Is it worth it?

June 8, 2007 at 06:09 PM · Hi,

Is there a point where I should realise I'm cannot learn violin? I have been learning for a year, I'm only (since a month) starting second position with a Sitt study, I'm doing also doing wohlfahrt Studies op 54, no2,3,5 and 6.

My vibrato is really terrible. We are still on the same Sol scale. I practice at least 45min a day on most day. should I stop? Or will there be a point where it will go a bit faster, is it normal to be that slow at the beginning.

By the way I really enjoy the violin, but if I'm not going anywhere I will get down from the train

Another question always practice with a tuner, good or bad idea?

Many, many thanks!

Replies (40)

June 9, 2007 at 12:58 AM · You sound like you are making good progress for yourself. I know quite a few very good violinists that struggle with 2nd position.

Don't be so hard on yourself. You won't turn into the young Menuhin overnight.

June 8, 2007 at 06:48 PM · I agree. Learning the violin is one of the most complex, time consuming, and lengthy things you can learn to do on this earth. On a piano you're making a decent sound from day one - the instrument does it for you. On a violin, it takes a long, long time just to learn to make a decent sound. If it's going to be so frustrating that you can't enjoy each little step along the way, then save yourself the frustration. Otherwise, go get it. You've got a whole bunch of people on this website who are in your corner.


June 8, 2007 at 07:17 PM · If you are already playing Wohlfahrt studies and are starting the second position after only a year I would say you are making very good progress but maybe your dissatisfaction is that you went ahead too quickly missing out on those basics that give a good sound and thus also personal fulfillment.Your vibrato problems could stem from the fact that ypou are playing far too tensley.It is very important in the early stages to learn to play in a relaxed manner.

June 8, 2007 at 07:34 PM · Learning vibrato after one year may be too soon. You probably should wait and get a better grasp of how to play the instrument before you really give vibrato serious study. Otherwise, it sounds as if you are doing fine. As others have pointed out, it takes a great deal of time and effort to produce anything like the kinds of sounds you hope to produce when you start violin. Good luck/bonne chance!

June 9, 2007 at 12:23 AM · This is the only time I hear anybody using Sitt to learn positions except my daughter. Maybe it's Sitt that make you discouraged. The second position in Sitt almost did my daughter in. We stuck it out and her shifting and playing in different position is not bad. But I wouldn't say it was worth it. Aren't there other books one can use to learn positions?


June 8, 2007 at 11:50 PM · DON'T GIVE UP!!!!! If you like playing you should never give up. I mean your doing really well for one year.

June 9, 2007 at 01:14 AM · Another thing. I noticed that you are an adult learner. That doesn't change anything about the advice we give you. If you were 8 or 88, the would tell you the same thing - PLEASE DO NOT GIVE UP OR GET DISCOURAGED!

Think about what you were capable of at 1 year old and compare with the things you did at 9. A lot can happen in 7 or 8 years if you keep learning.

You are 1 year old violinistically. You're looking at the 'big kids' on the instrument and feeling discouraged. Some things take time to manifest, so enjoy the ride.

June 9, 2007 at 02:49 AM · Me gusta esa discucion , por que le da motivacion a otros que tambien aman el violin y que deben continuar con su perseverancia. Thank you.

June 9, 2007 at 03:35 AM · What do you mean you can't learn violin? You already learned violin. Now go play stuff with your son.

June 9, 2007 at 12:33 PM · Don't give up! Especially if you love the violin. Let me share with you something a great martial arts teacher once said: "In budo(martial arts)discouragement is part of the training.There is nothing wrong with being discouraged.The important point is not to misunderstand it and quit practice, but to keep training as usual." And I think this can apply to anything we're learning.And, listen to the people who are weighing in on this...for the time you've played, you ARE doing very well! Regarding vibrato, I would back off a little from some of the relentless effort; this is one thing you won't be able to force. I would suggest going to some classical concerts, sit up close, and just watch how the violinists do their vibrato,just kind of take it in, you might be surprised how much learning can take place via this medium.I promise you,it will come to you! And finally, watch the movie 'Speaking in Strings'and you'll see the story of a terrific violinist who worked through incredible difficulty and discouragement to become a world famous touring soloist.I wish you all the best!

June 9, 2007 at 03:30 PM · About always using the tuner - I don't think it is a good idea. I find my intonation improves when relying more on audible feedback, and then occasionally verifying with the tuner that I am actually hitting the note correctly. Don't give up!

June 9, 2007 at 03:42 PM · Wow, you did all that in a year? That's impressive!

June 9, 2007 at 05:42 PM · You are doing just fine. Keep going. You think the greats were great instantly? "Violin is 10% inspiration, but 90% perspiration" (Haifetz, I think - anyway one of the greats said this).

Seems what you need is a mentor. If your instructor is not mentoring you, try to find another. Also, while true not everyone can be great, every serious student can attain high proficiency, afer many years, and this will give you immense personal satisfaction. Whether violin or other, the mastery of any instrument is a very worthwhile goal. The camaraderie of musicians is something special. enough said.

June 9, 2007 at 08:57 PM · I love what Sander wrote: "If it's going to be so frustrating that you can't enjoy each little step along the way, then save yourself the frustration." Gary Foote's excellent post echos this sentiment.

The important idea here is that you must learn to enjoy the process, not just focus on the end goal. Great musicians, like great athletes, understand the correct way to practice. That way is to take each small hurdle as an enjoyable challenge, and to diligently work at each hurdle, slowly, without frustration, and with patient exactitude.

There are whole books devoted to the art & concept of practicing, in general. I highly suggest that you to read a few at your local library.


Regarding the tuner: HUGE mistake. You are likely using a standard tuner that is calibrated for equal temperament. That only applies to the middle octave of a piano. It is absolutely not going to show the correct intonation for a violin, or any other non-fixed instrument. To learn more about this, do a web-search on "just intonation," or go to the Peterson (strobe company) website.


Tom wrote: "Learning vibrato after one year may be too soon"

I strongly disagree with this, and here's why: You have no deadline. You are not learning repertoire for some competition or audition. Therefore, learning repertoire is not critical. You are frustrated because you feel you "cannot play." One of the very difficult things about violin is that it takes a long time just to create a beautiful tone. That tone comes primarily from bow control and vibrato.

I am still basically a beginner, having played violin for just about a year (switching from cello) I have yet to learn a single complete piece of music, yet I consider myself to be an accomplished player and enjoy playing every day. Why? Because 95% of my practising, every day for this past year, has been devoted to vibrato and bow control.

I can't play super-fancy lines yet, and I haven't even begun to think about double-stops, but I can play simple lines with great beauty and complexity. therefore, my (simplistic) playing sounds wonderful, and I am enjoying it. Very soon, I will start to learn repertoire, but I have been content up until now to simply work on my sound. I can't see learning a bunch of nootes if your sound is thin, wavering, and vibrato-less.

That would be torture. One might as well play bagpipes. (g)

June 11, 2007 at 01:30 AM · Thanks for your responses. You are all very incouraging. Yes I love violin very much, but I was just a bit worried that I was a desperate case, just like if I try to sing, I really can not sing more than one octave in tune. I do not mind the slow progression,in fact I told my teacher to take of the piece, so we could put more effort on tone and intonation and quality of the sound. For the vibrato, he says because it is very difficult, better start as soon as possible. Yes I am very tense, and do not really know how to do better on this aspect.

I enjoy the Sitt, and mostly the Wolfhart, they are wonderful.

I am not always in tune, but I try to use less the tuner, but it is quite difficult to adjust 1/2 tone, how do you check yourself?

Thanks again, you really helped a lot.

June 11, 2007 at 01:48 AM · Greetings,

recently I wrote the following:

>These things need not always happen if we recognize that we must protect ourselves by maximizing correct sensory awareness before, during and after practice. If we do this then risk of injury is reduce dramatically and the bonus effect is that high sensory awareness practice is very much more effective than what we normally do. What do we normally do? We rush to our beloved instrument with heightened breathing, gotta get it done, gotta get it done. We bend over badly and grab our instrument without saying hello and stroking its neck. We stand will nilly, chuck the damn thing up and start playing scales because they are good for us, and all the misuse of the body which we call `not warmed up` is nicely integrated into our scales which we mysteriously cannot play for our teacher next lesson.

We could do this.

Sit quietly. Check out all the sensations of your left foot on the ground, from the left shoe and so on. Then do the right. Then compare both. Now do the left calf followed by the right calf. Compare. Repeat with thighs. Compare both legs in unison. Do the lower back, left side, right side, upper back. Have you got it? In essence you are saying hello to your whole body and in the process integrating it. Once the body is integrated it will automatically change and adjust what isn’t needed and is potentially injury threatening. It isn’t the complete answer but it’s a big part of it. If you aren’t together you will break things.

Surely five minutes a day is worth it?

There might be somethign in there taht helps.

Also I wrote a series of Blogs that make frequent references to tension which you might find worth sifting though. Search this site for Buri`s Violin Studio.



June 11, 2007 at 03:19 PM · In my opinion, anyone who has the ability to master the basic skill of using the bow should definitely continue to try to advance in skill, no matter what level they're currently at.

The only reason to quit learning violin is if there's absolutely no physical way possible to play it, e.g. no appendages, paralyzed. Also, if you've got a health disorder, it might be time to stop.

June 11, 2007 at 03:43 PM · i say quit and find something better to do. if you cannot find it, come back.

and once you come back, try respecting the difficulty of a very demanding instrument.

June 12, 2007 at 12:36 AM · I have to disagree you still have time to do violin and other things. Don't quit at all. If you are really into it you really will see improvements.

June 12, 2007 at 01:13 AM · I'm with al ku here. It’s really about why you want to play the violin at the first place. Incidentally, shortly after having read your thread, I started a thread asking other violinists to reflect and share their insights so that we can see what it is all about to different people and what you might miss out if you stop now and never to return to it. You may want to take a look at the discussion if you haven’t yet got a chance to do so.

Some of us will try to analyze why and how, and others may need to do or not to do something to get the clear notion as to whether something is worthy doing. I have to do both in order to get my head and heart crystal clear and in harmony. I believe you will find your clear answer for yourself as well, and if it means you need to stop and try something out first, so be it. It’s a big commitment and real discipline to play the violin well, give yourself some room to work things out before being fully committed to it is very wise.

Good luck and all the best.

June 13, 2007 at 12:00 AM · I've been playing for 4 years and sadly I had recently started mastering second position, and when I had been playing for only a year I had NO vibrato, so don't think you're not progressing quick because you are.

June 13, 2007 at 02:06 AM · Before I start discouraging you, I didn't start Sitt until a little before I stopped playing. I'm not sure what books your teacher/yourself used to teach you, but I loved the 2000 Essential Elements books. But unless you start with them, you can't really begin at the 2nd book.

You only really need the first two, the third was horrible. (I did use several other books out side of the EE ones) But you should at this point identify where exactly you are going with your violin career (to decide what technique and style of music you'll make). I am joining a rock band, which entails a lot of work. Not a professional one (possible, but not likley) just one with my friends to pass the hours.

I've been playing for six years, and am now returning from a two year leave.

For me the positions were bloody hell. And... you said that you are still on 2nd position? I didn't even bother doing that one. I just use 1st 3rd and 4th. It is a rare occurance that I ever used 2nd.

Heck, if you have the money the next violin you get you could shell out $500 for a fretted violin, not something I would do, but it might help. You might even consider just putting stickers back on your finger board. But stay with it and it will get better eventualy.

EDIT: yeah, you are doing WAY BETTER than me... just FYI

June 13, 2007 at 03:46 AM · Yeah, what Tim said. I've been playing for nine years (surprised you're already shifting and doing vibrato, by the way!) and there's no point in spending any time on second until you've got third down-- it's the most frequently used position. Fourth is next most important. From there, I lose count of what position I'm in and just pretend I know, because my fingers are smart enough to figure out what to do. Fifth position is a very nice position, although I typically don't think of it as fifth, more as "lose the G string and add a B string" position.

Second position is, simply put, the hardest position to learn, and the least useful.

EDIT: Frets on the fingerboard? That sounds like a guitar! You can't do smears with frets! Do the black tape strip thing! Invisible and effective!

June 13, 2007 at 03:50 AM · I started third position about halfway through my first year, without lessons. :)

June 13, 2007 at 07:23 AM · One of the reasons the world is filled with half-baked pianists and quitarists is that they generally are not taught in public lessons with little peer influence are a difficult road to take. The question of "Why am I doing this ?" constantly looms, whereas, in an orchestra venue such as High School, we're "doing this" because we have to perform a concert on specific date. Lending this goal tends to focus practice sessions, offer a dose of comparative progress, and lend a worthy measure of one's progress next to your peers. Ultimately, I'm suggesting you join a community orchestra...sit in the back of the 2nd fiddle section and do your best with the parts. Most groups at this level would welcome a section player of your ilk, and perhaps this would offer lots of encouraging may discover that you're not the lowliest of the players, and this would be the incentive to fall on the positive side of the fence, build esteem and answer the "Why am I doing this" question.

June 13, 2007 at 11:11 AM · Hi again,

Mr Schautz you may be right, but who am I to say to my teacher which position i'm suppose to learn? I must trust my teacher, he is a well accomplish violinst.

Mr. Kent I love the idea of playing in a community orchestra, but live in Mtrl and there is not that many, and my teacher agrees I am very very far ready for any type of orchestra.

Thanks all for your input, I really appreciate and I will continue practicing because I love it so much!

Having good practice is still difficult, I know how to study well, but to practice well, I do not think I have it yet. I think I'm trying to focus on too many thins at the same time, which at the end makes the matter worst.

June 13, 2007 at 11:23 AM · Is there a music conservatory or something where others have lessons? I ask that, because even in our little suburb, the local conservatorium has a number of string ensembles and orchestras. I started playing in an adult strings ensemble there after i'd ben learning for about 6 months, and yeah, everyone else seemed so very much better than me. but it was so enjoyable, and I have met other adult learners there one of whom also posts OCCASIONALLY on this site [you out there, Jaz?], and now I'm kind of able to hold my own in the top of the seconds section, and can play the pieces for the firsts. the first exposrue to sight reading in public is nothing less than terifying, and I spent the first few weeks so self conscious that I could barely get the bow on the strings. I'd look at notes and wnder what on earth is that thing on that line. But it makes learning so much more pleasurable. And the right conductor (who is now my teacher), has meant that appropriate level pieces for the whoe group are chosen, and its been a great way to elarn about different music styles and using all those bowing techniques and positions.

Don't give up if you are enjoying the process of learning. but, eh, I guess consider giving up if you really don't enjoy the process of learning.

June 13, 2007 at 01:23 PM · Mr./Ms. Brabant,

I suggest you look into CAMMAC. This is a summer 'camp' for adult amateurs. There are programs for all sorts of levels, ranging from almost total beginners to quite advanced players. I taught chamber music at the center (Lac McDonald) a few summers ago and found the enthusiasm really refreshing. It's certainly a good way to get to know others who are learning.

June 13, 2007 at 02:00 PM · Not many community orchestras in Montreal??

CAMMAC orchestra

Lakeshore Chamber Orchestra

I Medici di McGill

l'Orchestre de chambre Sérénade

l'Ensemble Sinfonia de Montréal

Montreal Pops Orchestra

Orchestre Symphonique de l'Isle

the Lakeshore group would be closest to you & unlike most of the others, their season is still going. They end every year with a Canada Day concert & I would highly recommend that you go hear them just to give you an idea of the amateur music scene as well as something to aspire to & work towards. Yes, it will probably be a few years before you are able to join, but I know of one person who took up the viola less than 10 years ago & is a member of one of the more advanced groups. For someone just starting out, I would say that the CAMMAC orchestra would be a good starting point followed by Lakeshore.

For most amateur musicians, playing with others is what it's all about. The sooner you can get into it, the sooner you get to reap the rewards which helps to motivate your practicing. It doesn't have to be in the form of orchestra, though, especially for someone just starting out. As soon as you can play things like the melodies in the Anna Magdalena notebook, all you need to do is find one other person of a similar level who could play them with you- either a cellist or pianist, and you have the makings of your first chamber music.

June 13, 2007 at 01:55 PM · Wow, you are doing Sitt, shifting and vibrato after only a year?!!! Look where you started and where you are now. You have done a lot. The violin is a very complex instrument that requires a lot of concentration and time. I started playing 16 years ago and frequently had days or weeks or even months where I wondered if it was all worth it. Yes, emphatically YES!

I am now learning a Paganini Caprice, the Bruch Violin concerto and have worked on Saint Saens and lots of Bach in the past.

A couple of things about vibrato....One, everyone is horrible at the beginning, and two, it will always be something you work at to improve. I still do vibrato exercises every day.

I have discovered the joy of practicing (which I find more rewarding than performing) and know that there will be times I "plateau" and times when I move ahead to a higher level. It takes a lot of time because the violin (any string instrument, really) is so complex. Remind yourself that while you learn the physical challenges of tone production, shifting, vibrato, and other technique, you are also doing a great thing for your continued brain development. For me, I discovered that an hour of practice a day just wasn't enough. Most days I practice 3 hours but some days I can only get in 2 hours. When I am feeling sorry for myself, I ask myself if I would rather laze around watching TV or doing something else equally frivolous or would I rather be a better violinist. (I do watch TV occasionally - I'm a big LOST fan) The answer is always that I would rather improve on the violin. It is easy for me to say that looking back over 16 years of learning but it wasn't always easy during the early years. However, it has definitely been worth it and has brought me tremendous joy. I hope it can for you as well. Ardene

June 13, 2007 at 02:10 PM · Yes! By all means, keep up your lessons and practice! You can and will progress if you have a love for the instrument. Several years ago, after only one year of lessons, I lost my left index finger in a table saw accident. I was told that I would have to give up the violin, but determination and a desire to play helped me overcome the difficulty. Today, I'm the only 3 fingered violinist I know but I love playing. I play 2nd violin in a chamber orchestra and 1st violin in a church orchestra. I also love playing Kreisler, Bruch, and Wieniawski. When people ask me how I do it with only 3 fingers, I just say that I have more positions than most people. My point is, you will progress, but it takes lots of work and a desire to improve. I hope you keep up the good work.

June 13, 2007 at 06:57 PM · Hi,

christina, Yes I know the Lakeshore orchestra very well. But like you said I'm very far from.. I also tough I was too "Bad"for Cammac orchestra, I have been told the audition are not easy.

Thanks for your encouragement, yes I agree why watch TV when I could improve my violin, you are are so great! It is so different than what I ever learned before, science, maths etc.. it is more depending and I suppose I need to be more patient. I just was afraid I just did not have it, just like some people just can not sing, but every one can do maths!

And yes Sitt is not easy! I'm having a difficult time especially with tuning, without using a tuner do you always refer back to open string?

Thousands of thanks!

June 13, 2007 at 10:17 PM · You are doing really good so far. Once you fall in love with the violin then you can never put it down no matter what. Once you've played it for the first time and like playing it. You can never one day say, I'm done with the violin. The technique and love for music will stay with you till the day you die.

June 13, 2007 at 10:32 PM · Greetings,

>And yes Sitt is not easy! I'm having a difficult time especially with tuning, without using a tuner do you always refer back to open string?



June 14, 2007 at 03:08 PM · "how am I supposed to tell my teacher..."

Good point. If your teacher is in fact, an accomplished violinist (and especially if he has gotten you this far), then he probably knows what he's doing. But it never hurts to ask that simple question that math students love to stump their teachers with on particularly abstract lessons: "How is this going to help us later on in life?" There may be a good reason he has for you to work on this position before attempting the others.

LOL, the second is always the hardest; after that it gets better. Same goes for a foreign language class: German II is harder than any of the years that follow.

June 14, 2007 at 03:15 PM · Just be glad if your first language is English:)

I do agree that the 2nd position is hard and I wish I had learned this in a much earlier stage.

June 15, 2007 at 12:03 PM · I'm self thought, i've been playing for 1 1/2 year now. I'm wondering what you mean when you say that you learn a position.. for example you say you can play second position, does that mean that you can't play any higher on the violin or does it mean something else to play in a position? I have always played on the whole fingerboard, shifting and doing vibrato and now i'm starting to learn harmonics. Maybe this is a weird question but as i said i don't have a teacher so i don't know how you are supposed to learn the violin, i just play.

(i have applied to a music institute, hoping to start lessons this fall)

June 15, 2007 at 12:36 PM · Hi Sara,

Well I'm very far from using all the keyboard like you say.

Second position is when your first finger is on the position of the 2nd finger of the first position, say on G string normaly 2nd finger plays a B well now it is my first finger that plays a B. If I was on 3rd position my first finger would play a C. Maybe someone may correct me if I'm wrong, pls Mr. Buri or all the other expert plse give a better explaination!

June 15, 2007 at 08:07 PM · Sarah,

I think you'll discover that there really isn't anything that "special" about playing in positions. When you play a scale in 1st position (assume for a moment that you only use fourth finger and not open strings) then I'm sure you recognized right way that each key has its own finger pattern...first finger here, second finger next to third, fourth finger there. On the next string first finger here, second finger next to first, etc.

In the "positions" its the same deal. Your first finger starts somewhere, and each key has its own finger pattern. The patterns are refreshingly similar, but just different enough that you have to develop the muscle memory again. The "name" of the position (at least the first few) are as mentioned based on where the first finger starts in relation to which finger from 1st position plays that note. I suppose it would even be posible to start learning in 3rd position; then you would later have to worry about memorizing that tricky first position with all those open strings.

June 15, 2007 at 09:29 PM · A word about vibrato- it takes years to get it to a point where you are happy with it- and you never stop working on it. I have been playing for 30 years and still work on my vibrato to get what I want in a certain phrase,etc. Don't get discouraged- you are doing great if you're already learning 2nd position and vibrato after such a short time.

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