the bow that ‘came with their violin’. The sound is nice and full and it can easily do all the different bow strokes for you. Because it’s carbon fiber, the quality will be consistent and it’s very durable.

Dörfler D7 massaranduba violin bow

Price: $ 109

Features: ebony frog, simple eye and round massaranduba stick

Dörfler makes excellent violin bows in Germany and really is a brand to look for when buying a wooden violin bow. Massaranduba is a municipality in Brazil making this a brazil wooden (but not pernambuco) violin bow.

This bow is nice and stable for a beginner, has a flexible round stick and produces a warm not too full tone. When you’re going into more advanced bowing techniques, you might however want to look for

Holstein pernambuco violin bow

Price: $ 199

Weight: 60 grams

Features: pernambuco stick, silver mounting, ebony frog, Siberian horse hair, mother of pearl inlay

Forget that I said that only above $ 600 you can get a quality pernambuco bow. What!? This Holstein bow is made of quality pernambuco, it has a great response, good open sound on your violin, a strong resilient stick and… it’s under $ 200. On top of that it comes with the great warranty and service of the friendly guys at Fiddlershop. If you want a traditional quality bow with small budget, get this bow!

CodaBow Prodigy Carbon Fiber Violin Bow

Get rid of bow shakes and feel in control as a beginner violinist

Price: $ 365

Weight: 60 grams

Features: graphite fiber weave stick with kevlar fiber acoustic core, nickel silver fittings, ‘Xebony’ frog, Mongolian horse hair

If you want to feel secure as a beginner and stop your shaky bow, get this Prodigy. It feels very stable, is on the stiff and slightly heavy side. It might not be as agile as the more expensive models by CodaBow, but it can be an extremely pleasant bow for the first years. It’s simply very forgiving and I recommend it time after time when beginner(ish) students complain about not being able to control their bow.

Best mid range violin bows for intermediate players

Price range: $ 500 to $ 750

If you’re playing more technically challenging pieces and start to deepen your musical expression, upgrading your bow can be really rewarding as an intermediate violinist.

Over the years I’ve convinced quite some intermediate players who thought they needed a different violin, to look into a new bow first. It can make all the difference.

Fiddlerman Pro Series carbon fiber violin bow

Price: $ 599

Weight: 53 grams

Features: carbon fiber stick, snakewood frog, sterling silver fittings,

The sound of this bow is brilliant, open and clear. It’s nice and light, easy to handle and very agile. You can easily perform all bowing techniques with it and it offers excellent value for money. It’s a great affordable alternative for the more expensive carbon fiber bow brands. 

Watch my video review of the Fiddlerman Pro series here and decide for yourself if it’s PRO or NO.

Conrad Götz No.76 Pernambuco Violin Bow

Price: $ 639

Features: round pernambuco stick, Parisian eye, ebony frog, made in Germany

Round bow with a mellow sound that’s comfortable to hold and easy to play. If you’re looking for a great intermediate traditional bow, this is a good pick!

Musing C3 Carbon Fiber Violin Bow

Price: $ 675 (Müsing bows start at $ 495)

Weight: 54 grams

Features: 80% carbon fiber stick, steel fittings, star shaped button and ergonomic frog

Great quality carbon fiber bow that’s 80% carbon fiber, which means it allows great resonance of your violin (too much epoxy mutes the sound). These bows are agile and you can perform different bowing techniques with ease. Also it’s lighter than most wooden bows.

Jean-Paul Pernambuco Silver 2-star Violin Bow

Price: $ 739

Weight: 60-62 grams

Features: carefully selected pernambuco stick, horn frog, large pearl eye

A traditionally crafted pernambuco bow with a beautiful full and warm sound. This bow is made with great attention for details.

Jean-Paul is known to make excellent bows with a peaceful character and a warm sound. Make sure to also check out their carbon fiber bows if you want the advantages of carbon fiber with the look and feel of a traditional pernambuco bow.

Best all-round violin bows for intermediate, advanced and professional players

Price range: $ 1,200 to $ 2,250

Are you looking for a bow that can blend in in an orchestra, help you shine as a soloist, enjoy chamber music, be great at your wedding gig and does all bowing techniques with ease while at the same time make your violin sound best?

These bows can really do everything for the active amateur or the professional with a variety of gigs:

Codabow Marquise GS Violin Bow

Price: $ 1,295

Features: unidirectional carbon fiber stick, natural acoustic core, ‘Xebony’ frog,

This is the top of the line bow by CodaBow and compared to it’s ‘little brothers and sisters’ it’s definitely worth the extra money. It really gives you the smooth subtle feeling from a traditional master bow and it sounds warm, but full, and has a great response.

For example the GX does everything it needs to do, but the Marquise allows for more expressive playing and a more complex tone. I know this all sounds vague, so definitely give it a try.

Michael Mönnig Violin Bow Silver

Price: $ 1,739

Features: very high quality aged round pernambuco stick, silver mounting, Paris eye

This is a great example of a versatile, high quality hand made pernambuco bow. It has a powerful and sonorous sound with a great response. This bow will express all the subtleties in your playing in a beautiful sound. 

Arcus T6 Violin Bow

Price: $ 2,250 (for the T6, the T-series starts at $ 1,080)

Weight: 52 grams

Features: unidirectional hollow carbon fiber stick, snakewood frog, silver mounting

The T-models are the most universal bows made by Arcus. It’s also their newest series and since it’s introduction I’ve been recommending them so much to a variety of players. They cover a huge spectrum of sound colors and playing styles. Violinists can expect great warmth and brilliance at the same time, which make them suitable for a majority of instruments.

For this review I chose the T6, because I think the sound and playing quality is noticeably better than the T4 or the T5 and definitely worth the upgrade if you can afford it. Above the 6 it’s a bit more costly, still worth it, but more luxury than necessity for a professional.

Watch my review video of the Arcus T-series right here. In it I also walk you through the different classes (T4 to T9), because I know that can be very confusing if you’re new to Arcus bows.

Most expensive violin bows for professional violinists

Price range: $ 3,799 to $ 288,960 (!)

Get ready to be tempted by these top tier violin bows suitable for the most demanding professional players. Usually when you want to buy a high quality violin bow, the way is to visit a violin shop, try out several bows and perhaps take a selection home. You will find unique bows by bow makers of the past and present. For this article I have selected some professional violin bows that one could buy online.

What is the most expensive violin bow in the world?

Did you know that violin bows can cost up to six figures? Antique bows of famous makers that are in a good state and have a history of being played by famous violin virtuosos like Kreisler or Paganini can be auctioned for very high prices. The most expensive violin bows are made by the famous bow maker François Xavier Tourte (1747 to 1835). Most bows are still made after his design. Recently a silver and ebony bow Tourte made and was played by Bronislaw Huberman is sold for a whopping $ 288,960.

Why are expensive bows gold mounted?

All bows I review below of the higher price range are gold mounted. Are expensive violin bows more expensive because of the gold mounting? Yes and no. It’s a tradition in bow making for a maker to use the most precious materials for their best bows. Gold mounting is to indicate that this a a top level bow. However, of course the maker must calculate the gold price in the violin bow price. Gold is a little lighter than other materials, but it doesn’t really make a difference in the playing characteristics of the bow.

Penzel Violin Bow Goldbow

Price: $ 3,799

Features: top level pernambuco aged 40 years, gold mounting, Parisian eye, Hill liner, sequential numbering of the stick and frog

Traditional violin bow made out of top level pernambuco wood by master bow maker Matthias Penzel in Germany. This is a family business with a tradition going back over 100 years. This is a bow one could for example play in a professional orchestra, but it’s also a gem to have or the demanding amateur.

JonPaul Vetta 14K Gold Violin Bow

Price: $ 4,348

Features: carbon fiber bow with a varnish finish made after the example of a Pecatte bow, rose gold mounting, white horn frog (also possible to choose ebony or black horn)

Made after the example of an actual Pecatte violin bow (a famous antique bow). This bow really has the advantages both of a high priced antique pernambuco bow and a top level carbon fiber bow. The best of both worlds! The balance, weight and flexibility are optimized. The sound is warm, rich and powerful. You’ll feel you have a precious antique bow.

Archet SLC Gold-Mounted Pernambuco Violin Bow

Price: $ 4,500

Features: 35 to 80 years aged pernambuco stick of top quality, gold mounting, mother of pearl inlays

Top quality pernambuco violin bow hand made in Salt Lake City (Utah, USA) in the French style of Pecatte and Maline. 

Arcus S9 round Violin Bow

Price: $ 8,000

Weight: 48 grams

Features: top quality unidirectional carbon fiber stick, gold mounting, snake wood frog

We end this article with the violin bow I own myself as a violin teacher. Of course I’m extremely biased, but I just love this bow. The light weight makes everything feel easier. It almost feels like you are cheating. It performs every bowing technique with ease (I made my 102 violin bowing techniques video with this one) and it gives a full brilliant sound on my violin.

As I’m biased, I asked my colleague and professional violinist Giedre to review this bow in this video, so you can judge for yourself what you think.


You’ve learned what difference a violin bow makes in your playing, how much a good bow costs, what to look for when buying a violin bow and I’ve reviewed some great violin bows for you in each price range. I hope you find this useful and it will help you find the right bow for you.

What I get asked a lot about violin bows

How much to tighten a violin bow?

If your bow is too lose, you will play with the stick on the string. If it’s too tight, your bow will be worn down faster. In this video I show you exactly how to tighten your violin bow.

Why is a violin bow bent?

The distance between the stick and the hair of your violin bow should be smaller in the middle of the bow than at the frog and the tip. This creates a spring system, so you can perform bouncing bow strokes like spiccato. Never tighten your bow so much that the bow is straight.

Wrapping of the bow

If your bow is bent in the other direction, for example that you see that the bow is curved outwards to the left or the right and doesn’t align with the hair (looking from the top, not the side), then your alarm bells should go off. Often this can’t be repaired and the bow doesn’t play as well.

Wrapping can happen due to changes in temperature and humidity. What you can do to prevent is to not tighten your bow too much, don’t expose it to too much temperate/humidity changes and be careful when putting away the bow in your case.

Hi! I'm Zlata

Let me help you find a great bow for your violin, so you can improve your bowing technique and sound quality:

Hi! I'm Zlata

Classical violinist helping you overcome technical struggles and play with feeling by improving your bow technique.

How often to rosin your violin bow?

If you don’t rosin enough, the bow slips and doesn’t make (much) sound. If you rosin too much, the sound will be harsh and squeaky. In this article I explain all the dos and don’ts around rosining your violin bow.

How to known when to upgrade your violin bow?

Usually this starts with a feeling that you know a better bow would help you sound and/or play better. Then you might want to try some bows out and see what difference a violin bow makes. If you have a cheap violin bow that ‘came with’ a factory violin set, I usually recommend upgrading even if you’re still a beginner.

What to play when trying out a violin bow?

It’s important that you do a good test drive when you’re making a selection and buying a violin bow. Check out this article and download the exact excerpts I use when testing violin bows.

What violin bow strokes and bowing techniques are there?

Dive more into the technique of bowing with my video about 102 different violin bowing techniques right here. If that sounds too overwhelming, just start with these six most common bow strokes.

What violin bow do you have?

Leave a comment! I’d love to read it what you’d recommend.

18 Violin Etude Books in Order of Difficulty

Violin etudes help you study new techniques and get progress on the violin,

so you can play the music you love

In this article I will give you recommendations for violin etude books on all levels. All come with two videos, so you can get an idea what they sound like and how difficult they are. Let’s first start with what etudes are and why they’re useful to practice on the violin.

What is a Violin Etude?

An etude is a piece of music, usually short, that focuses on just one or two specific techniques. They bridge the gap between technique and musicality because while they are written with a technical goal in mind, good etude composers also know how to write enjoyable melodies. Etudes strengthen your technique in a very powerful way. If you practice them alongside your pieces and scales, you will be amazed at how much faster you can learn.

Why practice Etudes on the Violin?

Etudes are the fruits and veggies of your violin diet. If you get the proper vitamins and minerals, your body will function much better and have more energy. Similarly, regular etude practice will help you learn repertoire much faster. This is because every etude focuses on one or two specific techniques, making you practice them over and over again. For example, if you work hard at an etude with an entire page of staccato, then when you see a short staccato passage in a piece you will already be prepared.

How to practice Etudes on the Violin?

If you want the full benefit of etudes, that means practicing in very specific ways. If the etude says to play in a particular part of the bow or in particular positions, follow those instructions. It is tempting to make things easier, but etudes are meant to challenge you! Focus on the technique, not the speed. Play just a few lines a day if you need to and build on it. If an etude has long slurs, break them into shorter segments until you’re comfortable with the left hand. An excellent method is S-S-S-: short, separate, slurred. No matter the bowing, start by slowly playing all the notes martele, bow on the string. Then play detache a little faster. Then play the bowing as written. This ensures a stable, in-tune left hand from the beginning.

A Note on Etude Books

There are literally dozens of etude books. This article lists only the most famous ones, those best-known for their pedagogical benefit. However, please note that just because an etude book is listed at a certain level does not necessarily mean that every etude in that book is suitable for that level. Also, it is very rare to do every etude from every book. Most teachers have students skip around to specific etudes depending on their weaknesses. This is especially true for the very easy etudes and the very hard ones. For example, most violinists do all the Kreutzer etudes at some point, but it is rare to plod through all of Wohlfahrt or master all of Paganini. Instead of rushing through lots of things, focus just on what you need to practice.

Simplifying Etudes

Etudes typically contain a lot of notes, so looking at them can feel overwhelming at first. As I stated above, don’t be afraid to break things up. Choose a few measures, slow down the tempo, and simplify the bowing. Practicing an etude is not like performing a piece. Don’t be afraid of learning just a small section and working on it from lots of different angles to improve your technique.


Etudes for beginners

Early Start on the Violin by Kurt Sassmannshaus

This is a well-structured violin course for complete beginners. Although it was originally in German, the English translation has changed many of the German folk songs into more familiar American ones. The layout of the book is designed for children, but it can also work well for adults who want clear directions without lots of extra text or symbols. The font is very large and there are many simple but colorful illustrations. The short songs have words to help young children remember them. There are also many helpful resources included, such as note name flashcards and note-reading explanations. The first book teaches rhythmic values from whole notes to eighth notes and how to read accidentals. This is not officially an “etude” book, but the short songs teach specific techniques. They are a great supplement to the more complex songs you may be learning in early Suzuki books or other methods.

Click here to buy this violin etude book on Amazon.

I Can Read Music by Joanne Martin

Since the Suzuki method emphasizes learning by rote at first and delaying note-reading, many Suzuki teachers use this book to begin teaching that skill. The layout is incredibly simple. Each page has five one-line exercises in very large print. It starts as easy as possible with open A quarter notes. As the book progresses, new notes are added one at a time. One of the things I really like about this book is that before adding new notes, it does several exercises with the same notes in different rhythms. This teaches note-reading and rhythm-reading as independent skills. There are two volumes in the series, and there are corresponding editions for viola and cello.

Click here to buy this violin etude book on Amazon.

36 Melodious and Easy Studies, Op. 84 by Charles Dancla

Charles Dancla wrote multiple levels of etudes for different levels, so it is very important to check that you are getting the correct opus number. Opus 84 is beautiful, fun to play, and very suitable for beginners. Almost all the etudes (except Nos. 10, 17, 19, 21, 22, 23, 32, 35, and 36) stay in first position. Even so, some of the first position etudes are more difficult than others, so I would not necessarily go straight through the book. If you are in Suzuki books 1-3 level, I recommend studying Nos. 1-9, 11-16, 18, 24, 25-29, 34, and 35. Some of the etudes are based on famous tunes by Mozart, Handel, and Corelli.

Click here to buy this violin etude book on Amazon.

Etudes for Intermediate

60 Studies for the Violin, Op. 45 by Franz Wohlfahrt

This standard volume is often a student’s first introduction to the world of etudes. It is split into two volumes, as the first 29 etudes are all in first position. The notes stay fairly simple so you can focus on the increasingly challenging rhythms and bowings. The rhythms are mostly in sixteenth and eighth notes with dotted rhythms as well.

Click here to buy this violin etude book on Amazon.

School of Violin Technics by Henry Schradieck

While some etude books focus on the bow, Schradieck is really for dexterity in the left hand. For example, the first etude involves playing many sixteenth notes on one long bow. This etude focuses on going back and forth repeatedly between notes to help the student memorize the pitch’s exact location and achieve consistent intonation. It also helps with left hand finger control, because all violinists at some point struggle with this. There is a huge tendency to pull back third or fourth finger after lifting them, but of course this makes it difficult to place them quickly again. Practicing Schradieck will give you the hand strength to keep all your fingers equidistant from the fingerboard.

Click here to buy this violin etude book on Amazon.

Introducing the Positions by Harvey S. Whistler

It is impossible to become a good violinist without a firm foundation in shifting. There is the story of when a young talented student came to her teacher, the famous Dorothy Delay, and told her that she had just practiced shifting for four hours, one hour on each string! It is good to spend at least some time on shifting exercises every day. A common beginning mistake is trying to pick the finger up and slam it down in the right place automatically. Whistler’s system shows how to slide through the shift from the old finger for accuracy and consistency. These are short, repetitive exercises only, they do not resemble actual pieces. If you use them it will make practicing your real pieces less painful.

Click here to buy this violin etude book on Amazon.

36 Violin Studies, Op. 20 by Heinrich Kayser

The first twelve Kayser studies are all in first position, making them a good sequel to Wohlfahrt. Etudes Nos. 13-24 move to third position, and the last twelve include fifth position. If you do these in conjunction with Whistler, it will prepare you for playing many beautiful intermediate concertos.

Click here to buy this violin etude book on Amazon.

Etudes, Op. 36 by Jacques Mazas

These etudes are melodious and fun to play. There are three volumes of seventy-five etudes total. The three parts are called Special Studies, Brilliant Studies, and Artists’ Studies. However, the later etudes are very advanced, so intermediate students may want to stick with the first volume and do the others later on.

Click here to buy this violin etude book on Amazon.

40 Variations, Op. 3 by Otokar Sevcik

For this one, I highly recommend going through the whole book in order. The notes of these short exercises are not very difficult because the right hand is the main focus. This volume is especially helpful for developing flexibility at the frog and looseness in the right-hand fingers. The trick is to always follow the very clear articulation instructions in each etude. Sevcik includes markings for every upbow and downbow, whether to play in the upper half or lower half, middle or frog, etc. There’s a lot of pedagogical wisdom packed in this small book that will help you develop a freer bow.

Click here to buy this violin etude book on Amazon.

Melodious Double-Stops by Josephine Trott

Josephine Trott is a fascinating figure: she was an American violin pedagogue, composer, and bilingual author in the early 20th century. Although not many remember her name or accomplishments, her double-stop etudes are a student staple. The point is to develop good intonation and bow control while playing two strings at once. There are two volumes published separately. The first nine studies are just simple exercises a few lines long, but after that they turn into full-page etudes. The first volume is entirely in first position, going through almost every combination of interval and rhythm you can imagine. If you can conquer these, you are more than ready for any first position double stops in the repertoire.

Click here to buy this violin etude book on Amazon.

24 Preparatory Exercises, Op. 37 by Jakob Dont

These studies are preparatory exercises for the already-existing Kreutzer and Rode Caprices. It is a good transition between the intermediate and the more well-known advanced studies. These etudes are wonderful for left hand dexterity and playing many notes in one bow. It is also great practice for reading accidentals and learning the fingering patterns for unusual augmented or diminished intervals, especially over string crossings. It works well to do this volume and Kreutzer simultaneously.

Click here to buy this violin etude book on Amazon.

42 Etudes or Caprices by Rodolphe Kreutzer

What you’ve all been waiting for…Kreutzer is often called the “violin Bible” because every violinist has gone through it. (It’s so famous this etude book has its own Wikipedia page, seriously look it up.) Rodolphe Kreutzer, along with two other pedagogues, laid the foundations for the entire French school of violin-playing. Kreutzer wrote the etudes to show the abilities of the modern violin bow we use today, which had just been invented. Kreutzer’s etudes are still one of the best ways to learn every bowing technique you will need, alongside challenging left-hand passages. It is best to study them in chronological order but start with No. 2 and come back to No. 1 later on because it is much more difficult.

Click here to buy this violin etude book on Amazon.

36 Caprices, Op. 3 by Federigo Fiorillo

Federigo Fiorillo had an unusual career: he was 18th century professional mandolinist! Since the demand for mandolinists was limited at the time (although he still played at most of Europe’s royal courts) he also played violin and viola. His violin etudes are just as good as those by contemporary pedagogues. An excellent companion to these studies is How to Study Fiorillo by Edith Winn. She gives detailed explanations of every etude and helpful instructions for how to practice.

Click here to buy this violin etude book on Amazon.

24 Caprices by Pierre Rode

Rode, another French violinist, wrote these etudes in the early 1800s. They are wonderful for intonation and finger patterns because there is one for every major and minor key. Like all etudes, it makes a world of difference to look beyond the mechanical and incorporate musicality. Rode has technical similarities to Kreutzer, but the left-hand patterns are often more difficult.

Click here to buy this violin etude book on Amazon.

24 Etudes or Caprices, Op. 35 by Jakob Dont

This is Dont’s more difficult etude book. For example, the very first page is a bunch of three-note chords that involve shifting all over the place. It is a very advanced volume and students should master Dont Op. 37 and Kreutzer before studying these pieces.

Click here to buy this violin etude book on Amazon.

20 Etudes Op. 73 by Charles Dancla

All twenty of these caprices are incredibly challenging, pushing the limits of technical ability. They are difficult and flashy enough that they are worth performing. Some of the techniques involved include long passages of upbow staccato, very fast back-and-forth shifting, trilled thirds and more. These are not so much part of the standard pedagogical etudes as they are showy caprices for advanced players, so don’t worry about playing them all in a row!

Click here to buy this violin etude book on Amazon.

L’école Moderne, Op. 10 by Henryk Wieniawski

Wieniawski was a brilliant 19th century Polish soloist who composed dozens of his own pieces, many of which are among the hardest violin pieces ever written. This includes the ten fiery caprices in L’école Moderne. These pieces make fantastic audition selections or performance encores.

Click here to buy this violin etude book on Amazon.

24 Caprices by Nicolo Paganini

Few people would even consider these famous pieces etudes, although they are technically. Like Dancla, there is no need to plow through these in order. Many very successful soloists have never even learned all the Paganini caprices. You also should not attempt them without a very advanced technical ability first, because you could literally damage your hand with the wrong approach. These (and the other advanced etudes on this list) are best studied under a knowledgeable teacher.

Click here to buy this violin etude book on Amazon.

Which etude books have you studied? What etudes helped you get the best progress on the violin? 

Leave your suggestions in the comments!

The Violin Family Explained with Video Examples

Different orchestral stringed instruments (violin, viola, cello and double bass) explained with beautiful music examples

How many instruments are in the violin family?

The standard violin family consists of only three instruments: violin, viola, and cello.

You may be wondering, “What about the double bass? You know, that giant instrument in the back?” It is debated whether double basses can be considered part of the violin family, which we will discuss later on. For now, to avoid confusion, say “violin family” when talking about the violin, viola, and cello, and “string family” when talking about the broader group of string instruments. In this article, we’ll discuss the differences between violins, violas, cellos, and doublebasses. We’ll go over their range, tuning, types of repertoire, a bit of their history and their various roles in the orchestra.

How many string instruments are in the symphony orchestra?

The string family is incredibly important because it makes up the entire front half of the symphony orchestra. Typical symphonic string instruments include LOTS of violins, violas, cellos, double basses, and often a harp. Many symphonic pieces even call for piano, which is also a member of the string family. Violins vastly outnumber any other instrument in the orchestra. The standard symphony orchestra has about 20-24 violins split into two sections. This army is followed by ten violas, eight cellos, and five or six double basses.

What’s the playing range of the violin, viola, cello and double bass?

Check the chart below to discover how low and how high the orchestral stringed instruments can play. Watch this video to learn more about the violin family range.


The violin is the smallest instrument of the standard violin family.

Violin tuning

The violin is tuned in fifths: G, D, A and E. Read all about tuning your violin here.

Violin clef

The violin reads in the… violin clef, also known as the G clef. This is the same one as the right hand of the piano. Go here to see a chart of the violin, viola, cello and double bass ranges in sheet music.

Violin range

The violin’s range is G3 to about E7. (Violin fingerboards are often slightly different lengths, which means some violins can go a little higher than others.)

The modern violin is descended from baroque violins, which used to be smaller and have more irregular shapes. Stradivari was the first to really standardize the “perfect” violin proportions, and we follow his models to this day. Most luthiers today model their instruments off of those made by famous luthiers of the past such as Stradivari, Guarneri, or Amati.

Violin composers

Most famous composers of the past four centuries composed something for violin. The best-known composers of violin solos include Bach, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Vivaldi, and more names than I could possibly fit in a single article. As both players and instruments become more advanced, violin repertoire is becoming increasingly complex. I can’t help wondering what Bach or Vivaldi would think of Ysaye’s or Ligeti’s sonatas! One of the best parts of being a violinist is having more repertoire at your fingertips than you could possibly explore in a lifetime.

Learn more about the 24 most important violin composers in this article.

Why are there so many violin in an orchestra?

Earlier I mentioned that the standard symphony has twenty violins. Why so many? Because the human ear is naturally drawn towards the high timbre of the violin, it usually has the melody. However, symphony orchestras are simply too massive for a few violins to compete. By splitting twenty violins into two sections, the second violins can often double the melody an octave lower, making sure it is always front and center.

Violin repertoire

Check out the other articles on this blog if you want tons of famous violin repertoire examples. If you are not very familiar with classical violin solos, start by checking out the concertos by Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, as well as Beethoven’s sonatas.


Viola tuning

The viola tunes to the same notes as a cello (C, G, D, A), just an octave up. The G, D and A string of the viola have the same pitch as the violin strings.

Viola clef

The viola is the only standard orchestral instrument that uses alto clef, which places middle C right in the middle of the staff.

Viola range

The viola’s range is from C3 to A6. This is a bit conservative as it’s definitely possible to play higher, certainly with harmonics. Watch this video to learn all about the playing range of stringed instruments.

Viola size

Violas are slightly larger than violins and actually do not have a standardized size. While full size violins all should have the same proportions, violas can be slightly different sizes based on the player’s needs. Violas are always sized by inches, and commonly range from 15-18 inches. Read here all about viola sizing and which size would be right for you.

Viola vs violin playing technique

Violas have a resonate, mellow tone very different from a violin’s. Violas also have thicker strings which respond more slowly to the bow. The instruments are similar enough that most professional violinists also play viola, but this doesn’t mean any violinist can just sound good on viola instantly. It takes time to adjust the intonation (due to more space between steps), bow technique, and of course reading alto clef!
In the orchestra (where there are typically about ten violas), the rich middle harmonies of the viola bind the string section together. Watch this video to see how a violinist can play viola after one hour practice.

Viola repertoire

Historically viola parts were, ahem, not very interesting until the Romantic era. Many 20th century composers incorporated beautiful viola solos, and the instrument’s repertoire in general has greatly expanded. There is very little famous 18th or 19th century solo repertoire for viola. Exceptions include Berlioz’s Harold en Italie, Bruch’s Romanze, Stamitz’s Concerto in D Major, and viola sonatas by Mendelssohn and Brahms. More composers have written viola concertos in the past 100 years. The most famous are by Walton and Bartok.

How difficult is it to play viola vs violin?

Playing viola involves some particular challenges. It is harder for them to project in the orchestra due to their mellow, middle-register tone. It is also heavier than a violin and the notes are further apart, making intonation difficult. Usually a viola doesn’t play such high positions as the violins, which makes playing viola in an orchestra a bit easier. All instrument have their challenges and difficulties, so it’s hard to say if violin or viola is more difficult to play. Nevertheless it is still a valuable member of the orchestra that adds a unique color and resonance.


Cello tuning

Cellos are tuned to C2, G2, D3, and A3. This is an octave lower than the viola.

Cello range

The cello’s range is from C2 to A5. (C2 is the second lowest C on the piano, and A5 is just above the staff in treble clef.)

Cello clef

Cellists usually read bass clef, but when the notes go very high they use tenor clef to avoid leger lines. Here’s a video that shows the full musical range of the cello.

How many cellos are in an orchestra?

In the orchestra there are eight cellos. The section does not need to be as large as the upper string sections since cellos project more. Cellos provide the bassline in the rich string harmonies, so it is incredibly important to the orchestra’s texture.

Cello repertoire

There is also an incredible amount of solo repertoire for cello. Bach’s solo cello suites are as important for that instrument as the Bach Sonatas and Partitas are for violin.

Cello composers

Most of the famous composers including Brahms, Beethoven, Schumann, Mendelssohn, and Chopin wrote cello sonatas. The most famous cello concertos are by Dvorak, Elgar, and Haydn. There are also several wonderful double or triple concertos that feature cello. Check out the Brahms double concerto and Beethoven triple concerto to hear cello interact with other solo instruments.

Cello history

Historically, cellos have a similar timeline to violins, first appearing in the 16th century. Everyone has heard of Stradivari violins, but many people are not aware he also made cellos, about 60 of which still exist.

Double Bass

Double bass tuning

The tuning of the double bass is a little less straight forward. The most common tuning if a four string double bass is E A D G, but often an extender is used, so that the double bass can play as low as the C1. Also some double basses are built or converted as a five string bass with a lower B0 string.

Double bass clef

Just as the cello the double bass reads the bass clef. However for the double bass the sound is an octave lower than it reads.

Double bass range

The lowest note depends on the set up, as mentioned above. It could be B0, C1 or E1. Highest practical note is G4.

Is the double bass a member of the violin family?

While we’re on the subject of instrument history, it’s time to talk about the double bass. As we discussed earlier, it is debated whether double basses can be considered part of the violin family; it makes more sense to place them in the viol family. (Viols are renaissance instruments from which the violin is descended, but they are different enough to be separate categories.) There are a few basic reasons for the differentiation. First, violins, violas, and cellos all tune in fifths. Double basses tune in fourths, which is traditional for viols. Shape-wise, double basses are more similar to viola da gambas than to cellos. Here is a picture of the three for reference. Mainly take a look at the ‘shoulders’ to see the difference in origin. However, please know that there are also ‘violin shaped’ double basses, which are more similar to the violin, viola and cello.

Double basses have been an essential member of the orchestra for centuries. In most classical compositions, the cellos and double basses read a single part together (the basses an octave lower), except when the composer put “senza bassi” to indicate that the cellos should play alone. Later, double basses receive their own part.

How many double basses are in an orchestra?

The standard modern orchestra has about six double basses, but that wasn’t always typical. Classical orchestras across Europe often had two, three, or even four basses for every cello! Some composers even wrote double bass solos, such as the ones in Haydn’s Symphony No. 31.

Double bass repertoire

The double bass is often thought of as a large, clumsy, slow instrument, the tortoise of the orchestra. However, with the right repertoire and a good musician, it is actually incredibly virtuosic. There are entire concertos written for solo double bass. Even Haydn apparently wrote a double bass concerto, but it has been lost and we only have the first two measures. For full double bass concertos, Check out Bottesini, Koussevitsky, and Dragonetti.

Hi! I'm Zlata

Classical violinist helping you overcome technical struggles and play with feeling by improving your bow technique.

Which stringed instruments is most difficult to play? Violin, viola, cello or double bass?

The violin is known as one of the most difficult instruments to play. However the larger size of the violin’s family members comes with their own difficulties. The violin is small, so the intonation (playing in tune) comes really precise and certainly the first violins need to play high up the instrument. On the other hand the large fingerboard of a cello or double bass (without frets) is quite intimidating to find the notes on. The viola is heavier to carry under your chin and the notes are further apart, so more of a stretch. Playing the solo, middle part or bass line in an orchestra all come with their own challenges. The cello and double bass need more strength to play.

Each instrument has their difficulties. When choosing an instrument, focus on what timbre you love most and go for it. If you play an instrument you love, it will be easy to find motivation to practice and you will overcome it’s challenges.

Closing notes

The violin, viola, cello, and double bass make up the instruments of the orchestral string family (not including harp and piano, that is.) Which of these instruments do you already play? Which one would you like to try? What is your favorite solo, chamber, or orchestral repertoire for your instrument? Leave a comment!

10 Types of Baroque Dances in Violin Music with Examples

Discover how the allemande, minuet, gavotte and sarabande that you play in baroque partitas and suites were danced and how they differ:

In the Baroque era, music was inseparably linked to dance.

Many musical forms that now stand on their own such as minuets, allemandes, and gavottes originally developed alongside dance forms.

Most violinists have played these forms ever since they first started, but are you able to tell the difference between them? Moreover, how much do you know about the dance forms themselves? Why are loures slower than gigues? How can you tell the difference between chaconnes and passacaglias? In this article we’ll discuss how you can understand these questions and appreciate the history behind your baroque repertoire.

#1 Allemande

Let’s start with the dignified allemande, one of the most popular baroque dances. The French are responsible for its courtly development, but they derived it from a 16th century German dance. (“Allemande” is simply the French word for Germany.) It is a stately couple dance in 4/4 time. As you will hear in the attached Bach example, an allemande is almost entirely sixteenth note patterns throughout. There is one specific thing that makes it easy to tell whether a piece is an allemande. It will always have a pickup at the beginning, either an eighth note or three sixteenth notes. Can you hear the pickup in Bach’s allemande below?

If you listen to a lot of Mozart and Beethoven, you may have heard allemandes in ¾ time and been confused. This is a completely different musical form that started around that time. Traditional baroque dance allemandes were always in 4/4

#2 Minuet

“Minuet” comes from the French word for “small”. Minuet movements have a very specific form. They are always in ¾ or sometimes ⅜ time. Minuets have two main sections: the minuet and the trio. The trio is actually a second minuet inside the first one, because traditionally they would alternate between two minuets. The pattern for performing minuet is always the same: the first half contains two phrases that are both repeated. Then you play the trio, which has another two phrases, each repeated. Then you go back to the top and play the first half again but without repeats. It’s hard to explain in writing, so see if you can hear what I mean in the famous minuet below.

#3 Gavotte

Faster and livelier than the allemande, the gavotte was popular in 17th century France and England. Like many baroque dances, it was adopted from a peasant dance and changed slightly for the sake of elegance. For example, the peasant dance would end with couples giving each other a kiss, but that was later changed into exchanging flowers. Gavottes involve more skipping, bouncy steps, and are danced in a round or in fours instead of with just one couple.

#4 Sarabande

The Sarabande has a fascinating history. It originated in 16th century Spain as a lively dance with castanets. However, it was not considered a civilized dance and was actively repressed. It later spread through Italy to France where once again they turned it into a slow, elegant dance. It remained popular in France and is often included in Baroque dance suites. One of the musical traits of the sarabande is that the emphasis is on the second beat.

#5 Gigue

This is one of the fastest, most upbeat dance types. There are different forms of this dance, as Italian gigues are faster than French ones. The word “jig” derives from this form, although like all baroque dances it is elegant and complex. Gigues are always in a compound meter such as 12/8 or 6/8. When performed without dancers, musicians will often play gigues much faster than they could be danced. Check out Hilary Hahn playing Bach below, then compared to the dance example.

#6 Courante

Courantes often follow allemandes in a Baroque suite. This dance in particular has several steps that you may recognize from classical ballet. “Courante” literally means “running”. The renaissance form of this dance was very fast with small, jumping steps, but in the French baroque court it was the slowest dance of them all. The Italian form of this dance is much faster. Bach wrote pieces in both forms and used the words “courante” and “corrente” in the music to differentiate between the two and mark the tempo. This distinction has largely been lost in translation over the years; the second movement of Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D Minor was originally marked by Bach as “corrente”, but most violinists now call it a courante.

#7 Rigaudon

This lively, duple meter dance also originated in France. It is quick with many small, hopping steps. It was popular in both France and England, but the minuet replaced it by the end of the 18th century. The dancing video below gives a good idea of the original steps. Kreisler’s Sicilienne and Rigaudon is a flashy showpiece that is based on the rigaudon form but is not at all meant to be danced to.

#8 Loure

This dance gets its name from a type of bagpipe native to Normandy. Despite this apparent connection to the French countryside, composers often marked loures as Spanish dances, and Johann Mattheson, a 17th century German musician and music theorist, stated that the Spaniards loved the loure. Thus, it is difficult to pin down the dance’s origin for certain. The loure is a member of the gigue family, but in a moderate tempo. Loures may be in either 3/4 or 6/4 time and utilize hemiolas. (A hemiola is a rhythmic device where you can shift the metric pulse by changing where the downbeats are felt. For example, a normal 6/4 measure would have two groups of three-quarter notes, but a hemiola would have three groups of two quarter notes.) The loure had two forms at the French court: a stately symmetrical couple dance, or a more difficult version performed solo.

#9 Chaconne

A chaconne consists of several variations on a short, repeated bassline in ¾ time. The bassline usually descends from the tonic to the dominant of the scale. (For example, if you are in d minor the bassline could go D, C#, Bb, A.) The chaconne has an interesting history, and unlike some of the forms listed here it changed dramatically over the years. The most famous chaconne for violin is the fifth movement of J.S. Bach’s Partita in D Minor. You have most likely heard this piece: it is solemn, elaborate, and heartbreaking. This is vastly different from the chaconne’s origin. It started as a lively, mischievous dance in 16th-century dance. The song often had jolly, sometimes irreverent lyrics. The dance was disparaged by Spain’s moral authorities. In the 17th-century it came to France, where they made it appropriate for courtly consumption. Rameau and Lully frequently used it in stage dances. Our dance example comes from the final act of Rameau’s opera Les Indes Galantes, hence the unusual costumes.

#10 Passacaglia

On first listen passacaglias sound very similar to chaconnes because they are both comprised of variations over a repeating bassline. So, what are the differences? Like the chaconne, passacaglias or “street songs” also originate from Spain. Tradition says that guitarists would go from house to house improvising over short chordal patterns. Chaconnes, especially those used for dancing, can be in the major mode, but passacaglias, being more somber and introspective, are usually in minor keys. The repeating pattern in passacaglias can appear in any voice; for chaconnes, it can only be in the bass. My favorite passacaglia is the final movement of Franz Ignaz Biber’s Rosary Sonatas. It is not only a beautiful example of this form, but it is also one of the earliest known compositions for solo violin.

The Baroque era provided us with a cultural richness that is still echoing through the artistry of today. Do you have a favorite baroque dance or musical form? This is not an exhaustive list; what other forms are you interested in? Leave any questions and thoughts in the comments!

10 Types of Violin Pieces with Examples

What’s a violin concerto, caprice, etude or sonata?

Discover different types of violin music with examples

Even if you’ve been playing the violin for fifty years, you’re probably always on the lookout for new pieces because there’s just SO much to choose from. You can spend hours going down the IMSLP rabbit hole, take it from me… But what if you want to play a particular kind of piece? What if you want something just for violin and piano and not orchestra? Are you looking for light background music, or a flashy piece to end your recital?

In this article, we go through the different compositional genres of classical violin repertoire and why they’re different

Most of these sections contain pieces at almost every level, so you can find something to fit your needs.

#1 Concerto

A full violin concerto is typically three movements (although there are exceptions) for solo violin with accompaniment. The accompaniment is usually orchestra (full orchestra, strings, or some other combination) although there are concertos with only a piano accompaniment written. Concertos are what the top violin soloists spend most of their time playing. In fact, top soloists often play just one or two concertos per season and travel around to different orchestras.

#2 Concertino

A concertino is similar to but shorter than a concerto. Many concertinos are written for young students who are not yet ready for full concertos. For that reason, most concertinos are only scored for violin and piano.

There are concertos for each playing level, even beginner(ish) violin players. Go here to discover over a hundred (!) violin student concertos and concertinos with free sheet music.

#3 Sonata

The violin sonata started in the baroque era. At the time it was not very standardized, almost anything with a solo instrument and accompaniment could be called a sonata. However, during the classical era patterns and rules began to develop and a standard form emerged. Sonatas are usually three or four movements with the first and last movements being fast. The first movement sets up the main themes that are sometimes reused in the following movements. The sonata form you might have heard of applies to the first movement. Next to concertos, the sonata is the most standardized and important genres of repertoire for serious violinists.

#4 Sonatina

Like concertinos, this is just a shorter sonata that’s usually easier to play. Also they’re often less than four movements and the first movement doesn’t always follow the classical sonata form. These are great to play for intermediate violin players:

#5 Etude

If you have any aspirations of playing concertos and sonatas someday, you will want to prepare with lots and lots of etudes! Etudes are relatively short pieces that focus on specific aspects of technique so that when you see those in a piece you can tackle them easily. There is no better way to learn the trickiest aspects of violin-playing than to play a piece that makes you do the same technique over and over again. Etudes come in all different shapes and sizes, whether you are a beginner or a seasoned professional there are etude books for you.

#6 Caprice

A caprice is essentially a very complex, advanced etude. The most famous violin caprices are the ones by Paganini, Wieniawski, Lipinski, etc. They were all insanely talented violinists who wrote their own pieces to show off. Violinists learn caprices after playing many levels of etudes.

#7 Showpiece

A showpiece does not fit into the stricter categories of concerto or sonata, but this is still a huge genre. They vary greatly in length and style but are always meant to show off what a soloist can do. Showpieces are most often used as encores or recital pieces.

#8 Baroque Dance Suites

Perhaps not everyone agrees that this should be a separate category, but I think there is enough baroque dance music to justify it. This was the primary from of secular music in the baroque era, the stuff you would play for all the emperors and dukes and such. Later composers continued to write pieces based on these forms. We could write a whole other article about the differences between allemandes, minuets, and gavottes, but basically this section includes anything that was used for baroque court dancing and entertainment.

Hi! I'm Zlata

Classical violinist helping you overcome technical struggles and play with feeling by improving your bow technique.

#9 Fantasy

A fantasy is a very free, improvisationally based piece. For example, Sarasate’s famous Carmen Fantasy is a fresh take on the classic Bizet opera, weaving several well-known melodies into violinistic fireworks with blazing spontaneity. It is certainly a type of showpiece, but I put it in a separate category because so many pieces are just called. “Fantasies”.

#10 Rondos

Many violin pieces are based on this structure. Saint-Saens’ Rondo Capriccioso is a famous example. A rondo form is A-B-A-C-A. What do all these letters mean? A rondo begins with a main theme. It then presents a contrasting theme, returns to the main theme, presents yet another new section, returns to the theme, etc. This happens as many times as the composer’s heart desires. Many concertos and sonatas contain rondo movements, such as the Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Mozart concertos. However, there are also several stand-alone rondo pieces worth being performed.

There’s our list of different genres of classical violin repertoire. Did I miss any? What’s your favorite genre to choose from?