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The Dreaded Two Year Mark Approaches

Krista Moyer

Written by
Published: February 25, 2014 at 4:21 AM [UTC]

I always wondered what it was about the two year mark that determined whether someone made a greater commitment to the violin, or walked away. It has been 21 months since I started learning, and I get it now.

At some point in the journey something happened. My ear advanced far beyond my capability. Although everyone who has heard me insists that I am continuing to improve, I feel as if I am going backwards.

It doesn't help that everything gets substantially harder and longer in Suzuki book four. Nor does it help that stressors in my life are currently coming from every possible direction with unprecedented vigor. Frankly, that's just how things go sometimes. We get through the rough spots. But having the violin, the one real thing I do just for me, cause so much struggle and heartache at the same time as life's hard knocks is frustrating.

Playing the violin is always a choice, unlike parenting a sullen pre-teen, coping with office politics, or even dealing with the doggone burst pipe (thanks for nothing, polar vortex). It's something I'm planning to keep in my life. However, I feel as if I need to reevaluate. Perhaps slowing down, or even changing directions for a while will help me regain my footing and allow my technique to catch up. I'm sure my teacher will have good advice.

Honestly, I'm not sure what the answer is. Sadly, that's where being a late starter really leaves you hanging. There are no peers, no ensemble partners, nobody to kvetch with in the cafeteria. It's easy to feel adrift.


From 86.140.251.101
Posted on February 25, 2014 at 5:29 PM
For an adult pupil to get to book 4 in under 2 years sounds very dubious..
This is challenging enough for a very quick child.
It shouldn't suddenly feel difficult, so there must have been things that were not done properly along the way...
From 24.106.147.226
Posted on February 25, 2014 at 5:29 PM
I'm on my 3rd year and started at age 49! I've logged 1,500 hours of practice. I started as a musical idiot but been told I'm sounding pretty good. My goal is to be GREAT! Never give up!

From Karen Collins
Posted on February 25, 2014 at 5:37 PM
I hear you, and I share your feelings. I have been playing for just about 5 years, and I ask myself if I should quit every.single.day. I hope the self-doubt eventually goes away, for both of us.
From 92.14.134.95
Posted on February 25, 2014 at 5:47 PM
Try going at it for 50 years and then listen to some 12 year old kid who knocks spots of your playing. I just do it for fun now, I don't care if it is slightly out of tune (I do really), but my dream of being the next Menuhin has long since faded.

Vincent Oliver

From 174.106.10.251
Posted on February 25, 2014 at 6:17 PM
I'm an adult Suzuki student. I played for 2yrs, but then quit when other life commitments became overwhelming. I started with the violin, again, 5yrs later - and by start again, I mean start again from the Twinkle variations (I had completed Book 3!)

It's been three years since I started playing, again, and I'm still in the middle of Book 2. However, I'm a much better student and a much better amateur violinist for having taken a break and come back to my studies. I appreciate the process so much more, and am more respectful of the time I allocate to studying. My technique and intonation is better than it has ever been, and I enjoy playing so much more.

I think that if I had "forced" myself to keep playing despite everything else that was going on in my life, I would have resented the work, given up, never to return to my studies. Instead of looking at not playing as "quitting", I looked at it as "stopping for right now". Perhaps that will work for you. Nothing says that you can't take a break from your study and come back to it, again, later. Or not at all.

Good luck!


From Steve Reizes
Posted on February 25, 2014 at 6:29 PM
My adult return to playing is now going on 10+ years, and I learned originally in Jr & Sr. High School. I'm not nearly as good a player as the number of years should imply, nor as good as I would like. The biggest regret I have regarding violin was when I gave up pursuing it because "I was not good enough". What is most important is, when you play do you enjoy it? If the answer is "Yes", then why even consider stopping?
From 65.27.115.20
Posted on February 25, 2014 at 6:52 PM
Quit the push, continue the journey. Don't engage in negative self talk. Playing your instrument is a process, like therapy. Few things in life give instantaneous feedback which reflect the musical laws of the universe. View it more as a meditation. Enjoy!
From linda van der heijden
Posted on February 25, 2014 at 7:13 PM
Oh i can relate to your post. I started playing at 40 (with three kids, a job and a household to manage) and am now well into my second year of weekly lessons. Lately, I hear my own faults much more clearly than befor but I do not seem to be able to prevent making these faults, yet. It's frustrating. But I still hang onto my dream of learning to play smoothly and expressively.

What helps is having my great teacher, who is always supportive and keeps telling me what progress I have made, instead of pointing out all the flaws. What also helps is playing in a group. Our music school has a small ensemble of musicians of all plumage who have nothing in common but a late-life start in music (and a tendency to erroneous playing :-)
What I didn't know about myself and have only discovered after I started playing the violin, is that however much of an individualist I act as in many aspects of my life... what bliss it is to be PART of something and part of a piece of music that's being played by people who work hard to be able to perform it and enjoy it so much when it iunally comes out right.

So maybe that would be my advice, if I have any to offer, find some group of people on your current performance level, to get together with and share the joy.

From 173.25.167.220
Posted on February 25, 2014 at 9:38 PM
I am in my 12th year as an adult beginner. When I began, I thought if I just kept at it, I could be wonderful. Now, I realize that I play for me, and for the enjoyment of making music, not necessarily to make perfect music. One thing that really made a difference for me was playing with other adults of similar ability. We get together every couple of weeks, and our material has gotten more challenging as we go. We have a great time, but if we never play in public, that's okay. It's more about making music to enrich our lives. Hope you can find a similar group.
From 110.174.66.145
Posted on February 25, 2014 at 10:44 PM
All musicians go through ups and downs from time to time, including professional musicians. Doubting and feeling lost is part of the process/challenge. Every individual's challenge is different. It only means you are on the right track. You won't see your progress all the time, but when you look back in a year's time, you will be surprised. Never underestimate your ability and never give up.

Seriously I think all 'late' starters internationally shall come together and start chamber groups, support groups, and music events. Music shall be for everyone.

From 68.51.122.109
Posted on February 25, 2014 at 11:19 PM
I, too, took up the violin at age 65. I have been taking lessons almost 5 years. I play "well enough" to be in an adult chamber orchestra as well as in our community orchestra. I didn't start lessons to become a performer, but because I enjoy being a student. Playing with others has given me so much joy.
From Nicola Martino
Posted on February 25, 2014 at 11:40 PM
I feel you now that i'm in book six. For my case, the passion is not like before anymore, i started when i was 19, i have a lot of time to practice, now i'm on my 5th years but i never ever questioned myself if i should leave my violin for a while.

I feel you really well as a late starter, violin is not even a common instrument here in Philippines but i met a lot of violinist here but i hardly find someone that has the same passion as mine that is willing to build a group that will encourage progress, give motivation and have some place to belong to and i think i'm the only person now in this city who's so serious about taking this thing into seriously. Even thou i meet a lot of violinist, most of the are kids and still beginners, so basically i'm in an island in terms of passion and skill level.

The only thing that's driving me to practice everyday and the thing that keeps my eye on the ultimate goal of being able to play Carmen Fantasy someday is by watching the current Menuhin Violin Competition. Videos and the world wide web has been my only friend. Just take it easy, passion goes up and down. If you feel blessed compared to my situation here then you have no reason to stop.

From Alice Trimmer
Posted on February 26, 2014 at 12:44 AM
Krista, I will be approaching the even more dreaded eight year mark (returnee after a break of many years. I can certainly relate to what you are describing. But it sounds that one of your main issues is actually a huge advance--you are learning to listen to yourself. If your ears have taken a huge leap the clean-up will come. It just takes time. Would second the advice to find a group to join, the shared experience is well worth the extra time. Another thing that can be enlightening and encouraging, especially after a lot of demanding work, is to dial it back and learn an easier piece, something you can play well in a relatively short period of time; this is one way to demonstrate to yourself that you have really advanced.
From 184.147.216.143
Posted on February 26, 2014 at 6:33 AM
How about lessons from age 5 to 15 (1946-1956 and no Suzuki, only German Method - ugh!) and then quitting to play basketball in high school -- 6'2" tall and outgrown the violin. I should have played the viola which is easier than the violin. I became a rather good athlete too.

Enough about me and my failures; I admire adults attempting the hopeless task of learning to play the violin and finding personal and social happiness. Keep grinding along and something good should happen -- you are a beacon of hope and inspiration to others, even myself trying to increase my repetoire with Bach Partitas while playing to the furniture.

From Chrystal Massyn
Posted on February 26, 2014 at 7:36 AM
I am playing a year and a half and just started book four it is going well but I have been a little overwhelmed looking st rhe written music. Now I divide the score into section and practice one section for an entire week . So it shoupd take me a month or so per song. But that ok. I feel I am perfectibg alot of technical issues by slowing things down
From Zina Francisca
Posted on February 26, 2014 at 7:55 AM
Krista, two years and a couple months into this journey I can relate to what you are saying. Recently I have decided to stop wasting my energy on this kind of thinking. I try to be more like a child, just doing the work (and enjoying it a lot!) without worrying about my skill level, progress etc. Challenging, but doable. Please continue and keep telling us about it here on v.com. It's so lovely to know that there are other adult beginners out there wanting to play the violin as much as I do!
From Joyce Lin
Posted on February 26, 2014 at 8:16 PM
To those of you who feel alone as an adult learner: you are not alone! You will find many nice and passionate folks here who understand and will cheer for you:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/119127121451810

From Krista Moyer
Posted on February 26, 2014 at 10:10 PM
It's nice to hear that I'm not alone.

Karen, I never realized you felt that way. Perhaps I should have, but you have always seemed so accomplished to me.

Steve, I'm not going to stop. It just feels like I need to take a step back and play some easier pieces to get my wind back.

Linda, sadly there are no beginner groups in this area. All of the orchestras have audition requirements beyond my capability at this time; I'm not attracted to fiddle jams, and I have no contact with other adult students. I'll keep trying though.

Terrence, your idea to create tons of opportunities sounds wonderful. If only....

Nicola, keep drawing inspiration from the world. It sounds as if you are doing a great job of it.

Alice, your point is well taken. I think I will do just that.

Thank you to everyone for reading and commenting!

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