Welcome to Violinist.com! Log in, or join the community!
Violinist.com
Facebook Twitter Google+ Email Newsletter

Books

Violinist.com Interviews: Vol. 1

Our exclusive, one-on-one interviews with 27 of today's best-known violinists, including Hilary Hahn, Joshua Bell, Sarah Chang, David Garrett, Anne Akiko Meyers, Maxim Vengerov, and others.


How hard is it to learn the violin

Technique and Practicing:

From Shane Merchant
Posted February 24, 2005 at 03:24 AM

Hello,I have a question about the violin. I am 37and have always been interested in the violin.My Granddad was from Ireland and I listened to him often.He passed away 3 weeks ago. I have his violin and want to learn.I have played some guitar and the chanter as a youngster.I love the pipes and the violin. I recently asked a music teacher as to lessons, he teaches at a college and he said that almost all of his adult students never make it with the violin. After much prompting he agrred to give me 3 months of lessons. If I show improvement he will continue to teach me if not I am to throw in the towel. I was wondering how hard is it for an adult?

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on February 24, 2005 at 03:29 AM
Greetings,
glad you have a strong desire to enrich your life with the violin.
Your quesiton cannot be answered until you define @make it.` Be professional? No.
Take it to a good standard so you can experience the thrill of playing in amateur orchestras, soloing with piano for your local church meeting or whatever, chamber music with like minded colleagues? Sure. You can do all of that with knobs on.
Personally I would steer clear of a teacher who gave me that kind of deadline or pressure, but if you are confortable with it go ahead.
One point to keep in mind: inherited old violins often need a lot of work or money spent on them . If you ture up for a lesson with an `unset up instrument with old strings` you will be wasting your time and money.
Playing the violin is not a cheap hobby. On the other hand it is one of the greatest cultural experiences you can wish for.
Go for it!
Cheers,
Buri
From Sue Donim
Posted on February 24, 2005 at 03:30 AM
Depends on your definition of 'make it'. Make it as a professional player, probably not (see recent thread). Make it as a decent player in a local orchestra, maybe, if you stick with it and practice regularly. My first-ever student is still with me three years on, and enjoys playing first violin in a community orchestra after a total five years' tuition. I also have two adult students going in for Grade 1 in a few weeks, after less than a year's tuition.

Be warned, though: you still need a decent technique for fiddle music - in the first few years it's not much easier than classical, if at all. Best of luck!

From Sue Donim
Posted on February 24, 2005 at 03:32 AM
Jinx, Buri:)
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on February 24, 2005 at 03:38 AM
Jinx Minx!
From Katie Bailey Waller
Posted on February 24, 2005 at 03:39 AM
Shane,
It's great that you want to learn the violin! I agree with both of the posts above. I'm interested in what kind of music your Grandfather played? Did he play Irish fiddle tunes? There is a lot of interest in Celtic folk music in the US.. and I'm sure that somewhere nearby you might find folks who play Irish folk music. But... as you'll read many places... you will certainly benefit from a good start on the violin... with a knowledgable, patient,... and interested teacher. You want someone who has confidence in you. Someone who can teach you how to hold the instrument... and bow... how to bring pleasing sounds from it... so that you can happily play.. and enjoy whatever kind of music you choose to play.
Go for it! But... go for it by making friends with your violin. :) Very good idea Buri had to get the violin looked at by a reputable luthier. If it's set up well... you'll be much more likely to enjoy it.
Again... go for it! Have fun!
Katie
From Shane Merchant
Posted on February 24, 2005 at 03:57 AM
I would like to thank all who have responded to my message.Yes, my Grandad played alot of irish songs and played the pipes as well.Im not looking at becoming a professional but enjoy the fiddle as much as he did playing music that is part of my heritage.
From Michael Molnar
Posted on February 24, 2005 at 03:45 PM
I resent your teacher's ageist bias. I am almost 60 and have been playing the violin for two years and love it. As a kid I learned music theory from my accordian teacher. I also played the piano for a few years. But the violin is one of the best experiences I've had with music. The secret to learning is to play pieces that you love. Of course, this should be blended with some standard scale exercises. Enjoy and tell that teacher to retire.
From Inge S
Posted on February 24, 2005 at 04:10 PM
" If I show improvement he will continue to teach me if not I am to throw in the towel."

A wry comment. Were you to start with such a teacher - if you show no improvement, HE should throw in the towel. You continue with another teacher! But with such a negative expectation of failure, who would want to start with such an individual, when people tend to teach toward their expectations. It would have been another thing to say that late starters often have problems, don't expect it to be so much hard work and then give up quickly (if that is the case), that you must be prepared to work hard consistently over a long period of time, yaddayadda ... but it is the "throw in the towel" part that bothers me the most.

From Tom Holzman
Posted on February 24, 2005 at 04:19 PM
I agree with those folks who would encourage you to change teachers. It is not easy to learn violin as an adult, but you want someone who will be enthusiastic that you are even trying. I would take the towel elsewhere.
From Evelyn Ray
Posted on February 24, 2005 at 05:18 PM
I am 53 and am just weeks away from my 2 year anniversary of learning. I'm having a blast and get joy from the violin everyday. Make no mistake. It is not easy, but so rewarding.

A lot depends on your goal. At first mine was just to play for friends and family, but now I see that I could eventually play in a community orchestra, so that's the goal. Mainly, I just want to play well for myself.

Dump the teacher and find one who encourages you. There is enough pressure without the ultimatim he has given you. Above all, enjoy the trip.

From Sue Donim
Posted on February 24, 2005 at 08:52 PM
I agree with the above posts about the importance of having a teacher with a positive attitude. However, from a teacher's perspective, remember that for every dedicated adult learner who posts on this site, there are many more who take up the violin and rarely practice, or frequently cancel lessons because of work and family priorities. These kind of students are not worth a studio slot, and their lesson time could be well spent on a more committed student. I don't believe it's the lack of professional potential that turns some teachers off adult beginners - we see that every day in most of the kids - it's the quitters that give everyone else a bad name.
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on February 25, 2005 at 04:02 AM
Sue, my experience with adult beginners has been very different from your experience. Maybe I'm just lucky. My adult beginners come to me with a strong desire and determination to learn to play violin. They know what they want and why, and they go for it. I've had similar experiences teaching chemistry at a university. The older students who are returning to school are often more motivated than the younger ones.
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on February 25, 2005 at 04:36 AM
Greetings,
Pauline is making a point that I was thinking too. Most adults have varying degrees of experience of what it takes to do something, how to plan, how to deal with setbacks. In this sense I think an adult who makes a decision to learn can be a real bonus.
Cheers,
Buri
From One-Sim Lam
Posted on February 25, 2005 at 09:16 PM
Hey,
I would like to say that learning any instrument is difficult be it when you are 4 years old or 99 years old. But if you enjoy playing the violin it could be the most challenging addictive fun that you could have ever experience!

I hope one day you will be able to feel the music 'running through' your body as many of us have done here. :)

One-Sim :)

From Shane Merchant
Posted on February 26, 2005 at 03:07 AM
One-Sim. I already know what you mean about the music. When I used to listen to my Granddad play the fiddle, I would find myself teary eyed , the music I felt when he played I never experienced when I play the guitar. I want to play like he did he once told me that every time he plays the fiddle or the pipes its like being reborn.. I didnt understand it then but I do now, I hear the music differently now.. I want to play like he did.. Well enough Thank you all for your comments, If the instructor doesnt work out is there a highly recommended book to start with.
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on February 26, 2005 at 04:22 AM
Shane, I think it's important to get a teacher to help you get started correctly, otherwise you'll just have to unlearn a lot of bad habits that you've taught yourself. You need someone to see you and give you feedback. Even the best book can't do that.
From William Yap
Posted on February 26, 2005 at 12:52 PM
Very, very hard. But if you want it enough, you'll push yourself all the way.
From Peter Ferreira
Posted on February 26, 2005 at 09:49 PM
Very, very, very HARD!

Peter

From Jorgen Jensen
Posted on February 27, 2005 at 01:58 AM
The sky is the limit (well, you're not going to become a classical violin soloist probably...). 37 years old is nothing. The idea that one can't learn at a later age is a myth.

The key is how much work you are willing to put into it and HOW you practice. Proper practice technique is EVERYTHING. With proper practice technique you can conquer in two years what might take most people 8. I myself got going seriously at a late age, and I'd be happy to share some of my experience with you.

Jorgen

From Frank Rocca
Posted on April 24, 2005 at 08:56 AM
I studied very seriously when I was young, but I didn't start as a little kid. I was almost 16. I passed the audition requirements to enter an excellent conservatory of music, just a year and a half after that. Of course, I had to practice quite a bit and to focus every minute of my practice time. I, too, had lots of people try to discourage me. They said I was too old at 16!

For different reasons, I did quit the profession years later and did not pick up the violin regularly for the next 20 years. Then, 9 weeks ago, after about 24 years of not even touching an instrument, I began to play again. At first, it was a physical struggle, but I kept at it. Now, I have regained much of what technique I had before. And I have found to my delight that I am on my way to playing much better than I ever did before. There is a reason, something I learned and something that might be valuable for you, as well. It is this: With age comes wisdom and you can accomplish a lot more with wisdom than you can with sheer force. Those who would discourage don't have much wisdom. Many of them believe the violin is so technically difficult that you have to be a kid, woodshedding for hours each day to learn how to play. The reality is, violin playing takes intelligence and a calm, focused approach. Older people have that advantage. As for being a professional, in my experience there is only a tenuous connection between loving the violin and loving the profssion. If anything, it is much better to be an amateur who can play whatever you like, than a professional who spends most of the time either playing what he/she is told to play and teaching kids. That's the reality.

As for your technical development, I'd say, practice slowly and quietly and learn the basics at a comfortable rate. If you do this, you will vault rapidly toward good playing. Just don't give up and don't listen to nay-sayers.

I had previous training to build on, which gives me an advantage, but you can overcome any disadvantage by reading a great deal about violin playing, by making yourself truly knowledgeable about the conceptual part of technique and by working your way slowly through two or three good violin methods. Pick old fashioned ones with very traditional technical advice. Avoid Galamina's book. I'm sure it's helpful if one is already an experienced violinist with considerable technique and has problems to overcome, or a technique he/she wants to build on, but I don't think it's helpful unless you are studying with someone who really knows the system. I'd recommend you work your way through the Hohman or Maya Bang methods, or even the first book of the Leopold Auer method. One excellent resource for basic technique are the several books by Sevcik. You can download all of the Sevcik books for practically pennies from a site called everynote.com. I've gone through them all recently and am getting it all back, and am even back to playing repertoire.

It's important to practice slowly, calmly and quietly, trying to gain comfort with every technique you practice. Don't strain. Most important of all, don't set yourself any deadlines. Just focus on the thing you are trying to learn and have faith in the reality that you will progress. In a short time you will discover you can do quite well what you couldn't do only a few weeks before. It's a wonderful feeling, realizing that. Trust me. It will happen gradually, but it will happen.

Please keep at it, and don't let anyone convince you that any age is too late for anything, even for playing the violin. My best wishes to you.

From Sarah Benedict
Posted on April 24, 2005 at 09:06 AM
Frank, that was an excellent post!

Shane, don't let anyone discourage you. I have an adult student and she has progressed so very far in a good ammount of time becuase she keeps at it, practices, and has a good attitude. There are always people in the world who tell you that you can't do something. But as long as you belive you can, and you do the necessary work, YOU will be right.
Best of luck! :)

From Jasmine Davis
Posted on April 24, 2005 at 03:54 PM
Hi Shane,

I too am 37 and two months ago with absolutely no musical experience I started the journey of learning to play the violin. It is the by far the most difficult but rewarding things I have ever undertaken.

The day after picking up my violin I started lessons with a really great teacher who is full of encouragement and after this small amount of time I can see that it is something that I will do for the long run. There is so much satisfaction to be gained from playing. My long term goal is to get to a level where I can join others playing in amateur orchestras and keep the family amused.

Go for it and do not let anyone tell you otherwise.

From violetcat (rachel)
Posted on April 24, 2005 at 05:15 PM
I agree with what others have said. Learning can take place at any age.
One of my students started at an age a bit older than you, with no previous musical background. They didn't have time to clock in long practice sessions, but practiced consistently, and made good use of their time by listening carefully to their sound. Certain things were a struggle initially not because they reached any age cutoff, but because violin is an instrument that requires persistence and patience, and so often we place expectations on ourselves to be perfect right away. After about a year this student showed so much progress, it's just amazing, and in several aspects of sound (intonation, sound quality, etc.) far surpasses a number of people that have studied longer and started younger. More importantly, they enjoy their progress. So, in my experience, progress is most determined by the desire to learn, and a strong work ethic, rather than by age. Best of luck!
From Ron Gorthuis
Posted on April 25, 2005 at 05:29 AM
Violin hard to play? Maybe, if you have no music or talent in you. I played trumpet at age 18 with a professional symphony orchestra. Due to injuries in a collision, I had to stop playing. Now I am 49, with a lovely daughter of 5 who is starting to play violin. I was advised to take it up with her, as a way to reinforce her lessons. I am gald I did - I have now recovered my lost talent. In one year, I have progressed 3 years in books. The violin is all mechanical, just use your bow and fingers properly, and you will have good tone. I am lightyears ahead on the violin, compared to 1 year of progress on the trumpet. With the tumpet, you must make the sound with your diaphragm, and control the pitch with your lips. Ready for a challenge? Just you try to pick up a horn and produce a sweet, rich sound. Now try it very slow, and feel how your guts go into spasm trying to produce and control enough air to last 1 minute of sound, without a second breath. Then add the tongue and try to get an unltrafast, gentle staccato. Then try making a scale with only 3 valves. Then try making it all sound like music. A basic scale took me 5 years to play properly! The violin is not easy, but then not hard. Patience is needed for any instrument. Anyone with any modest talent and patience can play a violin. Serious violinists fall in love with their violins, play only violin, and so are extremely biased about the difficulties. How many have tried another instrument to compare difficulties? I know of very few. So, take comments about difficulty with grains of salt. Anything is difficult if you defeat yourself by thinking thus.
From Evelyn Ray
Posted on April 25, 2005 at 09:00 AM
I guess you just must be an adult prodigy.
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on April 25, 2005 at 09:11 AM
Greetings,
'the violin is all mechanical?'
Really? Erick Gruenberg once told me that the left hand is a science and within the bow lies the art.
There are also an awful lot of books misnamed "The Art of bowing/playing etc.' Perhaps they should be republished as 'The mechanics of..."
Cheers,
Buri
From Theresa Bollhagen
Posted on April 25, 2005 at 01:47 PM
Hi!
First of all I am wondering why Pauline was given a demerit for her 1st post.

Anyway, I wanted to say that I was (and still am) an adult student. I started at age 26, and I am now 31 and I already am teaching beginners to advanced intermediate students. Though I did have the advantage of playing guitar for about 13 years prior to violin. My point is that it's never too late. You get out of it what you put into it. I practice 3- 6 hours a day on just violin. So, if you want to be good quickly, practice lots.
I have 3 adult students that have stayed with me (I agree that adult students usually don't last very long). 2 of them practice maybe 15min.-1 hour a day,if at all. The other practices 1.5hrs. a day, every day. THe one that practices more is the most successful. My point? Consistency is also the key. If you practice alot, and consistenly, you will have no problem playing the good stuff faster, and your teacher (I think you should get a diferent one too) will keep you on board.

From Jen McCleary
Posted on April 25, 2005 at 03:32 PM
Go for it! I'm 27 and have been taking violin lessons for 3 months. I played piano from the age of 5 to 15, and always wanted to learn violin but never had the opportunity until recently.

I agree with everyone else's advice to find a different teacher. It doesn't sound like this one is very supportive. Make sure to find someone who has experience teaching adults if at all possible.

Be prepared for a bit of frustration over seemingly simple things, such as how to properly hold the bow and instrument. It took me a while to even feel at all comfortable and relaxed in a somewhat unnatural position. It also takes some work just to learn how to move the bow properly across the strings. These things have been the most difficult for me. It's been pretty easy learning fingering of notes.

It can be difficult to get the motivation up to practice every day, especially if it's been a tiring day at work. What works best for me is to specify a certain time each evening for practicing and just do it no matter if I feel like it or not. Usually once I get going, I really get into it and end up practicing longer than I originally intended. If I don't practice one night for whatever reason, I try to do more the next night. I started out practicing only 20-30 minutes a night, since there wasn't that much at first to practice. I've gradually moved up to about 45 minutes to an hour every night.

I recently had to decide if I wanted to continue playing or not, because of registration time at my school. I have decided to keep going, because I really love playing even though it is slow, frustrating going at times. I know I'll never be a professional, great violinist or anything, but it is enough for me to keep playing because I love and enjoy it. I knew that if I quit now I'd regret it.

Good luck!

From Inge S
Posted on April 25, 2005 at 05:32 PM
Ah, but Buri, have you played the trumpet? All things are relative - and perhaps in a comparative experience to the trumpet, the violin is "mechanical". And if tone needs to be felt out from the very gut on the trumpet, that aspect of it is already second nature for the violin. Maybe. I can't even get a sound blowing across a beer bottle meaning there's no chance of even becoming a flautist, unless I get a supply of fresh peas.
From Jim W. Miller
Posted on April 25, 2005 at 06:00 PM
Buri, if it's not mechanical, then please explain what it is!

What he said about the trumpet is valid as far as I know. I went through a brass class. If I had to pick an instrument to just do something decent on after 6 months, violin would be near the top I think, maybe above piano even. And trumpet is nothing compared to French horn. I don't think I could play a scale on French horn if I lived a hundred years. Of course there are talents for particular instruments, and also you can write music for any instrument as difficult as you want it to be.

From Jenni Thompson
Posted on April 25, 2005 at 06:43 PM
Shane, how is it going? Have you started with the teacher? I just have one thing to say, and that is I agree with Buri - I wouldn't want that kind of pressure, or to take a teacher that has a negative attitude from the beginning. IMO you need encouragement to succeed with the violin, or any instrument for that matter. Is there no other teacher in your area?
From C. Lee
Posted on April 25, 2005 at 08:45 PM
Hi, I don't know your teacher, but if you have a good gutt reaction with him, then try him out. You can always find another teacher if he doesn't work out or turns out to be a jerk. I worked with a conductor who was scary and hard at first glance, but he was really a good, competant funny guy with high standards from whom I learned the most about orchestra playing.
Violin playing involve lots of hard work and love. It's very enriching. Try it, you might love it. If this do not work out, there is plenty else to learn in this life!
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on April 25, 2005 at 09:31 PM
anything can be reduced to the level of mechanics if one wishes to pursue such an argument. Unfortunately, the musicians /violnist who take this position are it seems to me me unaware, that any kind of movement originates in a desire to create, exprssison of emotion and conception of beauty or , if you like art.
Learning mechanics without this prior artistic conception ranges from limted to useless. Hence comments like those made by Kogan in his 'Way They Play ' interview that 'the Soviet school recognizes sevick [an attempt to reduce violin playing to mechanics] but prefers its own material since it tends to supress emotions.'
Or one might simply point out the presumably widespread understanding of language regaridng string players that defines 'boring or unmusical' players as mechanical and great players as artists. IE the physical apparatus of playing is driven by an artistic stimulus.
From Jim W. Miller
Posted on April 25, 2005 at 09:38 PM
Nothing with a human on one end of it is a machine, as you know.
From Emily Grossman
Posted on April 25, 2005 at 10:41 PM
I do agree with Ron's post in that there are an awful lot of bad trumpet players out there.
From Ron Gorthuis
Posted on April 26, 2005 at 03:53 AM
Everyone is entitled to their opinion. An objective one can be formed when more than one side has been tried. Get a good violinist on a bad violin, and the result is poor sound. Not so for brass: once a decent instrument has been purchased, the sound quality is entirely up to the player. A good brass player will sound the same for any trumpet by any manufacturer: not so for violin. Brass is much harder, truly. All instruments require the player to adjust/train his body to suit the instrument. I am working/waiting for my body to adjust/learn the technique required for violin. Then I look forward to playing the level of music that I know is inside me. I am happy to learn violin, and wish I had started 45 years ago. Not everyone can be a great player - but many can be decent players. The real point to all this is: do not be self defeating; get a very good teacher; and practise properly. Learn from the greats, and you will be surprised how musical you can be.
From Timothy James Dimacali
Posted on April 27, 2005 at 08:50 AM
IMHO, being an adult isn't necessarily an impediment to learning; it is, in fact, an advantage in some ways.

Even though I started young on the violin, it wasn't until I matured enough that the instrument took on special meaning for me.

After getting your heart broken, you can never play the violin the same way again.

Life experiences lend depth to any music, no matter how simple the musical arrangement. Gimme a heartfelt love song to a soullessly performed caprice any day.

Just my two cents :-)

From Daniel Aum
Posted on April 27, 2005 at 09:29 PM
As a Suzuki kid i have to add my 2 cents.
I wouldn't necessarily call it an "impediment" but being older makes it harder to learn new things in general. If you grow up having a violin on your shoulder, you're going to learn much faster than an adult just because when kids are young, their minds are like sponges and just absorb everything. When you're older, your mind isnt as susceptible to accepting new information.
I dont mean this in a negative sense at all and you definitely should continue playing if you enjoy it, i'm just saying "being a child and being an adult beginner is the same" i think isn't true
From Stacey Krulewich
Posted on April 27, 2005 at 09:41 PM
This has been a facinating series of messages to read. I'm 38 and have decided to learn violin. Just looking for the right teacher right now. Outside of having 4 talented kids, I have no experience with music. Thankfully none of them play the violin since they all tend to offer way too much "help" whenever I pick up their instruments. (except the oldest, she mostly screams "don't touch my oboe!") I love the violin, and don't want anything more than to play well enough to make myself happy.
From putch panis
Posted on April 28, 2005 at 12:22 AM
Hi Shane,

I'm 35 and I only started learning the violin last year. I must say that I'm enjoying every minute of it, even though I know I still have much to learn. As an adult beginner, let me share with you some things:

1. Find a good luthier who will examine your violin and give you a fair assessment of what should be repaired, or if there is a need to repair anything at all. He would also be handy whenever something goes wrong with your violin. I've turned to my luthier three times since I got my violin.

2. Don't get discouraged by your sound. It gets better as you practice. You'll also find that, as you pick up your violin more often, it will start to fit into your body. Your fingers will naturally find their place on the bow and on the fingerboard. As you play more often, the violin becomes a part of you.

3. Don't be discouraged by your teacher. Try to learn the most from him, especially the basics. When you've got that, you can drop your present teacher and scout for another, while practicing the basics in the meantime. A good teacher is important, if you want to progress in playing the violin. I've heard of people who learned to play the violin on their own, but I don't know how well they play.

4. Get involved with a group that will encourage you to play: a church orchestra, a community band. Playing on your own can get pretty boring later on--that's probably why other adults throw in the towel. The real challenge comes when you try to keep up to the standards of a group of musicians. You find yourself trying to be better and practicing more.

5. Set goals for yourself. What do you want to be able to do by next year, or even in the next six months. My aim is to be able to do vibratto by next year. I have a long way to go...

6. Don't be afraid to develop a style of your own, and always enjoy what you're doing. People our age are not aiming to become concert violinists. Personally, I aim to be able to play the pieces I like to hear--to play to the appreciation of a small audience composed of my friends, family, and church mates. I enjoy the journey to that goal, as much as the thought of achieving it.

Have fun!

Putch

From Evelyn Ray
Posted on April 28, 2005 at 02:55 AM
What Putch said...especially #6.
From Ed Barreto
Posted on April 28, 2005 at 02:20 PM
How long should it take to go through the Suzuki books?
I've been taught since January and I've gone through the first book as of now. To supplement this, I am taking various sightreading exercise books, I hope I am in the right track.
From Jenni Thompson
Posted on April 28, 2005 at 05:19 PM
Straightforward, missing no songs at all but not without supplement from etudes and other pieces (and editions) of course, the Suzuki books took me 7 years. I started them at 6 years old (none of the pre-twinkle stuff) and finished at 13 years old. I had already been playing for two years though before I started Suzuki; that might change your calculation, as well as the age factor. Take care!
From Michael Molnar
Posted on April 28, 2005 at 06:46 PM
The difficulty in learning to play the violin depends on your starting point, namely can you read music? Have you played another instrument? If you answer yes to any of these, you are in a good position.

The next issue is whether you will have the free time to practice. Can you find quiet/private time? Are your family/roommates/friends supportive of your repetitive exercises? Again, if you say yes to these, you are on your way to success - well maybe - depending on the last issue.

The last issue is your attitude: Do you frustrate easily? Can you overcome the above obstacles if you answered no?

Remember: Nothing is hard if you love it.

From Jeffrey Schmitt
Posted on April 28, 2005 at 06:44 PM
I came to this discussion late, but on the "mechanics" issue, I'm told Bach said something to the effect of playing keyboards "There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself."

But seriously, when I was a 17 year old guitarist, I taught myself to play my dad's violin. It took awhile and I was never as proficient as I am on guitar, but it was fun. Anyway, I moved out and the violin stayed home.

But as my mom always said "Nothing worth doing is easy." So work at it. It'll be tough at first, but if you practice even just 20 minutes a day you'll find that before you know it you can do things you struggled with just a few short months ago. And it's FUN to learn and challenge yourself.

So go for it. Have fun. Keep practicing(breakthroughs come when you least expect them). And again, just have fun with the challenge of it.
Or maybe try fiddle style instead of classical music - might be a better fit.

That said, after decades of not trying one, last weekend I tried my 15 year old daughter's violin. How any of you manage to wrangle such beautiful music out of those things just impresses the daylights out of me.

From Ed Barreto
Posted on April 28, 2005 at 10:31 PM
"Straightforward, missing no songs at all but not without supplement from etudes and other pieces (and editions) of course, the Suzuki books took me 7 years. I started them at 6 years old (none of the pre-twinkle stuff) and finished at 13 years old. I had already been playing for two years though before I started Suzuki; that might change your calculation, as well as the age factor. Take care!"

I guess I should not take as long because, I am already 16, I have already played guitar so I do not need to worry about dexterity of the left hand, and I already know the 12 tones by ear.

Sorry for leaving this information out, I just want to know how long it should take to get through the books at this point.

From Dondee Canos
Posted on April 29, 2005 at 01:25 AM
Ok, Its been 3 months since I started lessons and every time I think I'm improving, I show up to my lesson and play like crap. For some reason I have a hard time with slurs and timing. I find myself rushing through them and eventually making loud squeaky noises. Any suggestions on how to keep good time? Another problem I have is a "bouncing bow". Every so often its like my bow gets happy and starts hopping while I'm playing half notes. I did everything short of an exorcism and it still happens. Not all the time, but enough to make my dogs sit up and howl.
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on April 29, 2005 at 04:46 AM
Dondee, slurs and timing are very difficult, especially if you've only been taking lessons for three months. I recommend the book Fiddle Magic. It has exercises that are both tricky and fun, and some of them include slurred notes with different rhythm patterns. Since I can't see you play, I really can't tell why your bow bounces. A lot of bowing problems come from not keeping your right hand relaxed. Are you clenching your right hand on the bow or gripping hard?
From Ed Barreto
Posted on April 30, 2005 at 02:11 AM
I have bow bouncing problems as well. Happens usually with an upbow, and sometimes with a downbow pickup, the bringing it down produces an unwanted bounce.
From Dondee Canos
Posted on April 30, 2005 at 03:10 AM
Most of the bouncing comes when I down bow. I may be gripping the heck out of my bow. Probably explains why the tip on my right thumb gets tender after I practice.
From gerry McCloskey
Posted on May 20, 2005 at 11:48 PM
It has been a joy finding this site. Firstly because it is exactly what I was looking for when I typed 'How hard violin' in the search box, and secondly because the forum does not contain the usual inane internet rubbish but sensible, helpful people who have real advice to give. I therefore feel I can open up a bit here. Well done contributors and can you help me!?

I am forty-nine and can fortunately retire in three years time. I will still need to find another job, but can choose one that will still allow me time to pursue activities that add more quality to life.

I don't know what it is, but recently I find some violin music so beautiful that it can bring a tear to my eye. It seems to be an instrument through which you can express your soul. It is probably age, but I like to think of it as maturity, sophistication and life experience!

Here is the rub: as I listen to an exquisitely beautiful violin solo, I imagine myself playing it. Indeed, I would love to be able to do so, but have absolutely no knowledge or experience of music or musical instruments. Does that mean I am unlikely to have no latent talent (or at least moderate capability)?

What I do have is a belief that nothing is impossible (I started studying for a degree at age 30 and got it four years later) ; that if you try hard enough you will succeed; that practice makes perfect and even if you don't make concert pianist but just enjoy getting eight notes out of ten right, then, what the hell, it's fun and it's my life!


How difficult is it and how long can it take to learn to read written music? (I take it that is an absolute must before approaching a violin teacher?) If I structured my retirement day so that I spent two hours on the violin, how many years would it be (roughly) before I could play a beautiful tune (fairly) beautifully?

I also have some silly questions: I don't have long fingers; are they necessary/desirable, or is that just a myth? Can you get neck sprain or spine problems from holding your chin over a violin for long periods?

The fact it is difficult holds no fear for me - you just have to try harder, for longer. But is starting at absolute scratch at age 52 a step too far?

Thanks in advance

From Jim W. Miller
Posted on May 21, 2005 at 12:41 AM
No reason to wait 3 years unless you're working like a dog right now. You don't need to read music first. Teaching that is part of their job. You won't injure yourself, especially if you do things correctly. Successful players have all different hand configurations - it doesn't matter. How long? I don't know, maybe a week maybe never:) I think violin is just about the same difficulty as learning a new language. How fluent will someone get? Who knows.
From Evelyn Ray
Posted on May 21, 2005 at 12:31 AM
I started at 52 two years ago. I had "ziltch" background for playing a violin. I already play beautiful music, just not always beautifully. Go for it, but start now. You don't need to know how to read music before picking up the instrument...that's what lessons are for. I rarely miss practicing 2 hours a day, but I've just recently discovered how to practice "efficiently" so even practice is improving.

I will never be a concert violinist or solo performer, however, I am on my way to becoming a member of a community orchestra in a coupe of years. That's a perfectly reasonable goal for someone who also works 40 hrs a week. It's more a matter of discipline, than anything.

I lucked out with a wonderful, skilled teacher, who is a great communicator. Find a teacher that welcomes adults. Some teachers just don't care to teach adults.

Evelyn

From deborah mitchell
Posted on May 21, 2005 at 12:53 AM
One of the things I find interesting is how often people (knowledgeable or not) confuse the statement, "I want to learn to play the violin." with the statement, "I want to be a famous violin soloist." It's almost as if these people think nothing is worth doing if you aren't going to outshine everyone else.

With no previous musical experience, or minimal experience (me), it isn't easy to learn how to play the violin. But, with the right teacher, it's fun, engrossing, and rewarding. I've only had two lessons, and I have no idea how skilled I can become, but I know I'll be taking lessons 3, 5, 10 years from now. I do hope I have gone beyond "Twinkle, Twinkle" by then, but I have no pretensions to playing solos with the SF Symphony. I respect that goal in others, but don't feel the need, myself. Even if it were possible, which I doubt.

If a person has the physical capabilities necessary to play, and the will to do it, then I say go for it.

From Jane Smith-Bodden
Posted on May 21, 2005 at 07:53 AM
Gerry, you obviously have a great love of music and can already hear on your head how you want to interpret it. Violin is hard to learn, and gets harder the older you are when you start, but don't let that stop you doing it. I started at 44, I couldn't read music or anything when I started, and it is the best thing I ever did. Honestly. It has not only opened up a whole new wonderful world to me, but it is so enjoyable (if hard work). There is no reason why, with a good teacher and determined practice, that in a few years, you should not be playing in your local community orchestra, or playing chamber music with some friends. Just do it!!!

BW
jx

From Ron Gorthuis
Posted on May 23, 2005 at 02:17 AM
Dear Mr Molnar:

Your comments are right on!

Dear everyone else:

Great, interesting comments.

My thanks to all.

From Kay Canama
Posted on June 4, 2005 at 04:43 PM
Ugh...there's a lot of discouragement from the music world, and especially teachers, towards people who want to start playing violin at a later age. Do people who start at an early age really have an advantage? I was riding the train once, with my violin, and a violinist came up to me and asked me about my experience playing the instrument. I told him I was often discouraged because I had started at age 14, and he stopped me and said "It doesn't matter whether you start at 50 or later. Anyone can be the world's greatest virtuoso." And it's true. The music world has to be reminded that anyone can be good violinist with years of experience, but one becomes a great violinist with lots of passion and dedication. Don't ever let a teacher discourage you. Half of the violin experience is finding a great teacher that inspires you.
From Jessica Liebelt
Posted on June 6, 2005 at 12:40 PM
Well, not being an adult myself, i wouldnt know if starting early or later in life makes a difference. I wasnt actually too keen to play violin to begin with. But because i couldnt afford a saxaphone and the position playing the drums in my class was already filled, i thought about the violin. But thought 'not a lot of people can play violin' and it's such a lovely classical instrument to listen to.

And as you do, you pick up a violin and think you're all pro and start trying to play a few notes but it sounds awful...well i done that. But then i thought i should really learn to play this properly! So i had a few violin lessons, and they werent too good for moral support because here i was, just a beginner and my violin teacher was putting me to shame! lol playing all these songs. But then i realised i could be like her! i could be playing those songs one day! Playing violin could take ME places! It just so turned out she was in the Adelaide Synphony Orchestra (Australia)!!! she was so lovely! but she had a busy timetable and my lessons were cancelled, so i got a new violin teacher!

The next teacher was was soooo picky, which made me a bit depressed but in a way was really good for me because i was kind of over-confident about playing peices correctly, but you cant let anyone-let alone violin teachers-change the way you feel about wanting to play the violin. Because playing the violin will not be as hard as you think, if you are determined to play it!

Even if you just want to learn enough to save youre life, play a few songs you like, or learn it properly- then bear with all the crap that people might give you or what tutors might tell you. Learning to play violin has it's up's and down's to it! But it's really a great instrument to play! It is soo much fun and always entertaining!

So dont let tutors make you think different no matter how talented you are beginning-we all have to start somewhere!- and dont worry about age! I'm sorry to mention, but your grandad would have encouraged you more and told you almost the same as I have!

I hope you do well with learning violin!

From Nikko Fuller
Posted on June 6, 2005 at 07:03 PM
Hello everyone:) Shane, I am grateful for your question, for it mirrors what i had intended to ask. I am 35 years old and wish to start playing the violin. I have had no prior music experience except for having a great passion for music of many sorts, especially Jazz Fusion and the rock group YES. I am determined to find a teacher now that wil accept me at my age and be as eager as I am to watch me learn and grow in my music enrichment.
I do have a great desire to one day play electric violin some day, though from what I have read, it seems I can not start out by learning on an electric. I wish to have a violin that can play both, but does not cost me over a few hundred dollars, so I may try ebay...don't throw anyting at me guys :). Anyway I have loved reading all the posts here and have bookmarked this site, because to me I am already a violinist, the rest is just time and dedication, I have years left to play and feel the music, as long as my wife can put up with my "music" hehe. Blessings all and good luck Shane : )
From Linus Liu
Posted on June 7, 2005 at 04:24 AM
I cast my vote on "violin is easy". Every time I try to tell people so, I get very worried, not anymore in the profession, and knowing there are people who struggle a lot. But I like to tell them that as long as one cannot get the "feel" of riding a bicycle, cycling will forever be a difficult job. The trick is to get through this hurdle as quickly as possible. Actually the hardest thing about violin is how to get the sweet, violinistic sound every moment the bow strikes the strings, this is the magic which attracted me, or I am sure a lot of people, to start on this instrument. And I must say that one must listen to a wide variety of music, not just violin. I started at 19, but my love for music began since I had memory, and I listen to anything whenever I had a chance, and I was playing in an orchestra about 25. Yes, the violin is mechanical, and many times people are doing wrong things, mechanically. And for some examples I like to see how many would agree with me is, I would play soft, not loud; I use longer bows for short notes, and little bow for long notes. I do not avoid open strings like many conductors/teachers/whoever are against; I do not break up the bowing to make a long note sound louder. And there is one I know would be controversal - I do not follow the "intonation" of the instruments around. I follow the music I hear "inside my heart", and adhere strictly to it whatever pitch the mistuned instruments around me are doing. And I can tell you, even if many instuments are tuned badly, when for instance, the first pure, in tune, opening note of say the Mendelsohn concerto will simply melt your heart.
From Joseph Baker
Posted on July 21, 2005 at 09:25 PM
Shane, I am 48 years old and will take my first violin lesson next week. I heard my first violin on a 78 record when I was about 6 years old and fell in love for the first time. I have dreamed of playing violin since then. I've played "air violin" for 42 years just dreaming of the day that I could actually play one. Situations in life made it where I couldn't do it. Now at 48 I'm finally in a position to take lessons.
I just bought a lovely Italian violin and when I got it to the house, I just had to look at it because I didn't know WHAT to do with it. After having it for a month, and watching "THE ART OF THE VIOLIN" three times a day for inspiration, I have finally made a few notes on it. I even played part of a song, I think. I take my first lesson next Wednesday and I'm as excited as when I got married, well, almost.
Don't let ANYONE tell you that you can't do it. We may not give Menuhin or Milstein a run for their money, but we can still have one HECK of a good time trying. Hang in there and get a teacher that takes adults (old people like us).
Good luck,
Joseph
From Joseph Galamba
Posted on July 21, 2005 at 10:20 PM
Wow, that teacher is a little...anyway...

I think that the main problems adults have is psycological since they seem to have trouble being a beginner again, or worse they have trouble being behind younger students. There are disadvantages to being older other than mindset, but I don't think that 37 is old enough for these to be a major issue. The main thing is to just keep trying. Yea, as the above posts say, just change teachers if this one gives up on you. I personally have met a professional fiddler who didn't start violin until grad school (20 some-ought) and eventhough that isn't the norm, it shows that you don't HAVE to start at 2 to be good.

(oh by the way, the violin is probably one of the harder instruments to learn, but I personally think it's one of the most rewarding to learn too, sorry to any woodwinds or pianists that read this...)

One more thing, Once you start performing often, which I'm sure you will if you keep playing, be very careful when traveling with your grandfather's violin. You know, keep an eye on the humidity and make sure to keep the violin with you. I remember a tragic case where a girl in my school orchestra lost the violin handmade by her grandfather. (I think she got it back after a few weeks but I'm not sure)

From Susan Jeter
Posted on July 22, 2005 at 04:06 PM
Inge, what do "fresh peas" have to do with becoming a flautist?

Shane, I wish you the best in your journey! Playing the violin is definitely a challenge, but is so worth it.

Someone I worked with once said, when learning that I played the violin, said "It's nice to have a hobby." Well, my jaw dropped to the ground, and I said "It's half my life!" :-)

From Alex Kardokovsky
Posted on July 22, 2005 at 04:26 PM
Good for you Shane! You're an inspiration to all of us, even an old geezer like me(I'm 25). My main problem right now is being able to afford the lessons, and I still don't have the instrument. But soon enough I will overcome this hurdle and the imaginary hurdle of being "too old". And this isn't a competition. This isn't a sport. If someone is truly inspired enough to play and works hard, and they are the WORST violinist, that's more beautiful than a person who doesn't challenge himself at all(although I doubt I would want to be near the "worst violinist" at play, without my earplugs and industrial-strength earmuffs on). Good luck!
From Amanda Stern
Posted on July 22, 2005 at 05:01 PM
I think that learning how to play the violin is FRIGGIN' EASY!!! Hello....I'm 13...I've been playing violin for 3 years...
From Thomas Glew
Posted on July 22, 2005 at 05:02 PM
I found this an encouraging comment by a certain British violinist:

"People think that to play music is just amazing talent. Obviously it takes some talent to do it, but its not really. If you know and approach it in a sensible way with a little bit of common sense, you can soon learn how to play the fiddle; there's no genius in actually playing the violin. The real creativity is when you decide what you want to do with that technical skill...its the way you put it that matters."

Nigel Kennedy

From Bill Platt
Posted on July 22, 2005 at 05:48 PM
In other words what Nigel Kennedy is saying is that the technical, while necessary, is not what matters most nor what is most difficult for the "average joe" to figure out. Being musically inspired is the hard part...

Why does MIDI stuff sound so bad? Because it is purely technical!

From Rick Basil
Posted on July 22, 2005 at 06:05 PM
That was a great quote by Nigel Kennedy.
From Kwokon Ng
Posted on July 23, 2005 at 01:40 AM
Violin is easy as long as you have time EVERYDAY to practice and the dicipline to do so. And the discipline is also required to practice efficiently.

Do not just play notes. Play the correct notes (intonation) with correct bowing (articulation). Practice slow and perfect (this part is hard due to human nature). Practice hard measures over and over again while aiming to improve at each pass.

Violin is easy as long as you approach it with discipline. Of course, if you're talking about playing at professional level - that's hard. But most adult beginners, like myself, probably don't plan to quit their day job and suddenly become a professional violinist.

From Jason Thomas
Posted on July 24, 2005 at 08:18 PM
Dump the teacher,that's rubbish.

Jason

From Thomas Glew
Posted on July 27, 2005 at 10:35 AM
Hi
i agree with deborah, that so many people associate learning to play the violin immediately with having to become a CONCERT VIOLINIST-how ludicrous!

A few analogies...

Drawing and painting- how many decent artists are there that draw and paint well, but people don't think, 'O how pointless because you are not going to be our work hung in the National Gallery' or whatever. Or, 'but you are not going to paint as well as Constable.' Stuff it!


When people say they play enjoy playing golf, who says, 'oh but you won't be a Tiger Woods, playing PGA will you.' That is not an issue, people can still play golf well and have great fun doing it.

all the people that love playing soccer, but they do it cause they love it, not becasue they think they can play like Pele.

Also, when someone says they play the acoustic/electric guitar, who says 'but you're not going to be Jimmy Page (or whoever) are you.' So what, guitarists in my opinion are probably more interested in pretending to be a rock star and having so much fun in doing so. also, with regard to acoustic/electric guitar, people put more of an emphasis on humble music making and expressing themselves ands sometimes writing their own music, like in the folk scene, than making a perfect rendition of something.

So with violin, playing the violin with passion and a decent sound and loving the music is more important than being a concert violinist.

So...

lets focus on our music and playing at whatever age

From Mike Lambert
Posted on July 28, 2005 at 12:15 AM
Dear Shane,

Find a teacher who has the same enthusiasm as you do, and rightly so. With an old instrument like that anyone would want to learn how to play.

Everybody has to start somewhere and since you are starting 30 some years after most people (I think) that proves that you are without a doubt more passionate and willing than most musicians are about music.

Good luck and enjoy!

-Irish music rocks!-

From Ted Kruzich
Posted on July 28, 2005 at 01:28 PM
My experience with playing the violin has been a slow but steady process and I have learned to carefully listen to myself and other violinists and appreciate their talent as well as their faults.

Two years ago I started to study and practice the piano and have found out that my violin experience made piano playing much easier than I had anticipated. There was no need to worry about intonation or vibrato and no pitch on the piano had two or more places where it could be played. Octaves were all evenly spaced and fingering could more easily be worked out with the added help of the thumb.

On violin the bow arm and left hand fingerings could do opposite things similar to both hands on the piano. Posture was a breeze on the piano and your eyes are always above all of the keys. However the keyboard is large and it is really tough when both hands have to jump in different directions.

But the harmonic aspect of piano playing is overwhelming as is the sheer volume and difficulty of music written for the piano. And touch must slowly be learned as well as legato playing on a percussive style instrument. Well, time to get back to my Kreutzer and Czerny exercises.

Ted Kruzich

From Homer Jones
Posted on December 1, 2006 at 09:46 AM
First, you're not too old. I started playing violin at age 7, but in my early teens, it didn't seem "cool" for a "jock" to be carrying a violin case. I stopped when I was about 14. Now it's 51 years later, and I'm starting over as a 65 year old beginner. It saddens me to think how I might play now if I haden't stopped. The good news, is that I am overjoyed to be making music once again.

When I first resumed, two months ago, I was surprised to learn that all those lessons so long ago stuck better than I expected. I could actually read music - not well, but at least I remembered which fingers played which notes.

I say this to emphasize the lasting effect of practice. If you practice the right way, you'll remember the right way forever. Likewise, if you practice poor techinque, you'll remember it forever too. For example, when I was a kid, I held the violin deep in the crook between my left thumb and index finger (bad form). Now, 50 years later, that is exactly the posture I assumed when first starting back. I've been trying to break that habit every day for the past two months and it is very hard.

This is an important concept because it underscores the need for you to get a good teacher right away - one who will actually teach instead of just listen and tell you to practice more, or move you on to the next exercise without instruction. One who will get you started off on the right foot, and correct, and suggest, and motivate. Remember, it is far harder to replace a bad habit with a good one, than it is to develop good habits to begin with. If your teacher doesn't comment on your form, then ask if you are doing it correctly. There is a lot more to playing the violin than just playing the right notes. That being said, there is not a great deal to learn. The basics are simple. Master them, and and the rest will come with practice.

In many of the other comments, people mentioned your need to practice. For an adult, that takes great patience. Often we hear the music in our mind, but our fingers just don't produce that same sound. Hopefully, the wisdom of age will tell you that it will come in time, with persistence.

I experienced something as an adult that I never did as a kid. Now I want to practice. As a kid, 30 minutes was a real ordeal. Now, it isn't uncommon for me to practice for over 2 hours at a time. Funny story. After resting in my violin case, untouched for 50 years, my instrument needed a little work, and my bow need new hair (bugs ate it all). I couldn't wait to get it out of the shop. When I did, my first practice lasted over 2 hours. When I finally stopped, I couldn't straighten my left arm. The muscles just weren't used to bending that way. The moral to that story is that as you get older, you may not be as flexible as a youth. However, you aren't that old yet.

I think your biggest obstical will be the frustration of not sounding like your Grandfather. Give it time and work, and you'll eventually be happy with the music you make. God bless you for wanting to carry on a legacy. Go rent "The Red Violin." It's a great movie.

Don't just listen to violin music, watch it. Even if symphonic music isn't your thing, go to the symphony and sit down front (easy to do with a comunity orchestra). Pay close attention to the form of the Concert Master (the violinist nearest the conductor). Watch where they place their left thumb, and how they arch their fingers over the strings. Pay attention to how they hold the bow, the way they stroke it, and where it slides across the strings in relation to the bridge and finger board.

From Vivian Guo
Posted on December 2, 2006 at 03:11 AM
When the teacher said "make it", I wonder whether he meant "not guitting". Admittedly, there have been a lot adult learners, who managed to play at a high level, there have been a lot of quitters on the other side of the spectrum. Had you asked my first teacher about me, he would rightfully tell you that I quit. I did. In his eyes, I probably would be classified as "didn't make it".

But hey I am back taking violin lessons. The other day, I ran into a fella student of my teacher, and he told me he quit after a year studying with my current teacher (2nd one). His reason was that his shoulders hurt from playing the violin. So now he plays guitar--he didn't make it in the violin playing.

Is it hard to play the violin? Well, is it hard to study Math or Physics? It all depends, doesn't it?

From Mary Beth Yencha
Posted on December 2, 2006 at 07:23 PM
Hello,
I'll be 44 this month and began learning the violin last year. It is difficult and sometimes frustrating, but very rewarding.

I've always loved the instrument but was never able to take music lessons as a child. Last July I was at an Irish festival and there was a vendor there selling violins. She also had instuctional DVDs that said anyone could play. I bought the violin having never picked up the instrument before. But I knew that I would need more help that a DVD could give me.

There is a music store in my home town that is an institution for all of the local kids to go and take music lessons. I went down there to buy a tuner and signed up for lessons instead. My first instructor was very encouraging and had many adult beginners. I asked her to be honest and if at some point she thought that I wasn't going to be able to learn this instrument, to tell me. She asked me what my intentions were and I told her that I wanted to eventually be able to play the irish fiddle music, to maybe someday be able to join in at the open sessions they have at my favorite Irish pub. But really this is just for me. My practice time is my down time from all of the stress and issues of everyday.

My first instructor moved away from our area in September and at first I was worried about the new instructor that would be taking her place. I am extremely pleased with my new instructor as well. He is very encouraging and enthusiastic.

I think the biggest breakthrough I've had so far though has been the switch from the Suzuki books to All For Strings. Since I've never had any musical training (couldn't read a note), I was starting from the very beginning. I'm not as frustrated working with these books.

My next change will be to a new violin. I've outgrown the one that I purchased at the festival. At that time I didn't even know what the average price of a beginner violin was! I came to this instrument without any knowledge whatsoever except that I loved the music I heard played on it.

I know I'll never be able to play with the Cleveland Orchestra and that's fine. The tme I spend practicing and the lessons are my treat to myself, that's all that matters.

p.s. I agree with the string above that said what a great site this is. I've been loitering in it for a while looking for tips and have found many useful postings.

From Jasmine Reese
Posted on December 2, 2006 at 10:41 PM
Hey Shane.

First of all, I must say I am sorry you have such a horrible teacher like that. You need to find a new teacher who will support you no matter what even if your goals were to become a professional. A nice and supportive teacher also makes the journey of learning the violin wonderful as well. Secondly, I am sorry that people at the beginning of this post told you about not bein able to become a professional even though that is not your goal. I started when I was 14 and I was really worried that I would not be able to become good enough yadayada.... But with research and a really supportive teacher I became impassioned with playing the violin and started practicing really hard so that I could prove everybody wrong about late starters. Of course I needed encouragement in order for this to be accomplished, so I started doing research. I found numerous people who started in their 20's, 30's, and 40's that are now today professional musicians. There is one lady who started at 35 who plays with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. She came to talk to my youth orchestra and give us a masterclass. she is wonderful. She is now about 50. I Also recently had an even more encouraging story of a man who started at 60 and now plays with an paid, accredited orchestra in New York. He is 80 and sits with the first violins in the last chair but hey, he's lovin it and is getting paid. And there are many more cases that i do not have the time to list. So if you ever decide that being a professional is something you'd like to do, don't let anyone bring you down. These cases encouraged me a lot, but unfortunately they also impassioned me to do something else. They made me want to become a soloist. Why? Because I saw that even though a lot of late-starters were professionals, I also saw that they only made it up to the orchetral musician level. Here is where I must say that i don't have a lot of encouragement. But I keep trying, although now I work hard at doing it because I love it and can't see myself doing anything else instead of because I want to prove people wrong. So far I have been doing pretty good. And I hope to be on a list where I can be of encouragement to others. Meanwhile, there are tons of people like you and those other musicians who continually encourage me. All I can say to you is that if you do start playing violin, please stick with it. It is fun and a great career as well as a wonderful hobby.

Well that my 2 cents.

From Jim W. Miller
Posted on December 2, 2006 at 10:43 PM
Are you sure she didn't say "3 or 5" instead of "35"?
From Jasmine Reese
Posted on December 2, 2006 at 11:37 PM
I met her and talked to her for a very long time. That was a few years back though, maybe she isn't there anymore. I don't know why her starting at 35 is so hard to believe though :(
From Gord Worrall
Posted on December 3, 2006 at 12:50 AM
I will be 52 in February. I bought a violin just after I turned 50. I had never learned to read music and the only other instrument I that I played was the harmonica. After I bought my violin, I contacted a couple of teachers, who both tried to talk me out of violin lessons because of my age. They said that it is a very difficult instrument to learn and that a very high percentage of adults quit very soon after starting lessons. This was my first dose of age discrimination! I was ready to sell my violin before I even played it!

I decided that I was not going to let these teachers stop me from learning to play the violin. I found I teacher that I really like. I have been taking lessons since March of last year. I have participated in 2 recitals. I am just about done the "The ABC's of Violin for the More Advanced". I am happy with my progress. I can read music now and can play a lot of songs - mostly by reading music, but some by ear. One of the things that I like best about the violin is that there is so much to learn. I expect that if was easy, I would have got bored and quit by now.

If you want to learn it, you can.

All the best!

Gord

From Vivian Guo
Posted on December 3, 2006 at 01:14 AM
What an inspirational experience, Gord!

Thank you so much for sharing.

From Jasmine Reese
Posted on December 3, 2006 at 02:43 AM
You are an inspiration Gord! I gain much encouragement from people like you who take on a challenge and keep to it. I hope that you play the violin for many years to come and with great love. :)
From Caroline King
Posted on December 4, 2006 at 01:13 AM
When I picked up the violin at age 39 I was very uncertain as what to expect. I felt almost embarassed to ask a teacher to take me on as a student I knew I did not have the talent to be a great musicain, but a good one? Many of the teachers have been very encouraging, some patronizing, I quit those, but have now been playing for five and a half years. I told myself at the beginning: this will be a hard road, and if I cannot play a song after ten years of playing and hard work I will quit. I don't know why I chose ten years, maybe it was all the people who told me that the violin is known as the "devils instrument." Looking back down that long road, for it does seem long to me, I am thankful for all the teachers who have encouraged me to continue and even play in recitals, which I have done with very shaky results thus far. It always surprises me to meet other adults who are encouraged by my efforts, they pick up an instrument as well. I believe this journey of learning something late in life has not only been a great experience for me, but it has been a ledge for others to jump off of. Go for it, but know that the road is paved with many hours of enjoyable practice. If you love to tackle a mountain and see it achievable in small steps you will love the journey. I know I have.
From Albert Justice
Posted on December 4, 2006 at 02:19 AM
Caroline--I like your experience and attitude. I started at 4(x)--ok 44.... I play other instruments pretty well, so in ways it has been 'a little' better for me probably, beyond battling injuries. But the reason I'm writing is your persistence, and setting a long term goal, and 'holding on to it'. That in my mind, is the number one criteria for playing violin well--child or adult.

Great job... al

From s smith
Posted on December 4, 2006 at 03:44 AM
LOL
From parmeeta bhogal
Posted on December 4, 2006 at 01:03 PM
Actually, if you look at the date of the original post, Shane must be well-on his way to making music with his violin by now....
From Jon O'Brien
Posted on December 4, 2006 at 02:08 PM
"You're own desire to succeed is more important than any other thing".

- (I think) Abraham Lincoln.

Its interesting, but for every person who believed in me and my violin playing there was someone else in life, sometimes very influential and powerful, who tried to get me to quit or to accept a much lesser goal.

Some would have said of these discouragers that they were giving wise counsel. I didn't think they were wise, and went my way. I judged them as musicians and as teachers.

Don't listen to the nay sayers; you'll be bound to meet a few down the track. At worst you could risk being just a fool. At best you might outdo all your detractors, and fulfil yourself and those who love you.

I'd risk being a fool for love.

From Sue Bechler
Posted on December 4, 2006 at 10:02 PM
I'd say the person you contacted is a snob and a lousy representative of the teaching profession. Yeah, ask me how I really feel ;) You should find somebody else. Don't even start with this person. You'll be tense and ill at ease, which will just make it that much harder. And if you decide to believe what he says, you'll miss a lifetime of fulfilling enjoyment. From your descriptions of Grand-da's playing, I think you might hunt up someone who plays Irish fiddle and has enough classical technique/teaching experience to help you avoid pain and truly distructive habits. My seven fiddle students range from age 53 to 74, plus one 12-year-old who fiddles on the viola. The 12-year-old has the second longest playing history of any of 'em. Sue
From Denise Jones
Posted on January 3, 2007 at 06:50 PM
I too just started learning the violin at 36. At first I bought a few lesson books and started my own teachings. Once I got to a certain point I decided to go with a teacher. Although I still advance myself regulary, my teacher is there for me for support and a mentor more then a teacher. He says I'm doing exceptional. I do pratice 2 to 3 hours a day regulary, and some days even more.

I'd go for it if I was you. It's very rewarding. :)

From Vivian Guo
Posted on January 3, 2007 at 07:31 PM
"The difficulty in learning to play the violin depends on your starting point, namely can you read music? Have you played another instrument? If you answer yes to any of these, you are in a good position.

The next issue is whether you will have the free time to practice. Can you find quiet/private time? Are your family/roommates/friends supportive of your repetitive exercises? Again, if you say yes to these, you are on your way to success - well maybe - depending on the last issue.

The last issue is your attitude: Do you frustrate easily? Can you overcome the above obstacles if you answered no?

Remember: Nothing is hard if you love it."

Well said, Michael (Molnar)!

I didn't/don't read music and didn't play any instrument before I started the violin. But it doesn't prevent me from having fun with my violin playing. I will be happier to entertain other people, and I am making efforts to do so.

The good thing is the harder the thing you can master, the more rewarding you will feel in the end! If one cannot master the thing one's trying to learn, at least enjoy the process!

From Daniel Broniatowski
Posted on January 4, 2007 at 08:33 AM
Hi Shane,
I think it depends on two things:

1)How much time you have to put into the violin
2)Your physical ability

I think what happens is that as people get older, it becomes more difficult to have the same muscle flexibility as a child, when it comes to learning new concepts. I'm not saying that this is not possible, but this could be an issue. Nonetheless, I taught an adult who is in his late thirties to early forties and he seemed to have no problem grasping the concepts I taught him.
That being said, most adults don't have the time to put in and get frustrated. If you are patient at the beginning and can devote at least 45 minutes a day to learning the violin, you might be able to play a short piece or two by the end of the year. In the mean time, it's most important to enjoy what you're doing!

Daniel

From Amanda Southern
Posted on January 4, 2007 at 04:36 PM
A year for one short piece? Come on, the violin isn't THAT hard.
From stefanie landmann
Posted on January 4, 2007 at 05:08 PM
@Daniel - I started two years ago and after my first year I started playing a Vivaldi concerto. I am not a genius and I am 24 years old. It doesn't take you a year to learn a short piece.
I agree that the first year might be the hardest. It takes a while until you get a feeling for the violin and you roughly know where to place your finger for a certain note but once you figured that out you can make rather fast progress. It depends on your commitment and on your teacher.
I can understand your teacher's attitute but you might want to consider carefully if he is the right teacher for you long-term. If he teaches in college he probably has much higher expectations than you have or than you can meet. It would be a shame if you got discouraged by that.

If you really want to learn it, then you will. It is not impossible and it is in your hands how well you do. Good luck! :-)

From BRIAN GARRISON
Posted on January 4, 2007 at 08:41 PM
Hello Everyone!

I just turned 27. I had some music experience as a child (little bit of violin and piano but no lessons on the violin). I gave both up. I guess video games were my priority. I started to learn the violin with a private teacher and playing in the junior college orchestra at the age of 21. This coming May I will graduate with a BA in Music Performance. I think it is a great for some one to start as an adult. I prefer to teach adults over children. If this teacher wants you to throw in the towel. Get rid of him and find a better teacher. Remember practice sloooooow! Master your fundementals and you will succeed...even if you just play for church. Performing is a great selfless service! It is a great way to give back to your community and make people feel good...as well as your self.

Brian Garrison

From Amanda Southern
Posted on January 4, 2007 at 09:53 PM
We're in the same boat, Brian! I started at 15 (I'm 20 now) and I'm working on my Bachelor's in Music Performance. I think it's definitely okay to start as an adult.
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on January 4, 2007 at 10:34 PM
Greetings,
I have an adult student (35)who is beginning an instrument for the first time. After 6 months she is halfway though the second Doflein book and the first book of Wolfart etudes. She plays well in tune , uses the whole bow freely is and shapes phrases quite well. I can honestly say it is a real pleasure to play duets with her every lesson (after scales-hah!)just watching her face light up when she plays make smy day.
What"s her secret? She practices everyday for about twenty minutes, thinking about what she does. Everytime (almost eveyr lesson) I give her a new etude or little piece I ask her 'how is this differnet from what we studied last week?' What is it that is being presented here as new?' She figures things out for herself and then tells me.
If I had a student who could only play one short piece in a year I would tell them they have the wrong teacher and find them someone else.
Cheers,
Buri
From Gerard Tan
Posted on January 4, 2007 at 10:52 PM
I am 44 started to learn the violin 1 year ago. I have the advantage of have learnt the piano as a teenager. I am enjoying it. Have started on Suzuki Bk5. I believe it's NOT too late to learn the violin as an adult.
From Gerald Wood
Posted on January 5, 2007 at 10:41 PM
I guess I am a sort of second cousin here, because I play fiddle rather than classical pieces. At 65 years of age I took an introductory course in fiddle playing and then joined the local fiddle club. Now, I am 74 years of age and the fiddle sits on my desk all day. I pick it up and play at every lull in whatever I am doing on the computer. For a few months, I took lessons from a lady fiddle teacher who had been trained as a concert violinist. From her I learned how to hold the instrument, and other very useful basics. But, and she herself pointed it out to me, I learned to play tunes not from her but by listening to music on CD's. That has been my greatest teacher, and I am not afraid to try and play along with anything; mainly fiddle tunes of all sorts but even the simpler passages from Beethoven's Violin Concerto. At first, I listen for and copy the timing. Then, I lock in on the key that is being played (by ear). Once I'm there, I gradually "perfect" the piece by zeroing in on the exact notes. It's sort of learning from the top down as opposed to learning from the bottom up, note by note. It works for me and I have a ball! Just another way of getting started, even at a ripe old age. A professional couldn't love it more!
Kindest regards,
Gerry
From Sanford Barton
Posted on January 6, 2007 at 02:39 AM
I'm 37 and started learning 8 months ago. I played horns in my high school orchestra but not really well. It's slow going, but as other have mentioned it really is about your goals. I hit plateaus but always move past them. Find the right teacher is KEY. I talked to at aleast 5 and tried 2 more before I found one I liked. I've been pretty good about keeping a bi-weekly journal about my progress and thoughts. You or anyone else are more than welcome to check it out:

http://www.bartsbrain.com

Just click on the Violin category to filter the other stuff out.

Best of luck to you,

Bart