V.com weekend vote: At what age did you start playing the violin?

May 26, 2017, 1:51 PM · We've had a lot of conversations over the years about what age is best for starting violin.

The "best age" for starting is a subject that is up for debate. The Suzuki method encouraged parents to start teaching children to play at a very young age, as young as two or three. Before that, a more traditional age might have been around age eight or nine, when many school programs tended to offer lessons. And what about starting as an adult? Does that doom a person to limited progress?

young-old"

I can confidently say that, with steady work and attention, anyone can progress on the violin at any age. I have seen adult starters who went on to play in semi-professional groups and who later taught themselves. (Did you know that Suzuki was a late-starter?) Also, I've seen people who played just a little as a child, then they come back many years later and make great progress and are able to make the violin a special part of their lives.

By contrast, I've known very young starters who burned out by age eight!

The most important thing for success on the violin is a person's level of devotion, persistence and daily practice.

That said, I'm very curious about when people started, and how they feel about that. As for me, I was just shy of my ninth birthday. As soon as I started, though, I was a complete nutcase about the violin and caught up quite quickly to most of those who started before me. I have a few of these kinds of students right now, who did not begin as toddlers but who are devoted and rapidly "catching up"!

Please vote, and then tell us your thoughts about age and violin/viola learning.

Replies

May 26, 2017 at 09:06 PM · I was 9 and in 4th grade. I teach in a Catholic school where I start 1st graders.

May 26, 2017 at 09:12 PM · 9

May 26, 2017 at 09:38 PM · 32

May 26, 2017 at 09:47 PM · about 40 years old

May 26, 2017 at 09:52 PM · 32

May 26, 2017 at 09:55 PM · 9

May 26, 2017 at 09:57 PM · 12

May 26, 2017 at 10:05 PM · I was 10 and in fifth grade. I played steadily from then on; still loving it.

May 26, 2017 at 10:06 PM · I started at 27, quit because of life then restarted at 62. Currently at an intermediate level. Wish I hadn't quit as now I have a desire to play in a group situation but don't feel I have the chops to do so.

May 26, 2017 at 10:08 PM · 19

May 26, 2017 at 10:13 PM · 27

May 26, 2017 at 10:18 PM · Age 5 - I don't remember not playing. I do remember not liking my first teacher. But, I can't even think about getting too old to play. I'm an amateur, but it is part of who I am.

May 26, 2017 at 10:20 PM · I started at the age of 7.

May 26, 2017 at 10:36 PM ·

May 26, 2017 at 10:36 PM · 5. I play and teach professionally now :)

May 26, 2017 at 10:47 PM · Started learning at age 38. Fast forward 5 yrs, I play 10+ concerts a year with local university orchestra, chamber groups, quartets. I even got to play on the stage of Davies Symphony Hall, along with mentors from the SF Symphony. In a few weeks, TV episodes of episodic opera I played for will be airing.

It's never too late!

May 26, 2017 at 10:58 PM · 19

May 26, 2017 at 10:59 PM · I started playing my violin when I was 8 years old and gave it up several years later, mostly due to peer pressure. I played trombone during high school and as a young adult decided to take my string knowledge and play guitar. Unfortunately, you really cannot play popular tunes on a guitar when you play it like a violin.

After retirement, I kept thinking about returning to the violin. I had my original instrument and had inherited a second really nice one. At 61, I started up my lessons again, after a 47 year hiatus, and I am still having a ball. I play my violin every day and find a lot of joy with my music.

May 26, 2017 at 11:01 PM · I clicked 7-15, which has 68% of the vote at this hour. I started piano first, at 7 y/o, but didn't get very far, because the violin muse soon got hold of me. I asked my parents if I could switch to violin. They consented but wanted me to wait a few months, in case this might be just a passing fancy. It wasn't.

My thoughts on age and violin/viola learning: I don't feel that any age is too low or too high, if the learner has the self-motivation. In my case, the timing was about right: I was ready, had the curiosity and self-motivation -- plus a precocious streak and a geeky side. Since I could already read books -- and music, too, thanks to early piano lessons -- I would leaf through etude and position-playing books as bedtime stories, eager to see what challenges were coming up next.

May 26, 2017 at 11:31 PM · This is my 25th month playing violin, I started in May 2015 at the age of 49. I play almost every day, and even had 3 lessons last year!

For the first year, after rushing through a half-dozen method "Book 1"s, I started exploring sheet music sort of randomly until about a year ago, when I decided to focus on baroque, which is pretty much all I play right now.

I buy what seems to me to be a lot of sheet music and often my playing includes (very crude) sight-reading as I turn pages for the first time. The steady stuff so far has turned out to be Book 2 of Corelli's sonatas (#7 -12) and the Biber sonata #2.

I'm not quite musical yet but definitely feel a lot of progress and feel I'm getting close to breaking through into some musicality soon. Counting time and playing the right rhythms are the hardest skill for me, I am pretty good at finding the notes so once I get my bow moving with the correct timing I will be able to say I can play.

My goal is to play early music in a small amateur ensemble with other adult learners, but maybe also with my son who is 17 and in Suzuki piano book 5 and ABRSM book 6 --perhaps someday he'll play the positive (organ) and harpsichord parts of the 17th century stuff I want to play! Also someday I will get a viola da gamba and maybe some other early instruments.

May 26, 2017 at 11:45 PM · See my profile.

May 26, 2017 at 11:54 PM · I began when I was 5 :)

May 27, 2017 at 12:18 AM · All of these accounts are so encouraging! I started playing at age 58. Four years ago.I am in love with my violin; sometimes it is frustrating, but with patience I have seen progress. I have had great teachers, and I can't wait to play every day.

May 27, 2017 at 12:53 AM · 35. Everyone said it is difficult but the first thing I see in violin is...there are only 4 strings compared to other more complicated instruments, so don't hesitate, just pick up this simple and beautiful instrument :)

May 27, 2017 at 01:03 AM · I was 6.....my Mom made me wait until then I was begging from the age of 5. She wanted me to be able to read first. Played seriously through my 30's and now having fun with it!

May 27, 2017 at 01:04 AM · I started when I was 68. It has been 3 years. I play everyday and have a very kind and patient teacher. Finishing up Suzuki Book 2 and learning some Irish fiddle tunes. I have an electric violin for quiet practice and an acoustic for my lessons.

May 27, 2017 at 02:09 AM · 15

May 27, 2017 at 02:14 AM · I started when I was 3 - Suzuki method. I perform and teach professionally.

May 27, 2017 at 04:41 AM · I believe children can learn to play an instrument before they can read. After all, we learn to speak without reading, don’t we? However, playing the violin or viola takes a certain amount of musculature, and therefore I usually won’t start a student until they are physically strong enough, and if they are very young, I keep the playing time very short. I often suggest piano lessons if they are not quite ready as it provides such a good visualization of tones and semitones.

I spent my early years “immersed” in classical and church music. We didn’t have a TV yet, but my mother had a few quality records she played often, and when they weren’t playing, she was singing. My older brothers began playing the piano a couple of years before I did, so I did a lot of listening before I actually began lessons. I started piano lessons at six, then violin at eight years old. That was over fifty years ago! I guess it was a good start – in one of my first ear training sessions I discovered that not everyone had perfect pitch!

May 27, 2017 at 05:22 AM · 30 years old. My ex-husband bought my first violin as a wedding anniversary gift

May 27, 2017 at 07:49 AM · Eeek. You can't be 6!

May 27, 2017 at 09:30 AM · I just started a couple of months ago and I am 43. I learned the flute as child and played all through my school years snd then took it up again after a twenty years break. At a certain point I needed to make the decision if I want to invest into a new and better instrument but in the back of ny head there was the idea to learn the violin. So I rented an instrument from a luthier and found a teacher specialised on adult learners. And while it is not an easy instrument to learn I find ut not as difficult as many people say. And as with any instrument there are days when everything flows and days when you barely get it right, but the good days get more with practice and that is very rewarding.

May 27, 2017 at 09:34 AM · 15 ! :D and i don't regret!

May 27, 2017 at 11:29 AM · 49 after playing guitar for many years. I picked it up and started teaching myself. I had 6 lessons in my 60's. Wish I had started much younger.

May 27, 2017 at 12:00 PM · 5

May 27, 2017 at 12:17 PM · I began playing violin aged 11. Stopped at 19, picked it up again at around 40 and after 20 enjoyable years playing in local amateur groups I've just had to put playing on hold due to a frozen shoulder - hopefully not for long!

May 27, 2017 at 12:29 PM · 41.

May 27, 2017 at 01:53 PM · I just started to learn about the violin at 31. I've always wanted to play because its such a beautiful instrument. I'm devoted and determine to endulge all my time in learning how to play.. I love it

May 27, 2017 at 02:47 PM · Started at 50, while simultaneously starting lutherie. Built the instrument I use daily. Now, after 4 years, playing at Suzuki level 6, and with community orchestra. Needless to say this is a huge part of my life now.

May 27, 2017 at 03:53 PM · Started at 9, think I'm still getting better at 32

May 27, 2017 at 04:15 PM · I agree with several posters that starting violin (or any orchestral bowed string for that matter) at any age is perfectly all right as long as you're willing to dedicate the time and energy to it and set appropriate goals. I started violin as an elementary schooler (my exact starting age is too personal to mention on an internet forum in my opinion) and piano as a preschooler. I also agree that adult starter string players shouldn't be looked down upon at all. Although they can't become pros, they can have fulfilling lives as amateur players. Bassists seem to start late, and so do viola players, although most have a fair amount of violin experience when they start. I personally think starting violin, cello, piano and other little-kid-friendly instruments at a young age is totally appropriate (violin and cello thanks to availability of fractional sizes). Starting viola as a youngster is a very unpopular choice and kind of a silly one (although perfectly acceptable) in my opinion for two reasons:

a. unpopular to the point of being nearly unable to socialize with others and

b. they'll be stuck with a restrung violin until they grow into a proper viola.

Wind, bass and guitar players pretty much have to start late because little kids don't have the lung capacity for wind instruments and guitar players need adolescent to adult-sized hands.

P.S. I want to learn viola.

May 27, 2017 at 08:21 PM · Started violin at 7, then switched to viola at 15! :)

May 28, 2017 at 12:18 AM · I disagree completely with Ella. When you play the viola as a child, all the good violinists and cellists want you as a friend, otherwise they can't explore much of the chamber music repertoire. It also leads to stable, kind, generous habits as an adult, where you're not so high-strung and needy of attention. Moreover, it doesn't matter if you're playing a restrung violin or a shoebox with strings, you'll still have deeper access to your inner soul, which is a special gift that violists have. Also, your life is not filled with self-doubt and envy, because you're not constantly plotting to unseed the concertmaster.

May 28, 2017 at 12:28 AM · Five. Still playing at twenty,

May 28, 2017 at 12:44 AM · 38

May 28, 2017 at 07:29 AM · 4

May 28, 2017 at 09:52 AM · I was six....so I couldn't vote!

May 28, 2017 at 02:39 PM · I was 6, but soon to be 7. I begun with piano at 5, and soon I found violin to be my true instrument. I loved my teacher then and she was my role model.

May 28, 2017 at 05:02 PM · Began at 10 on an aunt's violin, then "discovered" the viola at 40. Still playing both at 65.

May 28, 2017 at 05:18 PM · I started at age 65... now 3-1/2 years later I play in my towns volunteer orchestra and love it...i take Suzuki lessons one day a week and fiddle lessons one day a week, have orchestra rehearsals one evening a week, i play with friends one day a week and practice every day.

May 28, 2017 at 05:38 PM · 76. I had a lot of remembered music in my head but no way to express it. The violin was the first instrument I ever held and I'm still not sure I have it right yet after 18 months of practice.

May 28, 2017 at 06:02 PM · 30

May 28, 2017 at 06:03 PM · 6-16 was my start, and in retrospect my start was probably too early. I have memories of picking the violin up for short periods in my 20s, 30s just to amaze myself at how much I forgot. Started again

with the kids.

May 28, 2017 at 06:35 PM · I was 8. I was recommended by my school to skip 3rd grade, but my parents thought I wasn't ready. So the school decided to let me start music a year early instead (everyone started in 4th grade). I became hooked from the beginning. All I wanted to do was play. It was something I was good at without trying.

I wanted to be a famous violinist (I had seen Isaac Stern on TV playing the last movement of the Mendelssohn during the party scene in Der Fleidermaus), but I have settled for a music degree and a career in IT instead ??

May 28, 2017 at 07:41 PM · started at 68

May 28, 2017 at 08:06 PM · 9. Son started at 5, I started my daughter (hesitantly) at 3 1/2. All three of us in different countries. It all depends on the interest/desire and then determination

May 28, 2017 at 08:48 PM · I was nine but I started sight singing and piano at age six.

May 28, 2017 at 09:12 PM · "Also, your life is not filled with self-doubt and envy, because you're not constantly plotting to unseat the concertmaster." Loved

this comment! As a professional violinist, who started at age 4 1/2, initially taught by my father, I remember at about age 6 or 7 saying how happy I was to be allowed to practice 2 hours a day instead of 1. (Would that some of my students had that attitude!) And yes, at most levels viola players are in scarce demand, and so are very welcome in any student, amateur or semi-professional group. Only at the very top level do they have the same kind of competition that the other strings have.

May 28, 2017 at 09:47 PM · I was 3 1/2 and because my mother, a fine pianist, accompanied Russian emigre violinist Elena de Sayn in concerts over the radio, that soloist became my teacher until I turned 5.That lady never married, and had a brusque manner that caused tears for me, but she gave me a firm foundation. Then we moved to another state and I had a very kind teacher with whom I stayed until high school graduation. Auditioning for Eastman at age 16 with Zigeunerweisen by Sarasate, I got in and spent 5 very happy years there and performed and taught the rest of my life.

the rest of my life

May 29, 2017 at 01:09 AM · Interesting how the 30 - 49 age range is more common here than the 16 - 29 year range. I'm from the latter group. Glad I didn't wait longer... I was late enough as is!

May 29, 2017 at 01:40 AM · I want to quickly clarify on my points. I'm perfectly fine with violins strung as violas, and it's perfectly acceptable to use one, especially if you have violin experience. When I said that starting with viola is a really unpopular decision, I'm talking kids aged 4-7 or so, especially absolute beginners. It's hard to find social opportunities as a very young violist beginner. Plus, finding a viola teacher willing to take on an extremely young viola student seems rare. Starting with viola as a really young kid is perfectly acceptable, despite the warnings I've given. I'm perfectly okay with these who start as violinists and then learn viola, as well as late starters who've never learned violin.

May 29, 2017 at 02:13 AM · I'm really enjoying reading the stories generated by this week's question! Here's mine: One day in fall, 1959 (just a month shy of my 9th birthday), musical instruments were introduced in class and we were invited to pick one to play! I picked the violin, much to my mother's surprise when I came home from school that day. My buddy picked the violin, too. Her parents got her a private teacher and within a few months he was my teacher, too. I am now 66 and am able to completely devote as much time as I choose to play. I've played in 5 different orchestras in northern Nevada over the last 5 years, but have now cut back to 2. I even get paid for playing in one of them! I'm more excited to be playing now than ever before. I hope it lasts a few more years. P.S. I wanted to play in the Lawrence Welk Orchestra when I grew up and was good enough. :-)

Addendum: Just noticed your request for details if you stopped for 10 yrs or more. I stopped after playing steadily for 20 years. Picked it up again 22 years later. Played for 4 years and had to stop again for 6 years (husband very ill). Started again with renewed passion in May 2012 and have made rapid progress. I won't give it up again unless I'm physically or mentally unable to play.

May 29, 2017 at 02:56 AM · My dad loved music and played the violin with friends in a band during the 1940s in Shanghai when western music was introduced not long ago. He bought a German copy of stradivarius violin (1773)and took lessons from a European teacher. He stopped playing after marriage. In the 1960s he bought a very nice cabinet type radio with an electric gramophone. Since then he kept buying LPs with his pocket money. I really enjoyed the violin music from the gramophone but was unable to learn because there was no private violin teachers in China at that time.

In 1969 I was sent to the countryside to do hard labour like millions of young people by Mao. I felt so hopeless and helpless. Fortunately, I had my dad's violin music books with me and started to teach myself at the age of 19. I had practiced the violin for about 4 hours a day till I stopped it 5 years later. Then I joined an orchestra at my university. After graduation I had to struggle with my hard life and totally stopped playing.

Last year I picked up the violin again and also started to play the viola after I retired at the age of 65 from my teaching career at a university. I joined a local Chinese orchestra and took part in rehearsals and shows. I stuck to practice 3 hour a day. I moved to another city this year and recently joined an amateur orchestra (all Europeans except me) of about 40 players with a complete set of orchestral instruments. We meet and have fun once every two months.

I feel music is my best friend and promise not to part with it in my life.

May 29, 2017 at 02:57 AM · I played piano from the age of 7, but as an adult, had long wanted to play in an orchestra. I picked up the violin at age 50, and with a couple of good teachers and a lot of practicing, I've been able to play in a community orchestra and with a string Quartet of amateur musicians. It is every bit as thrilling as I imagined it would be. I only wish I had started this instrument many many years ago.

May 29, 2017 at 04:43 AM · 50, at the time, not retired, 2 kids in the family. 15 years later I have a blast as the fiddle player in a bluegrass band, now stretching out to gypsy jazz and swing standards. I love to play; tunes, scales anything.

May 29, 2017 at 05:05 AM · I started at age 8 or 9, with the Suzuki books and method.

I played in semi professional orchestras until I was 25,

and took a 20 year break until I was 45. I have been

playing regularly in orchestras for the past 10 years and picked up again using the same Suzuki books that

I used as a child and teenager.

May 29, 2017 at 06:04 AM · :-) Thanks all for great stories and responses and, yes, even the impossible six-year-olds ;-).

Also challenging some bowed string stereotypes, I began in public school group lessons in 5th grade mostly age 11... ...began private lessons immediate next summer to keep going. Mostly straight-ahead through school groups and youth symphonies and chamber music then until college.

I've had uncommon circuitous path since then, including attendance at Oberlin College (not Conservatory) earning biochemistry degree and going to years in research labs (Jeremy Denk was breaking the curve in my chemistry classes! He did double degree at Oberlin! ;-) )... ...played in orchestras &c. at Oberlin, also got lessons with faculty through audition, but also quit (!!) 'cold turkey' in the midst of all that, wanting to focus on the science. Later, turned back to the music, but with COMPLETELY different and better LISTENING due, largely, I believe, to my time off from obsessive treble-clef violin focus. I switch-hit violin and viola and erhu and zhonghu, reading Western notation and jianpu and improvising. Have degrees in music now from Temple U. in Philly and Wesleyan U.; am tenured violinist in ECSO of New London, CT; have substantial music theater work history (highlights incl. multiple new show developments with "Goodspeed Opera House" [the creator-developers of Annie and Man of la Mancha, amongst myriad others], and a great gig with Julie Andrews directing); done all of singing-violining-bowing-editing-typesetting into shape notes and even occasional performance production on the musical Bill of Rights setting by Neely Bruce; other composing and arranging and editings build on composition degree, albeit mostly 'ghostly', so not much I can refer to under my own name; then there's a whole 'nother improvisation strategies side to my works and discography; and in general, I've attained musical career built of a mosaic of activities, despite and because of multiple intelligences, injuries, and interruptions over the years--and a start in public school group lessons ca. age 11. :-)

May 29, 2017 at 06:11 AM · and, oh yeah:

often with my older students, I refer to this fine read of a book:

"Never Too Late", by John Holt, education reform teacher-worker. After retiring, he took up 'cello, and wrote this book about his experiences &c.

:-) :-)

May 29, 2017 at 11:11 AM · 27 and I'm a loves getting dirty mechanic!

May 29, 2017 at 01:19 PM · I was 51 (I'm 54 now).

I know I will never be a professional, it's not my aim, but I'm having and will always have, a lot of fun playing the violin.

May 29, 2017 at 01:19 PM · I was 51 (I'm 54 now).

I know I will never be a professional, it's not my aim, but I'm having and will always have, a lot of fun playing the violin.

May 29, 2017 at 01:29 PM · Your survey question is 2 questions.

I started at 8.

I stopped playing for about 10 years, many years later.

I resumed aged approx 44.

I have since switched my career from an allied health profession to teaching violin and a bit of viola at home and in a school.

May 29, 2017 at 01:42 PM · I started asking for violin lessons at age 6 and was told "no, you have to start with piano first then later you can start Violin." Well, I didn't start Violin till 12, went to U of GA to study music but chickened out just before my audition when I heard the others playing. I knew I was not of their caliber! I went on to become a special education teacher and play in community orchestras and the UGA orchestra.

Motherhood sidelined my practice, but I started a year ago after 45 years. I play for myself now but don't think I can get into an orchestra because I travel a lot! I will never stop loving the violin nor playing for my own enjoyment.

May 29, 2017 at 05:41 PM · I was 80 when I began violin lessons. Have now been trying for four years. However, I knew how to read music as I was dedicated to piano from elementary school through high school.

Pat

May 30, 2017 at 12:12 PM · I started playing / learni ng the violin at the age of 48. After becoming a widow

May 31, 2017 at 07:27 AM · I started at 36 years old. I was told by the leader of our local Orchestra that i was far too old to start. I had no intenstions of joining the Orchestra, i just wanted to learn the Violin to enjoy it. He could've been very dis-couraging if i actually listend to him. I now play Fiddle for my local Morris Men side and love it!

May 31, 2017 at 12:46 PM · At the Age of 25!

May 31, 2017 at 03:24 PM · The best age is when a person is ready. Joshua Bell asked his mother to come look at his 'instrument' one day. He had rubber bands tied across the knobs on his bureau and 'played' a tune. His mother quickly bought him a violin. He was 4 yrs old.

I was 11 when I started lessons. My first violin teacher told me I would never play in a major orchestra because I started too late and I was female. The chair would go to an auditioning male if there was one.

That was before blind auditions were the norm.

Take a look at old recording of orchestras. Not a woman in sight.

I played clarinet in the high school band. My mother told me she had a violin in the attic that I could play if I wanted to. I did.

I still play now at 60 in local orchestras, weddings, dances but I pick and choose where to play. I love making a joyful noise with my violin and friends, unto the Lord at church. But I have a job that pays the bills, so choosing my gigs is my choice. My friends scramble for every opportunity since it is their livelihood. Good luck to them and all who pursue the musicians life.

June 1, 2017 at 01:13 AM · "...starting as an adult? Does that doom a person to limited progress?" Not a very happy thing to read. I started around 50 and with a little piano and some clarinet behind me I was not starting at square one musically. I play because I enjoy it and my progress is relative. I know that I will never achieve humming bird speed and this shoulder arthritis will eventually shut everything down but as long as I can afford regular lessons with a competent and patient teacher I will press on.

June 1, 2017 at 02:45 AM · I studied piano as a child. Took up the violin at age 36 with the idea of encouraging and inspiring my own children to study music. Made a bargain with them; I'd study an instrument if they would. Never imagined I would fall so in love with it. Had great teachers. Am still going strong with it today 20-something years later, playing in three different amateur orchestras at different times, occasional weddings and gigs, and at my Church in a trio. My children, my husband, and I are still amazed at how far I've been able to come with it and at all the enjoyment it has given me as well as the opportunity to meet and work with so many interesting, fun people! Did my children stick with the music? Unfortunately, no, but the youngest is looking at returning to it. (His own girlfriend is a serious violinist.)

June 1, 2017 at 10:22 PM · I was 9 when I started violin. My daughter started Suzuki at 1-1/2. Her first lesson was with a "violin" made out of a pocket Kleenex packet (the violin body) and a tongue depressor (the neck) taped on it. Lesson 1: she leaned to tuck it under her chin, and to hold it so it couldn't be pulled from under her chin. Then she learned to tuck it under her arm and bow [NOTE: "bow" as in BEND the upper part of the body forward at the waist toward the audience, not that stick thing with rosined horse hair we scrape across the strings of the violin]. When we got home after lesson 1, she showed the girls across the street what she could do, and they taught her to fall over into a somersault during the bow. It took two more weeks of lesson to "unlearn" that!

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