Violin is an instrument most commonly associated with classical music, but it’s not limited to playing in orchestras and quartets. The violin’s versatility and capacity as a melody instrument has helped it establish itself as a staple in many types of music.

Classical Violin Music

The modern violin emerged in the Baroque era of music and has remained a popular instrument for classical music to this day. The violin is probably the best-known instrument of the traditional orchestra, and has been the featured instrument of countless compositions. From orchestras to quartets, violin is a vital instrument for classical music.

Popular Music

As early as the 1920s and 1930s, the violin can be heard in popular music and was commonly used in dance music. Though use of the violin in popular music dropped off for a few decades, it reemerged in the 1960s and was heavily used in disco in the 1970s.

In pop music, the Motown era relied heavily on strings, which became a trademark of their music. Mainstream acts such as Yellowcard, Dave Matthews Band, and U2 have been known to use electric violin in their music.

While the violin has not been utilized much in rock music, indie artists such as Andrew Bird and Arcade Fire are well known for incorporating it into their songs. Andrew Bird is part an indie rock niche that has been dubbed “violindie”.

Lindsey Stirling is a Youtube icon who brought the violin to the world of electronic dance music.

Traditional Music

Violin (or fiddle, in this case) has long been used in the traditional music of Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales and Cape Breton, to name a few. Dance bands are almost never seen without a fiddle, and the influence of these traditional fiddling styles can be seen in many genres.

Old-time fiddle, Cajun and bluegrass are a few more styles of music that are undisputably fiddle-centric. One very well known modern fiddle player that is featured below is Mark O’Connor.

Jazz and Violin

In the early 20th century, jazz music used the violin as a solo instrument. One great jazz violinist from this era is Eddie South, who earned the nickname “The Dark Angel of Violin”. In modern jazz, violins are used in the avant-garde style of playing. Leroy Jenkins and Regina Carter are two more modern jazz artists whose music showcases the use of violin.

 

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Many great violinists have left their mark in history and on violin technique. Here are a few of the most famous classical violinists, from the 17th through 19th centuries.

Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713)

Famous Classical Violinist: Arcangelo Corelli

Corelli was an Italian violinist whose style was formative in the early development of violin playing. Though he made quite a name for himself with his playing, he did not use the violin to its fullest potential. In his compositions for violin, he rarely went above D on the E string.

 

 

 

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)

Famous Classical Violinist: Antonio Vivaldi

Vivaldi was initially taught by his father to play the violin. He became so skilled as a child that he and his father toured around Venice playing together. He continued to impress as an adult with his excellent technique. Vivaldi’s skill earned him the position of Master of Violin at a music school when he was 25.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Famous Classical Violinist: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Mozart wasn’t just a composer—he was also a child prodigy on violin. He began touring at age 6 with his father and sister, performing for European royalty along the way. Though his focus eventually became composing, his first public appearances were as a violinist and pianist. He is arguably one of the most famous classical violinists.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840)

Famous Classical Violinist: Niccolò PaganiniPaganini was the most celebrated virtuoso of his time, and had a profound influence on modern technique. His compositions for violin are famous for their difficulty. In his lifetime he owned and played many extraordinary violins, including multiple Amati, Guarneri and Stradivari instruments.

 

 

 

 

 

Ole Bull (1810-1880)

Famous Classical Violinist: Ole Bull

Bull was a Norwegian violinist who was famous for his speed and clarity of playing. He was  prolific performer, giving thousands of concerts. He was also a luthier and collector of fine violins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst (1812-1865)

Famous Classical Violinist: Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst

Ernst is sometimes considered to be Paganini’s greatest successor. He was an expressive and technically gifted player who was greatly admired by other musicians like Berlioz, Schumann and Lizst.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joseph Joachim (1831-1907)

Famous Classical Violinist: Joseph Joachim

Joachim was a Hungarian violinist who became wildly popular at age 12, when he played a Beethoven violin concerto with the London Philharmonic. His recordings in 1903 made him the earliest famous classical violinists to have recorded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joachim plays Brahm’s Hungarian Dance #1:

Henryk Wieniawski (1835-1880)

Famous Classical Violinist: Henryk Wieniawski 1878

Wienaiwski was another violinist who successfully made the transition from child virtuoso to mature artist. He had an intense touring schedule and great popularity–even to the point of being likened to Paganini.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pablo de Sarasate (1844-1908)

Famous Classical Violinist: Pablo de Sarasate

Sarasate was a Spanish violinist who owed his fame to his pure tone and fabulous execution. He toured and performed in Europe, North America and South America. He played a 1724 Stradivarius and, along with Joseph Joachim, was among the first great violinists to record.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sarasate plays his Zigeunerweisen, recorded around 1904:

Check out our lineup of ten of the most famous classical violinists, from the 19th century to the present.

 

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Famous Classical Violinists:

Many great violinists have left their mark in history and on violin technique. Here are a few of the most famous, from the 20th century to the present.

Eugène Ysaÿe (1858-1931)

Ysaÿe was a Belgian violinist who was sometimes called “The King of the Violin”. He studied with Henryk Wieniawski and Henri Vieuxtemps and went on to teach players like Josef Gingold and Nathan Milstein. He had a successful career as a soloist, touring all over Europe, the US and Russia. He was known for his variety of vibrato and use of rubato.  

Eugène Ysaÿe plays Schubert’s Ave Maria:

Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962)

Kreisler was born in Austria, but his heritage was Jewish. He studied at the Vienna Conservatory as well as privately with many notable teachers, including Jakob Dont and Anton Bruckner. He was known for his sweet tone and expressive vibrato and phrasing.

Kreisler plays Dvořák’s Humoresque: 

Bronislaw Huberman (1882-1947)

Jewish-Polish violinist Huberman founded the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra in 1936, which saved nearly 1000 Jews from Nazi concentration camps. In 1896, he performed the Brahms Violin Concerto in front of Brahms himself, who was impressed with Huberman’s playing. His playing was expressive and personal.

Huberman plays Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 9, #2: 

Jascha Heifetz (1901-1987)

Heifetz was a Russian-born violinist who moved to the United States as a teenager. He became popular in Russia before moving, and his first public performance in the US (at Carnegie Hall), was received with incredible enthusiasm. He is remembered for his incredible precision and intense tone quality.

Heifetz plays Wieniawski’s Polonaise No. 1: 

David Oistrakh (1908-1974)

Oistrakh was a Russian violinist (and violist) who had a large, bold sound. When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Oistrakh went to the front lines to play for and cheer soldiers and factory workers. Much of his career was in Russia, due to World War II, but after 1950 he was able to take his playing abroad.

Oistrakh plays Tchaicovsky’s Violin Concerto: 

Yehudi Menuhin (1916-1999)

Menuhin was a child virtuoso. He performed with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra as a soloist when he was seven, and continued to play with great orchestras throughout his childhood. He also recorded from age 13 to 82, making his contract with EMI one of the longest in history. Menuhin’s natural musicality and feel for the music are what set him apart.

Menuhin plays the third movement of Paganini’s First Violin Concerto: 

Ida Haendel (1928-)

Polish-born violinist Ida Haendel won many notable competitions as a child, and studied with multiple famous violinists. She toured all over the world and is known for her highly expressive manner and intense sound.

Haendel plays Sibelius’ Violin Concerto: 

Itzhak Perlman (1945-)

Perlman is an Israeli-American violinist who began playing at age three. Despite his legs being paralyzed from contracting polio at age four, he continued to play and gave his first recital at 10. He has a elegant sound, and has recorded extensively and performed worldwide. He teaches privately and at Juilliard, where he attended as a youth.  

Perlman plays Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61: 

Joshua Bell (1967-)

Bell is an American violinist who began playing at age four. One of his teachers was Josef Gingold, who fostered his love for the instrument. He has performed with many of the world’s best orchestras and conductors. Bell has been featured in several movie soundtracks and performs new works, in addition to standard violin repertoire. His sweet, delicate sound appeals to musicians and non-musicians alike.

Joshua Bell plays the first movement of Bruch’s First Violin Concerto: 

Hilary Hahn (1979-)

American violinist Hilary Hahn picked up the instrument at age three. She is finding success by recording and performing as a soloist and chamber musician. She has been featured in several film scores and commonly debuts new pieces, including some written specifically for her.

Hahn plays Bach’s Partita #2: 

Check out our lineup of 10 of the most famous classical violinists, from the 17th to the 19th centuries.

 


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Child Violin

Child ViolinOne of the hardest things you’ll face as the parent of a musician is handling the discipline of regular practice. It’s rare for a child that plays a musical instrument not to have times where they’d rather be doing something else (anything else!) when it comes time to practice. If parents fail to hold firm (something I see far too often), the child may learn bad habits that will haunt them later in life. When it comes to starting a musical instrument–and sticking with it–the stakes can be high!

I’m going to tackle this tricky topic from a unique perspective: I’ve gone through the stages myself as a young student, and I’ve seen many examples of healthy (and not so healthy) parental involvement in my years as a professional teacher. I started violin at age four, with no say in the matter. My mother decided that since my Grandfather had been playing the violin in the local symphony, that it was something that I should at least try. She was sensitive to the challenges faced by a 4-year-old, but she was committed. I learned many years later that she planned to keep me playing violin until about age 7, even if I hated it. Thankfully, I didn’t hate it. But that didn’t mean I always wanted to practice, especially in my busy pre-teen years.

1. Prepare for Struggle – When a child really wants to learn something, they don’t necessarily consider the amount of effort and dedication that has to go into it; that is why adult students can sometimes be the best learners. Here is a violin tip for you to think of this concept in a unique way. Think about how you felt in school sometimes during mid-term exams or during college finals. The effort you had to put into making good grades happen wasn’t always fun. But aren’t you glad you did it and are now able to say you accomplished it? I believe this same concept should apply to young kids and learning music (think of it as early college-prep). If they are interested in learning the violin, you as a parent should not give in to them quitting or not practicing because of tough times. They are learning skills that will last them the rest of their lives such as being more disciplined, and taking things seriously when they have expressed interest in learning it.

2. Remember the moments when they’ve shown desire – I think a parent has to set strict practice rules for their kids just like they would do for their homework. If their child continues to have desire for learning the instrument (they have in the past year talked about how much they enjoy doing it), I believe the discipline as a parent is crucial to their success. Don’t allow them to drop out because it is “tough” and trust me, it isn’t always going to be easy. I’m just glad my Mom stuck with putting strict practice goals on me, and didn’t allow me to do other things until I reached those goals (it worked about 75% of the time). There were plenty of times where my Mom could have pulled me out of it (I was doing three different sports), but she didn’t. Now, I thank her as a teacher, author and professional of the violin, that she knew she had to continue her discipline. Don’t you want your kids to say “Thanks Mom/Dad” someday like I am right now?

3. Establish Practice Expectations – Here are some violin tips regarding your child and practicing. These practice goals have worked well for me as a default over the years, and then you can adjust from there depending on how your child does. Keep in mind that quality practice is important, so try to make sure you understand if they are practicing properly by having a close relationship with their lessons. If they don’t meet these goals (but still have desire for learning,) don’t give up.

Age 4-6 – Practice goal 30 minutes per week

Age 7 – Practice goal 45 minutes per week

Age 8 – Practice goal 60 minutes per week

Age 9 – Practice goal 75 minutes per week

Age 10 – Practice goal 100 minutes per week

Age 11 – Practice goal 125 minutes per week

Age 12 – Practice goal 150 minutes per week

Age 13+ with high goals – 175+ minutes per week

These are goals that have always worked for me as a teacher. If the teacher that you have isn’t enforcing these in some way, that can be a problem. Find a teacher that will give rewards for meeting the goals, and if you are having trouble at home with enforcing, ask the teacher to explain how important it is to listen to their parent. They might need the reassurance from the teacher. Hope you enjoyed these violin tips!

DISCLAIMER: I believe my advice is good, but I don’t have any children yet, and realize that every situation is different. You know your child the best, and will know if it’s time to throw in the towel or not. Some day (or weeks!) when my child doesn’t want to practice the violin, or another musical instrument, I hope I have the patience to take my own advice!