Reading material about the violin

July 25, 2008 at 11:36 PM · I began playing violin 5 months ago and am looking for good books on violin technique, the instrument, and the history of the violin. I've looked around local libraries and book stores but have found very little that looks promising. Could anyone suggest interesting titles, or suggest any shops around Lincoln or Omaha, NE where I might be able to find such things? Thanks.

Replies (36)

July 25, 2008 at 11:40 PM · The best, most comprehensive book on the early history of the violin is "The History of Violin Playing From It's Origins to 1761" by David Boyden. Another great read is "Violin Virtuosos from Paganini to the 21st Century" by Henry Roth. "Encyclopedia of the Violin" by Alberto Bachmann is also a good resource.

For Technique I'd suggest "Principles of Violin Playing" by Ivan Galamian, and "Basics" and "Practice" by Simon Fischer.

There are many, many other books, but these few books will give you almost everything you would need to know.

July 26, 2008 at 02:39 AM · If you want a good place to start, I'd suggest you jet on down to the music library in Westbrook at UNL, and check out the ML850s area (on your left, about 8 columns down)--it has the basics that are good to know and be familiar with. Many of the books on that shelf are still in print, and good ones to have in a violinists library-and can get got of Amazon still.....there are many--hence my not listing them. Most book shops, in NE will not have what you're after, unless you order them in special---at which point, just dial up Amazon.

FYI-the UNL music school does not have a comprehensive selection at all on the violin--but it has the highlights to be familiar with, instrument design/history, bow design history, pedagogy and technique etc etc.

PS-Is it at all obvious that I'm doing my graduate performance work on violin at UNL ;>) ?

July 26, 2008 at 02:38 AM · If you want to learn all about violin technique, buy

"Basics" by Simon Fischer.

July 26, 2008 at 04:46 AM · One of my favorite books is "Stradivari's Genius" by Toby Faber. It's a wonderful book, tracing back the history of several instruments made by Stradivari himself. It truly is a great read!

July 26, 2008 at 01:19 PM · "Amadeus Book of the Violin"

"Great Masters of the Violin" Boris Schwarz (tragically, out of print, but available used from many fine online retailers)

"Violin Virtuosos" Henry Roth

"The Art of Violin Playing" Carl Flesch

"Principles of Violin Playing and Teaching" Ivan Galamian

"Practice" and "Basics" Simon Fischer

Those should keep you busy for a few hours...Good luck! Happy Practicing!

July 26, 2008 at 03:18 PM · thanks for all of the suggestions!

July 26, 2008 at 05:57 PM · Simon Fischer: Basics

Ivan Galamian: Principles of Violin Playing and Teaching

Robert Gerle: The Art of Bowing Practice

Robert Gerle: Art of Practicing the Violin

Carl Flesch: The Art of Violin Playing

Shinichi Suzuki: Suzuki Violin School

Robin Stowell: Cambridge Companion to the Violin

Hugo Pinksterboer: Tipbook - Violin and Viola (formerly the Rough Guide)

F. Wohlfahrt: Foundation Studies for the Violin

David Oistrakh (DVD): Art of Violin

July 26, 2008 at 06:34 PM · Toskey: Concertos for Violin and Viola

Emery: The Violin Concerto

Bachmann of course! (My Bible, it's such a quick reference for most performer/composers)

Clarke: Dictionary of Fiddlers

Scheunemann: The French Violin School

Rode, Kreutzer, Baillot: Methond

Baillot: The Art of the Violin

de Beriot: 3 Part Method and L'art du Prelude

There are many more great books! I suggest searching the keyword "violin" at your local library (you can get pretty much anything from interlibrary loan) or to see what you come up with.

July 26, 2008 at 08:59 PM · On a totally different track, you might enjoy "The Rainaldi Quartet" by Paul Adam. A murder mystery set in modern Cremona and Venice, it is probably as factual about things lutherial as Faber's "Stradivari's Genius."


July 26, 2008 at 11:51 PM · Don't forget good biographies. You can get an intimate understand of an entire era by reading a good biography of a key figure of that era. The biographies and autobiographies of some of the great violinists are, I think, what will give you a feeling for who they were/are and the eras in which they lived.

Unfortunately, many writers (and critics) on the violin are not violinists (like Henry Roth, who is) and therefore don't always "get it."

Violinists ought to include, of course, Paganini, Heifetz, Milstein, Stern, Ysaye, Kreisler, and others. And, as an added benefit, the stories of several of them are captivating, and you pick up some fascinating trivia:

Who was the violinist who survived a plane crash?

Who was the violinist who as a 12-year-old played the Brahms Concerto with Brahms in the audience?

Who was the violinist who received a famous composer's violin & piano sonata as a wedding gift?

Who was the violinist who said, "For 37 years I've been practicing for 14 hours a day, and now they call me a genius."

And...(and you ought to know this one cold) Who was the violinist who wrote violin concertos for the all-girl orchestra he created and trained?

If you know the answers to these and other similar questions, you are ready for an appearance on Jeopardy.


July 27, 2008 at 08:20 AM · Oh dear, two out of five. Should be doing some reading myself! Was the famous composer Ravel?

July 27, 2008 at 01:01 PM · Famous composer -- Franck

violinist who received his gift --Ysaye

July 27, 2008 at 03:30 PM · Ah, I knew he was French...

July 27, 2008 at 04:08 PM · Was the genius who practiced 14 hours a day Heifetz? I saw this quote somewhere else on this site but can't remember who it was :(

July 27, 2008 at 04:40 PM · That would be my man Sarasate, as I recall.

July 27, 2008 at 07:34 PM · Yes Ysaye & Franck, and yes Sarasate.

Any more guesses?


July 31, 2008 at 08:59 PM · Violinist survived in a plane crash: Bronislaw Huberman

Violinist writing concerti for an all-girl orchestra: Antonio Vivaldi

July 31, 2008 at 08:56 PM · Back to the original topic: Besides all the monographs recommended above, I would like to add the following book to the list:

Brain W Harvey & Carla J. Shapreau. Violin Fraud: Deception, Forgery, and Law Suits in England and America. Second Edition. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2001.

July 31, 2008 at 10:04 PM · Read Galamians book; Principles of Violin Playing and Teaching.

August 2, 2008 at 01:18 PM · Wally: Right on!!!

One left:

"Who was the violinist who as a 12-year-old played the Brahms Concerto with Brahms in the audience?"

August 2, 2008 at 01:26 PM · Huberman?

August 2, 2008 at 01:58 PM · Anne: You got it!

What an intelligent group!! (Although I'm not sure that intelligence is a prime requirement to respond to any questions posed by me.)

:) Sandy

OK, another one. I seem to recall reading years ago about a famous violinist of the 1800's who toured the United States and was in the then backwards and rural midwest, who was challenged to a fight (while on a riverboat) by some country fellas who thought this foreigner with his violin was a sissy. The violinist bested them quickly by using some kind of judo, and thereby gained their trust and admiration. Assuming this story is actually true (and I don't remember where I read it), who was this famous violinist?

August 4, 2008 at 02:21 AM · Greetings,

that sounds like Ole Bull.;)



August 4, 2008 at 03:19 AM · I was thinking about Bull on that one, too.

August 4, 2008 at 12:27 PM · Hi,

there's a wealth of material for the "reading violinist".

Starting off, there's a list compiled that you can find here. Both the site and most of the titles are in German, but some of the books are in English and you can google for translations of works by the other authors yourself.

There are (auto)biographies by Isaac Stern, Nathan Milstein, Yehudi Menuhin and Lionel Tertis that you can read with great benefit. They'll also lead you to other pertinent works.

For the art of interpretation, especially "historically informed" playing, you can look up the meticulously researched and yet eminently readable books by Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Other authors worth while to research are David Blum, Simon Fischer, Kato Havas, Gidon Kremer and Arnold Steinhardt.

Happy researching, happy reading and happy playing,


P.S.: How could I forgot the book about violin playing by Leopold Mozart?

August 5, 2008 at 01:04 PM · Buri and Marty: Ole Bull it is (or was).


August 5, 2008 at 11:02 PM · How about this one Sandy?

This well known violinist was on tour in Europe, heading to Paris....he was worried about the safety of his valuable instrument, so he packed his violin inside it's case deep inside a trunk of clothes, for safety. Said trunk was attached to the back of his carriage, the norm in those days. One night after a carriage ride, he found his clothes trunk had been cut off and stolen right off the coach during the night!

They retraced their path and found the empty trunk and clothes scattered about a field, an empy violin case, and the violinists' genuine Tourte bow (that was hidden inside the case). Said violin, to this day has vanished.

Who was this ill-fated violinist? Double points if you know who made the instrument ;)

August 6, 2008 at 01:11 AM · Wow, what a great story. I have no idea who the violinist was. However, got to be an oldie (not too many modern violinists ride in carriages any more). My guess would be only a wild guess, and I eagerly await the answer.

In the meantime, what violist was shunned by Jascha Heifetz as a chamber music colleague because said violist was beginning to go deaf and had trouble playing in tune?


August 6, 2008 at 03:01 AM · To Sandy's Question:

William Primrose

August 6, 2008 at 04:48 AM · That's the best spaghetti western starring Clint Eastwood that was never made. Trunk cut off back the stagecoach in the middle of night with valuable violin inside. Crooks go "Whoa, look at this, very nice, eh?" Clint leaning back in chair on porch of saloon spitting tobacco notices musician in dude suit kicking up dust down main street yelling "Ees stolen! Eees stolen! Ohhhh, ees stolen!" Telegram offering reward from impressario in New York to crooked marshal of Tombstone who's in on the heist. Clint rounds up old jail buddies and a renegade Apache. Gets blacksmith to work on bulletproof armor to get it working again...

August 7, 2008 at 03:08 AM · It does make for a great Leone/Moriconi film, not don't it?

BTW-"Tombstone" in this case is Gottingen, and the time was the 1st decade of the 1800s.

August 7, 2008 at 02:17 PM · OK, so Paganini and Heifetz face each other on a deserted Lincoln Center stage:

Heifetz: "This concert scene ain't big enough for both of us."

Paganini: "Says who?"

Heifetz: "Says me, that's who....Draw!!!"

It's Guarneriuses at 25 feet. The sound Szfortzandos fill the air. And when the smoke clears, who do you think is left?






Fritz Kreisler (Everybody liked Kreisler)

:) Sandy

August 8, 2008 at 02:46 AM · bzzz bzzz.

The answer: Louis Spohr.

The tale can be found in the Hill's book on the Guarneri family (Somewhere in the section on del Gesu).

August 9, 2008 at 04:29 AM · You might enjoy subscribing to STRINGS magazine for starters. I enjoyed reading TEACHING GENIUS by Barbara Lourie Sand, SZIGETI ON THE VIOLIN by Joseph Szigeti, PAGANINI by Leslie Sheppard & Dr. Herbert R. Axelrod, THE WAY THEY PLAY by Dr. Samuel Applebaum, Dr. Mark Zilberquit & Henry Roth, TIPBOOK VIOLIN & VIOLA by Hugo Pinksterboer, and HEIFETZ AS I KNEW HIM by Akye Agus. I don't know if these are still all in print, but I can recommend Amati Books as a source for material.

August 9, 2008 at 03:04 PM · I second the recommendation for "Heifetz as I Knew Him" by Ayke Agus; what a wonderful book!

August 9, 2008 at 05:54 PM · 'Efrem Zimbalist, a life' is a sensational book, too. There´s many remarks and stories about famous musicians from his time. I cannot stop reading it!

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