V.com weekend vote: Was the violin your first instrument?

November 8, 2019, 8:18 PM · Did you start with the violin, or was there another instrument you played before that? Maybe that's the instrument you still play!


Sometimes children start playing the violin precisely because there are fractional-sized instruments that are suitable for their small size. On the piano, for example, an octave is an octave, and if you have the hand of a five-year-old, you will likely be unable to reach it!

For me the answer is yes, the violin was my first instrument.

Actually, on that fateful day when I came home from school after hearing another little girl play the violin, when I begged my mother to let me start playing the violin, she first said, "No."

"Why?" I asked.

"You're going to play the piano," she said.

"But we don't have a piano!" I said.

"Good point," Mom had to admit.

So I started playing the violin!

Which was your first instrument, and what's your story? Please vote, then share!


November 9, 2019 at 03:09 AM · By "another stringed instrument" do you mean only violin family instruments? After all guitars and mandolins, to name just two, are ...... other stringed instruments.

November 9, 2019 at 03:31 AM · All strings instruments, including guitar, mandolin, banjo, erhu.... :)

November 9, 2019 at 04:12 AM · Piano at age 8 for two years; then a lifetime of violin...

November 9, 2019 at 10:44 AM · Violin and viola were my fourth and fifth instruments. My first was piano, starting at age 5. I was in Dubai at the time and neither of my parents ever listened to music at all, so there wasn't a lot of Western music around, but I went to the American school there and a classmate's mother was a piano teacher. The school started a band program when I was in 4th grade, and the following year (5th grade) I started playing euphonium in the school band and trombone the year after that. At that point I still hadn't seen a bowed string instrument in person, because there simply weren't any string players in Dubai back then; that wouldn't happen until 7th grade when my family returned to the US.

November 9, 2019 at 12:19 PM · in Europe it is customary to start solfeggio classes for your children where they also learn to play the recorder. so the recorder was for many musicians their first instrument.

November 9, 2019 at 12:50 PM · My father played violin and viola, I first handled a violin (on my knees) aged 3 and had my first lesson at 5, so I don't think other instruments got a look in. Mind you, I can't remember at what age I was first exposed to a recorder or percussion instruments at school - I might have, e.g., shaken a tambourine before age 5.

November 9, 2019 at 02:55 PM · guitar, the problems playing both are lh4 curls around too much when playing violin and rh thumb nail sticks into bow. Just ignore and things seem to work.

November 9, 2019 at 03:11 PM · "Piano was my first instrument." I started it at 7 y/o. My parents suspected that I had musical ability because, by this time, I was sitting and listening, on my own, to one album after another from their classical record collection. During the cold, gray weeks from November to March, I followed this routine regularly on Saturday mornings -- for several hours at a stretch.

The Hanon 60 Exercises fascinated me far more than the familiar folk tunes that family and friends and neighbors could sing along to. But I didn't get as far with Hanon -- or the rest of piano -- as I might have gotten if the violin muse hadn't grabbed me. Not long after I'd started piano, a professional orchestra played at my elementary school. Now I could see, as well as hear, how the pros brought to life some of the music I'd been hearing at home. I asked my parents if I could switch to violin. They consented but wanted me to wait a couple of months to be sure this wasn't a passing fancy. It wasn't.

I started violin by fingering and bowing familiar tunes by ear on a half-sized fiddle -- before I had any lessons. Not sure now how I managed to pull this off -- but I did. Then I got hold of my first violin instruction book -- still before any lessons -- and figured out a few more basics. Of course, thanks to basic piano training, I could already read music.

So learning violin was sort of like learning a second language at an early age and having this second language take over -- to the point where the first language fell into disuse. I still love listening to piano music and can still read treble and bass, but I would have trouble sight-reading both staves at the same time now. I don't know about pedals, clef changes on one staff, L/R hand cross-overs. And there's no way I could accompany anyone -- haven't touched a piano keyboard for over a quarter-century.

November 9, 2019 at 03:12 PM · At age 4 I was forced to the (plastic) recorder while wishing to learn the violin. An imbecile teacher (she taught flute, recorder and Orff instruments) from our public music school had instructed my parents why it was impossible to learn violin at age 4, while no matter which instrument a kid would learn in the future it inevitably had to fail without prior exposure to the recorder, and that the earliest age one could even think of studying a bowed instrument was at 11, eventually 10. So I spent three wasted years with tears and the bad taste of cheap plastic. Quitting wasn't an option, so I took the first train out to the piano, which I started at age 7. (I still wasn't 10, you know - so no way to the violin.) At age 10 I made a last attempt - but no violin teacher accepted me since I was way too old, and no kid could successfully learn a bowed instrument starting after 6, ideally at age 3-4.

So I stuck to the piano, bringing it to a pre-conservatory level but decided not to follow a professional path at age 16. (A wise decision, although my parents were outraged how I could dare to waste my talent - but there were so much more talented kids out there! And it never felt like the language of my heart anyway, although I liked it and still do.)

I eventually added a bit of diy classic guitar, but completely quit music when I left for university at age 18. Any violinistic dreams were buried and long gone.

Fast forward to age 38, my son said the word. He was 11 then, and three months after he got his first lessons, I indulged myself with my first own rental. Only a few months later I did a serious upgrade, and although I'm still a lousy player, it feels like the body (and soul) part I was missing forever.

At age 41 I couldn't help but falling in love with a wonderful viola. I guess now I'm there...

November 9, 2019 at 03:47 PM · Since you asked for my story:

It all began in Jr. High, a new school board declared that all students would have arts and music five days a week. The art teacher was in heaven, the music teacher (who had been boring kids to death one day a week) had to innovate and he did. Everyone had to attempt to "play" every instrument in an orchestra during our two years of every-day music lessons. It was leveling, some who were already taking lessons, made the rest of us feel bad until they were presented with an instrument they never touched before (who knew that an Oboe could sound like someone strangling a goose!). I learned that I really hated the feeling of reeds vibrating on my lips, (single reeds were bad, double reeds were a misery). the horn embouchure was too small, Trumpet ok, Trombone almost perfect and the tuba too big, flute was ok, percussion interesting but for me boring, double bass way too big, cello still a bit too big, viola - almost until I tucked the violin under my chin and managed (after paying attention to the teacher) to draw the bow without whizzing or screeching. (FWIW: our class was the backbone of the best band in high school for some time - kids knew what instruments they wanted to play. Then Sputnik was launched, Kennedy elected and Math and Science became the focus of everything...)

My parents followed their dictum that anything beyond basics I could do but only if I had the cash to pay for it. Dream dashed. Fast forward to my late 20's, Viet-Nam vet, college on the GI Bill married and asked to get my mother-in-law's knitting project out of the attic where I discovered her grandfather's violin. I found a teacher, got the instrument restored and have been playing ever since.

November 9, 2019 at 04:07 PM · I always wanted to play the piano, but have never taken piano lessons. Like you, Laurie, we never had a piano at home. Violin was my first instrument in school, and I was inspired to play it by the "Little House" books. My favorite memories of those books have to do with Pa's fiddle, played in the firelight for his family.

When I got older I asked for piano lessons sometimes but my parents said "you already have a violin," and "where would we put the piano?" So I never had them. I did prefer to play in orchestra with others to playing alone, and I enjoyed the social aspects to playing the violin. In high school and college I didn't have a lot of time for practicing the violin, let alone another instrument. I quit playing altogether in graduate school and when my kids were babies and toddlers. But sometime in there I bought a nice Korg electric piano, thinking maybe now I could finally learn.

When I restarted violin again I also started to play the viola. I thought viola might make the restart go more smoothly because I was told that violas were always in demand. That didn't happen at first, and I ended up concentrating on violin for about 8 years in a community orchestra, where my concertmaster dreams came true. Then I moved to CA, and my viola dreams came true--here, violas are in demand and I have been enjoying the chamber music opportunities of the viola while playing a bit of violin every now and then. Viola is my main instrument now, but that electric piano is still there in the living room. Maybe it will be a retirement project!

November 9, 2019 at 05:21 PM · I started out playing Bluegrass mandolin and switched to fiddle and shortly after that immersed myself in the Hot Club/Gypsy Jazz style,swinging fiddle. My favorite music is Bach.

November 9, 2019 at 05:58 PM · I had 6 weeks of accordion on an intro program. I wanted to continue, but my mother said we couldn't afford it.

But I ALWAYS wanted to play violin. I had my dad's. He had played a little bit in public school long before he was a father. Plus it just seemed better to me than playing trumpet or drums like all other boys.

But being in parochial school in New Mexico until junior high, I couldn't play anything--the only music was voice sing along with a televised teacher.

When my parents moved me over to public schools I was finally able to start in 9th grade.

November 9, 2019 at 07:08 PM · My first instrument was a harmonica at age 7 yrs. My father played them. I first learned by ear. By about 10 yrs old self learned to read music from two books, one on the harmonica and the other for a yes, plastic recorder (still have that same recorder). My parents then bought me an electric organ, now the fun of learning to read bass cleff and coordinate left hand, right hand and feet for the pedals. The organ taught me a lot about chords where I started out by just reading sheet music of the melody and chord letters, now chords are second nature to me. Later on in high school, the music room had an old clapped out piano, so I snuck in early before scholl to practice there, later on my parents bought me a piano. I joined the high school band playing the clarinet. Even made my own pan pipes from bamboo growing down the road from where I lived. The accoustic guitar crept in along the way as well, mostly self taught. Then as an adult attended several line dancing sessions, dancing not playing an instrument, where the fiddle was used often used in the music, so thought I will give the violin a go, that at the age of 30 yrs some thing or rather. Got about 2 years worth of formal violin lessons, from there on self taught and YoutTube ha ha. Must say the violin was one of the hardest instruments to learn, but well worth it. Getting married, raising my son and work life, resulted in putting my violin to the side for 20 years, but now picked it up again and rediscovered what a wonderful instrument it is. Recently purchased an electric violin, which fits will into home studio recordings with a DAW and the keyboards, now spend most weekends playing my instruments and composing music. I still play my blues harp harmonica, one of my favourites.

November 9, 2019 at 07:56 PM · Re ~ First Instrument Not being Violin (15)

At the age of barely 2 years, I'm told by my pianist-mother, having been seated on an extra high piano bench to reach the ivories, yet intently composing my first original composition for the Piano, which I can still recall now, eons later! It was titled: "Momma ~ Tie My Shoes" and I also wrote the words, singing my little piece while playing it on the piano!!

This very enjoyable experience remained with me, learning the piano from my patient loving & loving-music herself, Mother ~ (Bare in mind, my Mother was invited by the 20th Century Icon of Composition, Arnold Schoenberg, to be his Alternate Pianist w/Leonard Stein, for all of Prof Schoenberg's most advanced classes at UCLA in advanced Theory; Form and Analysis, and Orchestral Structure & Composition, w/duties requiring her uncanny unusual qualities of always being ready to play vast sections of Schoenberg's complex Atonal orchestral scores & including his chamber symphony orchestral works, impromptu, when Professor Arnold Schoenberg, was lecturing his most advanced pupil's on how he employed his own Atonal styled compositional techniques to convey the gamut of human A - Z emotions, (& some of Schoenberg's scores without any Piano reduction parts!), but even minus them my 'savant' gifted with uncanny-ears-for-harmony & transposition-Mother could Hear All & reproduce All near flawlessly on the piano!) Having such a loving Momma & so very modestly brilliant, set the 'stage' for her little daughter to enjoy playing the piano with gentle & kind assistance from Arnold Schoenberg's brilliant pianist who was a great Brahms and Schumann player which would later stand me in very good musical stead!

Just before my third birthday, watching my violinist - father with pianist-mother playing Violin & Piano Sonatas much, I yearned to have a 'biolin' for my Third Birthday, which actually became a reality on the night of my 3rd Birthday, & seeing a gorgeous rich near- emerald green inside in which to lay my little 'baby' into a small black case with black dots strewn atop! I still see the scene in our cozy living room on the evening of my first 'Biolin' Birthday with Poppa bringing my Present into the softly lit living room & looking watchfully over his 3 year old daughter opening her requested 'biolin' as her 3rd Birthday present for the very first time!! I was very happy & even got to hold my first violin as a special 'toy' guided immaculately by my Juilliard Violinist String Educator Poppa, Ralph Matesky! It fascinated me and Poppa put the violin bow in my right hand which he turned over gently upside down to put the bow into curious tiny + slightly curved fingers!! Life was changed from that Birthday forever, & I was deeply blessed to have piano & violin lessons from both of my wonderfully accomplished parents ~

As I progressed on the instrument, it became apparent that the Violin would be my main instrument as a professional. Though knowing this my very smart Mother always juggled the piano together w/progressing focused-on-the-violin studies and early on I was taught to play as best as my limited 2 hand piano technique could do to learn all the piano accompaniments to every violin piece I was studying & from the beginning as my parents emphasized, "to become a fully rounded musician, you must know entire score's to any violin piece, concerto & sonata you play and will perform for the rest of your life!"

The violin offered - as written above by Karen Allendoerfer, the opportunities to play with many of the other string instrument players & later, when playing in orchestras, to make music with & meet all other members of a symphony orchestra including those 'cute' trumpet players & more intriguing quiet-intellectual clarinetist's!!! The most important idea which has truly helped ensure my residence on musical Terra firma was the stressed importance of knowing every single note in any composition for the violin w/piano, in orchestra, chamber orchestra, string quartets, trios, quintets-sextets & smaller chamber ensembles + Opera, exposed to this Theatre of 'Grown Up' love & betrayal in sound sung by wonderful singers & on-stage theatre sets plus costumes for various solo singers in Opera's! My first public experience was at 15, invited to play On Stage in USC's Opera Production, 'La Cenerentola' with great Faculty 'Cellist, Prof Gabor Reijto, w/ both of us in Rococo styled costumes on a small period styled platform with white wigs!! Tho' young & naive, I did know to Listen carefully to All Opera Orchestral music & innuendi of emotion's from the singers to interpret my part of our Trio on-stage with make up plus all the perks which went with it!!!

If one has had the great blessings of exceptionally loving (not pushy) musician parents, all early experiences with your first choice instrument & although it may Not be your professional first instrument, (& in my case, the Piano), it can only but help expand your musical understanding if becoming a professional violinist and aspiring to be the best (& secretly) the greatest that one can be!!!

For Karen Allendoerfer, your piano is waiting when you're truly 'Ready' and will welcome you with 88 smiles to your beginning touches of its white and black 'teeth'!!!

A Word: Both my mentor's, Mister's Heifetz & Nathan Milstein, were exceptional lover's of the Piano, and each knew so much about the actual physical techniques of playing whether Jazz, as much more so in Mr, Heifetz's case, and glorious sound in Mr. Milstein's domain ~ Both transcribed well known works originally composed for Orchestra, Ballet & even Opera plus Piano for either Violin & Piano, or Solo Violin (i.e.,'Mephisto' for Solo Violin trans. by Nathan Milstein, inspired by his great friend, Vladimir Horowitz's, genius offering of Liszt's 'Mephisto Waltz' for Piano w/his 3 year Journey of Milsteinian obsession to transcribe it perfectly for 1 Solo Violin, & much of it done from the Piano as Milstein was nearly exorcised by Liszt's 'Mephisto Waltz', & upon premiering it in Orchestra Hall to 3x sold out Milstein 'Fan Nation' devout worshipper's, NM utterly hypnotized the stunned audience & revered 'Chicago Sun-Times' Music Critic, Robert C. Marsh, sitting with me, flushed, who asked, 'Lizzie, How can Milstein play like God at 83??!!" My response was in taking him back to NM's Green Room to meet *"God #2"!!! (It was Marvellous!)

I hereby confess to my string brothers & sisters, that when I'm "violined out", I go to the Piano & play Bach piano repertoire to practice with relaxed love and feel complete as a rounded plus musician, usually ending with the glorious transcription of "The Lord's Prayer" arr. by Norman della Joio, which when last in Hameenlinna, Finland, in the birth-house of Sibelius, revisiting Helsinki, (to present a Recital & Master Teacher Lesson at the fabled Sibelius Academy of Music before Finnish & European colleagues and pupil's), upon being surprisingly invited by the Curator of the earlier inaugurated (by myself & Finnish pianist, Mary Lakos, playing the 'Adagio di molto' of The Master's Violin Concerto on the Centenery of Sibelius before All Five Daughters of Jean Sibelius & Finnish Gov't Minister of Culture, proclaiming the birth-house the "Sibelius National Memorial Museum"), to "play the Piano of Sibelius", I was truly stunned & moved to tears, nearly declining due to not being a pianist, but she insisted (as I'd performed by invitation of the Sibelius Family & Special Award for 'Best Solo Bach' in the Sibelius 1st International Violin Competition), nervously with tears in eyes - sitting on the stool of Jean Sibelius at His Piano with Sibelius' own hand sketched manuscripts of one of his scores on the piano stand, and saying a prayer for help to honour Finland's Greatest Moral Composer since Beethoven, I began playing Norman della Joio's "The Lord's Prayer", with a bowed head and raised 'Up' Heart to Sibelius, my parents, Mister's Heifetz, Lasserson and Nathan Milstein, and to The Almighty for such an Honour on a frigid freezing Finnish Winter day, 2 months following Sibelius' December 8th, '99 Birthday, on February the 9th,1999, in the Last February Month of The Twentieth Century ~

Never, dear Violinist.com friends, berate yourselves for loving another instrument besides your chosen musical instrument of the profession, for "Love is patient and kind'" and so is God ...

It has been my honour to share the above with you!

Elisabeth Matesky

*There is a 'God #1' of the Violin as well ~

November 9, 2019 at 08:03 PM · My first instrument at age 6 was a piano that my parents had bought for $15 that was painted white! We didn’t have money for lessons, so my Mom, a non musician who was always very interested in music but could never have lessons (grew up in pre WW II in Nazi Germany), bought a basic piano primer by Leila Fletcher and taught me and my brother basic notes and tunes. We practiced and learned simple songs. Later we moved to Charlottesville, Va. and there were lessons offered in my elementary school in an after school program by a really scary teacher, but I persevered and ended up playing easy Sonatinas by Kuhlau and Clementi.

At age 10, my school offered a choice between violin and flute and I chose violin. I played in an ensemble for a few months , then started real violin lessons with a professional violinist, Ann Rodig. In 6 months I was playing Seitz Concerti. I continued with my teacher, learned to read well by joining a youth orchestra and even a Senior Center orchestra! I formed a string quartet with good friends from the youth orchestra and almost every Sunday we read everything we could find in the UVA library and ended up performing some concerts in schools playing Dvorak American and Charles Ives’ 1st string quartet and Glazunov Novelettes. When UVA had a chamber music workshop and brought Fred Sherry and Rony Rogoff down to teach from New York, I was hooked on music as a career!

November 9, 2019 at 10:18 PM · Violin was my first instrument at age five when the "nice lady down the street" (who happened to be Alice Joy Lewis!) got interested in the Suzuki movement and started her very first class for children in what later became Ottawa Suzuki Strings. My family moved across country a few years later and my mother tracked down a new teacher for me in our new home--Doris Gazda. I was so incredibly fortunate in my childhood violin teachers.

Piano lessons started at age six after I had been begging for awhile. I took both instruments until I was in junior high and the twice-a-week lesson grind got to be too much for my parents. It was decided for me that I would focus on violin. At the time, I think I actually liked piano better but it turns out that violin was the right choice.

November 9, 2019 at 11:41 PM · Started with classical guitar as I had no interest in violin as a kid. With soft finger nails it was always a struggle, and as I got older practice time was an issue too, hence drifted away over the years. Decades later, picked up Penny Whistle as an "easy" alternative before drifting over to the violin.

November 10, 2019 at 02:05 AM · Started piano lessons when I was 5, cello when I was 11, church organ at 20, and a few years of the classical guitar (plus a little on the lute) starting in my mid 20s. Many years later, when I took a slightly early retirement my Mother gave me the 18th c family violin, which I was unaware of since it had been kept hidden in cupboards since the outbreak of WW2. I was instructed to look after it and to learn to play it, or else! After all, it had been in the family since 1850 and must so remain for evermore. Not surprisingly, it needed a thorough refurbishment and a few minor repairs which were efficiently done by the violin shop that had been looking after my cello since my teens. I managed to learn the violin sufficiently well to play it to my Mother two years later, shortly before she died. The rest is history.

My cello is now being played by my daughter in Belgium.

November 10, 2019 at 03:08 AM · My older sister was taking piano lessons and I would go with my mother to pick her up. Then I would go to the piano and play some passages by ear that my sister had played. I was 5 at the time. That was it; I soon started piano lessons myself. When I was 7 1/2 decided that I wanted to play the violin as well, and be the concertmistress of the New York Philharmonic! That didn't happen, but continued both instruments until 18 when I had to make a decision. I chose the violin and had a rewarding professional career but have never lost my love for the piano.

November 10, 2019 at 03:30 AM · My first instrument was the piano. I started as a toddler. Mom had a keyboard lying around that I would play on, and that keyboard was around before I was born. A few years later I added violin and then added viola after another few years. Happily playing all three.

November 10, 2019 at 06:04 AM · Piano. When I was in first grade, my mother had us buy a piano and then she found me a teacher. (It was a very middle class 50's-60's thing to do in the US.) I studied it into high school. I had forgotten until I read the responses, but my second instrument was the recorder, which my mother had had in college. I never had the chance to try a stringed instrument until I was way into adulthood but I have willingly forsaken all other instruments (piano, recorder, clarinet, flute, guitar) for the violin and now the viola.

-- Fran Rizzardi

November 10, 2019 at 09:53 AM · Hmmm. Well. Voice isn't an instrument, but getting yanked into vocal ensembles at 4 made me start reading English and treble clef more or less concurrently, so at least it was a kinda-sorta start. The fact that I grew up more or less swimming in music didn't hurt. Mom was a trained singer who also played piano and dabbled in violin, Dad was an untrained but talented singer who also played trumpet, and my younger brother started on piano when he was 5.

I was the late bloomer; other than a few weeks' ill-fated encounter with violin at 7 and some desultory plinking around on ukulele, the first real instrument I tackled with any enthusiasm was clarinet, of all things, at 11. Over the course of the next two years I picked up the rest of the single-reed instruments, as well as discovering guitar--my Charisma Generator!--at 12. That started me on the whole string thing; over the next couple of decades I also picked up bass guitar (my #1 part-time cash cow, by a looong shot), banjo, and mandolin. I also learned to fake it reasonably well on keyboards. I did nothing else with bowed strings until well into middle age, when I picked up violin again out of idle curiosity. I seem to have been ready for it at that point; now, its only real competitor for my affection (and practice time!) is viola.

November 10, 2019 at 01:36 PM · The other stringed instrument was 'bul bul tarang (India). Then i learnt violin from Master Joe Dorasamy. He taught me to get Trinity College of Music's certificate Grade V in violin playing.

November 10, 2019 at 01:56 PM · I was 10 when I started. I didn't have a chance before then

November 10, 2019 at 01:59 PM · My first instrument is piano which I still play. I wanted to learn the violin as a kid and my conversation with my mother was a carbon copy of Laurie's with her mother until the point she said "You're going to play the piano." And then "your sister is also learning the piano".

My older sister had wanted to learn the piano and had took several months to convince my parents. So we had a piano at home and my mother wanted me to learn the piano as well to make it fully utilized.

November 10, 2019 at 03:02 PM · Tried drum lessons in grade school- TOTALLY lost on rhythmic notation

Then got a banjo in college- didn't get far on that- had a mental block by then I guess.

First real instrument was a late 80's Casio Keyboard with mini keys and about 24 voices, and started playing some easy play songbooks- very crudely. I was 33 then.

Had to get a Yamaha soon after- 100 VOICES! From there I took piano lessons, and on my novice way. Classical Guitar class at LA City college in the 90's really got me to believe I could really play an instrument with some proficiency-

Didn't get to violin until about a half dozen years ago- and wish I had started MUCH sooner- like 60 years!

November 10, 2019 at 04:18 PM · Stereotypical Asian family, starting piano lessons at 4, cello at 7, violin at 14, viola at 23. In middle school, the orchestra teacher moved me to string bass because I was practicing my Piatti Caprices while the other cello students were learning vibrato. I have found that learning musical instruments is like learning foreign languages. Once you get the eyes, ears, and fingers coordinated, start viewing music as patterns, decide that clefs are not scary, and can hear how the string-to-bow contact is working for quality of sound, you can switch instruments on a dime ~ and do them (technically) well. When my viola teacher dared me to play the Arpeggione on the viola, but held like a cello, it came naturally and sounded pretty good on first attempt. Imagine living in Switzerland without at least four languages under your belt ~ then add English! Likewise on stringed instruments.

November 10, 2019 at 05:37 PM · Singing & 5 years of piano!

Baptist Hymn Book (good harmony), Stainer's "Crucifixion".

Anglican choral scolarship (Martindale Sidwell), St. Matthew Passion;

At 14 1/2 yo, viola with Phyllis Ebsworth;

Music BA (Phillip Ledger);

So, part-singing helped my ear, and piano "woke up" my left hand, before starting the viola...

November 10, 2019 at 06:38 PM · Took a violin class in 1958 - 59 when I was 9 years old. I have to admit, however, I wasn't really all that interested in playing a violin. Finding fourth grade both confusing and dull, and the persistent criticism of my math and spelling skills rather tedious, I just wanted a way to get out of the classroom for 45 minutes a week. Lessons were free. My mom had a 4/4 violin from when she was in high school in the early 1940's, so I used that. I rarely practiced. Our weekly lessons were on the stage of my school, and the poor guy who taught us was only able to give about five minutes of attention to each student. When we weren't playing for him we just ran around the auditorium playing tag. Things went downhill from there. We had a spring concert where I was placed in the back row and told that my bow should never touch the strings. I should just move my arm in the same general direction as everyone else. So I sat there, ducking my head behind the music stand, and simply got through the whole thing as well as I could.

I quit the next day. However, I did managed to pass the fourth grade even though my math skills remained a little dubious, and my spelling was very imaginative. . .

The next 58 years had nothing to do with playing a violin, so we'll skip all of that. However, so you don't worry about this, I did learn enough math to get through statistics in grad school, and I have a very good spell checker on this computer. Hence, those problems, which seemed to be so important in the fourth grade, have been nullified.

So, as I said, 58 years went by without anything to do with violins. They weren't important - nada. Then one day they were. It's that simple. Out of the blue, for no reason at all, I decided to learn how to play a violin. So I got a violin, I got a great teacher, and now I'm having a lot of fun. I practice every day, and even though I'm the tallest in the recitals by at least two feet, and the oldest by several decades, I'm holding my own with the kids.

That's it.

Oh, one more thing. I still have that same violin from 61 years ago, and it sounds great.

November 10, 2019 at 08:43 PM · Let's go with "viola." At age 23. Although somebody bought me an acoustic guitar when I was maybe 13, 14; we were taught to use something like a recorder (a "Tonette") in 3rd grade for learning to read music. And in 5th (6th?) grade my school district did a really cool thing: It had accumulated class sets of woodwinds, brass, and string instruments (each) and sent them around to each elementary school. So my elementary school got string instruments for in-school use for maybe 6 weeks, maybe 2 months, and everybody would be assigned an instrument and learn some basic string technique; the woodwinds might arrive and we'd each be assigned one for a while(I had clarinet, was even allowed to take the ghastly thing home some weekends); then the brass showed up (trumpet), and we all worked on embouchures. They must have been atrocious instruments, and I remember the teacher swearing at having to deal with all the reeds, but the idea was to help every kid at my disadvantaged (?) school get some exposure to a range of instruments, decide if they liked a class of instruments, and maybe go for lessons, orchestra/band.

November 11, 2019 at 02:49 AM · I was started on recorder as a first grader. This is the beginning for many children in Europe as has been said before. Violin lessons started when I was "already' 11.

November 11, 2019 at 03:47 AM · The first instrument was Violin, at age 11. There was a piano in the house, but I always have been terrible at piano; the keys all feel the same and I keep hitting the wrong ones. Got distracted by electric guitar at age 16. Then in college I added Viola. I was an ethnomusicology major at UCLA, and tried my hand at many things. My big performance project was Veracruz style diatonic harp, but my velocity never quite made it up to professional performance standards. Then; Tenor banjo; I was able to play the rarely heard banjo part for the first edition of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue with our orchestra. Latin Percussion. Snare Drum for traditional New England style fife and drum corps. Much later I did formal voice lessons; that is the one thing I wish I had done much earlier. By-the-way; Voice Does count as an instrument. Real singers always refer to their voice as their instrument.

November 11, 2019 at 01:44 PM · I have learned classic guitar for five years in the 80s.

Thirty years later I started to learn the violin, and I'm still struggling with it.

November 11, 2019 at 06:24 PM · I voted violin as my first instrument, but I have recent vague memories of playing recorder in school (for a couple of years?), prior to selecting the violin. So, I guess recorder was my first "instrument"...

We had a great music teacher in our public school, and she had us select our instruments at the end of third grade to learn in the fourth grade - I chose the violin because it was the only instrument that I could make a sound with, and I loved its sound. Third grade, for me, was age 8 (I was young for my class). I took to the violin like a bird to water, according to my mother, but private lessons were not offered until I BEGGED for them in 9th grade (WAY too late, unfortunately) - still, I made a lot of progress in four short school-years, and I went from last stand of second violins to concertmaster (per my school's seating-based-on-playing-ability) by the end of my junior year of high school. Pretty remarkable achievement for someone who had literally no technical training whatsoever in all four years of private lessons - either that or my high school orchestra was plain old terrible. Always a possibility for the latter! My music teacher asked me about going to conservatory (and wanted me to do a summer music program, my parents could not afford such an expense unfortunately), and I declined stating that I did not want to turn what I loved most in the world into my only means of making a living. Then, three years after graduating high school, I stopped regular practicing (if regular practice is what you can call practicing whenever one can), then two years later I put my violin away altogether for over a decade. It's a rather sad time in my life that that decade-plus inhabits.

Fast forward past this time of heartbreak, and I'm privileged enough to work with an amazing teacher and I joined a community orchestra. (To which, I recall the various orchestra practices from over 20 years prior, yet have forgotten things too, and am learning new concepts like divisi.) I'm hoping to find the "right" orchestra for me, or a chamber group - and I'm lucky enough to live in a place that has a lot of options and opportunities even for us adult players.

My sibling's fate was unfortunately not as nice as mine, they wanted to learn piano but my parents could neither afford a piano nor full size keyboard as well as regular lessons, so when it came time for them to pick their instrument our shared music teacher forced my sibling into choosing the violin (even though they wanted to learn the flute, since the piano was not offered) because they felt that my "talent" would also inhabit my sister in the same way!!!! (I remember this conversation between my mother and sister rather clearly, it's quite strange the memories we hold onto sometimes.) Needless to say, as soon as they were allowed to "drop" the violin as an instrument, my sibling promptly did so and joined the choir instead. They learned how to play the keyboard by ear, which I still find to be admirable and amazing. They have recently mentioned how they miss singing in the choir, and hope to join one in the future.

I love how music is always there for us, waiting for us to be ready: to play, to listen, to make.

November 11, 2019 at 08:15 PM · Lauri, it would be fun for you to do another quiz on how many people started on the recorder before they graduated to their own instruments. It used to be a common practice in the Midwest where kids were handed cheap plastic recorders, then were determined whether or not they had musical talent, and what that talent would be. I was told I had no talent, and then went on to play the violin (which I wanted all along) for many years, and still do. That's life in the "band belt" for ya!

November 11, 2019 at 09:43 PM · @Pamela M (37)

Dear Pamela 'M' ~

Having just read your Reply, my heart goes out to you ... And to your probably still hurting siblings, which aches for all of you carrying scary words of fear uttered by parents, as just quoted above ...

Not knowing where you live if you or they are ever in Illinois, & wish a 'promenade' on the ivories & for yourself a 'Christmas' lesson on the violin, please advise at least 4 weeks before so schedules can be coordinated to honour your Reply ending words: 'I love how music is always there for us, waiting for us to be ready: to play, to listen, to make.'

Reaching across the miles ...

Elisabeth Matesky *

*Most probably, you more then deserved the Concertmaster Chair in a far better than 'just plain old terrible' high school orchestra ~ Of this, I'm quite sure!


November 12, 2019 at 07:02 AM · So many stories, I don't have time to read them all right now. Here's mine and I'll come back later for the rest.

I was started on my uncle's handed down trumpet at I think 6 or 7. I just never got going with it though and so dropped it. Then when I was 10, my father's piano was shipped out to L.A. from New York, I did poke at it but didn't start lessons. Than about a year later, my grandmother came to visit and said she had seen a mounted violin over a piano and there were these two old violins her father had brought back from a business trip back in 1930 that she still had and two would look even better than one ... Well they were soon sent out with my father on a business trip. Two violins & bows, three strings and one bridge. I managed to get two strings and the bridge up on one and was trying to play it the first chance I got. The local Luthier absolutely said they were too good to mount on a wall, not that that was my mother's plan for them, I started lessons that summer and continued on our school program in Jr. High.

To think, if the violins (which are the ones I still have and play almost 50 years later) hadn't shown up, I would likely have taken trumpet back up in school instead.

November 12, 2019 at 08:21 PM · I voted violin but that's note completely correct.

Melody Flute came first. In music class. We all had to buy these nickel silver fipple flutes with a brown plastic slipcase called "Melody FLutes." They were transverse.

I started guitar and violin together in 4th grade and was in the orchestra from the get go. That's right, under none other than Eugene Ormandy. I heard him on the radio haha.

I took up recorder at the same time. My neighbors (three boys all one three and 5 years older) had tenor, and alto and bass recorders). I had a beautiful wooden one.

So I'm discounting the "seriousness" of the Melody Flute on account of its compulsory nature. I never took lessons or got serious with the recorder. So I guess I'm discoutning that too.

November 13, 2019 at 01:55 AM · Thank you so much Ms. Matesky. I emailed you.

November 15, 2019 at 10:07 PM · Cornet was first, my dad comes from a long line of brass band players and miners, from the north east of England. So it was expected, all three children would play a brass instrument. I wanted to play the violin. I started cornet in year 3 (aged 7), flute in year 4 (aged 8), but the parents still wouldn’t allow me to start the violin.

Then came round year 5 (aged 9). I somehow, managed to negotiate myself a years worth of violin lessons through the school. I have no idea how, but obvious at nine years old, I knew everything. I started with group lessons, one of 6, in primary school. I was the eldest. I knew how to read music which helped. I was then moved into single lessons, 10 minutes, once a week. Not much, but it was something. I stopped cornet, kept flute.

16 or so years later, I teach violin, I’m having specialist lessons on viola and I’ve not touched my flute for about 7 years.

All the parents had to do, was let me learn violin, as I wished to as a 7 year old. I expect they didn’t want the early scratchy sounds, but seemed fine with me learning the bagpipes in my teen years.....

From this, I hope that my children choose their own preferences, but of course violin would be excellent, viola would be even better!

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Facebook YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Anne Cole Violin Maker
Anne Cole Violin Maker

Violinist.com Shopping Guide
Violinist.com Shopping Guide

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop



Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine