10 easy violin songs any beginner can learn

17.03.2022 Ben Maloney Violin

Learning a new instrument isn’t always easy, and hunting down music that’s right for your skill level doesn’t make things any simpler. By bringing you great music and walking you through it, this list aims to support you as you pursue your playing goals.

Below you’ll find ten pieces of violin music suitable for your abilities as a beginner. They cover a variety of styles and genres as well as techniques - working through them will provide you with a rounded playing experience, and encourage a range of fundamental skills.

Each piece is available on the nkoda app, and you’ll find links below that take you right to the sheet music itself. Many of these songs are part of playbooks containing a range of similar music, so once you’ve worked through these, you won’t have to go far to discover even more music that’s right for you.
 

10 beginner violin songs
 

  1. Round and Round by Peter Furniss
  2. Sarabande by Ludovico Einaudi
  3. Etude by Grażyna Bacewicz
  4. ‘John Ryan’s Polka’ by Edward Huws Jones
  5. Adagio by Helgi Pálsson
  6. Lilacs by Sergei Rachmaninoff
  7. ‘Hava Nagila’ by Eta Cohen
  8. Tavern Song By Béla Bartók
  9. The Brook by Franz Schubert
  10. Canzone by Tatiana Smirnova

1. Round and Round by Peter Furniss

If you’re starting out on the violin, you should make collections of easy pieces your best friend. They’re simple, fun to work through, and they’re full of music designed to develop basic playing skills. nkoda’s full of them, and one of the best around is Peter Furniss’ In Concert.

It contains eleven works for violin and piano, and you’ll have no problem trying them out. Round and Round is the eighth in the set. Restricting itself to the first five scale degrees and mostly tuplet groupings, it’s perfect if you’re taking on a piece of music on the violin for the very first time.

There are two versions of the piece available - one in D major, the other in G major. It’ll stand you in good stead to learn both versions and get familiar with relationships between various keys. The sooner you understand these relationships, the sooner you’ll be able to pitch the notes accurately, and change between them intuitively.

2Sarabande by Ludovico Einaudi 

First coming to prominence as a composer of film scores in the 1990s, Ludovico Einaudi is now one of the world’s most popular and acclaimed composers. Piano music’s at the heart of his body of work, but he’s also turned his hand to the violin. Chester Music’s Violin Collection compiles a series of his pieces for violin and piano.

The Sarabande is the fourth in the set, and it features all the hallmarks of Einaudi’s composing style - sparse textures, diatonic melodies and a characteristic wistfulness. Written in a sombre D minor, the piece sees the violin offering responses to the piano’s arpeggios before colouring the harmony with longer notes. 

A repeating motif appears at bar 41. Despite the fact that each pair of notes is separated by a rest, tenuto markings combined with ties mean that you should bow them both in the same direction. Also, look out for the ‘allarg. instructions. These denote an allargando, a slowing of the tempo. The original pace is then restored with ‘a tempo’.

3. Etude by Grażyna Bacewicz

Grażyna Bacewicz is one of Poland’s greatest musical figures. Exceptional as a composer and violinist, she was as comfortable with experimentation as she was with accessibility. This piece of hers, fortunately for us here, falls into the second category.

This etude - like etudes in general - is designed to develop particular aspects of playing technique. In this case, it’s all about rhythmic control and string skipping. Combining runs of quavers and held minims, phrases also comprise wide, awkward intervals. Accidentals make things harder, while some double-stopping is even thrown in for good measure.

This study is included in a collection of easy pieces by Bacewicz, which will also help you to develop particular skills, even if they aren’t etudes proper. By learning this music, you’ll be on your way to becoming the kind of player that she was. Of all people, she definitely knows how to develop violin skills the right way.

4. ‘John Ryan’s Polka’ by Edward Huws Jones

If you’re more interested in fiddle than violin, then this is the number for you. Edward Huws Jones was a prolific arranger of folk songs for the violin. nkoda has a range of Boosey & Hawkes editions featuring his work, including this one - The Celtic Fiddler.

From Scotland to Galicia, a diversity of Celtic folk songs is included in this title, including the Irish classic, ‘John Ryan’s Polka’. Although the polka is traditionally a Czech dance, its patterns are a perfect match for the Irish folk idiom. Basic rhythms and a strong sense of pulse make John Ryan’s own theme song an easy one to come to terms with.

When performing folk songs, fiddlers will usually add their own ornamental touches, such as trills, mordents and appoggiaturas - feel free to add your own embellishments when playing this song. Unique interpretation of timeless melodies captures the very essence of what folk music is all about.

5. Adagio by Helgi Pálsson

One of the few classical composers to hail from Iceland, Helgi Pálsson published Six Icelandic Folk Tunes for violin and piano in 1962. On the whole, the collection is better suited to slightly more experienced players, but the Adagio is a beautiful piece that’s accessible enough for beginners.

At only sixteen bars long, its a miniature work, but the slow tempo allows you to savour each note. The violin part is made up of two musical statements separated by a piano interlude. Each is made up of slurred phrases and sustained notes. This piece is all about legato - seamlessly moving from one note to the next in a gentle wash of sound.

Remember, though, that playing slow music on the violin is harder than it might seem. With notes drawn right out, finding the right pitch becomes vital. Expression is crucial as well, so your bowing skills will be tested. Don’t rush - it’s a slow piece after all, and with so few notes in it, each one deserves all your attention. 

6. Lilacs by Sergei Rachmaninoff

Sergei Rachmaninoff is a giant figure of the late Romantic era. Literally - he was a huge man, and his huge legacy centres on his piano repertoire. As a formidable pianist in his own right, a lot of these works are notoriously difficult. Thankfully, this one’s an exception. Or at least it is as transcribed by Boosey & Hawkes for solo violin. 

Lilacs is the fifth of twelve songs composed by Rachmaninoff in 1902. In this arrangement it strings together a series of lyrical melodic statements. To get them right, you’ll need to really focus on bowing and dynamics, and make sure you sustain the tenuto notes. All the markings are right there on the page. 

9/4 is an unfamiliar time signature, but it shouldn’t be daunting. It’s best to think of each bar as comprising three groups of three crotchets. There’s no need to take the performance too quickly. Just make sure you maintain a sense of the pulse when playing - getting the upbeat right will really help with this. 

7. ‘Hava Nagila’ by Eta Cohen

Writer, educator, violinist and composer, Eta Cohen is a fascinating musical figure. She’s best known for developing her distinctive method of teaching violin, which promoted an incremental approach to learning the instrument - taking things one step at a time.

Published by Novello, Cohen’s method is available on nkoda, containing an array of exercises and pieces that put her theory into practice. One of these works is ‘Hava Nagila’, her arrangement of a well-known Jewish folk song. Its distinctive melodic colour stems from the juxtaposition of the flattened second and the sharpened third degrees of the scale.

The opening passage features a recurring motif whose pitches change with each repetition. Things get trickier with the introduction of syncopation in the central part of the piece, and the closing sequence is marked by a busier texture. Try to avoid playing the open A-string and E-string - you’ll get a stronger tone by using your fourth finger.

8. Tavern Song by Béla Bartók

While he might be renowned for his boundary-pushing approach to composition, Béla Bartók was also capable of handling more welcoming material. This Boosey & Hawkes title offers a selection of his works for violin that are suitable for beginners, and one of them is the Tavern Song

Although it’s easy, it’s still a captivating piece, and it reflects Bartók’s passion for the traditional music of his native Hungary. The song’s written in a fast 2/4, and in spite of its short length it works through a surprising amount of musical ideas. This variety is the main reason why it’s such a perfect piece for a beginner’s repertoire.

Bartók combines staccato and slurred articulation in the piece. He also makes liberal use of accents as well as marcato and tenuto markings. And as if that’s not enough, the song also features double-stopping and pizzicato. Work your way through this piece and you’ll equip yourself with a range of key performance tools. 

9. The Brook by Franz Schubert

The Brook started life as a song in Franz Schubert’s cycle, Die schöne MüllerinFirst titled ‘Wohin?’, it was then transcribed for violin and piano and retitled by arranger extraordinaire Sheila Mary Nelson. Although it’s included here in a collection for intermediate players, it won’t hurt to give it a try.

In Schubert’s song, a wandering miller encounters a beautiful brook and proceeds to follow its course. The rippling waters are depicted by the arpeggios in the piano accompaniment, while the violin traces the melody of the singing miller. 

Work through the piece at a slow tempo so that you can articulate each phrase carefully. Also try to play through the material brightly, in the joyful spirit of the subject matter. By bearing in mind that this tune was first written for voice, you should be able to produce the song-like playing style that the piece calls for. 

10. Canzone by Tatiana Smirnova

A popular title on nkoda, this Ricordi edition offers an assortment of easy violin music written by composers from the former Soviet Union. The accessible works on offer cover a wide range of forms and styles, but Tatiana Smirnova’s Canzone is a particularly great choice for beginners.

As its simple title suggests, the piece takes on the character of a vocal piece. The violin melody is shaped into expressive phrases, most of which should be played with a legato feel. The direction ‘semplice’ instructs the player to play in a simple manner - the more uncomplicated you can make your playing sound, the better.

There are a few time signature changes in the piece. It can be difficult to execute shifts in metre while keeping rhythmic momentum, but in a piece like this a rigid pulse isn’t really desirable. Just try to work through the material as smoothly and as naturally as possible, and your rendition should capture the mood of Smirnova’s music perfectly. 

Your next steps for violin music
 

Treat each song as a lesson, a musical experience that will teach you a new and unique chapter in the never-ending journey of playing the violin. But don’t just think of it as work - it’s just as important to have fun.

As we touched on, many of these works are part of larger collections of compositions appropriate for beginner violinists, so think of these pieces as jumping-off points. You can also check out nkoda’s entire range of violin sheet music here. It’s all there - opera arias, movie themes, classics of the Baroque era, Christmas carols, and more.

Having read all about easy violin songs, you might also be wondering what’s at the other end of the scale. Find out all about the hardest violin songs in this - one day you’ll be able to play those, and the pieces you’ve read about here will be a distant memory. 

Let’s not jump too far ahead though. With these easy works in mind, if you’re keen to take them on, but in need of a crash course in how to interpret them, you can find out how to read violin sheet music here. As Eta Cohen would say - one step at a time. 

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