Easy Violin Duets for Beginners (Using Various Instruments)

A violin duet is when two musicians perform a piece of music together using at least one violin. The other person can also play the violin or another instrument.

Some famous classical violin duets include Bach’s ‘Concerto for Violin in D Minor’ or Beethoven’s ‘Duet for Violin and Cello in C major’, however, duets are common in other genres such as folk and alternative music too.

In this article, we’ve cherry-picked a selection of easy violin duets with various instruments (not just two violins) for you to try out.

Easy Violin Duets

Two women playing violin

You Are My Sunshine

You might associate this one with your early school years, but it’s actually a folk song that’s fun and easy to play using the violin.

Most duet versions of this tune are composed so that the bottom and top part of the music score follows the same rhythm, which makes playing in time with another person pretty straightforward. Just remember, the top score will usually consist of higher notes compared to the bottom, so it might be worth working out who is more comfortable using each octave before you start.

You Are My Sunshine is a great song for beginners seeing as it’s played in common time (4/4) and usually uses a simple key like D major, which only has two sharps on the F and C notes. As well as this, the tune doesn’t involve any complex rhythms or syncopations, with the bulk of the music being crotchets or long notes.

Being a well-known song, You Are My Sunshine’s melody is easy to remember so you won’t have to rely on sight-reading the notes so much.

Jingle Bells

If You Are My Sunshine wasn’t familiar enough for you, then Jingle Bells must be; Everyone knows this one! Having the Jingle Bells tune in your head already is a massive help because it means you’ve already got the melody and rhythm pretty well-established, relieving some pressure when it comes to reading the music.

Once again, Jingle Bells is usually composed in a simple key, such as G major, with a single sharp on the F note. It’s also played in common time like many other beginner songs, so it isn’t too hard to count in.

That said, the rhythm can vary slightly between the lower octave and the higher one, but it’s nothing that a bit of practice can’t fix. In particular, the low notes can seem slightly different from the melody you’re used to hearing.

If you struggle in places, try setting a slower tempo on your metronome, then build up the speed when you can play the rhythm confidently.

Piano and Violin Duets

Perhaps you know someone with a passion for piano? If so, take a look at some beautiful duets you can play along to below…

Canon in D

This one is generally a little harder than the duets we’ve mentioned so far, with most musicians classing it as an intermediate level piece. But don’t let that put you off, there are easier, simplified versions out there that can be played alongside other instruments, as well as piano.

The part that makes playing the original Canon in D difficult, is the combination of fast tempo and semi-quavers. These notes are easy to get lost in when playing at speed. But, there’s always the option of slowing down your metronome and gradually building up the pace. That said, the key is in D major, so you’ll only need to remember the two flats on the C and F notes.

If you love classical music, you’ll most likely enjoy figuring out this piece. Once you’ve got the hang of it, there’s no doubt you’ll impress your audience too.

Ashokan Farewell

This is another intermediate piece of music that some may recognize from the 1982 PBS series ‘The Civil War’. This tune is slightly different from most we’ve mentioned so far, in that, it incorporates traditional mountain music and folk styles that pair fantastically with the piano.

That hard part is getting used to sliding your fingers across the violin’s fingerboard to hit different notes, rather than lifting them and placing them into a different position. Additionally, Ashokan Farewell is written in ¾ rather than 4/4, so it may take some extra concentration to play in time.

You’ll be relieved to know that this tune is usually played in the key of D major, so you’ll only need to remember two sharps on the C and F notes. That said, it may take some practice playing crotchets whilst your partner plays the quavers or dotted notes.

Yesterday

This is a famous Beatles song released in 1965. The tune was the band’s first track to be performed solo by Paul McCartney, alongside a piano backing track. As you can imagine, the violin mostly takes on McCartney’s vocal melody, whereas the piano part stays the same. That said, there are duo violin versions of this duet out there too.

Yesterday is really easy to grasp thanks to being composed in the key of E minor, with a single sharp on the F note. There can be sharps on the C and D in places too, however, so be aware of the occasional accidental being added into the melody. The timing is also in 4/4 with a relaxed, moderate tempo which should give you enough time to read ahead without getting muddled up.

Most of the notes forming the lower and higher octaves here consist of crotchets, minims, and quavers, so you shouldn’t find yourself struggling with complex syncopations or rhythm sections.

Flute and Violin Duets

If you’ve got a friend that plays the flute, then the tunes below will sound great partnered up with a violin…

Silent Night

The violin and flute produce sounds at a similar pitch so both play melodies in the treble clef. This can make things more interesting by letting you switch parts around.

Silent Night is another song that most people have well-established in their memory, so it should take some pressure off your sight-reading ability when it comes to playing the rhythm and melody. As well as this, the tempo is nice and slow, giving you time to get familiar with the notes ahead. However, it’s played in ¾ so remember to count three crotchets per bar.

The song can be transcribed into different keys, but most are composed in the key of Bb major. This means you’ll need to play Eb and Bb, rather than E and B. If you find this finger placement a little tricky, practice the Bb major scale before you start playing and repeat sections of the tune until you feel confident hitting the right note.

Spring

If you’re a fan of classical music, you might already recognize Spring as one of Vivaldi’s famous ‘Four Seasons’ concertos. Although the term ‘concerto’ actually means four parts, this piece still sounds great as a duet between a flute and a violin.

The original sheet music for Spring is ranked at an intermediate level, but there are plenty of simplified versions out there. One beginner piece of music we found is played in common time, in the key of C major; So, there’s no sharps or flats to worry about.

That said, the tempo is a little faster than most of the music we’ve mentioned, as ‘vivace’ means lively and brisk. So, you might need to turn the speed of your metronome down and practice slowly, before building up the pace.

In the original Spring music score, the violin has some tricky rhythm sections, however, the simplified version we’ve found only uses crotchets, quavers, and minims, so you shouldn’t find it too hard to pick up.

Flower Duet

The Flower Duet is another well-known classical piece from the opera ‘Lakme’. The tune is often used as backing tracks for various TV programs and films for its tranquil, relaxing vibe.

Although this piece is more suitable for intermediate players, it is still possible for a beginner to learn with a little time and practice. In particular, the key of E major can be tricky to sight-read, as there are four sharps on the F, C, D and G notes. As well as this, the slurred semiquavers can take some time to master, so it’s worth to slow down this tune and practice your parts separately before performing it as a duet.

The time signature changes throughout the Flower duet, alternating between 6/8 and 3/8. So, you’ll need to concentrate on counting either six quavers or three quavers per bar, depending on where you’re playing.

Cello and Violin Duets

Violin can pair up well with the warm richness of a cello, so let’s take a look at some great duets for these instruments below…

Greensleeves

Greensleeves is an old English folk song, speculated to have first been composed in the 16th century by Henry VIII as a song for Anne Boleyn.

This tune makes a great beginner duet, thanks to its slow, relaxed tempo which gives the musician enough time to read ahead. As well as this, the key is in C major, with no confusing sharps or flats to play. However, there are a few accidentals in some bars, which give the tune its sad, minor sound where necessary, so keep an eye out for those.

The time signature is in ¾ so you’ll need to count three crotchets per bar, rather than four as in standard common time.

There are also some loud forte sections of music as well as some long slurs, so Greensleeves will be a good way to improve your musical control and expression.

The Swan

This is actually one piece from a collection of music known as the ‘Carnival of the Animals’, by Camille Saint-Saen. The Swan is adored by most cellists for its smooth, tranquil sound and is usually categorized as an intermediate-advanced tune. That said, the cello performs most of the difficult sections, so a novice violinist should be able to pick The Swan up, with a little regular practice.

The time signature is in ¾, plus there are a few bars of quavers and dotted crotchets to watch out for, so you might need to learn your part separately before jumping in and trying to play The Swan as a duet. The tune is played in a ‘cantabile’ style, which means smoothly with expression. So, you may also need to work on getting your long notes to really sing.

Luckily, in most versions we’ve found, The Swan is played in the key of D major, so there are just two sharps on the C and F to watch out for. Saying that there are a few extra accidentals in places, so you might need to watch your fingering in certain bars.

Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here is a well-known song by the rock band Pink Floyd. It might be hard to imagine the violin replacing a distorted guitar here, but the tune works really well as an instrumental duet. In fact, a cello rock band called Rasputin covered Wish You Were Here and it sounded fantastic.

The violin part of the song mostly follows the vocal melody, which makes it easy to become familiar with. It’s also composed in the key of G Major, so there’s only one sharp to remember on the F. The only thing to watch out for are the quavers that form parts of the higher pitch melody, as these can feel a little tricky to play at the 125bmp tempo.

The cello’s bass clef is kept very simple throughout, so you shouldn’t be any difficult syncopations to get your head around.

Sarabande

If you’ve got more than two musicians that want to have a go playing a simple piece of music together then Sarabande by Handel is a great option. This is a string quartet, with music scores for two violinists, a violist, and a cellist.

Of course, adding a couple more instruments makes things more complicated, but the piece is very simple to play. The time signature is in standard 4/4 and the tempo is a chilled out 60bpm per minute, so you should have time to look at the notes ahead.

Sarabande is played in D minor, so there’s only one flat on the B to be aware of, with the occasional accidental. As well as this, most of the notes are crotchets and a few quavers, so there are no tricky syncopations to practice.

Once you’ve all got the hang of Sarabande, it can sound very lush and powerful, thanks to all the extra tone and bass pumping out from the cello and viola.

Tips for Playing in a Duet

Stand Management

Most stands can display two sides of A4 sheet music at a time, but there are some more expensive options that can hold four pages at once too. Using a two-page stand, you’ll get away with sharing if you’re playing a short piece of music that only takes up one or two sides of paper. Longer pieces, on the other hand, will require both musicians to have their own stand in order to have enough space.

As well as this, sheet music for duets either comes separately, as individual scores per instrument, or with one instrument’s part underneath the other. This means you have two lines of music that each person plays simultaneously, which is slightly harder to read but saves a bit of space on your music stand.

Practicing with a Metronome

Counting correctly is extremely important when it comes to playing with others, as it helps you stay in sync throughout a piece of music. That said, even the simplest of tunes can be hard to get up to speed with straight away.

To get around this issue, you should practice using a metronome, which keeps a set beat throughout. Start off by setting it to a slow pace, then gradually increase the speed as you and your partner become more confident with the tune’s rhythm.

It’s also good to count yourselves in before starting a duet, so ask whoever feels the most confident to count in aloud to mark the start of the bar.

Staying Focused

Playing a tune with other musicians can be distracting if you’ve never tried it before, especially if they’re playing a completely different part to you. Although this can be frustrating at first if you give it some time and practice your ears will learn to adjust.

Some musicians play better by completely blanking their partner’s melody and instead focus on counting their part’s rhythm so that it matches the beat of the metronome.  If you find this tricky, you should keep going over the same line or bar of music and slowing down the pace until you’re confident performing it together.

Ged Richardson

Ged is the Founder of Zing and guitarist for London based gypsy jazz band 'Django Mango'. When he's not writing or noodling, he's tinkering with his vintage Campervan.


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