I think I might give up the violin....

December 30, 2006 at 05:15 AM · Hi,

I told my teacher that I was thinking about "stopping the violin". Naturally she told me it was up to me but also asked questions about why (in a positive, interested way).

Anyway I don't know how the idea got fixed in my head but it has a lot to do with slow progress. I know I shouldn't compare myself to others but even when I just look at myself I know I can do a lot better. I don't know any names of composers (then the non-musician). I don't know subconsciously if thats because I really don't like the violin or something else....

I know I have made little progress but every time I play after a few minutes I know I'm going no where because I don't know how to improve.... I know this sounds very inane after playing for 7-8 years... Advice? Should I try another instrument? Start "fresh" somehow on the violin? Thanks again

Replies (36)

December 30, 2006 at 07:30 AM · I am thinking that it is not so much you, but did you ever think that this is your teacher? Not saying that he or she is a bad teacher but that you two might not connect? I remember when I first came to Violinist.com (In May, though it seems so much longer then that) I didn't know who Yo-Yo Ma was, Itzhack Perlman was, I had no clue how to Spell Mozart for crying out loud! But just from reading disscussions here and blogs I have solved that problem.

The problem of slow progress could be caused by a number of things. I think that it might be the time that you have played, wierdly enough when I had played for about 6 years I was sick of the violin. I took about a year off, and I was enjoying it more then ever and was playing better than ever too! So I suggest just taking some time off, and then rethinking the idea of quitting.

December 30, 2006 at 08:19 AM · Here's my advice:

Most people go through waves of enthusiasm. I just went through several months of keenness and hard work, did a little concert and ... totally deflated. Now I'm not interested.

But this always happens. And I know that in my keen phases I learn a lot and do progress (even at my age of 41, so you certainly will). So the trick for me is this: in the bored phases I just plod through a minimum of a half hour to one hour basic exercises every day to simply maintain things at a reasonable level. This can be a good time to just work on those boring scales and arpeggios and get good at the technicality of them. It's a bit dull, I have to push myself, but I just do it, like one goes for a run or to the gym.

Then, in a few days or even weeks, when the 'violin bug' bites me again, my skill won't have deteriorated and I'll be ready for the next step towards real violin playing, yay!!!

So just hang in there, listen to music you love, play a bit of relaxed chamber music with friends and a nice meal.

If you give up you'll kick yourself later for not hanging in there. So many older people wish they'd just gone through the boring phases to reach the real music. You can do it!

Oh, and get Simon Fisher's books Basics and Practice if you really want to improve. Those will definitely tell you how to!!

December 30, 2006 at 08:43 AM · Just hang in there!. When I was your age, it was rock'n roll and other things that had my attention. This too shall pass...

Maybe pick up another instrument, not an other instrument.

December 30, 2006 at 11:57 AM · Albert,

Rock & Roll shall never pass!

December 30, 2006 at 01:25 PM · Edward:

Someone once said that the violin should be played with love, or not at all. Life is too short not to make the most of everything you do. Whatever you decide, make the decision enthusiastically and don't look back. If you want to stay with the violin, give it everything you've got. If you don't want to continue, then just drop it, take with you what you have learned from it, and go on and get involved in something else.

And have a great New Year.

Cordially, Sandy

December 30, 2006 at 01:35 PM · I think Richard has a good point. When I was in high school I went through a period of lack of motivation and wasn't getting along very well with my teacher. If I'd been serious about becoming a professional musician (I wasn't), I definitely should have switched. At the time, the reason I stayed with that teacher anyway was that he was relatively inexpensive and lived close by.

He wasn't a bad teacher, either, it was just that the chemistry wasn't right. His style and what he wanted out of music were different from mine. He gave me a lot of Kreisler to play and wanted me to listen to recordings of Heifetz. And at the time I just couldn't relate to those artists. They seemed like distant gods handing out pearls of wisdom from on high; I chafed, I wasn't sufficiently deferential.

Twenty-five years later I'm coming back and learning much more appreciation for them and their style, but it has definitely helped me in the interim to have been exposed to other artists and other styles. I discovered fiddle music and Natalie McMaster. I found out through her and Midori and Hilary Hahn and many others that famous violinists didn't all have to be dead Eastern European males. I played music written by living composers such as Steve Reich and Doug Henderson. I got a viola.

Susan is right, I'm very glad I didn't give up at that stage when my musical world felt too small for me.

December 30, 2006 at 03:25 PM · I would say a situation like this often has to do with the teacher. A teacher should inspire the student and not just drill; teach the principle so the students will stand up on their own feet sooner. As Clayton Haslop always said: "It's not what you play, it's how you play it." I was once referred to a teacher who claimed to be an expert on Sevcik's work. After a month (fee paid), I quit the teacher. That kind of repeative drill would get me carpal tunnel syndrom sooner rather than increasing dexterity.

December 30, 2006 at 04:03 PM · Edward,

Being 17 right now and having played for 8 years, I think I have a thing or two to say. I have just gone through the same phase as you several months ago. Going to youth orchestra rehearsals and hearing all these violin players show off their Mendelssohn or Lalo made me incredibly self conscious. I know I am not a bad player, but I am certainly no virtuoso either. Despite practicing everyday, I didn't seem to be going anywhere. I was totally frustrated. Also, I felt that my cheap violin was limiting my progress. I couldn't afford a better violin and seriously considered giving up.

Then my teacher moved away. This could be the perfect excuse. Up until this day I have not even attempted to contact another teacher. Still, during the summer, I kept practicing for the youth orchestra audition. Even though I don't have a teacher anymore, my skills did not deteriorate too badly. Then this school year has been so stressful that I neglected practicing for a long time. You would think that my interest in violin has waned, but on the contrary I began to look forward to playing it again. No teacher? No problem. I bought Simon Fischer's Basic and started to re-learn some of the basic techniques that I have forgotten due to bad habits, decreased awareness, etc.

From experience, the lack of motivation will pass after several weeks or months as long as you truly love the violin. If you just picked this instrument because your parents or your friends asked you to, then the violin might not be really for you. However, if you were like me and bugged your parents for months until they gave you a violin, I wouldn't recommend giving it up yet. I'm glad I didn't stop playing. I still get frustrated sometimes when I practice, but that's part of life. I don't want to be a professional musician, but I certainly want to be able to play with friends in the future.

Ultimately it's your choice. Take some time off and then decide if you want to continue or not. Often we think much more clearly after a resting period. Whatever you do, I wish you the best of luck!

Steph

December 30, 2006 at 04:29 PM · Maybe you should observe the way in which you practice. If you find yourself just playing through pieces in your practice time, then all you are really doing is reinforcing and securing the faults in which you play.

So you do not like the slowness of your progression on violin? Do not just give up. Show some initiative and try to improve your conditions.

December 30, 2006 at 04:14 PM · Edward, how much violin music have you listened to? Maybe one way to re-ignite your interest in the violin (or maybe to reach a definitive conclusion that you don't want to touch the damn thing anymore) might be to listen to more violin music for a while. And not just turn the music on in the background while you're doing something else, but really sit down and focus on hearing the music and immerse yourself in it and familiarize yourself with the great repertory of violin music: the concertos of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Bruch, Brahms, Tchaikowsky, Bartok, Berg; the sonatas of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Frank, Faure, Debussy, Bartok; the trios, quartets and other chamber music of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Dvorak, Debussy, Ravel, Bartok, Schoenberg, Shostakovich; and above all the solo sonatas of Bach. (That's just a partial list, of course.) That's what keeps me going.

December 30, 2006 at 06:38 PM · Start a band and play inprovisation music for fun. everything doesn't have to be perfect, just play because it's fun and you love it. the violin can play all sorts of music styles, not just classical so start playing along with your favourite records until you find someone who play guitar or something and make your own music.

December 30, 2006 at 07:20 PM · Allan, This is true--though I'm saggin worse'n Jagger--just kidding, I now sort of look over my shoulder when I start playing air guitar ;0).

Also everyone, I'm glad you brought all these points out so well. Being a southern male albeit not dead eastern European student (a joke), I wanted to say what Sander and other said about loving music, and the violin. For me it's definitely love.

And I wanted to write what I felt when reading on the early masters (Kreisler period) about how the music matures like wine, sometimes because of the realities of life as much as the acuity of expression.

Well done. I was trying to think of something objective to share, but the closest thing I can think of is to go on like a technique and method festival to put things in place until the inspiration reconstitutes, or appears.

Finally, the more I experience those like Mintz, and even the artist Gennady re-shared the other day, I'm feeling pretty rockin' on violin as well.

Amazing.

December 30, 2006 at 08:16 PM · Edward...

It looks like you have a lot of good thoughts here... VERY good thoughts. Do keep in mind...that you are living in a time when people are open to choices. You will choose whether to continue with violin or not. We all hope that you make a wise choice for yourself because it does matter. Yes... there are times that it's hard to keep ourselves motivated and so... we look at our choices. You have a good background with your years of study and now... if you choose to stop you may lose out on one of life's best hobbies (my opinion of course. :) You also may lose out on one of life's best profession- bringing music to others! Please keep in mind also... that there are many styles... varieties... venues, etc. for the violin. Even if you don't go professional in any way with your music... as a violinist you will be welcomed to any community in the world that has a community orchestra or chamber musicians. (And we're a wonderful bunch of folks! :) Also... as a fiddler (should you choose to take an interest in fidddle music) you will find that you can travel all over the US... and the world.. and find jams... people to play music with... and you will hear "YEAH.... the fiddler is here!"

So.... it's work.... it's tough to motivite ourselves sometimes... but the rewards are many.. and varying.

Best wishes to you in life's choices. :)

(Pssssttttt... along with your violin... learn a bit about fiddling. You'll be glad that you did! :) And... I second the consideration of perhaps finding a different teacher... just for a different point of view... and focus... and inspiration.

Katie

December 30, 2006 at 11:15 PM · >Take some time off and then decide if you want to continue or not. Often we think much more clearly after a resting period.

Well said, Stephanie.

Sometimes you need to walk away and get the apathy/dislike out of your system and let the hunger build back up. And if it never comes back, well, painful as it seems, there's your answer. You can't force this kind of love. (Come to think of it, this all sounds like relationship advice as well, doesn't it?!)

Here's hoping that lovin' feeling will return. If not, hope that feels okay, too. It's a big world out there with lots of options for a musican/artist.

December 30, 2006 at 11:56 PM · If you stop playing you might find that years from now you will have serious regrets. Why not look into playing other genres while you still can play. Maybe find someone who can teach you about blues, bluegrass, celtic, or jazz violin. It's alot of fun and you can build on a technical skills learned from a classical background very easily. Then if you find other people to perform with it all gives it meaning.... even if it's just for fun.

December 31, 2006 at 07:20 PM · Hi, Edward!

Go over to my blog here at v.com and I think I posted an entry way way back about learning to feel comfortable with one's own pace of growth.

I'm 26 and I've been playing the violin off and on for 20 years! If I had stuck with it diligently, I just might have been a concert-level soloist years ago. Thing is, like you, I went through dry spells a lot.

I've never really had the patience and/or dedication to put in 2 to 4 hours of practice each day unlike my pro violinist friends. Not that I didn't try, though: I just ended up feeling tired and like I wasn't getting anywhere.

Sure, I played the mind game! "It's all in the mind," I thought. "If I just push myself a bit more, I'll get that 'second wind' and make it to the finish line."

Guess what? I never did.

But that didn't mean I loved the violin any less, nor that I should quit.

I realized that playing the violin really is like being in a relationship with someone; you learn to find your comfort zone.

Do you write a diary or keep a journal? If you do, then you know what it feels like to write just when inspiration strikes you or when you're in just the right mood. As you write, you gradually fill up the pages of your diary/journal until one day you're surprised to discover how much you've grown and changed -in terms of emotions as well as writing style.

I think it's the same way with the violin. It really is like an old friend... it's not how often you're in contact that matters, but how deeply you're connected.

My concrete piece of advice is to just go and explore what you can and can't do (for now) with your violin. If you hear a song on the radio, try improvising something to go along with it. What's your favorite kind of music, other than classical? Try your hand in that.

Experiment, experiment, experiment! Your teacher will always be there to correct your basic playing techniques, but everything else is up to you :-)

Don't be afraid to put down your instrument if you don't feel like playing at the moment. It's okay to walk away, but keep your ears and heart always open to the possibility that someday you may want to pick it up again. If and when you hear that calling, don't hesitate for a moment.

One of my former teachers used to say, "You never really stop learning the violin." She was right. It's a lifelong relationship that constantly evolves and matures as one journeys through life.

Sorry for going all metaphysical on you there, it's just my own personal view :-)

December 31, 2006 at 08:54 PM · Dear Edward,

This is something that only you can answer. It actually has more to do with your ambitions in life, rather than your violin technique. Of course, this does not apply if you have no rhythm or ability, but I am sure this is not the case. So, what I'm getting at is that you have to have a good long talk with yourself and figure out what role the violin plays in your life. This can be done on a "professional level" and/or an "amateur level". Whatever you decide, if you weigh out all the pros and cons and look deeply inside, you'll make the right decision.

Good luck!

Daniel

January 1, 2007 at 12:57 AM · It could simply be that your violin set up is the cause of your lack of motivation. Most players are very sensitive to the actual instrument they use. If I'm not happy with the type of set up (or the actual violin) then I'm not going to enjoy playing it. This has a huge bearing on the technique you adopt, too. There are different approaches to foundational technique. Some say to hold the violin in the left hand, and some say to hold the violin mainly with the aid of the shoulder rest. Some people are more independent or perhaps stubborn, and have to find their own way of doing things. This doesn't mean you necessarily have to go it alone but it may mean having to find a teacher who can help you with the way you want to go. If you have to find a different teacher, so be it. But it may be good to stay with the one you have -- only you know whether this is so or not.

Find out what makes you happy with your violin set up. The type of strings you use can be critically important to the level of enjoyment you get from violin playing. When I started learning, my violin came with steel strings on it. I hated them, but persevered and had faith in myself, and knew instinctively that there had to be better strings out there somewhere. I did some independent research and found for myself some better strings, and my playing started to get better immediately because I was motivated.

Also, the type of chin rest you use is very important to your comfort. And whether or not you use a shoulder rest, and if so, what type it is. Experiment any which way you please to find a suitable combination for yourself. If you are lucky to have a good teacher he or she will give you excellent advice on this. You can legitimately play with nothing at all on the fiddle (17th up to late 19th C approach) all the way through to a full deck out with chin rest and shoulder rest. The first and most important step is to get comfortable.

January 1, 2007 at 04:04 AM · Since you took the time to post here, you must have at least some desire to continue. Think about what function music has served in your life-do you get enjoyment out of performing? Do you ever get to play for fun? Has your experience with the violin only been through lessons, or do you also play in a group? Do you enjoy playing chamber music, or do you like being in a big group? Can you identify what style of music you like? The violin is very versatile, so you can use it to express yourself in any music style. Can you identify what your strengths as a player are (what do you do best)? Do you have any goals set for yourself as a violin player? Can you tell us more about what pieces you are playing and how you are doing with them? That way, we might be able to give you some additional collective advice that might be of help.

January 1, 2007 at 05:46 AM · Get on Craigslist in your town and try to put together a string quartet. Playing alone IS boring. Start making music and your interest will revive. Also, consider what another poster suggested in regard to strings and setup. If you don't like the sound of your violin, you won't feel like playing it. Possibly you need a better violin. Or a better bow. Try out some new equipment.

January 1, 2007 at 06:42 AM · I'd decide things on a smaller level. Like if I wasn't getting anything out of lessons, I might quit lessons or that teacher. Going your own path for awhile might make violin more satisfying. Or with the free time you might find something different that was more satisfying. I would broaden my overall horizons too. When I turned 18 I might join the Peace Corps or something.

January 1, 2007 at 04:27 PM · You say that the reasons that you are considering stopping are because you are making slow progress and that you don’t know how to improve.

My suggestion would be to identify the areas that you want to improve. Set some SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) goals to improve in those areas. An example of a goal might be “To be able to play a specific piece of music from memory by a February 28th, 2007”. Once you have your goals written down, look at ways to attain them, which might mean more practice, getting help from your teacher, another teacher or friends.

Good luck!

January 1, 2007 at 05:23 PM · happy new year everyone.

i think this is a honest, realistic situation confronting all of us often in life,,,to go on or give up or detour...

one can make an argument of giving up violin IF there is something else more meaningful to fill that void.

or, one can say that to overcome mental/physical blocks is what IT is all about. IT is not just violin, but the way you approach life, particularly when you are 18 and are about to face much bigger issues.

in general, when you look back at your life at 50s or later, chances are you will wish you have tried harder, or not giving up so easy on things. you rarely relish on the thoughts that boy was i lucky that i parted with something that have frustrated me at one time.

try to give life a good game. calmly examine the attitude why you feel the way you do.

good luck.

January 1, 2007 at 08:19 PM · Al-

I'm going to be a bit of a contrarian here--I'm not yet in my 50's, only my 40's, but I'm finding thus far that looking back it's a pretty mixed bag as to whether I should have tried harder and stuck with particular things or not. I took two major breaks from playing the violin, each lasting 6-7 years, and I don't regret those, or the coming back. I was a better, more mature violinist within 6 months of coming back after the first break than I had ever been previously. The jury is still out on the second time--I'm not yet back, technique-wise, to where I was 7 or 8 years ago, let alone better. But at this point, frankly, who cares. I'm going to spend the rest of my life working on the Bach cello suites anyway ;-)

But as far as other stuff, such as relationships or courses of study or jobs, I can think of at least one of each that I stuck with way too long, trying (and failing) to make them work, when it would have been much less crazy-making and more productive to cut my losses, bail out, and focus on something else.

January 1, 2007 at 10:31 PM · Hi,

I've read all of the responses so none went unread. I have a good sounding violin, its retail for like $1,200 without the bow and case. Also my teacher is the best in my large valley and one of the best players in Pennslyvania if not the best. I have taken a week off and I feel a like practicing a lot now. But I will hit the same problem as before, how to improve.

For example, Kreutzer #2, I've played through the bowings in the book for it and feel I haven't really improved. How exactly do they help me? For most of them I was just able to play through them.... What would you do in that case? Work on playing it faster? My teacher assigns (most of the time) 1 a week. And so each day I'll just play through the bowing.... I know I'm not progressing because I'm just playing through....

I have much more to say but don't have time right now. My lesson is tommorow so I'll see how it goes now that I've told her about quiting...

January 1, 2007 at 11:19 PM · Hi,

Like many said... is your teacher showing you how to improve?! If not a teacher switch might be in order.

If you are not really interested in the violin, then why bother? I also think that an interest in music is vital!

Cheers!

January 2, 2007 at 01:27 AM · Well I think everyone is interested in music to some degree, some more then others. I definatley like the violin. I remember when I was in about 4th grade I'd hear the violins on the radio and would listen to them constantly. I began asking questions about the music and learned they were violins. Eventually I asked if I could play the violin before I even knew what it looked like. So I wasn't drawn to it by lust or even pushed into it, I simply liked the sound of it.

And still do.....

Cheers

January 2, 2007 at 03:45 PM · It sounds to me as though you need a change, and probably of teacher. I wrote somewhere about the inanity of just walking through books like Kreutzer. You are paying the teacher for help, and it doesn't sound like you're getting it. Best player in the area doesn't really matter if his way of explaining doesn't speak to you. When a student says he or she is thinking of quitting, the damage is usually already done, but I approach that to mean that the player (mine are mostly ages 9-14) is either frustrated or looking for positive feedback he doesn't feel he has been receiving. I have been known to suggest a change of teacher, even for "a while", since sooner or later, even though we strive to explain differently, the student hears the same (unfruitful) thing. Sue

January 4, 2007 at 01:41 PM · Edward, you sounded a lot like me a year ago. If you can afford it (meaning if you don't HAVE to play everyday), you should just lock your violin away and vow to not see or do anything violin, or even classical music related for up to 2 or 3 months. Try hating it if you could. Afterall learning to love something is so much easier after learning how to hate it. And if you don't feel like a part of you is missing during that time...then maybe you can try something else. Just don't quit the violin completely. So many people want to relearn an instrument that they played when they were young.

January 17, 2007 at 03:36 PM · Speaking like a parent here.. have you talked to your parents about your feelings about the vioin?

As a parent of a young (very good) violinist I will tell you that the teacher makes all the difference. We started in Suzuki and she progressed quite rapidly.. so rapidly that the teacher used her in all the concerts to promote her business.. never-the-less in 3 years time, she almost burned out.

I removed her from the program and I waited until my daughter wished to start violin again.. it had to be her idea. She took a year and a half brake and has been going great guns with private teachers.

Taking brakes isn't a bad thing. Talk to other students your age about the possibility of other teachers.. take a break move on to another teacher. Remember to take care of yourself too

Jodi

February 16, 2007 at 03:30 AM · Edward,

I don't think it'll be a bad idea to stop for a short while, especially if you're getting tired of playing. I myself quit lessons (I was somewhat forced into quitting - a long story) about 3 years ago, after only about 3.5 years of taking lessons. Although I don't practice on a regular basis, I can still play the Bach concerto just as well as I did when I stopped taking lessons.

My point here is that you probably wouldn't hurt yourself by taking a little break. If I quit after 3.5 years of lessons and didn't lose my skills, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't go rusty very easily. Just stop taking lessons for a while, find something else for a hobby. Then, just resume when you feel like you're ready to take it up again. Hopefully you'll have a new, fresh, and enthusiastic feelings about playing the violin by then. :)

Good luck!

February 18, 2007 at 01:39 AM · Hi,

Thought I'd visit here one last time. I have quit violin 2 weeks ago. I also will be starting piano lessons as soon as I can land a deal on this yamaha piano im looking to buy. Well thanks for all your help,

Cheers! - one last time

February 18, 2007 at 01:41 AM · Don't do it- why be a button pusher when you can be a string stroker?

February 18, 2007 at 04:10 AM · Take what you know then, and always play for fun--you might end up with a new perspective on down the road. And even if you don't consider yourself progressing quickly, taking the pressure off might make you redisover violin. Good luck on piano--it's a jammin instrument too.

February 20, 2007 at 09:54 PM · When I was your age, I was in my 3rd year at NEC and wanted to quit badly, but I had a teacher who encouraged me to try new things. She signed me up for a class in Greek music improvisation, opening me up to a world of music I had never before experienced. I stayed with her and finished my certificate. Now I play almost exclusively world music. I'm glad I never quit because I now teach!

February 21, 2007 at 12:15 PM · If you're anything like me, you don't intend on being a music major. I really hated orchestra at your age in high school, but I really enjoy playing now. Take a break, learn your piano, but keep your violin close by. I had a year break before I really started to miss playing and called old high school buddies who went to the same college and started a string trio.

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