Posted by Owain on

Don't rush out and buy anything before your first lesson! Often I'm able to lend a variety of suitable books to people who are starting out, and younger beginners won't need any books for at least a week or two. However, I thought it would be helpful to give an idea of some of the music I regularly use with pupils.

Image of Fiddle Time Joggers + CD: A first book of very easy pieces for violin
Fiddle Time Joggers + CD: A first book of very easy pieces for violin

This is the book I commonly use with younger beginners, especially primary school age, and it's popular with many other violin teachers, too. It starts with very simple pieces, using open strings, and a lot of children find the accompanying CD very helpful for getting to know how they should sound. There's lots of catchy melodies which pupils enjoy working at. By the end of the book, the pieces have progressed to a Grade 1 standard, and one of the last pieces, The Old Castle, is on the current syllabus.

From the very beginning, children are learning to read 'real' notation, with no simplifications or adjustments to be unlearned later, but presented in a very clear and readable way. The series continues with Fiddle Time Joggers and Fiddle Time Sprinters, bring the learner up to Grade 3 standard pieces by the end. The music in Sprinters in particular has a great deal of variety and interest, including some familiar melodies and plenty of technical challenges!

There's also the accompanying scale book, especially useful for those tackling the big challenge of the scale requirements at Grade 2. Also, violists aren't left out, with a matching series for them.

Image of Jazz, Blues & Ragtime: Violin and Piano - Complete
Jazz, Blues & Ragtime: Violin and Piano - Complete

I love all of Edward Huws Jones' collections of pieces, many of which group together pieces from particular musical traditions, but this one is my favourite. For players moving on from Fiddle Time Sprinters, it allows them to apply their skills in some really enjoyable pieces, from lively upbeat jazz and ragtime through to classic songs. Some of the pieces will be familiar to most players already, such as Take Five and The Entertainer, and others will be new to most people. As violinists develop their use of vibrato, the expressive sound can be improved, and there's also some opportunities to use these pieces as a basis for improvisation.

Image of Technique Takes Off!: (Solo Violin) (Faber Edition)
Technique Takes Off!: (Solo Violin) (Faber Edition)

Another one for the post-Grade 3 player, this book helps develop some more advanced bowing techniques and drills the left hand rigorously. Thankfully, it isn't dry and tedious in the way some studies can be, and the pieces are enjoyable for the player and the listener.

Image of Young Violinist's Repertoire Book 1
Young Violinist's Repertoire Book 1

This is a very good series of four books for players who want more substantial pieces of a baroque and classical style. Right from the beginning, at a Grade 1 level, 18th and 19th century compositions are on offer. Pieces in these books regularly appear on exam syllabuses.

Image of Jigs, Reels and Hornpipes: For Violin and Piano, with Optional Violin, Easy Violin and Guitar: Traditional Fiddle Tunes from England, Ireland and Scotland
Jigs, Reels and Hornpipes: For Violin and Piano, with Optional Violin, Easy Violin and Guitar: Traditional Fiddle Tunes from England, Ireland and Scotland

Some violinists really engage with traditional tunes from the British Isles. This collection is ideal for introducing a variety of genres, from beautiful slow airs, through lively hornpipes, through to some fiendishly fast reels.

Image of Concerto for 2 Violins and Orchestra d minor  BWV 1043 - 2 violins and orchestra - piano reduction with solo parts - (HN 672)
Concerto for 2 Violins and Orchestra d minor BWV 1043 - 2 violins and orchestra - piano reduction with solo parts - (HN 672)

This is one of the absolute classics of the violin repertoire. Players at around a Grade 5 standard can start to tackle the exquisite slow movement, then moving on to the more challenging Vivace. It's a really good piece for working at an equal partnership with another violinist, as the spotlight passes between the two players phrase by phrase.

Image of Solos for Young Violinists Volume 2 (Solos Young Violinist)
Solos for Young Violinists Volume 2 (Solos Young Violinist)

I don't tend to use many of the books from this series, but the second volume does have some really enjoyable pieces which also help to develop technique from a Grade 5 standard onwards.

Image of The AB Guide to Music Theory Vol 1
The AB Guide to Music Theory Vol 1

'Music theory' means how things are written down on the page, and also how sounds are put together, using scales, chords and so on. Essential knowledge for anybody progressing further, it's also tested by a Grade 5 Theory exam before taking Grade 6 performance or beyond.

Image of A History of Western Music
A History of Western Music

Ideal for anyone really wants to get to grips with the vast field that is 'classical music', beyond the level of information you can get from sites such as Wikipedia. It's certainly not one to sit down and read from cover to cover, but rather to dip into as a reference, especially for background on particular composers you encounter, whether through playing their music or just hearing a piece on the radio which interests you.