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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.


Is 28 too old to learn to play the violin?

Violinists: Recordings and Performances: I have always wanted to learn to play the violin and recently decided to enroll in lessons at a music school. However, I keep hearing how difficult the violin is to learn. What makes the violin so challenging? Thank you for your input.

From Karen Tramposch
Posted November 15, 2005 at 04:58 AM

I have always wanted to learn to play the violin and recently decided to enroll in lessons at a music school. However, I keep hearing how difficult the violin is to learn. What makes the violin so challenging? Thank you for your input.

From Kenneth Kensek
Posted on November 15, 2005 at 05:17 AM
>What makes the violin so challenging?
I don't know of another instrument which comes with a learning curve as slow as the violin for the vast majority of people who take it up. It takes a year or two before holding the violin and bow correctly feels natural. Until then not awhole lot of progess can be made. Most other instrumets, this process takes only a few weeks, if that long.
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on November 15, 2005 at 05:56 AM
Greetings,
both sets of comments tend to be afair representation of the truth. But the sadf/frustrating thing is thta there is absolutely no reason why it should be the case that learning to hold the insturment comfortably should take such a long time, nor should it be difficult in any unmaneagable sense.
It is merely a question of breaking a highly complex skill down into a series of highl;y maneagble steps. I have used this appraoch successfully with the books by Shirley Givens called `adventures in Violinland` which really does adopt this fundametnal startegy in a wonderful and entertaining way. The fifteen year old students became rapidly confortable with the isntrument, are playing in tune and accomplishing the performance of real tunes. This is after six months of a ten minute lesosn twice a week.
The nub of your question about age- don`t belive the naysayers. If you have the will and a competent teacher you can reach a -very- high standard starting at 28. One that can give you a lifetime of deep satisfation and advanced music making.
What are you waiting for?
Cheers,
Buri
From Louise Pallet
Posted on November 15, 2005 at 06:12 AM
Hi, don't let anyone put you off,as age does not matter.I started at 65!!! After years of playing the piano,so at least I could read notes which was a big help. I have the most wonderful teacher who realises that things will go slowly but he also knows I will persist. Now after not even two years I have build up my own repertoire and play for friends and on weddings and practise for a couple of hours daily and help other beginners under the eye of my teacher.I can just imagine what it would have been like had I started earlier. My violin goes everywhere with me which my piano could not. get on with it, it will give you tremendous pleasure and we don't all have to become virtuosa or concert players . Good Luck,Louise
From Demetrius Glew
Posted on November 15, 2005 at 10:51 AM
I started at 19 and I have found the comments most encouraging.

Karen, I would strongly advise you to learn the violin. I am certainly glad I made the decision to!!

From Lucy Rash
Posted on November 15, 2005 at 11:19 AM
I would encourage you to learn the violin for sure! I teach two adults and they absolutely love it. Violin is a joy for all ages, it is true. Good luck! Well done for taking the first step. Violin is the height of musical beauty :) Sure... it is definitely one of the more challenging instruments to learn but you will get that with anything you learn, musical or not. It is dedication that matters. Starting the violin is like meeting a new person. Keep going I'm sure you will find a new love in this.
From Rick Floress
Posted on November 15, 2005 at 01:12 PM
Yep, it is difficult. Yes, it is frustrating. Yes, there will be times you feel like throwing the stupid piece of wood up against the wall. But to use my favorite quote from the movie "A League of Their Own"; "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great". Nothing better than working on a really hard passage for weeks, thinking you will never get it, and then being able to NAIL it every time. Doesn't matter if the passage is from the Tchaikovsky violin concerto or Twinkle Twinkle. I can't say you you will never regret it, but I can say that if you stick with it, it will be worth it.
From Eric Stanfield
Posted on November 15, 2005 at 02:51 PM
What's difficult about the violin when you are starting is that there is SO MUCH going on and every small piece of the puzzle is equally important. Placement of your arms, how you hold the bow, how you draw the bow, shape of your left hand, teaching your fingers where to fall, sight reading (if this is new to you), etc, etc. Initially it can be overwhelming. A good teacher helps with this. What also helped for me was a realization and acceptance of the fact that this will be a decades long process. I just let the learning process proceed at its own pace and find happiness in each improvement even though I know that overall I'm still a horrible player.

I am extremely happy I started learning the instrument but everything I (or you) ever heard about how difficult it is is certainly true. Yes analyzing each mechanical aspect of playing and breaking them down into their component parts is the way to go but it's still no easy task.

If you like a challenge then you've picked the right instrument.

From Karen Tramposch
Posted on November 15, 2005 at 05:51 PM
Thank you to everyone who responded for your kind words and encouragement. I have an appointment with a profesor at a local music school this evening and will hopefully begin lessons soon. I'm very excited to begin this journey! Thanks again.
From Bill _
Posted on November 15, 2005 at 05:58 PM
OK Karen,

Good luck with it. Try not to become quite as obsessed as I have though :-)

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on November 15, 2005 at 09:15 PM
Nah, the obsession is good. What else is there? A trip to MacDonalds and a Julia Roberts movie.....
Prunes, prunes....
From Mike Harris
Posted on November 15, 2005 at 09:44 PM
I started at 38, and a have only "run at it" seriously in spurts,off and on for 15 years now...I thought I would never get a decent tone or a decent vibrato, but have hung in. I just love the sound, can't give it up. Most important words of advice: get with good teachers and stay in lessons as much as possible.
From Emily Grossman
Posted on November 15, 2005 at 10:06 PM
Amen, Buri.
From Jim W. Miller
Posted on November 15, 2005 at 10:27 PM
There's always a walk in the park on a nice warm fall day like this ;)
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on November 15, 2005 at 11:11 PM
Greetings,
of course you are right Jim. But during that time one is doing the most essential work of all- mental practice,(between the snogging)
Cheers,
Buri
From CHOI Angela
Posted on November 16, 2005 at 01:12 AM
Karen,

I absolutely encourage you to learn violin. It is difficult, that is true, but also fun and interesting. We should not be scared by age. Age is not a problem. You read all these encouraging comments, go to find a teacher now and update your first lesson experience with us. Cheers!

From Kelsey Z.
Posted on November 16, 2005 at 01:15 AM
I have two adult students in their 50's this year, both are complete beginners and I love teaching them and they seem to love playing.

Go for it!

From Emily Grossman
Posted on November 16, 2005 at 01:58 AM
You're just freakin' rubbing it in, Jim. Excuse me while I pack a snowball...
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on November 16, 2005 at 02:36 AM
Greetings,
doesn`t that make your spare underpants soggy?
Cheers,
Buri
From Emily Grossman
Posted on November 16, 2005 at 03:08 AM
You're next, Buri. Right after I finish my really large catapult.
From Jim W. Miller
Posted on November 16, 2005 at 03:27 AM
Going directly to Plan B?
From Emily Grossman
Posted on November 16, 2005 at 04:01 AM
I decided Plan B shouldn't be an alternative option; it should be its own independent goal. Why limit yourself by choosing between the two?
From Michael Molnar
Posted on November 16, 2005 at 02:51 PM
I think I was 58 when I started. I still love it!
From Kenneth Kensek
Posted on November 17, 2005 at 08:28 AM
Something I failed to mention. Once holding the violin and bow correctly feels as natural as breathing in and out,with a very good instructer, an amazing amount of progress can be made in just a few years. One way to really cut down on the time to learn to hold the bow - hold a pencil the way you would a bow whenever you watch TV or you have your right hand free during the day. Just make a visual check now and then to make sure the bow hold is correct. There are just a few things you need to watch for - your instructer will point them out.
From Clement Deng
Posted on November 17, 2005 at 09:10 PM
Never too old to learn anything. I started to play at 14 and my son srarted at 4. The only diference I think is when I started to learn, I love to play. but my son is not (He only tried to make me happy)
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on November 18, 2005 at 07:29 AM
I teach violin to a bunch of adult beginners, and they all love it. Read more about it on one of my web pages, http://mysite.verizon.net/resr6cq4/paulinelerner.vab
From Timothy James Dimacali
Posted on November 21, 2005 at 07:51 AM
Karen,

Hi! Don't think of learning to play the violin as a "challenge." It's more of a "long-term relationship." It's a fun journey :-)

Cheers,
TJ

From Gennady Filimonov
Posted on November 21, 2005 at 05:11 PM
It is never too late to start.

I have had students come to me at age 24, 38 and 79 years of age, and they all learned to play (out of love for it and ofcourse thanks to good guidance).

From Juanita Marion
Posted on January 16, 2007 at 06:10 AM
I also suffer from the same fears Karen, sometimes I wonder whether or not I'm absorbing the information well enough. I am 27 yrs old and have been taking violin lessons now for almost four months, sometimes I'm really excited and feel as though I'm making a lot of progress and other times I'm not sure. At the moment I am halfway through my beginners book. My instructor says that I'm doing well, but somtimes I ask myself if I'm actually doing well, or just well for someone my age. It doesn't help of course when you hear the comments of naysayers, such as a person of my age being to old to make a profession out of it.
From D Wright
Posted on January 15, 2007 at 09:43 PM
Despite what some teachers may have you believe, there is NO age limit to learning the violin if you want to play for your own enjoyment. The age limit thing is meant to instill a competitive instinct in child and adolescent players who wish to become concert soloists.
From Albert Justice
Posted on January 15, 2007 at 09:59 PM
Run Karen run! The violin for me is a blonde seductress, that once under your skin, never lets loose. I started at 44 almost two years ago now, and she's still sleeping in my bed, after she collapses me on the floor!.
From Sanford Barton
Posted on January 15, 2007 at 09:59 PM
I'm 37 and started about a year ago. My first teacher, who teaches a hybrid suzuki method didn't really work out. I took a break and found someone who teaches in a more traditional fashion. I've been very happy. I came into it with no expectations of being able to play a any certain "level" on some artificial timeline.

It is definatley and instrument to be respected. It's diffictult, just as anything worth having is. From time to time I am rewarded with a new skill or ability to play a slightly more complex tune which makes the whole process enjoyable.

What other instrument can make such a statement and emote such beauty with just a -single- note?

Your teacher is key. I just found out that mine is moving out of state :( Take your time and look for one who has good "teaching" qualities. I've mentioned it in other posts, but don't accept a "vending machine" approach, find someone who will truly partner with you to learn the instrument. I think you will know what I'm talking about after taking lessons for awhile.

You or anyone else are more than welcome to read about my experiances here: www.bartsbrain.com

Best of luck to you!

Bart

From Graham Travers
Posted on January 16, 2007 at 01:11 AM
I got my violin for my 16th birthday and have been playing for almost 6 months. I LOVE playing! I practice ALL the time! My teacher is amazing and gets all the credit for this but after just 5 weeks of lessons I haven't had to think once about how to hold my violin or bow, maybe it comes naturally to some and not to others but playing my violin is my favorite thing to do. I only wish I had started earlier.
From William Yap
Posted on January 16, 2007 at 01:54 AM
You're too old only if you're not prepared to sacrify the time, be patient, dedicated, devoted, and of course, the money. Without the above, you wouldn't be able to cope or progress far. Otherwise, go for it!

I was recently told by an ex-clarinet player that the woodwind players think string players are freaks because they cannot imagine how it is possible to find the notes without frets on the fingerboard. We are freaks, and we are proud of it!

From Daniel Blomdahl
Posted on January 16, 2007 at 05:43 PM
I don't think anyone isd to old to learn the violin. I know someone who started at about your age. I still am trying to convince my parents to try.
From kimberlee dray
Posted on January 16, 2007 at 07:18 PM
I think everyone should definitely learn to play the violin. It tests you to the limit emotionally, spiritually and physically because the violin is virtually limitless in its capability emotionally, spiritually and physically.
From Bilbo Prattle
Posted on January 16, 2007 at 07:26 PM
Where's John Thorton? Did he ever make it to Boise, or was he detained by a posse? And Kevin?
From Maura Gerety
Posted on January 16, 2007 at 07:40 PM
JT got banned for hawking dubious wares, I suspect Kevin may have left in protest. I kind of miss them, they always at least made things...interesting. :)

Kimberlee--yeah, it also tests your patience and mental stability pretty well...

From Alex Robertson
Posted on January 16, 2007 at 07:39 PM
If you want to become a professional violinists, I would say that you will have great difficulty if you are just starting your studies at this age, not impossible, but extremely difficult. Sibelius originally intended to become a concert violinist, but he started his studies at age 15 and couldn't advance fast enough to fulfill this dream.
As for what makes the violin such a challenging instrument: there are many difficulties to overcome.
1) There are an incredible number of other people who play this instrument.
2) There are a vast number of things to deal with at once. ie:intonation, bow techniques, bow contact, vibrato, the list goes on.
3) The incredibly vast and difficult repertoire.
From kimberlee dray
Posted on January 16, 2007 at 08:28 PM
Ahhh yes, all too true, but, to make the attempt despite the obstacles--divine!

Besides, everyone deserves to hear the violin played at its best, not just the people who live near Concertgebow or Carnegie Hall and can pay for the ticket. I like to think there are some mighty fine players out there ripping it up in church or in retirement homes, or with little community orchestras or in the Superdome in the aftermath of a hurricane.

I've heard a few players who, IMHO, rival the greats and didn't take the same path to fame and glory. I like to think it's because God wanted all of his children to have a shot at listening to something beautiful. Maybe there are many people who play, but there's also a big world with many people who want to listen. If you can add some beauty to the world, there's a place for you if you're humble enough. If you need to make violin a career . . . different discussion.

Billy BOY! Howdy Ho! No, John never did make it here with his Cremonese instruments. I'm afraid maybe he found a gorgeous Russian violinist and gave her all his beautiful fiddles instead. I'm consulting my eight ball about Kevin . . . hmmm . . . it says . . . "My sources say no." So, there you have it. All of life's most difficult questions may be answered for the small price of a $7.49 eight ball.

Karen . . . did you consult the eight ball about whether or not you should start learning the violin at age twenty eight? It could be an enlightening experience.

From Amanda Southern
Posted on January 16, 2007 at 08:49 PM
Alex... I started at 15 too. I'm realistic, but I'm certainly not going to let Sibelius's problems keep ME from becoming a professional.
From kimberlee dray
Posted on January 18, 2007 at 08:07 PM
Bilbo, where are you? I answered your question . . . oh, wait . . . let me consult my eight ball "Where is Bilbo . . . "

ah hah the eight ball says:

"Answer hazy, ask again later."

From Michael Schallock
Posted on January 18, 2007 at 11:26 PM
Lots of things make it challenging. But you re never too old too learn or play with pleasure.
Make sure you get good instruction right from the start and pay attention to posture and bow hold and left hand! Those basic fundamental things make a huge difference.
From sharelle taylor
Posted on January 19, 2007 at 03:53 AM
And as well as getting a teacher, work at getting rid of self consciousness. I'm sure its been a much slower endeavour for me because I'm so anxious not to make a bad sound, or make a mistake.

anxiety is the enemy of the violin. remember that.

I'm only just getting to the point where I play right through the nervous shakes at the beginning of a lesson (so of course, now they hardly happen), and my vibrato development has definitely been impacted by my doubt that it will be good. It can't be bad if it doesn't get tried, right.

Stupid adulthood with its stupid self analysis and stupid intellectualising. Its so self defeating. That is really why kids are so much better at learning - they just imitate and enjoy. Well, there's my .02 worth.

From Juanita Marion
Posted on January 19, 2007 at 07:34 AM
Thanks for the advice Sharelle, I also tend to be worried about making a sound because of the occasional screeching, so I tend to play with the mute on. Even though I know I shouldn't, although because I live in an apartment and I'm a bit of a perfectionist, I like to get it down well enough so that when I do take the mute off I'm not harming anyone ears
From Albert Justice
Posted on January 19, 2007 at 07:49 AM
Juanita, Sharelle, the violin will 'always' make screeches here and there, though I'm not saying playing ought to be sloppy. Like no other instrument, every single time it's picked up it's a different creature.

I play piano, guitar,,,...; and the violin is one of the most intriguing and humbling things I've ever encountered. But jeez, when it's on!....

Soooo, there's lessons over at violinmasterclasses on martele and colle. My first teacher use to have me to use martele to get past the timidness (not that it ever 'completely' goes away with this thing).

But my experience says, that over time, when you feel better about interacting with this honary cuss, those confident and self-counscious moments start to swapping places--but the screeches are always around the corner.

From the mountain, there was a time when violinists were a lot less perfect and geared towards 'perfect' tonal quality because of recording equipment. Not that technique should be sacrificed, but even in the real world, less than perfect expressed itself.

Finally, running scales in martele, and playing tunes alternating tip, middle, nut with colle really help.

From Jodi Bernard
Posted on January 19, 2007 at 03:01 PM
I don't think you are ever too old to learn anything as long as you have the drive and patience to do it. I know a gal that got her piano performance degree and then years later when her daughter was taking violin lessons decided to get a degree in violin performance and so far she is doing great. Good luck to you.. remember to have patience
From Mihail Aggelos
Posted on March 8, 2007 at 03:50 AM
Dear I am 24 years old I have been playing for one and half year but i love it so much that i have great progress !!

I have finished the first Laourex Book and I (with the help of my teacher always) studying Book 3 (in parallel with 2 which is exercises in first position)...I learnt shifting in 3d position and now I began second position..and all these in 1 1/2 year !!!

My target is to play in orchestra and i am sure I will before my 30s ...trust me ... if u have it in your mind u will suceed!!!

Mihalis

From Jessie Vallejo
Posted on March 8, 2007 at 05:33 AM
It's so nice to see so many positive comments...sometimes violinists get a bad rap for being competitive and mean. heh.

Anyways.... I say go for it. One thing I didn't read while I skimmed over many of the comments that I want to mention is that with the violin, your ear needs to develop a lot more to play right notes than it does for say...piano and saxophone...

Listen to music...A LOT. Listen to classical music or whatever genre you're going to play (bluegrass, folk, country, mariachi, etc.)
Try to pick out melodies, sing them to yourself and play it back. Singing is important too...Even if it's happy birthday. Hey, you can play at the next party :)

And heed everyone's advice about technique. Also, check into the libraries and internet websites that have information about technique. Each teacher and person will pick up on a slightly different menu of things...and resources such as the discussion archives here, books by Flesch, Gerle, Fischer, etc. are great ways to expand your horizons.

Although you don't have the advantage of 20 years playing by now and training muscles when they're young...you have the advantage of being a more abstract thinker at this point, better problem solver due to more experiences in life... more years of having listened to music, and probably some experience using mind over matter to train your muscles to do something.

GOOD LUCK! Don't get discouraged!!!

From Peter Ferreira
Posted on March 8, 2007 at 12:12 PM
"The nub of your question about age- don`t belive the naysayers. If you have the will and a competent teacher you can reach a -very- high standard starting at 28. One that can give you a lifetime of deep satisfation and advanced music making.
What are you waiting for?"

As Mr. Brivati put it... go for it and have fun!

Peter

From Mary Chester
Posted on March 8, 2007 at 01:22 PM
Hello Karen:

This is my first email after being a lurker for about a year.

1. My mantra has been it's never too late to learn anything before you're planted. Suzuki said, "never too old to twinkle."

2. I started violin lessons when I was 36, on a half size violin, because it was my son’s and the only one around. I followed his path with Suzuki for about a year, finally getting my own full size fiddle and a private teacher.

Oh, this is important: As a child I would play simple piano pieces, so printed music wasn't new to me.

Because of relocations the violin became dormant for about 10 years. Right now I count about eight sporadic years of private lessons with various teachers. So I have some hindsight into this problem: adult beginner, progress, level of mastery. Knowing my background, hindsight speaks:

3. I'd encourage you to find a teacher with a possible can-do attitude toward teaching an adult beginner. A teacher, who is discouraging from the get-go, needs to be get-gone. That's just a simple teaching philosophy. My first violin teacher was a gentle old man who was so motivating that I couldn't wait to go home and practice to prove his confidence in me. He was patient, knowledgeable and concertmaster of our community orchestra. When I met him, he wasn't taking new students, but was encouraged (curious?) about my enthusiasm. He went south to the “lower 48” for the winter, a snowbird, so I took group lessons in the interim. My teacher’s corrections were gentle. He also had a knack for finding pieces that I enjoyed learning. The etudes were viewed as challenges, so some were indeed boring. I became fond of the grandfatherly figure in my life and consider him to be a gold nugget in my life.
Practice, back then: I was working full time and raising two children, so time was limited; however, I did as much as I could EVERY day. The violin was out for easy access, to get in a few minutes whenever I passed it. I'd also silent practiced: i.e. grip a pencil as a bow. I have other silent suggestions, but that's another topic. My routine was thrre fold: I played scales, etudes and a piece.
eventually I was brave enough, after a relocation, to take violin lessons at a university. I stated at the 100 level and moved up. For my last two classes my final “exam” was to play for the music faculty on stage. Sweated blood, but I figured if those folks were willing to come and listen to me, I’d give it a go. BTW, I made a mistake EVERY time and it was a new mistake I’d never made in class. (I don’t think I’m up to playing by myself these days.)


4. I always thought that LEVEL of playing was based on the Etudes. I could be wrong, but in any case I’ve worked my way up to Rode. I learn a great deal from the etudes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean mastered at a master’s level. Who cares anyway, you can always go back and make improvements! My teachers’ have always driven this part and I’m sure they’ve all had their reasons for choosing an etude hoping I’d get the most out of it.
Being my own judge, I’d place myself at level four according to the criteria set by the string teacher’s association. (Shar explains this nicely in their sheet music catalogue) Keep in mind that there is always something new that can be done to improve what you’ve learned. If I’d go back to Mazas now I’m sure I’d play them better.

5. A little over two years ago I started private lessons in earnest, because I accidentally found a pedagogue.
Current practice routine: I'm semi retired from speech pathology, so I have time to practice. I try to get in two-three hours a day, usually not in one chunk. I go over scales, etudes, pieces, bowings almost every darn day. (An hour seems like a finger snap to me.) And you know what? I LOVE it!!!

6. I rarely play for anyone. My level of intonation and timing receives different reviews depending on the listener’s ear. My non musical friends are surprised, professional ears hear the errors which are varied and sometimes quite creative.

7. Furthermore, I've always set a few goals. I've had a habit of writing them out, so in my etude books I can read what I planned to accomplish along my musical path. Goals give you a way to measure progress and make adjustments. It makes evident to your teacher your thought process and awareness of skills.
However, I'm learning for my own enyoment, pleasure and curitosty.

8. So, you have many more years in front of you as a beginner than I did. Go for it. Set realistic goals, and get yourself a good teacher.

I see validity in all types of violin music, don't be afraid to explore more than just the classical.

9. I'm sorry that I let the violin rest for those ten years, I'd be further along. However, music has opened so many doors to me. There are so many extras I in my life that I wouldn't give it up: friendships, travel, music camp, and understanding of the art at a new depth. It's hands-on music appreciation. It has become the spice of life for heart and soul.

10. You're never too old to learn anything to which you set mind. (I’m also learning to play another instrument which I play in a folk orchestra.) Through my teaching career, I have seen special needs students accomplish things I’d judge to be more difficult than the violin, so everything is relative.

11. I also play second fiddle in an instructional quartet setting and am willing to duet whether asked or after begging. Because it's such a struggle, hard to learn, many better players are willing to help someone at a lower level becuase we're kindred spirits at the heart.

12. This topic of adult beginners has been on the site before and I've had to chuckle at those. like yourself, who feel they are too old because they're 20ish. I'm three-score, considered on the down hills side of life to boot! There are many older adults out there learning to play instruments and achieving levels of gratification that may even exceed life long masters who are nearer to burn out or becoming disinterested. Maybe it would be good for you to think of yourself and a "young" adult beginner.

13. After my lesson I come home and log into my music journal things covered in the lesson. This has been very helpful because it’s a good reminder, it lets me see how many times I needed to be reminded of an issue (bless my teacher’s patience) and most importantly, is another gauge of progress.

14. Recently I read, “Your Brain on Music.” It’s very good. Discussion about it may be a good thread to start. Anyway, when all is said and it’s a matter of time at the wheel. Nothing makes up for practice. No matter how talented, gifted, perfect pitched, physically endowed, practice is a key element. The author states it takes about 10000 hours to master most anything. Unfortunately, I don’t have that kind of time left to practice, but I do have time to enjoy, relish and master to the best of my ability.

15. Finally, adults learn differently than children in SOME ways. The differences can be unnerving to a teacher. (Remember I taught special needs children for 30 years) Adults may want/need reasons for doing something. For example, it clarifies and helps put technique into memory. Children are more apt to do as their told. We aren’t as playable. Muscles need more prompting. This is not a hindrance depending on your goals. We have more experience in life that can help or hinder us. We have had more exposure to music. Adults are more mobile, get out to concerts readily. Adults generally have a choice about spending their money. (Get that cd of your current piece, buy better equipment, buy that fancy "toy" (I suggest a good tuner and metronome); adults can drive and read! :-) Adults speak up more than kids……

So don’t grieve than you didn’t have a fiddle under your chin at the age of five. Be grateful that you’ve discovered it at 28. See the glass as half full.

You have many fellow travelers on this site who will support your efforts. Hope this message is read in that light.

Good luck!
MaryC

From Sander Marcus
Posted on March 8, 2007 at 02:06 PM
Napoleon Hill is not one of my favorite writers, but he once said this, "What we do not see, what most of us never suspect of existing, is the silent but irresistible power which comes to the rescue of those who fight on in the face of discouragement."

You want to go for it? Then go for it.
Cordially, Sandy

From Alex Carter
Posted on March 8, 2007 at 09:11 PM
I think you gotta do it, you gotta do it. I'm 45 and I'm doing it. I doubt I'll get a scholarship to Juilliard, but I'll have a good time and become a good street player.

Music education is rare and generally class-based in the US. It used to be much more universal, now it's mainly an upper-middle-class and upward thing. Everyone works LONG hours in the US - we work longer, have less benefits, live less well than just about any other "first world" nation - or are we at the bottom of the list now? We're less healthy, our life expectancy is going down, etc. So if you want to fiddle, you'd better darned well fiddle!

From Paul McCrone
Posted on March 9, 2007 at 12:55 AM
Hi,
I was 39 when I started to play, and I'm having a great time learing. True, it can be frustrating at times, but it is worth it.
From Sue Bechler
Posted on March 9, 2007 at 02:10 PM
You know what they say, what will you be when you still want to start in five years except older and still a beginner? After a long career teaching mostly kids in public school, I now have 5 adult fiddle students and 2 classical-violin students. They range from 49 to 74. The oldest two started later than the others. A couple played as kids and are returning, the others just want to play. Teaching adults is both challenging and rewarding for me. You're probably not headed for the concert stage, but then, most of us who've played 50 years didn't do that either. Setting some goals makes sense, but be prepared to modify them. One of those older ones wanted to be able to play a few tunes and play back-up in jams. She's up to 12 tunes since fall, so she needs a second-stage goal now. If you can find a teacher who already works with older beginners, or someone who is motivated to it, llike me, that will help you a lot. Luck! Sue
From Erin Daniel
Posted on March 10, 2007 at 01:09 PM
28 is definately not too late at all to learn the violin, you're not even thirty! Not that thirty is old, because really the whole concept of "old" is inane. There are very few things in life that have time limits, so to speak, like having kids, and learning the violin is not one of them!
From P. Brabant
Posted on March 13, 2007 at 12:49 PM
Hi,
Once you start you will be in love with it, I had to stop practicing for almost 2 weeks , it was absolutely painfull. I miss it so much. Especially when you start improving a little bit, you just want more, and more, you never have enough of it, it is an ever ending challenge. Just find yourself a great teacher, it makes a bit difference
Good luck! I most of all have fun and enjoy!
From Denise Poulin
Posted on March 13, 2007 at 01:25 PM
I decided to learn how to play the violin 7 months ago. I am 57 years old, had never played any musical instrument and did not know how to read music. I have an EXCELLENT teacher, who likes teaching adults. I practice an hour every day and have a hour lesson once/week. I learn something new everytime. I love playing! It's never too late!!!!!!
From David Dickerson
Posted on March 13, 2007 at 04:48 PM
Hello, Karen!

I just started taking beginning violin lessons with a private teacher.

I am 46 years old and have wanted to play the violin since I was 15.

My uncle passed away on 29 December and made it clear to everyone in the family and to me that he wanted me to have his violin (before his death from cancer, if I could get a teacher).

This endeavor is difficult and I had to invest a considerable sum of money (for me) into the 19th-century, German-made violin; plus, the violin was in the original case, but I lucked out on a great deal on a hard Bobelock case.

I am practicing several hours each day, which is probably too long, but I enjoy practicing so much that I simply lose track of time!

I have often read that you are never too old to try to learn to play the violin. I encourage you to follow your dream, and you can count on the support of the members of the Violinist.com community!

In addition, there is an e-mail discussion list, "Beginning Adult Violin Students" (BAVS), about which I can provide additional information.

Of course, you first need a decent instrument (and accessories) and to find a violin teacher whom you like.

If we at Violinist.com can be of any help, with technique, advice, or moral support, please feel free to contact us!

Good luck, Karen!

Cordially,

David

From Patrick Johns
Posted on November 1, 2010 at 05:33 AM

Albert Justice, I have printed out your advice and stuck in on the inside of my violin case (I am a 50yo and have  been learning for 1 year).

From Veronica Jackson
Posted on November 1, 2010 at 11:51 AM

My violin teacher's oldest student started at age 92 ( yes ninety-two).  That was three years ago and he's still learning.

From Veronica Jackson
Posted on November 1, 2010 at 11:52 AM

My violin teacher's oldest student started at age 92 (yes ninety -two) and three years on, he's still learning

From Trevor Jennings
Posted on November 1, 2010 at 11:54 AM

I started on the violin when I was 63 (9 years ago) and am now playing in a chamber orchestra and ad hoc orchestras. Still having lessons.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on November 1, 2010 at 01:32 PM

Hi, at your age (younger too of course), you should really spoil yourself the best you can afford:  good teacher, conservatory training, best violin possible etc. (of course quality practice time too is important to start well)

The more things you put on your side, the more you will progress.  You can really lose much time and money if you all start with cheap equipment (if you can afford better) because you tell yourself that you are just a beginner...  On the contrary... if you want something good in the long run, you have to have had good fundations.  Do you build a magnificient house on a rotten ciment base?  How will it cost later on to demolish the rotten ciment base if you decide that you now want a magnificient house there?   It's the same with violin or any discipline/sport.

It's definitivly not too late... So many kids didn't work hard at violin when they were young and just become serious about violin later in life...  So many even quit violin at adulthood and never come back. 

So, if you start seriously at 28, you can catch up quite a few.  My opinion is that it takes averagely x years to become good.  Professionnals do fine tuning to pass from good to excellent but for someone with not much experience, this fine tuning doesn't show much.  On the contrary, a student that passes from easy concerto a to harder concerto b makes a very audible progress even for non musicians.  The x number of years required for the most "visible" or "audible" progress can be taken at a young or older age.  Let's say it takes 10 years (random number), it can be between 5 and 15 or between 28 and 38 (or longer than x years for someone with slightly less talent) but it CAN be done and this is the good thing!!!   At 28, you really have ennough years un front of you to reach that x number of years to become a good player.  I would say that depending on talent this x number of years is somewhere between 5 and 20 years. 

Good luck!    Have a nice violin adventure!  And the first years are the worst psychologically... (I'm not the only one to say this btw)  when you start to do vibrato, peices that are recorded on CD and that it starts to sound like a real violin tone + that you have caught up with other kids in recitals and play as well, it starts to become much more fun and rewarding... It's like in the army... you suffer first and the more you climb, the better it gets even if the responsibilities are higher too.  Just know that it will become much more enjoyable later on! 

Just my two cents!

Anne-Marie

From Theodor Taimla
Posted on November 1, 2010 at 06:26 PM

 

grahham - I wanted to start playing the violin on my 16th birthday as well but I ended up starting the lessons two weeks later!! Same with me, most of it came naturally. For me the teacher is someone who cheers you up and gives you a boost once a week! Even with a teacher, I do all the learning myself :P

Theo

From Laurie Niles
Posted on November 1, 2010 at 08:11 PM

 I had a wonderful student who started at age 28 and has enjoyed playing in community orchestras, even a stint in luthierie. Just carve out a daily practice time that you keep strictly, and then have patience patience patience. 

From Robert Daniel
Posted on November 2, 2010 at 04:54 AM

Live life without any regrets-get your violin!

From Elana Lehrer
Posted on November 2, 2010 at 06:38 AM

 28 is so young!  THe only thing that you need is passion, patience, and a strong work ethic.  Contrary to common belief that kids learn faster, adults process the info much more quickly, can be much more efficient with their practice time, and overall get the technique more rapidly.  It's just as Laurie said, that you need patience and also to be forgiving of yourself.  Kids on average don't care quite as much if they make mistakes (or at least, they don't let it stop them); adults are more self-conscious, want perfection immediately, and thus on average can become more impatient.  Persist, stick to your practice routine, and you won't be disappointed.

From elise stanley
Posted on November 2, 2010 at 07:12 AM

Anne-Marie - loved your post, specially about treating yourself.  I worked hard at a career for 30+ years, never thinking about my violin (played from 5-14) and now that I have some resources and redicovered it I feel terrific treating myself - beautiful instrument, time, private lessons, and now my own practice studio in the basement, (violin always on hand and an awesome collection of music to dip into).  Some might say it was excessive - but its really not: compare that with owning a boat or joining a golf club. 

By the way, you are absurdly young!  Sure, there has to be an advantage to having played as a kid (its far easier to get over the rough bit) but if you have the passion then there should be no holding you back.

From Stephen Symchych
Posted on November 3, 2010 at 12:21 AM

There's a nice book by the famed literary critic Wayne Booth called For the Love of It.  The subject is his relationship to the cello, which he began in his 20s.  This after having been in choruses and wind bands.  So he knew just how awful he sounded at the beginning.

Flash forward 40 years or so-- he's a pretty good cellist.  Not glamorous-sounding, but good enough to sightread a Shostakovich string quartet quite competently.

So yes-- there's a lot you can do even when starting after you've left the prodigy age  group.

 

 

From Emily Grossman
Posted on November 6, 2010 at 08:16 AM
From Maurice Jaffray
Posted on November 6, 2010 at 11:21 AM
I'm 29 and started playing a year ago. It is both very frustrating but extremely rewarding. Although ive been playing guitar for around 13 years I've only started to read music since picking up the violin. I'm making great progress and owe it all to good practice and an excellent teacher.
From Peter Charles
Posted on November 6, 2010 at 11:49 AM

Buri

Big point to disagree with you here. You say "mental preparation BETWEEN snogging."

What's wrong with DURING snogging!!?

On a slightly more serious note, maybe we should all think of the violin as being very easy to play? Positive thinking?

When I was young all those difficult violin pieces I never played, (spending years bashing it out on the viola after that) - and now playing violin again, and I find that those difficult pieces are really not that bad at all. Really quite playable.

So we convince ourselves that something is hard, often because of its reputation.

FORGET HARD - THINK EASY!!

 

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on November 6, 2010 at 06:56 PM

When we think about it, every difficult virtuosic peice we hear is just a mix of techniques one already knows (when a student has learned basic skills as vibrato, shifts, harmonics, speed, spicatto, pizz, string crossing etc etc)  Just that putting them all together quickly and efficiently unfront of many people is the difficult thing...   It's like having the ingredients to make a cake but making the cake is so hard that not everyone will be able...  (or at least able at the same level... Sure any student can play a few bars of the Tchaikovsky...  but this is not playing the concerto... it's playing a few bars!) 

Anne-Marie

From Susan Young
Posted on November 6, 2010 at 07:11 PM

When I was trying to learn the cello in the 6th grade I remember how hard it was for me to read music and I never did learn.  At 41, I am trying again and seem to be picking up on it pretty quick.  Everything seems to be coming easier to me now.  Maybe I am more motivated now than I was as a child or maybe it's that I use the violin to forget about all the other crap that going on, just for a short while.  My husbands learning curve on his guitar at age 61 seems pretty quick as well.  Maybe kids minds are better sponges but I think that adults have better motivation and are more disciplined when they decide to learn something new.

From Edward Bradburn
Posted on November 7, 2010 at 12:32 PM

I'm 39, started learning a little over a month ago.

Absolutely loving it.

I have played and still do play a lot of concert flute (I took the ABRSM exams as a kid and did a lot of orchestral and wind band playing), which of course helps. As does my excellent teacher.

But, basically, to anyone who thinks they are too old ... just how many lives do think you'll have to try it out? :=)

After all, the most important thing about playing any instrument is wanting to do it. All the skill in the world won't counteract disinterest.

Start today and in a week you can say "I've been learning a week already"!

From Peter Charles
Posted on November 7, 2010 at 01:05 PM

Good God, at 28 you are hadly out of nappies!!

Translation (probably mis-spelt )"Diapers" in the US!!

From Anna Mach
Posted on December 20, 2012 at 09:33 AM
These answers to the question about 'being too old starting playing violin' were certainly what I needed to read! Thank you!

I am 18 years old, and striving to learn to play the violin. Now it has been 2 months since I got my first lessons in playing the violin at the music school. I enjoy playing, and truely love it! I love the sound, the way to play, and to play to other instruments.

Few days ago I came in doubt about maybe I am too old starting to play - perhaps I'll never be just as good as the famous violinists. I regret that I hadn't started playing when I was around 7 years old. But then I read was you guys wrote - and now I am sure, that if I fight for learning, then someday I can do it! If I started 11 years ago, I wouldn't strive so much for learning it as I am to day.

I think God created a longing inside me for playing the violin. He gave me the violin. One day five years ago a violin was placed outside my father's workplace. It was listed as missing, but nobody looked for it. Then I got it. Since then I've tried to teach myself a little.
At present I feel like being in conversation with God while playing. I find my joy and happiness while playing. It's fantastic.

God bless you all!

From Anna Mach
Posted on December 20, 2012 at 09:33 AM
These answers to the question about 'being too old starting playing violin' were certainly what I needed to read! Thank you!

I am 18 years old, and striving to learn to play the violin. Now it has been 2 months since I got my first lessons in playing the violin at the music school. I enjoy playing, and truely love it! I love the sound, the way to play, and to play to other instruments.

Few days ago I came in doubt about maybe I am too old starting to play - perhaps I'll never be just as good as the famous violinists. I regret that I hadn't started playing when I was around 7 years old. But then I read was you guys wrote - and now I am sure, that if I fight for learning, then someday I can do it! If I started 11 years ago, I wouldn't strive so much for learning it as I am to day.

I think God created a longing inside me for playing the violin. He gave me the violin. One day five years ago a violin was placed outside my father's workplace. It was listed as missing, but nobody looked for it. Then I got it. Since then I've tried to teach myself a little.
At present I feel like being in conversation with God while playing. I find my joy and happiness while playing. It's fantastic.

God bless you all!

From Anna Mach
Posted on December 20, 2012 at 09:33 AM
These answers to the question about 'being too old starting playing violin' were certainly what I needed to read! Thank you!

I am 18 years old, and striving to learn to play the violin. Now it has been 2 months since I got my first lessons in playing the violin at the music school. I enjoy playing, and truely love it! I love the sound, the way to play, and to play to other instruments.

Few days ago I came in doubt about maybe I am too old starting to play - perhaps I'll never be just as good as the famous violinists. I regret that I hadn't started playing when I was around 7 years old. But then I read was you guys wrote - and now I am sure, that if I fight for learning, then someday I can do it! If I started 11 years ago, I wouldn't strive so much for learning it as I am to day.

I think God created a longing inside me for playing the violin. He gave me the violin. One day five years ago a violin was placed outside my father's workplace. It was listed as missing, but nobody looked for it. Then I got it. Since then I've tried to teach myself a little.
At present I feel like being in conversation with God while playing. I find my joy and happiness while playing. It's fantastic.

God bless you all!

From J Petersen
Posted on December 20, 2012 at 11:17 AM
There's no such thing as too old. I know someone who started learning piano in his mid-40s.

You need to learn early if you want to pursue a concert career and if you want to learn while your muscles are developing but there's much more to playing the violin than being a soloist. An older beginner with passion and talent will do better than a young player with neither.


If you love the violin, learn it, enjoy it, cherish the music for the rest of your life and don't worry about what you could have done—focus on what you'll do from this day forward.

From Tim Yip
Posted on December 20, 2012 at 07:53 PM
It's not too late to start. It does take some years of playing and dedication. The hardest thing for adult beginners I've found is the commitment and time factor. It's very hard for some folks to make regular lessons and practice a priority when they have demanding jobs and kids to take care of.

But it can be done! I had a friend in school who majored in violin after 3 years of intense private study with a great teacher. She started when she was around 20.

I made some violin basics skills videos I can give to you. Feel free to PM me and I'll give it to you a login so you can watch them online. Hope that helps!

From Roger St-Pierre
Posted on December 20, 2012 at 08:46 PM
Very funny... I started at 50! Lets assume you aim to mastery... which takes about 10,000 hours of practice in any field of expertise, not just violin, at 2 hours per day of practice, it will take you about 15 years to master the violin. So by age 43 you could potentially have becomed a world renowned player. I'd say, worry less about your age, and start practicing ;-)
From mike davis
Posted on December 20, 2012 at 09:30 PM
Agreed. I started at 57. Im happy with my progress and I love it. You're never too old. I wish I had started earlier but so glad I started when I did.
From Michael Pijoan
Posted on December 22, 2012 at 04:40 AM
No, 28 is not too old. However, be aware that you're about to start something that takes a significant amount of patience and doesn't develop in a big hurry. You'll be fine. Regarding the difficulty: I see a lot of people who have an ambition to try really really hard and learn it quick. To be honest it just doesn't work that way for most violinists. You can try really hard and that won't hurt, but consistent practice at a manageable pace will get you where you want to go and will prevent burnout, ultimately yielding better results in the long run. I'm not making any assumptions about you as a student, I'm just telling you that most people who quit do so because they tried really hard, it didn't happen right away and they gave up thinking they couldn't do it. What they don't realize is that they're not at a disadvantage, they just have to be more interested in the journey than the destination, in order to get where they want to be.
From tom utsch
Posted on December 27, 2012 at 05:38 AM
No. Period. Go for it. The challenge is that Violin teachers are like violin players....one in a hundred is really good. It is not easy to discern the 1 percent from the other 99 percent but here is my limited perspective: if you have a lesson and the other person plays the instrument more than you during that time, move on.

As with any art, the good are like 1000 percent better than the almost as good. If you happen to be in the socal area I can help you. In that case please send me a private message. BTW as with skiing, snowboarding, getting a certificate to pilot an aircraft, SCUBA, as examples, the idea of going it alone is idiotic.

From Anna McCormick
Posted on December 30, 2012 at 04:56 PM
This thread has been a most interesting read for me. Id be so interested to hear if you are still playing as the original post was in 2005! You would be a pretty hot player id say by now after 7 years!

This is a topic very close to my own heart - as i started playing at 24 and im 26 years old now. I too had so many fears, but in the two years ive been playing ive progressed quite well by my own standards. Im about to sit my ABRSM Grade 4 exam, am playing in 3rd position and working on improving my vibrato. Its tough no doubt, but its a great deal more than i was able to do just 2 years ago. I think alot of people quit soon after starting, indeed there were times I too thought "gosh I must be crazy" - but persisting now 2 years on I see the change - vibrato and position moving has made a huge difference - its starting to sound like real music :)

If you really love it, if your starving instead of just being hungry for it - then its possible. Give it consistent everyday dedication, and it happens.

I cant wait to be able to say I've played 10 years! How exciting to think what amazing music ill be able to play by then!

Happy Holidays
Anna

From Liuching Zheng
Posted on March 13, 2013 at 05:34 AM
Another adult violin learner checking in! I started at 25. Even though I didn't have time to go to my teacher's often after the first year. I'm still trying to squeeze out time from my hectic life and practice on my own. I'm still making progress and I do feel mentally rewarding for each little progress I made. Not sure how you are doing with your violin learning now, but hope you are still with it! This is my YouTube channel where I share my violin learning progress. http://www.youtube.com/user/pianoviolinandwhat
You are very welcomed to visit it!