Violin Basics

10 Essential Violin Ballads for Music Lovers

The violin: An instrument that's as effective at telling the tales of newfound love and the joys of romance as it is in painting the pain of loss. From Paganini, Tchaikovsky, and Mozart to Schubert and Beethoven, legendary virtuosos and composers have, over the years, continually shown the violin’s emotional depths and timeless nature. 

With patience, practice, and proper instruction, you can master violin playing and learn how to convey the emotions behind different violin pieces. To help inspire you, we've compiled some of the best violin ballads that every music lover should hear. 

What is a ballad?

A ballad is a slow, emotionally charged, and melodic piece of music that tells a story or expresses deep feelings. It can be anything from a love song to a piece about loss and overcoming challenges. These songs often carry similar characteristics that all contribute to a strong emotional depth, such as:

  • Slow tempos 
  • A focus on melody and harmonic expression
  • Softer dynamics to create a sense of vulnerability
  • A range of instruments, such as violins, cellos, pianos, and acoustic guitars 

Why violin ballads are special

What makes violin ballads stand out from other pieces? The answer lies in the instrument itself.

Emotional depth

The violin's versatility is one of the main reasons why it remains such a popular musical instrument. Its unmatched range of tone allows violinists to express a wide range of emotions, from intense joy to deep sorrow, making it ideal for emotionally charged pieces of music. 

If you want to test whether music impacts our emotions, all you need to do is play or listen to a violin ballad, and you'll have your answer. 

Technical mastery

Violin ballads also stand out for their complexity, typically requiring technical mastery. To convey their emotive qualities, they demand specific techniques like vibrato, legato, portamento, and dynamics. 

Violinists must learn to control the intensity of their instruments, know how to slide seamlessly from one note to another, and master bow control and movements. Ballads’ demanding nature makes them all the more satisfying for violin soloists. 

Unique timbre

The violin is ideal for soul-stirring ballads thanks to its unique acoustic characteristics. Because of its wooden body, it produces a warm, rich tone that adds depth to pieces, resulting in a captivating sound. 

The violin's F-holes (found on the body) project the sound and create a sort of lingering quality in ballad performances, further enhancing their emotional impact. 

There are also different types of violins, all with unique sounds, which allows for greater variation in ballad performances. For example, the modern or classic violin produces a warm and vibrant tone that bodes well with pieces with a lot of emotional depth. 

On the other hand, baroque violins have a warm, mellow tone to them that evokes nostalgia in ballad performances. And electric violins have a wider range of tonal possibilities than the other two types, so they can help add texture. 

10 violin ballads that you don't want to skip

Want to get your audience teary-eyed or evoke a sense of nostalgia from the emotional depth of your performance? Here are the top violin songs that should be on your practice or performance list.

1. "The Lark Ascending" by Ralph Vaughan Williams

Inspired by George Meredith's poem of the same name, Ralph Vaughan Williams originally wrote "The Lark Ascending" for piano and violin but later revised it for solo violin and orchestra performances. 

The piece mimics the undulating flight of a skylark through its gentle rising and falling melodies, while its dynamic contrasts emulate varying flight altitudes. It's filled with nature-inspired imagery, painting a picture of clear landscapes and the freedom of flight, leading listeners to think of a skylark exploring the skies. 

The piece is worth performing because of the solo violin's freedom and the beauty of its long, lyrical lines, which provide vivid imagery for listeners.

2. “Chaconne” from Partita No. 2 in D Minor, BWV 1004 by Johann Sebastian Bach

Written by Johann Sebastian Bach for the solo violin, "Chaconne" from Partita No. 2 in D Minor, BWV 1004 is one of the longest, most complex, and greatest masterpieces ever written for the instrument. 

It draws from the Baroque dance Chaconne, which was eventually reimagined as a musical form. The piece begins with a commanding mood that demands attention and moves on to evoke grief, hope, and triumph. 

Bach's composition has a wide emotional range, featuring long notes in some variations and urgent short ones in others, heightening the piece's emotional intensity. As a performer, you’ll need advanced technical skills to bring the piece's expressive qualities to life and keep up with the many interval skips and fast runs. 

3. "Beautiful Dreamer" by Stephen Foster

"Beautiful Dreamer" is one of Stephen Foster's last compositions and most memorable ballads. The song has strong emotive qualities, as it serenades a "beautiful dreamer" who may be lost in their dreams. 

This piece is perfect for violin adaptation, thanks to its gentle, lyrical style and strong emotions. Its melody features flowing phrases and gentle contours, which the violin can effectively express. Further, it evokes a sense of nostalgia and yearning — emotions the violin excels at conveying. 

To date, this piece is one of the most popular American serenade songs. If you want to experience or perform it, you can practice using the free sheet music on Trala. 

4. "Vocalise," Op. 34, No. 14 by Sergei Rachmaninoff

Originally composed as a voice and piano music piece, "Vocalise," Op. 34, No. 14 by Sergei Rachmaninoff is one of the most iconic songs written by the virtuoso pianist. Despite being written for voice, the song has no words, allowing the violin's voice to fully embody the melody's expressive potential.

To express the vocal quality of the piece through your instrument, you need to master your bowing techniques. Legato will help you tie the notes seamlessly together, while vibrato will add a singing-like quality to your performance. You must also vary your bow pressure and apply subtle dynamic changes to emulate the human voice. 

5. "Star of the County Down"

This is an Irish ballad written from the point of view of a young man infatuated with a woman he meets in Banbridge, County Down, making it a suitable choice for romantic events. 

Like many Irish folk songs, the melody of "Star of the County Down" is rhythmic, repetitive, and memorable. So it’s suitable for both vocal performances and instrumentals. 

Its narrative quality and lively tempo make it a must-try piece. Use Trala's violin sheet music to practice and hone your virtuosity. 

6. "Serenade for Strings" in E minor by Edward Elgar

Though often overshadowed by Edward Elgar's larger works, "Serenade for Strings" in E minor is a piece you don't want to miss out on. It takes you on an introspective journey through its three movements: "Allegro Piacevole," "Larghetto," and "Allegretto." 

The first movement is characterized by a boisterous outburst of rhythms that settles down to create a sense of melancholy, common with Elgar's works. This sets the stage for the “Larghetto,” which creates an intimate feeling of warmth and rises in a majestic crescendo before dropping to an almost hushed sound. 

The final movement, the “Allegretto,” evokes a sense of yearning and highlights the piece's romantic nature. The violin is one of the few instruments that can effectively bring out this song’s tonal nuances. 

7. "Meditation" from Thaȉs by Jules Massenet

"Meditation" is one of the most memorable parts of the opera Thaȉs by Jules Massenet. The opera follows two characters — a Christian monk and a pagan courtesan known as Thaȉs. The monk tries to convince Thaȉs to reform her life, which she initially scoffs at. 

Later, Thaȉs starts to think about her life and realizes how empty it is. This scene is characterized by a poignant pause and a violin soloist's performance, which highlights its reflective nature. If you're exploring emotionally charged violin music, this piece is worth a try. 

8. "Sally's Song" by Danny Elfman

"Sally's Song"  is a hauntingly beautiful piece from the animated film The Nightmare Before Christmas. It's sung by Sally, a creation of a local mad scientist known as Doctor Finkelstein, who yearns for love and worries about the safety of Jack Skellington, the film's main character. 

The song features a melancholy melody that highlights Sally's emotional state, her longing for Jack's love, and the freedom she desperately craves. This piece resonates with most audiences, as it carries themes of longing, love, and self-discovery, which everyone can relate to. 

The violin's emotional depth allows violinists to bring the themes to life, enhancing the song's emotional impact and adding depth to Sally's character and struggles. You can practice this song with Trala's sheet music

9. "Love Story" by Taylor Swift

"Love Story," a song that needs no introduction to Swifties, is a modern pop ballad popular for its catchy melody and romantic theme. We know what you're thinking — modern pop and the violin? The answer is yes! 

As mentioned earlier, the violin is one of the most versatile instruments. As such, virtuosos have no problem translating this piece into a violin performance. You can mimic the sound of the original song's instrumentation by incorporating double stops, arpeggios, and broken chords into your performance. 

Further, you can use nuanced bowing, vibrato, and slides to highlight the song's storytelling in your violin playing. This adds elements of classical music to the song, bringing fans of both pop and classical violin together. 

10. “Morgh-e Sahar” by Morteza Neydavoud

"Morgh-e Sahar" (Bird of Dawn) is a traditional song from the classical music genre Radif. It served as the unofficial anthem for freedom in Iran. Like many songs in this genre, the piece features rhythmic patterns, musical ornaments, and improvisational sections where you can showcase your violin-playing skills. 

Despite being a traditional piece, "Morgh-e Sahar" remains one of the most popular songs in Iran because of its theme of freedom and hope. The piece continues to express hope that one day, the people of Iran will experience true freedom, something global audiences empathize with. 

You can also find this ballad's sheet music on Trala. 

Explore more about the emotion of violin music through Trala

To explore the violin's expressive qualities, consider practicing the ballads discussed in this post. They carry a wide range of emotions, from joy and hope to grief and longing, all of which you can express with proper violin instruction and practice. 

Trala connects you to world-class violin teachers who can guide you in your exploration of emotional violin music. The instructors can help you improve your violin-playing skills and capture the emotions behind violin ballads. 

With Trala, you also get access to free sheet music and a free practice app to help you make the most of your practice sessions and continuously advance your skills.

Ready to improve your violin skills and play soul-stirring ballads? Start with Trala today!

Get started with Trala

Find a teacher