18 Violin Etude Books in Order of Difficulty

by | Mar 20, 2024 | 2 comments

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!


  1. Basia

    Great post, coming just in time for me, I love doing etudes, they are absolute game changers for making solid progress and improving technique, many thanks for this compilation and the videos, much appreciated!

    • Zlata

      Glad it’s helpful!


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