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The Weekend Vote weekend vote: Was the violin your first instrument?

July 3, 2010 at 4:46 AM

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

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!

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!

What's your story? Please vote, then share!




From Francesca Rizzardi
Posted on July 3, 2010 at 5:19 AM

I started on the piano.  It was only recently that I pieced together the whole story: My mother grew up in the Great Depression and her parents couldn't afford piano lessons for both of their children.  Her sister got the lessons and she got about 10 minutes out of each of her sister's lessons.  So when I was in second grade, my parents could finally afford a piano and it was natural that I would take lessons.  I don't remember having any opinion about it and I hadn't been exposed to any other instruments.  Over the years I got a lot of pleasure from playing, but it wasn't until I finally got to study the violin that music became a passion for me.

From Bart Meijer
Posted on July 3, 2010 at 5:56 AM

One day I heard and saw my parents playing violin duets and greatly enjoying themselves. I was sold, and kept asking to play the violin until, finally, at seven, I got my wish.

It was only after growing up, with my wife singing and children learning their instruments, that I learned a little piano.

From David Rowland
Posted on July 3, 2010 at 6:33 AM

I was sort of thrust into the violin. My dad says it was in part because my mom was hoping that the hand exercise would improve my penmanship, it didn't. The violin was my first and only instrument. I didn't stick with it and dropped it when my parents divorced and we moved to Colorado. 27 years later I'm back playing it and loving it like I never did when I was younger.

From Julian Stokes
Posted on July 3, 2010 at 8:08 AM

Yes, the violin was my first instrument.
Then I strayed.
Now I'm back.

Can't quite think why - except that on my mother's side music was there. Why the beautiful violin and not some other lesser stringed instrument, a reedy spit collector or a brass blaring thing - I don't know.

From Kim Vawter
Posted on July 3, 2010 at 9:48 AM

 Piano. I was informed that great grandma, grandma and mother all had lessons and played. Piano being the prime entertainment or maybe it was a skill like cooking, sewing etc. By the time the 50's rolled around, the piano, while still in it's place of prominence in the living room was being edged out by the unblinking blue screen of the TV set high in the wall in it's  own built in cabinet. Still all six of us kids had some sort of piano instruction. Around 4th grade I announced that I was going to play a band instrument after our class was introduced to a long wooden thing with holes running down the side, a recorder.  Since I demonstrated a great ability to make a loud noise with this thing, a clarinet was recommended by the grand stout Italian grade school music teacher.

Soon my father proudly produced a moldy wooden thing with tarnished keys, wrapped in rags. I found out it was purchased for $25 from the defunct Fireman's marching band. I was delighted!  I now was an official clarinet player from the 4th grade. What an honor, what status!

I received maybe about 10 lessons and then I joined the grade school and then High School bands. After the initial lessons in 4th grade I was on my own to learn as you go. I might add that with the cracks and the pads dropping out I did not product lovely tones.  I enjoyed the technology of the instrument. II had to fix the poor thing constantly. I liked to attach springs and glue back the pads and adjust the reed. I did improve by the time I graduated from High School. (ha, ha-you don't have to read this but I am having fun remembering how awful I was and how my family supported me going to all out concerts and marching performances.)  Fast forward  later to my empty nest years and I returned to the piano. I took several years of some serious lessons when a "friend" pointed out that I wasn't gaining any ground and that I might try his violin. (I had never even seen a violin up close! I was told that my father played violin and the object was hidden in the attic forbidden to us.) I loved violin music and the violin was so light and beautiful that it made me cry just to see one up close. I know, babies, puppies and deer with their spots make me cry too--My friend taught me to play the first couple of pieces in the Suzuki book #1 and then I was determined to learn to play. With clarinet and piano I knew how to read music and how the tones should sound so I was off to the races! I have been at it for 6 years now and it is still a joy to learn and to practice.

From Marsha Weaver
Posted on July 3, 2010 at 11:18 AM

I studied piano for 13 years (age 7 to 20).  I appreciate the experience, and it gave me a strong background in music, but I never felt the emotional attachment to the piano that I do to the violin.  I'm an adult beginner on violin, and it's become one of the great joys of my life!

From Deborah McCann
Posted on July 3, 2010 at 12:16 PM

I wanted to play the cello.  We lived in Florida and they did not teach instrumental music until jr. high, but the music teacher at my school played cello in the Miami Symphony and he would play at school.  Loved to listen.  He let me pluck the open strings one day and I was hooked.  Shortly after we moved to Iowa, and they did teach instrumental music starting in 5th grade, which was my grade.  I took the Seashore Music Aptitude test along with my class mates and did well enough that the teacher called my folks.  Finally the cello, I thought, but no, I would have to carry it almost 2 miles to school, so my cello became the violin.  I do not regret it and love the violin.  It was the best choice for me.


From Jim Hastings
Posted on July 3, 2010 at 1:47 PM

I started on piano.  It was my parents' idea -- plus my mom was a piano whiz; I'm sure this had something to do with it.  I will always be grateful for the early training, even though I didn't go beyond the basic level of reading treble and bass and playing simple pieces.

I caught the violin bug when a local community orchestra played at my elementary school.  I'd already heard a good deal of symphonic music at home on recordings and radio broadcasts; so I felt at home with it.

After the principal string players each gave us a demonstration of how their instruments sounded, I told a classmate that I'd like to learn violin.  This kid was already into cello lessons, and he told me, "A violin is a lot harder to play than a cello."

To this day, I'll have to take his word for it, because I've never tried playing a cello.  Yet what he said somehow appealed to the little swashbuckler in me.  I welcomed the challenge.  Thanks to the piano background, I could already read music.  Several months before I began violin lessons, I was already fingering and bowing simple tunes from what was to become my first training book.

From Lawrence Price
Posted on July 3, 2010 at 2:38 PM

I started with piano when I was about three years old.  I went next door to my grandparent's house to practice and have lessons.  We moved when I was five and shortly thereafter began playing the violin.  I remember to this day the evening conversation over waffles when my father told me that he would let me study the violin and that he expected me to practice eight hours a day.  I did not even have a clue what that would mean for my life but everything that I have done came from that moment.  Of course it took some time before I could practice the required time.  My father would come home from work every night and listen to me play.  The dreaded question always was "how much have you practiced?".  It was never enough.

From Michael Blazick
Posted on July 3, 2010 at 3:12 PM

The piano was my first choice but we didn't have a piano.  When looking over the list of instruments my school offered, I stopped at the violin wondering you knew where to put your fingers. I also remembered reading Little Lulu comic books where her friend Tubby played the violin. My father was against me playing the violin.  He wanted me to play the trumpet so I could get jobs in night clubs.  I almost gave in. 

From kenneth barry
Posted on July 3, 2010 at 3:45 PM

The fiolin was my first instrument at the age of 9.  Today I still practice regularly and love it evenmore--at age 84


                                                        Ken Barry

From Erika Burns
Posted on July 3, 2010 at 4:10 PM

 My parents caught me playing air violin when I was four, and debated whether to start me then or wait. My first memory of starting comes after my first lesson, when my mom showed me a new violin in the library parking lot. 

From Nancy Myers
Posted on July 3, 2010 at 5:39 PM

The piano was my first.  We got a piano and my mother asked me if I wanted to take lessons.  I said yes.  I took lessons for 4 years, and can play pretty well.  Since my mother was a violinist, I often listened to her playing and liked it very much.  I didn't start on the violin until I was 18.  I love music so I play both instruments.  Also have played the organ.


From Juan Manuel Ruiz
Posted on July 3, 2010 at 6:49 PM

Yes, the violin is my first instrument - and has been so for only 5 months.
I began to fall in love with the sound of violins in classical, Celtic and new age music when I was about 16 (I'm 20 right now), and after playing for some time with the idea of starting violin, I could finally afford a new instrument and start private lessons. I'm planning to drop out of my current career and sign up in a music school next year.

I can't say it's easy and I can't say I'm talented, but I'm enjoying every little thing I learn =)

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on July 3, 2010 at 9:18 PM

 I also wanted to play piano, but we didn't have one.  My parents rented my violin through the school when I started playing in the school program, and it was my first and only instrument.  When I asked about piano again, I was told "you already have a violin, you can't have a piano too, besides, where would we put it?"  I was happy to stick with violin because it was small and portable and you could play it in a group (or alone in your room with the door closed), but I still always kind of secretly wanted to play the piano also.  My friend next door's family bought a beat up old piano and put it in their basement, and my friend and I used to bang on it for fun (we were ages ~6-10 at the time).  I lost touch with her but recently that friend found me again on facebook through the Greater Buffalo Youth Orchestra alumni page.  She grew up to be a piano and flute teacher--so that banging we did on the rickety old basement piano actually paid off!

From Janis Cortese
Posted on July 3, 2010 at 9:59 PM

Piano while a snotnose kid :-), and viola now.  Glad I learned piano young, because you wind up absorbing a lot of information about music theory and structure without even realizing it.  Viola is harder in some ways though -- the piano is filled with notes already pre-made, and all you have to do is play them.  The viola?  You have to make each note by hand before you play it, and it takes all my concentration just to make that one note.

Of course, on the piano, since each note takes less focus to create, they just have you make twelve at once, so I guess it all evens out ...

I vacillated between violin and viola, but violins are just too high.  :-)  I like the "belt" under a viola, so that even the high notes have some smoke beneath them.  Cellos were never a choice for me -- playing a piano since childhood, the last thing I wanted to play was one more piece of furniture.  :-)  If I was going to pick up another instrument, it was going to be one that I could literally pick up.

From Lisa Van Sickle
Posted on July 4, 2010 at 1:10 AM

Coming from a line of woodwind players, I started with flute when I was nine.  Took up violin in seventh grade, then in eighth quit flute and switched to oboe/English horn. College gave me a chance to learn recorder, a little viola da gamba, baroque oboe, a bit of krumhorn.  Took up viola as a middle-aged adult.  Violin has been the one constant through the years.

I feel very lucky to have grown up at a time and in a place (Iowa, '60's and '70's) where the public schools had fantastic music programs.  All through junior high and high school I had both band and orchestra every day, and still got in all the English, math, history, art, chemistry, physics, etc., anyone could ever want.  I only wish the same was true for my kids now.

From Stephen Lim
Posted on July 4, 2010 at 1:45 AM

Well, before i start, pardon my weak English..


Violin is my first instrument..I began to play violin when i was 14 years old (and actually i've begged my parents to learn violin since i was 13..They said it's no use to learn the violin and they ask me to learn piano and guitar instead, well..I refuse and got into a fight with my parents for almost a year just because i want to learn violin that badly..)

Now i've just learned violin for 2 years..But i found a great pleasure playing it..

I began to be interested at violin when i saw a senior playing violin beautifully.. (and you know what, i think violin is the best instrument that i could get when i heard my senior's performance, and it's true..Even though it's a really hard instrument to learn, but i love it..)

 My first instrument is violin..I want to learn cello too as my second instrument..But my parents are not allowing me..And now i follow their request..I learn a guitar as my second instrument..

From Laurie Niles
Posted on July 4, 2010 at 4:28 AM

 I love all your stories! 

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on July 4, 2010 at 5:46 AM

Ken Barry, I'm impressed with your long term dedication to playing the violin.  May you have many more years of practicing the violin every day.

Like many others, I originally wanted to play the piano. As a kid, I wanted to be the one playing the piano while everyone else gathered around me and sang.  I was very shy, and this was my fantasy of being at the center of attention.  My mother always said that we could not afford a piano, so I devised other ways of playing one.  One of my best friends was a PK (preacher's kid), and we had access to an old piano in her church.  We played it every time we could.  She later learned to play the piano and the organ.  She and I used to hang out at a music store after school.  The second floor of the store had lots of pianos for sale, and we used to play them.  No one working at the store ever minded.  I couldn't afford to buy sheet music, so I would look at scores of songs, memorize them, and write them down as soon as I left the store, thinking of Mozart.

I started playing the violin at age 10, and after a few years, my violin teacher wanted me to study the piano to learn composition and harmony.  Again, my mother said that we could not afford it.  I begged and pleaded to buy an old, used piano, but my mother still said "no."

Now I love playing and teaching the violin, and I don't miss playing the piano at all.

From Charles Matthews
Posted on July 4, 2010 at 8:49 PM

I played the violin in 7th and part of 8th grade.  Lessons were taught at the school. I stopped because I could not stand the teasing from my Mother and Brother because our dog howled the entire time I practiced.  I switched to the guitar. The violin was the instrument I wanted to play. A year ago I bought a cheap fiddle, but did little with it. In January, I decided that I had unfininshed business so I found a good violin and started practicing in March. My playing is progressing well, I'm going to sign up for the New Horizons Orchestra in the fall.  Better late than never - I just turned 65. Oh, my dog doesn't howl while I practice, but he does look as if he is being murdered.

From Janis Cortese
Posted on July 5, 2010 at 5:52 PM

My roommate's cat peers in my bedroom and then hightails it out in record time and vanishes when I practice.  I think he's thinking to himself, "She's murdering cats in there! Run for your life!"  My kitty doesn't care, but I suspect she's gone deaf in her dotage.

From Donna Clegg
Posted on July 6, 2010 at 12:48 PM

Began clarinet in 5th grade, switched to baritone saxaphone in 8th, then taught myself piccolo in 10th (to be cool in marching band).  Left music for 32 years before taking up the violin then switched to my lovely viola.

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