Practicing - What else?

July 3, 2017, 2:26 PM · Greetings everyone!

I've soon played the violin for one year, and I do think it's a wonderful instrument. I'm wondering what else you can do to improve your violin or your general music skills, besides practicing the instrument?

I'm interested in reading about general music theory, because I play other instruments, and I do compose small pieces. My goal is to do it for a living, but I think its hard for me to find a place to start when I'm not able to join a music university.

Thanks for taking your time reading this!

Replies (21)

July 3, 2017, 3:21 PM · Listen. Listen to great recordings as much as possible, preferably with the score.

July 3, 2017, 4:20 PM · You can learn theory from books, albeit more slowly and less deeply than you would in a course taught by an expert.

You do not say whether you are having private violin lessons. That is quite helpful but expensive.

You said that your goal is to "do it for a living." But it's not clear what the definition if "it" is.

July 3, 2017, 6:48 PM · watch performances. it's because of watching hilary hahn (who is a literal god) play that I realized I was holding my violin a little weird. and seeing people like her play can be motivating to practice more, which is a bonus.
July 3, 2017, 10:39 PM · I agree with Anna on watching performances! My violin playing improved dramatically despite starting at an older age (8 yrs) because I spent a lot of time watching the pros do it (think Milstein, Heifetz, Perlman, etc). While of course their techniques differ, there are common themes that can help you improve your own techniques.

I would also recommend studying music theory. I guarantee that it will help with your composition tenfold.

There are also online classes you could possibly take that may help as well but I don't know too much in that realm.

I agree with Paul-to what extent do you want to make a living? That will determine what you need to do in terms of classes and learning. I doubt there are many professionals out there who make a living after just a few years of violin-you have to be dedicated to work hard for years and years just to build up your technique and be knowledgeable. If you want to become a YouTube star-type pro like Lindsey Stirling, you still need years and years of practice and a good team to be successful.

If you could clarify the above question that would be great.

Hope this helps!

July 3, 2017, 11:07 PM · Su Han, you started at an older age (8 yrs). Are you serious??? Here is someone who also started at an older age (7 yrs) "Late starter". I DID start at a later age (49). This kind of talk really makes me laugh. I would really be interested in what kind of corner kids like Niclas might carve out for themselves in the music world. He may not be aiming for a 'traditional' kind of career.
July 4, 2017, 4:27 AM · Thanks everyone for the very great answers!

I'd appreciate the tips and clarifications, and I'm sorry for not mentioning what "it" is, but thanks for pointing it out! That whats happens when you start a discussion right before you go to bed.

I did not know 8 years old is an old age. I just started last year (17), but I have played the guitar since I was 12.

My dream is to compose classical pieces and perform live with a loop pedal (With the guitar and the violin).

I'm aware of the years of practicing that is needed, and I do not mind at all. I really enjoy it, and I love to see myself progress.

I did take guitar lessons the first 4 years, and I do take private violin lessons, which I forgot to mention.

July 4, 2017, 5:43 AM · "Performing live with a loop pedal" does not earn a living wage. It's something you do occasionally to make an extra $100 here and there in support of a teaching career. But if you are starting violin at age 17, you will not be teaching it before the age of 25 even if you work very hard at it.

My suggestion is that you go to college, get a degree in science, engineering, business administration, etc., embark on a stable career, and then enjoy music in your spare time without having to worry about hustling down $100 gigs week-in and week-out.

Edited: July 4, 2017, 11:24 AM · To the OP, most people start on the violin at 5 or 6. Even among those, only a small subset get to get over the wall ( Bruch concerto and beyond).
July 4, 2017, 11:35 AM · @David Zhang
I am about to begin my third year on violin and I play the bruch Concerto as a simple warmup.
Edited: July 20, 2017, 7:19 PM · Jack, good for you. You are learning at the same rate as Sarah Chang who learned to play the Bruch after a year or two on the violin.

July 4, 2017, 8:51 PM · @Zina Francisca: What I mean by 'older age' is as compared to people like Midori or Sarah Chang. I'm not saying by any means that it is completely impossible (there are of course always exceptions) but the reality is-the earlier one starts, the better.

@Jack Urban: There's really no point in being able to 'play' the Bruch Concerto as 'a simple warmup'. While I'm not trying to judge you based on what your description says, I find it rather juvenile that you find the need to justify your violin ability with a major concerto when that same major concerto is used as a piece to audition for a Masters in music performance at some (if not many) conservatories. Just a thought! I also find it a shame that you think that makes you superior to other players...But that's your problem, not mine. I started playing the Bruch after around six years of violin (Four years later than you! I'm SO incompetent, aren't I.) and I don't go around advertising because everyone masters pieces at their own pace. If you truly have mastered the Bruch Concerto then fantastic for you but if you haven't noticed, Sarah Chang doesn't brag about getting into Julliard with the Bruch Concerto at the tender age of 5.

To the OP: I completely agree with Paul. Trying to make a living off of composing classical music (which is difficult as it is to do properly) and performing some gigs here and there is NOT a viable career. I urge you to reconsider about choosing music as your main source of income-it is difficult enough for many people in conservatory as it is.

Apologies for this long-winded post but I felt like I had to clarify some things.

Edited: July 5, 2017, 12:02 AM · Ignore this advice: Gilles Apap: ‘Don’t listen to nobody’

Or take it, whatever.

Edited: July 5, 2017, 9:30 AM · If composition is your game, trade your violin in for a tricked-out computer and a top-end keyboard synthesizer such as Yamaha Montage or Motif XF, and DAW software. That is the way music is being written now -- at least music that you have a snowball's chance in hell of selling to anyone.

I'm 51 years old. I played the violin for 12 years as a child and nearly 8 years since returning. I still can't play the Bruch Concerto, although I'm probably close to that now. Maybe I'm just not very talented. I suppose that is rather obvious! And I do wish I could play better. The teacher I had as a child wasn't very good but I have a great teacher now. I continue to take lessons every two to three weeks and I do practice, but improvement is glacial, probably my practicing skills are not adequate. But I still enjoy myself very much anyway.

There will always be those who have to brag about their accomplishments. I wouldn't trade my life for theirs.

July 5, 2017, 11:35 AM · Depending on your city, you can find a lot of student performances and various free performances - Some of these can be quite good, and some not quite so much, but you can learn a lot from a performance that doesn't quite work, and it's good to check out people of all levels and pick up some of the nuances of performance. Check out your local university / conservatory!
July 11, 2017, 8:34 PM · Okay, this is the second close to high school graduate I've run across that has posted that they want to play the violin professionally when they are older. And many of the posts are discouraging.

If kids aren't getting enough exposure to learn about classical violin at an early enough age, then it's not their fault. If you want to blame someone, look to the state of music education in this country.

Yeah, a bunch of us had parents with resources, who started us early. The Suzuki Method certainly pushed the trend. So playing the violin to us is like reading, something you just know how to do.

But in my lifetime, there were also violin teachers who didn't believe in starting kids before they were 8 or 10. Also, friends of mine who started late who caught up with good teachers and practice. But it does take hard work.

You may not get to be a solo classical violinist, but there's nothing to say you could do pop music mixing the guitar and violin.

But to learn to play the violin proficiently takes a lot of practice and good teachers. The real question is how well do you want to play? How many hours do you want to commit? At your age, to be competitive, I was practicing two hours before school and 2-3 hours after school.

Or you can be like many of the pop violinists in mainstream music that don't really "play" all that well. Their technique and intonation is sloppy, but they play catchy tunes that modern music lovers like.

July 12, 2017, 9:26 AM · Practicing and learning multiple instruments is both a blessing and a curse. In some cases not as much as others. As one example, a person who knows how to play violin well might not have as much trouble learning viola or cello since they are in the same general family of instruments. Most of the time though, the artist focuses on one instrument to excel in.This is especially true with violin. The instrument is technically much more demanding than say piano or bass guitar.

If you would decide to continue other instruments you should still give more time to violin in my opinion. If violin turns out to be your favorite instrument maybe consider dropping the others to achieve your goals.

Learning violin well doesn't necessarily require a university. It does require a good teacher,lots of practice, and probably some involvement in the music community learning to play with others.University is mandatory to teach music as a profession.

Doing it for a living is something that is a long shot, even for those with the training.I don't mean to discourage you, but this is the reality. We have plenty of high level players here who need other jobs.

For composition purposes learning several instruments can be very helpful the trade off being you may not have the time to excel at a difficult instrument like violin in the sense that you'll one day lead the violin section in a top level orchestra. You can still be a good player, however you won't be at that level unless you're a prodigy.

As a multi instrumentalist myself I feel the struggle to make time to keep up on all my instruments. I just released a guitar album ( and this took much of my violin practice time away. I hope to have more time now that the album is out.It can be frustrating finding a balance for anyone trying to learn multiple instruments.
You seem to be at the beginning of your journey. Now is a good time to decide.Do I want to dedicate all of my time to the violin? If I can't get into a university,what alternative solutions can I pursue? Imagine music all day every day for the rest of your life. Is this what you want to do? You need a lot of passion.

July 13, 2017, 9:27 AM · I hadn't read Paul's comments on composition.I agree. If you're more interested in composition you could go for something like this.

I can't tell you I haven't been tempted.I guess it just isn't as much fun as learning to play a real one.I have similar in my studio. Learning the real instrument has helped me to see how to use the sampled instruments.

July 14, 2017, 3:01 AM · In Leopold Auers Grade course books, he recommend to read about other violinists.

On that notice i found Yehudi Menuhins autobiografy and i can wholeheartedly recommed reading it. An absolutely wonderful book that made me very emotional and enhanced my understanding of music and human being

July 14, 2017, 5:42 AM · A computer and some free programs can start the career of any aspiring composer.

A composition program, like MuseScore, and a production program, like the starter edition of StudioOne, are all you need to create and "record" professional level music of any genre. Oh, and of course learning how to use the programs.

There are many high-quality free and for-pay educational programs available on the internet. All you need is time and motivation regardless of age.

Edited: July 14, 2017, 9:20 AM · Unfortunately the free programs are very limited for serious composition. I think they would be a good place to see how the basics work.

I use Studio One 3 Professional and Cakewalk Sonar Platinum in my studio. Both great programs. Having said that, to compose film score music, you'll probably need more instruments called software synthesizers, sampled instruments, and vsti instruments.The programs I mentioned come with a bunch of these, but probably not enough.

I use one core program that is hosted by the others called Komplete Ultimate 11 made by Native Instruments. It has anything you would need to compose orchestra and film music or just about anything else. I nave a bunch of others too that are more dedicated to certain things. I just bought a really nice sampled harp yesterday.

It's more than the tools though.I suggest that if a person wants to get into composition. Download a bunch of the free midis and port them to quality vsti's. You can get free midi to many of the masters, like Bach and Chopan among others. Playing with the arrangements in midi can help you to better grasp how it all works.

Here's some "fake fiddle". Players can probably tell the difference.I wrote this 2 years ago using the fiddle in Kontakt.

July 22, 2017, 8:24 PM · I'm one of these people who plays several instruments to approximately the same level. It's doable. I tend to spend more time on violin more than any other instrument, however. Plus, it's easier to get recognized playing violin more than the other instruments I play. Pursuing composition isn't too hard, as long as you learn the craft and get good notation software (e.g Finale, Sibelius).

Our Kokopelli
Please support
your donation
or sponsorship campaign. is made possible by...

Shar Music

Yamaha V3 Series Violin

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Metzler Violin Shop

Gliga Violins

Corilon Violins

Anderson Musical Instrument Insurance

Bobelock Cases


Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Los Angeles Violin Shop

Pro-Am Strings

Wangbow Violin Bow Workshop