Moving from "fiddle" to "violin" playing

December 2, 2017, 4:33 PM · I've been playing fiddle for probably 17 years or so; a combination of Irish/Scottish music, Western swing, gospel, etc. It's very much a side activity these days, but I can certainly hold my own as a fiddle player. I can also read music fluently (my primary instrument is the pipe organ, and I learned how to read music on fiddle early on as well). So I'd say I have the basics down.

However, I'd very much like to learn more classical violin music, particularly Baroque (I love Corelli's sonatas and Telemann's violin solo fantasias). But when I try to play this sort of music, my fiddle technique seems to fail me. Intonation falls apart, double stops are especially out of tune, and playing in anything but first position is shaky at best. I've taken some classical violin lessons in the past, but it's been a while, and I don't really have the cash at the moment to spend on something that is, essentially, a hobby. But I've got a gorgeous violin that my parents gave me as a graduation present that I hate to have just sitting around in its case.

So my question: what exercises, books, repertoire, etc, would you recommend for someone like me, to improve these areas? I currently own copies of Suzuki 4-6, Mazas' Etudes Speciales book 1, Schradieck "School of Violin-Technics" book 1, and Telemann's 12 violin fantasias (tried learning no. 1 in Bb, but the double stops sound horrific at the moment...).

Replies (15)

December 2, 2017, 4:53 PM · Suzuki Volume 4 would be a fine place to start. Book 3 is good too, and you'll learn to shift into 3rd position properly there. What's really probably failing you is your general posture and hand positions.

Look online at Todd Ehle's videos (youtube). He has some good videos that show you how to hold your violin and position your hands. Watch carefully -- details are important.

December 2, 2017, 5:04 PM · Barbara Barber's Solo Violin books might be worth checking out, as well as RCM levels 4-6.
December 2, 2017, 5:30 PM · I would suggest that you get somewhere Paganini's Op. 1, 24 Caprices. They are beginner pieces for solo violin that should tell you how classical works in its fundamental basic roots. If it's way too easy for you and consider it a waste of time, you could go get some Twinkle Twinkle music sheets.
December 2, 2017, 5:46 PM · Take a look at the Dolflein Series. It's got violin technique and nice, short musical examples- a lot of baroque in there. I would look at books 1 and 2.
December 2, 2017, 5:50 PM · Don't really see how you can do this successfully without the discipline of a good classical teacher.
December 2, 2017, 6:14 PM · Thanks for all these suggestions! I'll definitely look into these.

Parker Duchemin: I may look into a teacher in the future, but at the moment I'm pretty busy finishing up my MM in organ performance, so I don't think I have time for intensive lessons in both instruments. But I have taken from a couple of classical teachers in this area in the past, and may hit them up again in the future.

Edited: December 2, 2017, 7:48 PM · I'm not sure that studying additional repertoire is in order here, after all, you already have plenty of experience in music due to your ongoing graduate studies in organ?

I'd focus on scales and etudes to acquire specific technical skills. Barbara Barber's "Scales for Advanced Violinists" covers a wide range of them, as does the material in the Kayser 36 etudes.

If your first interest is in Baroque repertoire, you're in luck! The first four Suzuki books are essentially a primer in the concept of good tone production (Tonalization) and all of the basic detache, staccato, and martele strokes you need to begin working on Bach, Vivaldi, Corelli, Handel, etc. can be found in the Twinkle Variations (for example, Variation A with four sixteenths and two eighths is the main rhythmic/bowing figure in both the Bach Double Concerto and the second movement of the Handel F Major Sonata).

December 3, 2017, 1:03 AM · Lol Tim, are you drunk?
December 3, 2017, 7:13 AM · Hahaha, I was joking around.
Edited: December 3, 2017, 8:12 AM · Aaron, Paganini composed a respectable number of not-too-difficult pieces for violin and guitar, dedicated for his high-born lady pupils (one related to Napoleon) at the Court of Lucca, when he was its music director. I would guess some of these ladies were of beginner/intermediate standard.

These pieces are known as the "Lucca Sonatas", each consisting of two short movements, the first of which is slow and more in the style of an Italian aria, and the second is quick and usually based closely on a folk dance tune of the time and well within the ability of an experienced folk fiddler today. One or two of these dance tunes have been identified by the experts.

December 3, 2017, 8:30 AM · You can read music!!
Your first position technique is firm!!
I would agree with Paul Deck's advice. Take a look at Suzuki Books 3 and 4. Select the one that starts out in a reasonable way for you and just start there and play up through Book 8 in the series.

In Book 4, after you try the Vivaldi A minor concerto you might want to look at for alternate bowings.

After that you might want to select a different source than Suzuki books for the two Mozart concertos - or save a few dollars and just download from IMSLP.

Years ago (in the 1970s), once I switched to Suzuki books for teaching I found them to follow quite well the methods that had been used on me years before - especially if supplemented with other pedagogical methods - that you can ask about later here at

December 3, 2017, 10:38 AM · I grew up around fiddlers and old time music, so the following advice is based on playing in both the classically trained and fiddle traditions:

I'm going to have to disagree with Victor and Paul on the Suzuki advice. Due to your other musical training, you can read music and know the proper conventions. I'm going to guess that you hold the bow with fingertips, choked up, your elbow and wrist are stiff, you point the scroll very low, and who knows what's going on with your left hand fingers. Which is all totally appropriate fiddle technique.

I think you need to go back to a more basic level and relearn how the right arm and left hand work in classical music. Suzuki is not going to be enough to remediate your technique, and will definitely not give you a proper foundation for playing Teleman.

*Disclaimer, I'm not a fan of Suzuki for anyone, which is outside the scope of the OP's question.

December 3, 2017, 11:00 AM · > *Disclaimer, I'm not a fan of Suzuki for anyone...

Julie -- Any relation to Mark? ;-)

December 3, 2017, 11:05 AM · Lol- no relation!
December 4, 2017, 9:04 AM · Julie: Actually, those aspects of my technique aren't TOO bad. I started off classically trained, so my basic technique is rooted in that. I moved to fiddle styles fairly soon, but I had enough exposure to classical technique to know to hold the bow at the frog and how to position my right hand fingers, and to keep my elbow and wrist relaxed. I could probably use some minor corrections, but I do have those basics covered anyway.

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