Arrangements for Violin

G Clef A property shared by the guitar and piano is the relatively fast decay in volume of a note as soon as it is struck. Bowed string instruments, as well as wind instruments, can sustain a note much longer. That is also true of the electric guitar, organ, and synthesizer. Monophonic melodies typically don't work well on the guitar unless they consist of a rapid succession of notes, such as Las Abejas. Even then, open strings and strings that are not unstopped immediately sustain longer than their notated values, providing some harmonic texture.

Simply put, you can't make Twinkle Twinkle Little Star sound good on the guitar without some harmony or polyphony. The violin is another story. The simplest melody can be made to sound divine.

In general, violin music is easier to read than guitar or piano music—there's simply less going on. The challenge of the violin is all in the physical technique, not the music reading. You can play a simple melody on a synthesizer or electric guitar and not feel like you're doing much of anything. But on the violin, you have to work to make the instrument sing. You feel the vibration of the instrument in your skull, the friction of the bow against the strings in your hand; and when you do everything right, the music sounds complete, unlike the aforementioned instruments that beg for accompaniment when playing a simple melody.

You don't have to master the violin to get something out of it. Too many teachers discourage interested musicians from playing the violin, claiming it is too difficult and that you must start playing it from the youngest of ages.[1] The violin may not be an ideal first instrument to learn because its physical challenges get in the way of learning to read music and absorbing music theory. But as a second or third instrument, it is much more approachable, especially for guitar players. You don't have to master Paganini's caprices to enjoy the violin or entertain audiences. For that reason, I'm providing easy to learn melodies to help the multi-instrumentalist get through the learning how to bow stage of violin playing.

I suggest playing a melody on the piano or guitar first, then visualizing playing it on the violin, paying attention to the placement of the left-hand fingers. Then pick up the violin and play. You don't want to get caught up in reading music while playing at first because your bowing hand will veer astray. Guitarists will find they don't have to look at their left hand and can focus all of their attention on bowing. After you've gained some familiarity with fingering notes and bowing, you can start reading and playing the music directly on the violin. I do, however, find it useful to practice violin melodies on the mandolin, where you can often use identical fingering. That allows me to memorize the music and associate it with the left hand fingering so when I pick up the violin, I can concentrate on other aspects of playing such as bowing technique and ornamentation.

Simple Melodies for Violin

Violin These are simple melodies that barely qualify as arrangements other than they are adapted from the guitar, piano, or trumpet.[2] When I started playing violin, the importance of developing good tone became obvious immediately. Guitar knowledge translates well to the violin with respect to the left hand, allowing you to focus the bulk of your attention on developing good bowing technique. In conjunction with playing scales, I like to play actual music, although at a slow tempo to make sure I practice smooth bow strokes and can evaluate clarity of pitch and quality of tone.

These melodies are suitable for playing on any instrument, although they may require transposition. The keys of the songs are mostly an artifact of extracting the melody from an arrangement I've written for another instrument. That is why Scarborough Fair and Greensleeves are in A minor instead of some other key, such as D minor. The sheet music prints the instrument name Violin before the staff so I don't confuse the music with arrangements I write for other instruments. I include very limited fingering, primarily to highlight when to use the little finger to stop a string instead of playing an open string. You can always play an open string if you so choose, but the goal is to practice sounding a clear note with good tone using the little finger.

Assorted Melodies
SongComposerKeySheet Music
Auld Lang SyneTraditionalD minorAuldLangSyne.pdf
Canción de CunaTraditionalA minorCancionDeCuna.pdf
Drunken SailorTraditionalG majorDrunkenSailor.pdf
GreensleevesTraditionalA minorGreensleeves.pdf
Happy BirthdayTraditionalC majorHappyBirthday.pdf
New Britain (Amazing Grace)William WalkerC majorNewBritain.pdf
Packington's PoundAnonymousA minorPackingtonsPound.pdf
Scarborough FairTraditionalA minorScarboroughFair.pdf
SpagnolettaAnonymousA minorSpagnoletta.pdf
The Star Spangled Banner (The Anacreontic Song)John Stafford SmithC majorTheStarSpangledBanner.pdf
Twinkle Twinkle Little StarTraditionalG majorTwinkleTwinkleLittleStar.pdf

Christmas Songs
SongComposerKeySheet Music
Away in a MangerTraditionalF majorAwayInAManger.pdf
Deck the HallsTraditionalD majorDeckTheHalls.pdf
The First NoelTraditionalD majorTheFirstNoel.pdf
God Rest You Merry, GentlemenTraditionalE minorGodRestYouMerryGentlemen.pdf
Good King WenceslasTraditionalG majorGoodKingWenceslas.pdf
Hark! the Herald Angels SingFelix MendelssohnG majorHarkTheHeraldAngelsSing.pdf
Here We Come A-Caroling (The Wassail Song)TraditionalD majorTheWassailSong.pdf
It Came Upon the Midnight ClearRichard Storrs WillisC majorItCameUponTheMidnightClear.pdf
Joy to the WorldLowell MasonD majorJoyToTheWorld.pdf
O Christmas Tree (O Tannenbaum)TraditionalG majorOChristmasTree.pdf
O Come, All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fideles)John ReadingG majorOComeAllYeFaithful.pdf
Silent NightFranz GrüberD majorSilentNight.pdf
We Three Kings of Orient AreJohn H. HopkinsE minorWeThreeKingsOfOrientAre.pdf
We Wish You a Merry ChristmasTraditionalC majorWeWishYouAMerryChristmas.pdf

[1] Think about that logic for a second: It's so difficult only a six-year-old can do it. The main reason the violin is perceived as being more difficult than the piano or guitar is that it typically takes much longer for a novice to start making musically pleasing sounds. What is often ignored, however, is that once you get past the initial hump, the music is much easier to read than piano and guitar music. You can play never-before-seen violin music pretty competently on a first play-through, making the violin a more rewarding instrument than the guitar or piano, whose advanced compositions require considerably more study than comparable monophonic music.

I can attest from personal experience that if you are already proficient with another fingerboard-based stringed instrument, you can start making pleasing sounds on the violin on the first day of playing if you study bowing technique before picking up the violin for the first time. It will take much longer to develop good tone and master vibrato, portamentos, and other effects. But at least you'll be off to a running start.

In reality, if the violin were so difficult, there wouldn't be so many people playing it. The same can probably be said about most instruments. Instrument snobbism is an odd phenomenon that is best ignored. If you're willing to put in the requisite time, you can learn to play any instrument.

[2] I do not play the trumpet, but I have written arrangements for my trumpet-playing niece.