The Bontragers Favorite Violin Books

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:

  1. Technique
  2. Classical
  3. Hymns
  4. Fiddle

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.

Fairfield Farm Beginners Fiddle Book

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.

Fairfield Farm Fiddle Book II

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.

Mel Bay Advanced Fiddling

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.

Essential Techniques for Strings

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.)

Solos for Young Violinist Volume 1

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.

Solos for Young Violinist Volume 2

Solos for Young Violinists Volume 3

These books have more advanced solos.

Suzuki Book 1

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.

Suzuki Book 2

Suzuki Book 3

Suzuki Book 4

Erich Boruff Books

These books are all excellent. Eric has beautiful hymn arrangements (with piano accompaniment) for beginner through advanced violinists.

Ever In Joyful Song

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).

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” 

7 Comments

  1. HI Allison! Thanks for sharing! I’m learning the violin; it’s so much fun! I have a question… When do you think you will be in VA? I’d love to meet you! We saw one of your concerts a while ago (I think 2012) and bought the “Salt and Light” CD. My sister got a few more since then, and we’ve listened to you-all on YouTube too. : ) I think your girl’s retreat thing sound like lots of fun! Have a nice day!
    Laura
    flowersinmybasket.blogspot.com

    1. I really don’t know, Laura. Watch our family website to see upcoming dates. I don’t do the scheduling but we usually put travel plans on there a few months in advance.

  2. Thank you! I had not heard of the Fairfield Farm fiddle books, but love many of the others you mentioned. Especially the Solos for Young Violinists books for students who think they hate Suzuki. 😉 Your “teacher” ideas throughout this article were helpful as well.

  3. Hey Allison,
    Thanks for sharing this post! I know that I have asked you some violin questions in the past. 🙂 I have the “Ever in Joyful Song” book, and have used it a little bit, but not much. I should really get back into it! I think for some people (me included), it would be helpful to also buy the CD of Tracy Ann Collins. I don’t have the CD, but I think it would be profitable to be able to hear the songs, especially because I am not the fastest at reading music. Than I can get a feel for how it sounds, etc, and eventually be able to play along with it!
    Thanks for posting this; I am challenged to jump back into my practice and use this book again!

I'd love to hear your thoughts!