I get asked from time to time about what violin books I use and recommend. Although I have used a large variety of books over the years, there are some that I keep coming back to. Today I am going to share with you the favorite violin books of the Bontrager violinists. These are books that I played from and used to teach my siblings and other students.
I have found that practice is more fun when you have a variety of music that is interesting, fun and challenging. I never want my students to be playing all super-hard classical pieces, but neither do I have them play only fun + light pieces at any given time.
My typical recipe for picking pieces for my violin students includes:
I find that these four components not only give a violinist a well-rounded repertoire, but keep even young students interested and engaged. The last thing I want is for them to get discouraged or overwhelmed with too many difficult pieces, or bored with not enough variety.
The first book I am going to tell you about is one that I started playing from when I began taking violin lessons 18 years ago.
Even as a little 5 year old girl, I loved the fun and upbeat style of fiddle music! This sweet fiddle book is one I learned from with my very first, very fun teacher. She was enthusiastic and eclectic as a teacher, and although she primarily taught the Suzuki method, she made sure all her students were well-rounded with a variety of music, including fiddle. This books has basic + popular fiddle songs, such as “Boil Dem Cabbage Down”, “Cripple Creek”, “Old Joe Clark”, “Ragtime Annie”, and many more.
I highly recommend this one for intermediate violinists. I just bought it for Hudson and Rebecca since they have finished all the songs in the Beginners book. This second one has alot more double stops (playing on two strings at once) and such that will challenge them a bit more than the basic, simple style of the Beginner’s book.
This is a fantastic fiddle book for advanced fiddling. The version of Orange Blossom Special that I learned and based off is in here, along with other classics like “Sally Goodin”, a very difficult but very cool fiddle piece that my sister Liz is learning right now. Even if you’ve been playing violin for a long time, you will be challenged with this book.
If you want to learn some new techniques in violin but aren’t sure where to start, this book is for you! It has exercises and little songs for third and second position, majors + minor + chromatic scales, vibrato, spiccato, and more.
I am using the Essential Techniques book with Rebecca and Hudson right now, and it is fantastic. Specifically, I love the way it teaches 3rd position- breaking it down into very small little pieces and lines to learn, gradually getting more difficult. After a few months of doing the 3rd position exercises, and learning the position and how of it, they are ready for songs with 3rd position. I like this method so much better than one day saying “let’s learn to play in 3rd position”!
(For those of you wondering what 3rd position is, it is when you move your 1st finger to where your 3rd finger would normally be. In violin, after learning the basics, you want to learn different positions to play in, as it opens up so many possibilities with more advanced pieces and playing higher up on the violin.)
This book is so fun! I am using it with Liz, Huds, and Rebecca currently and the pieces are just so great. The variety is tremendous, as well, which I love. I mean, how fun is “Mosquito Dance”?! Other titles include: “Elves Dance”, “Donkey Doodle”, “Scotch Folk Song: A Lullaby”, “Russian Folk Song: Caterpillar! Caterpillar!”, and “French Folk Song (Playing Ball on the Stairs)”
You can even learn some of the piano notes on the violin for a second violin part, which is very fun. I can’t recommend this book highly enough for the fantastic selection of fun and beautiful pieces.
These books have more advanced solos.
I started with the Suzuki books and played them for many years (learning almost the entirety of the first 8 books), going on to use them with every one of my students. The pieces are excellent, and younger students can listen to the cd and learn the songs without even reading music. The songs get progressively harder, starting with very easy little songs to more and more difficult.
The Suzuki books all have piano accompaniment and cd’s available as well.
These books are all excellent. Eric has beautiful hymn arrangements (with piano accompaniment) for beginner through advanced violinists.
I absolutely love the beautiful hymn arrangements by Tracy Ann Collins! I started with these quite a few years ago, and am teaching them to Elizabeth now (and soon Hudson and Rebecca). I would recommend this book for intermediate to advanced students that have been playing probably 5+ years (unless you are older and advanced very quickly).
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