5 Best Ways to Demonstrate the Working of Violin Plots in Python

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πŸ’‘ Problem Formulation: Data scientists and statisticians often need to visualize the distribution and density of data. A violin plot is a method of plotting numeric data and is useful for displaying multimodality (the presence of more than one peak). It combines a box plot with a kernel density plot. For instance, consider a dataset containing the age distribution of a population. A violin plot could be used to visualize the age distribution along with its probability density.

Method 1: Using Matplotlib

Matplotlib is a comprehensive library for creating static, animated, and interactive visualizations in Python. Using its violinplot function, one can create violin plots that display the distribution of quantitative data across different categories.

Here’s an example:

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

data = [20, 22, 23, 25, 28, 30, 21, 24, 26, 27]
plt.title('Age Distribution')

The output will be a violin plot visually representing the distribution of ages.

This code snippet imports matplotlib’s pyplot, generates a violin plot for a given dataset, adds a title ‘Age Distribution,’ and finally displays the plot. It’s a straightforward method for quickly visualizing data without the need for extensive customization.

Method 2: Using Seaborn

Seaborn is a statistical plotting library built on top of Matplotlib that offers a higher-level interface for drawing attractive statistical graphics. Its violinplot function is especially suited for drawing a violin plot to show the distribution of data and its probability density.

Here’s an example:

import seaborn as sns

data = [20, 22, 23, 25, 28, 30, 21, 24, 26, 27]

This will display a violin plot with a white grid style as the background.

In this example, we use Seaborn to create a violin plot for the same dataset. By default, Seaborn applies a grid to the background, which can be adjusted with the set function. This library offers enhanced visualization capabilities and integrates well with Pandas data structures.

Method 3: Adding Hue for Multi-Variable Comparison

One of the powerful features of violin plots is the ability to add a ‘hue’ which can split the violin plot based on another categorical variable, making it easy to compare groups.

Here’s an example:

import seaborn as sns

data = sns.load_dataset("tips")
sns.violinplot(x="day", y="total_bill", hue="sex", data=data, split=True)

This will create a split violin plot comparing the distribution of bills by gender for each day of the week.

The code loads a dataset called ‘tips’ from Seaborn’s repository and creates a split violin plot. The splitting is done based on the “sex” category, allowing us to compare the total bills for males and females for different days. Such visualizations are crucial for identifying differences within subgroups in the data.

Method 4: Customization and Styling

Both Matplotlib and Seaborn allow extensive customization of violin plots, from changing the colors and bandwidth of the kernel density estimation to adding other elements like mean values.

Here’s an example:

import seaborn as sns

data = sns.load_dataset("tips")
sns.violinplot(x="day", y="total_bill", data=data, palette="muted", inner="quart")

The displayed violin plot will use a muted color palette and display quartiles within the violin.

This code snippet customizes the visual aspects of a violin plot. By specifying a palette, we can change the colors of the plot. The ‘inner’ parameter allows us to display different statistical representations inside the violin, such as quartiles, points, or even the entire data structure (stick).

Bonus One-Liner Method 5: Plotly

Plotly’s library for Python is used to create interactive plots and offers a way to make violin plots interactive. With just a short line of code, we can achieve an interactive plot that can be manipulated in the web browser.

Here’s an example:

import plotly.express as px

df = px.data.tips()
fig = px.violin(df, y="total_bill", x="day", color="smoker", box=True, points="all")

This will render an interactive violin plot in the browser which includes a box plot inside the violin plot, and all points overlayed.

The above one-liner uses Plotly Express to create an interactive violin plot that includes additional information such as a box plot inside the violin and all individual data points. This method is especially useful for creating dynamic presentations where interaction with the plot can lead to better data insights.


  • Method 1: Using Matplotlib. Strength: Simple and integrated into many Python environments. Weakness: Less visually appealing without customization.
  • Method 2: Using Seaborn. Strength: More beautiful default styles and better suited for statistical visualization. Weakness: Slightly steeper learning curve than Matplotlib.
  • Method 3: Adding Hue for Multi-Variable Comparison. Strength: Allows for easy comparisons between categories. Weakness: Can become cluttered if too many categories are compared.
  • Method 4: Customization and Styling. Strength: Highly customizable for advanced visual storytelling. Weakness: Requires a good understanding of plotting parameters and options.
  • Bonus One-Liner Method 5: Plotly. Strength: Creates interactive plots for dynamic presentations. Weakness: May not be necessary for static reporting and adds an extra layer of complexity.