V.com weekend vote: Have you ever quit your instrument for a period of time?

February 16, 2018, 1:02 PM · Have you ever wanted to just quit? Have you ever done it? Did you come back? And then what made you come back?

violin on wall

For me, I've never really quit, though I've had periods where my focus has been elsewhere. After I got my degree in music, for example, I went on to get a master's degree in journalism. I still played and took lessons during that time, but it was not with the same intensity as I did as a music major!

And certainly, injuries, motherhood, attempting to pay bills with other work, etc. have meant for periods of less playing. There have been times when I've wanted to chuck the fiddle out the window (so to speak, never literally!) -- like after bad auditions, frustrating performances, or life's difficulties simply piling up too high. Somehow the music always calls me back.

Also, I can tell you that I've taught adults who took long breaks -- 20 and even 30 years! I've found that they are very successful in getting back to the instrument, as long as they put in the consistent practice and keep the faith.

What has your experience been?


February 16, 2018 at 08:33 PM · I had to give up the cello in my 20s for 7 or 8 years because of the dual pressures of work and studying for an external science degree - it was impossible to attend orchestral rehearsals or find the time to do any meaningful practice. At 30, time was my own once more so I took the cello out of the cupboard where it had been kept for all those years. To my surprise, the A was still in tune and the others weren't far off. I started playing again and after two or three weeks it was like I'd never got off the bus. A few months later I joined another orchestra, Bristol Concert Orchestra, this time for adults because the former one was a youth orchestra and no longer appropriate. The following year I was invited to join Bristol Chamber Orchestra (no audition was necessary, I was told), which I have been a regular member of ever since. About 10 years ago I started taking violin lessons and 3 years later swapped over in the chamber orchestra from cello to violin, which I've now been playing exclusively in orchestras.

This account shows that a long gap in playing is far from being a disaster if the player has had a solid background of tuition and playing before the enforced break. The learned nervous connections should still be in place when returning and all that remains is to exercise and strengthen relatively disused muscles and ligaments, which shouldn't take more than a few weeks.

It may be useful to have a handful of remedial lessons on returning to the fold - I feel this is important for returning violinists, mainly because the violin isn't as ergonomic as the cello and bad habits, particularly postural, are easy to fall into unnoticed.

February 16, 2018 at 08:48 PM · I've had a few breaks of 6+ months -- yet nothing like the 20-30 years of some of your adult students. Never really did "quit" -- I'd describe these breaks more as a few self-imposed layoffs for lack of time -- too many other things to tend to; couldn't really do justice to practicing and playing.

Never had the feeling, though, that I wanted to, even figuratively, "chuck the fiddle out the window." Auditions had a way of bringing out my best, and I had a consistent record of winning auditions. What I did, eventually, decide to throw out, though, was the idea of making a living in the music business. I was 21 at the time. Looking back, I'm thankful I made the decision early in life.

One former CSO player told me that he always loved the music but grew to dislike doing it professionally. By 21, I could see, still from a safe distance, that I wasn't going to like it, either. Once I got past this point, it was like having a heavy weight fall off my shoulders, and then I enjoyed music-making still more than I had before.

February 16, 2018 at 09:24 PM · Yes, from 1983 to 2010.

Improvement is glacial, but to paraphrase Laurie, I'm keeping the faith!

February 16, 2018 at 09:29 PM · I quit in 1982 after a lesson when my teacher was brutally honest with me- I had to stop trying to play Sarasate's Spanish Dances, imagining that somehow I'd suddenly be able to play them if I just kept trying hard enough, and work on fundamentals that I'd skipped or glossed over as a student. I wasn't prepared to do that much work and admitted to myself that a career as a musician was not in the cards. Fast forward to 2005; both of my children were string/piano students and I started playing again for fun. I played in community orchestras, and we even formed a family piano trio and played weddings, funerals, etc.; then 20 Broadway shows as a volunteer in a high school pit orchestra, now some jazz... I still have technical problems that I'll probably have forever, and where I live finding a teacher is almost impossible (unless I want to drive 1.5 hours each way), but taking the instrument up again is one of the best decisions I've made. Immense fun and enjoyment, and undying respect for virtuoso players.

February 16, 2018 at 09:41 PM · I took a 40-year "vacation" while I raised 3 daughters, went to law school, and practiced law. There was a short "re-learning curve" when I returned after my retirement, but much quickly came back. I now play in an orchestra and have a weekly lesson at age 80. What a blessing to have such a wonderful lifetime avocation.

February 16, 2018 at 09:53 PM · I started playing violin in the 7th Grade right on through 9th Grade. Sad to say, I just didn't want to take it to High School, in addition to having zero encouragement at home. For years I've regretted my dumbest decision ever, however 47 years later for my 60th Birthday my husband wanted to get me something extra special, so off we went to buy a student violin that I wasn't even sure I could play. Oh what fun I've had these past 11 years, practicing daily, and even playing in the church orchestra! Needless to say, I'm quite humbled before God that He would bless me to be used in such a way to bring Him Glory and Praise! As for encouragement this time around, my husband provides it all ~~ true love, ongoing for 50 years now! Elizabeth *8>)

February 16, 2018 at 10:10 PM · First started playing in 1986 (age 8).

Break 1: 1991 - 2001

Break 2: 2003 - 2017

2002 is when I bought my first (& only, so far) violin and attempted to re-learn on my own.

I just picked up my violin about a month ago. I found a teacher, and with her help, I've been re-familiarizing myself with the basics.

4th half-hour lesson w/Teacher: "Let's try adding the 4th finger in"

Me: "oooh... I don't know that I remember that one."

[places 4th finger on D where it feels right]

[bows D string]

"Oh, hey, there it is! Guess I remember after all."

February 17, 2018 at 01:26 AM · I found the break of approx 8 years in my late 30s and early 40s due to "wrist problems" was enormously useful. In that time I became a "former violinist" such that when a friend dragged me out of retirement for a quartet rehearsal, I was gobsmacked at how well I played and how much my body and heart felt like I was singing through my violin. It took about 3 years to regain my skills fully, and with a slightly smaller violin, knowing much better how to relax when playing, and wearing a wrist brace each night in bed, I can play "almost anything". And I have a second career in teaching which is proving immensely rewarding :-)

February 17, 2018 at 01:48 AM · I never really consciously quit violin since starting in elementary school but in my 20s through mid-40s there were long periods of time when I was concentrating on other instruments (guitar mainly) where I only occasionally took it out of its case. About 20 years ago I made a conscious decision to make violin my main instrument again and have been playing regularly since. In my early 60s I'm playing better now than I ever did before and am still improving!

February 17, 2018 at 01:57 AM · I quit twice, once for grad school when I was getting my PhD and again when my kids were babies and toddlers. It took me about 6 months to get back to my former level, which wasn't all that high the first time. At this point I'm at a higher level than I was as a child or teen, mostly because I seem to have left a lot of the industrial strength performance anxiety behind.

February 17, 2018 at 02:34 AM · I was forced to set aside my cello for a couple years due to a nasty shoulder injury that required surgery. Not long after that, we lost everything in Hurricane Katrina (except my cello, which evacuated with us) and spent the next couple years rebuilding. I sold that cello. That was followed by a 1,000 mile move and me enrolling in college for an advanced nursing degree. I just purchased a decent cello this week and am already involved in two civic orchestras in my new city. I decided that I'm one of those people who constantly think about music and realized that I must have it in my life.

February 17, 2018 at 04:14 AM · I'm a fiddle player though I'm classically trained on other things and am a full-time professional musician. I sort-of gradually stopped working on my fiddle playing after years of really trying to get the sound I was after. I just couldn't get it, and I had other things at which I was getting results, so I let it slide for about 20 years--still played but, not really working at it. In my case, it was the equipment. About ten years ago, I got a great bow (a friend of mine is a major bowmaker), and then... I got a great violin. Suddenly I could do all the stuff I had struggled so hard to do. Now I do all that, and I'm working up the Bach Sonatas and Partitas!

February 17, 2018 at 10:31 AM · I've had three breaks of several months, but none longer than five months. Two, in 2003 and 2011, were forced by injuries after biking accidents. Both kept me out for 3 months. The longest, 5 months in 2007, was caused by severe depression -- and practicing viola was the first thing I was able to get myself out of bed to do again as I recovered; I wasn't able to work full-time for over two years.

Three things that didn't keep me from practicing almost daily: medical school, law school, and working as a lawyer. I don't think I'd ever quit unless something makes it physically impossible to keep playing... I started late to begin with, so I have a lot of catching up to do!

February 17, 2018 at 02:09 PM · Both times I had to quit was because I broke my wrist. I have taught violin and viola for almost 40 years. I found that my approach during the time of healing changed from demonstrating to conveying suggestions in language. It was possible to help my students find their own way to fix an area of concern. With the cast on I even started a new class of 16 strings at our local Waldorf school. I brought in advanced students to help out. Now after seven months, surgery on my 4th finger and weeks of occupational therapy, I am playing again on a 1/2 size violin. What a relief. I hope to be playing soon in my string quartet and the local community orchestra.

February 17, 2018 at 02:39 PM · I started in 4th grade and played well into my mid 20's then sold my violin and didn't pick up again until I was 48. Life, career, kids, all took my time. Now that life has slowed down, I realized how much I missed it and enjoy playing again.

February 17, 2018 at 02:53 PM · Took a 2 years hiatus starting from grade 10 because of the whole "let's do an exam so you have something to work for" idea I was drawn into at the time. Later proved to be a mistake because my teacher at the time did not address many of the bad habits I was making (which I later found out and corrected with another teacher). When I started university, there was an orchestra that motivated me to pick up the instrument again, and furthermore led to resuming lessons another 2 years later.

February 17, 2018 at 03:56 PM · Not quit, exactly. But there was a year or two when I left an orchestra that was my main source of playing, to deal with a family emergency. I eventually found an excuse to get back into some chamber music, and I found a teacher again.

I'm now back at university again, and shuttling among a bunch of orchestra gigs. Things could be better (violinistically-speaking), but could be a lot worse, as well.

February 17, 2018 at 06:50 PM · Took a sabbatical of 19 years from violin playing to study another instrument and to start a working career and a family. I was stuck with my technique, in fact never had good technique and sound on the violin. When I heard Thomas Irnberger play Hans Gal‘s Sonatas, I had a great luthier repair my violin and started all over again and very differently from my childhood: With pure gut strings, without shoulder rest, with lower volume and more beauty of the tone. And with more patience. Still have a long way to go...

February 17, 2018 at 07:35 PM · I've thought about quitting violin before, because I wasn't any good. The only thing that kept me going was that I have too much invested in it. Now I mostly still don't like the way I play, but quitting doesn't come to mind because I've discovered that group beginner violin is pretty much my favorite thing to teach.

There was a hiatus in high school/after graduation but that was because of really big life changes, not a desire to quit. (I still played for church events, just not anything in between.)

February 17, 2018 at 08:12 PM · Work got in the way of music. I'd been playing and studying for about 20 years. The last few years were difficult as I had been recruited by Bell Labs for a 50% travel job that turned out to be more like 85% travel. Then my teacher got very ill and died. The violin went into the closet for the better part of a decade. I finally had enough travel for one lifetime, found a local company that wanted my expertise and shortly after that I took the violin out of the closet and started playing again just for myself. Old enough to retire just as the local company was sold so I retired then a neighbor asked for us to pick their kids up after school, on was just learning how to play the violin but had really poor form and I suddenly had the first student. That led to working with the LYSO, getting more students and passing them along as their skills developed. Playing is part of almost every day now. The break was necessary and the music goes on...

February 17, 2018 at 08:32 PM · Cannot say much about the violin, but I got away from the pedal steel guitar for the 20 years I was in Tokyo. The pedal steel is every bit as difficult as the violin. When I retired in 2016, I bought a great double neck Emmons (D10 8X6) and had my chops back and more within a few months. The honky tonk band scene has disappeared unfortunately so I'm torturing myself with the violin. Lot smaller but every bit as scary... -L-

February 18, 2018 at 09:44 PM · I stopped playing for several years because I was too busy and working too hard on college, grad school, and getting my career as a scientist started. I was also sort of brain dead for the last couple of years of my marriage. After my marriage ended, I resumed some of my old friendships and went back to playing my violin. The latter was like returning to an old love. Now I teach violin. Some of my students are adult students are re beginners and I encourage them to resume doing what they love.

February 18, 2018 at 09:44 PM · I stopped playing for several years because I was too busy and working too hard on college, grad school, and getting my career as a scientist started. I was also sort of brain dead for the last couple of years of my marriage. After my marriage ended, I resumed some of my old friendships and went back to playing my violin. The latter was like returning to an old love. Now I teach violin. Some of my students are adult students are re beginners and I encourage them to resume doing what they love.

February 19, 2018 at 01:09 AM · ~ to All! How fascinating to read so many stories of every violinist or cellist writing here so far!!

As a concertising violinist, carrying repertoire for every new Concert Season, it's intriguing to read of Returning 'Home' to the Violin ~

Following the traumatic loss of my principle teacher, my truly beloved Father, 'something' went awry after playing all over Continental Europe, throughout the UK, Hong Kong, and other parts of Asia, all over the U.S., (even deferring concert tours in Brazil, Israel, & Russia), yet having made recordings of major violin concerti (Khachaturian, Sibelius, Bach a minor, E Major #2, Bruch #1, Glazounow, Brahms, Beethoven, Saint Saens' Introduction & Rondo Capriccioso, Bach's Solo Violin Sonatas & Partitas, + Vivaldi's Concerto for 2 Violins in a minor w/Great Violinist, Henryk Szeryng,1st Violin w/more to list), one's heart was so broken a Long Break was needed from concert touring despite scheduled soloist engagements w/ major orchestras, including the Scottish National Orchestra at London's Proms;; Nuremberg Symphony; Stuttgart Philharmonic; plus return solo engagements in the U.S., & violin/piano recitals throughout Europe with major radio & tv recordings,'Time Out' was RX'd as watching one's father-teacher battling big odds to live was more than I could absorb upon returning home from Bamberg in Germany, having recorded Shostakovich's Violin Concerto #1 in a w/ the Bamberger Symphoniker for Sudwestdeutsche Rundfunk w/Herbert von Karajan's Berlin Philharmonic Assoc. Conductor, Dad's passing paralyzed me into silence ~ I could not summon the strength nor the Will to play the Khachaturian on the very day my father was being laid to his Eternal Rest, w/ the Concert Manager canceling my solo appearances on the subscription series w/a respected American orchestra ~

Death can cause such major trauma that the soul of a human person's core becomes overwhelmed w/ the onset of utter grief ...

What this taught me was of a brutal reality in some in the core International Music Performance arena who hadn't Humanity nor Soul ~ For me, it was an instinct to survive the shock of losing my best friend, my father & a great teacher all in one. I learned in struggling to endure this Tragedy of Dark Night that everything my 'other' violin mentor, Nathan Milstein, talked so much about (saying "Music isn't always beautiful so let deeper aspects of Life written into the score show ~ Don't always play just beautifully for Life isn't always beautiful." This was born of the great wisdom of Nathan Milstein who knew through both joie di vie & vissicitudes 'How' to pass some of this on to me in a technical - musical context ...

Never ever having written about this, it's best to take my leave at this juncture for in writing about loss, one realises it's still in my life experience & the Violin has offered me a place in which to channel such feelings when I spot them in scores of genius composer's throughout Great Music, digging deep into my own 'Memory Catalogue' to try projecting deep melancholia into the subtle splatters of angst in works of Shostakovich, Prokofiev, & Tchaikovsky (with his all too beautifully tinged 2nd movement in the Symphony #6, 'Pathetique') ~

Thank you, everyone, for listening & loving the Violin enough to return to that which is so special & ennobling to our soul's ~

Elisabeth ...

Daughter of the late Ralph and Betty Matesky

February 19, 2018 at 01:25 AM · Although I was given a scholarship that matched my out of state tuition to play violin in the school orchestra, I could only use it four sememsters as my major in engineering took much of my time. About seven years later, after college and a stint in the army, I got it out only when bored. Shortly after being recruited to sing in my church's choir I was asked to play it in our youth group's musical. I really enjoyed it and tried out for a chair in our professional orchestra. It was then I found out I had collected many bad habits and was told to take lessons which I did. Eventually I got gigs playing in temp orchestras (church had special production around Christmas or Easter) and was a charter member of a community orchestra. Still play and experiment with a music notation software (currently working on Grieg III).

I regret the time I was out of it which was around 12 years.

February 19, 2018 at 05:27 AM · I quitted for more than 20 years due to immigration, education and career development, etc. I got back in my mid-40s and now I'm playing better than I ever thought I could. I took an early retirement last year, and now am enrolled in a post-secondary music performance diploma program to give myself a more structured and well-rounded music learning experience. I'm loving it.

February 20, 2018 at 08:12 PM · My first instrument was the cornet, which I started at age 8 and played all the way through high school. A tragic turning point (for many, I'm sure) came when our high school music teacher was hit by a train on the way to one of our band's concerts. Between this, the family pressure that makes a teen rebel, and a change of life in general, I didn't touch an instrument for over 25 years. But the music was still in my head, and I found myself fitting chords to it all, so I took up guitar, then drifted into mandolin. A friend was taking up banjo at the time and we joined the local bluegrass scene. Said friend gave me an old fiddle, and I started noodling. Another friend (with the help of Corelli) seduced me into baroque and classical music. Now I'm playing bluegrass fiddle, 2nd violin in an informal string quartet, and viola in a community orchestra, and am making up for lost time. Strictly amateur, though - I'm having way too much fun to do it for a living.

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