Help for discouraged violinist!!!!!

September 30, 2007 at 04:39 AM · Hi my name is stephanie and i live in ireland. I absolutely love the violin and cannot imagine my life without it. Recently however i have felt very depressed about my playing. I really want to play the violin as a career in some shape of form and feel that i will never be good enough to do so. I am 16 now and have just done grade 6 but am moving straight on to grade 8. my teacher is brilliant and i have and continue to learn loads from her. I think that i am a reasonably good player and wonder if i am mad to think about a violin career.

Replies (25)

September 30, 2007 at 09:33 PM · The term "career" is not very specific for violinists. It can mean you are Joshua Bell, touring the world as a highly acclaimed soloist, or it can mean that you are one of or the violin teacher in a small town in Ireland, or anything in between. There are lots of different violin "careers." You should think about which one or ones you want and talk with your teacher about what you can expect given your talents. And, keep playing with all your soul!

October 1, 2007 at 02:37 AM · No one really knows how to predict the future.

Continue to follow your heart.

Living in Limerick,you must be exposed to many modes of music.

Your musical life,at some point will be reconciled,according to your expectations;this may take several days or even years to develop in you and your musical relationships.

Don't worry about it !

Few,if any souls can accurately predict the future.

Just consider what you are doing from time to time.

Like moving a sound post on a violin---to reach the sweet spot is a huge chore.

Life is a voyage with the waves: whitecaps [worst] rolling [easier] smooth [easiest] swells [somewhere in between the above].

You may be scraped and even more in your mind,as is everyone else.

Just do your very best in all you do and you will fail many times--as everyone does.

Rebuild your failures and try to overcome them as your life proceeds.

Don't expect to overcome them all---you are a being and you will continually change your attitudes towards yourself and your surroundings.

Even 1 year from now your approach to life may change.

10 years from now,you may be totally different.

Just 'ride' the waves---- everyone is in the same boat,as far as the progression of life goes.

Sometimes life is unpredictable and shaky, often life is very smooth,yet life is short.

Soo,just try to enjoy your life and all the myriad shades of green which meet your vision.

October 1, 2007 at 12:16 PM · Work hard and keep yourself open. Prepare for the future of your dreams and be willing to go where life is leading you. That's the best anyone can do, and you'll be happier for it.

October 1, 2007 at 08:10 AM · Stephanie, I hope this helps:

"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it, you'll land among the stars" -Les Brown

While it's true that there are no guarantees in life, it's better to have tried than not to have attempted it at all. Go for it! And, if, somewhere down the road, you realize that you can't be a pro violinist, then so what? You'll at least be a competent violin player... Which is more than a lot of people can even hope to be.

Neil Gaiman said it best:

“Sometimes it is a mistake to climb, but it is always a mistake never even to make the attempt... You know what happens when you dream of falling? Sometimes you wake up. Sometimes the fall kills you. And sometimes, when you fall, you fly.”

October 1, 2007 at 08:12 AM · Also, don't worry about changing teachers or how tough it is to study academics while learning the violin.

Like you, I started at age 6. I went through at least half a dozen different teachers (though I never had aspirations of becoming a pro violinist)! But now, more than 20 years later, I'm able to perform onstage occasionally and still have a respectable writing career :-)

October 1, 2007 at 12:27 PM · The Lakota Indian Tribe has a saying. It is this:

"This is the beginning of a new day. I have been given this day to use as I will. I will use it for good, because I am exchanging a day of my life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever, leaving in its place something that I have traded for it. I want it to be gain, and not loss; good and not evil, success and not failure; in order that I shall rejoice in the price that I paid for it."

And while we're on quotes, here's one by the famous boxer, James J. Corbett:

"You become a champion by fighting one more round. When things are tough, you fight one more round."

If you want to quit, make it a decision, find something else to do that is meaningful in your life, and don't look back. But if you don't want to quit, never never ever give up on yourself.

Cordially, Sandy

October 1, 2007 at 12:52 PM · I find myself in the same position Stephanie. Music is my life, I love it, but at the moment, I feel like I'm a long way behind the 8 ball. Join me in a challenge.

I'm declaring October "Get fit for Exams" month. I've sorted out my schedule, and am going to not be flexible with it. All my practice times are scheduled in for the month - generally all at the same time. I'm going to make sure that I practice during those times, and I'm going to practice for the full length - which is generally 4 hours a day for me. I'm going to practice like that for every day in October (as well as go to the gym, hence the Get Fit) so that in November I'll be ready to go for my exams (which are actually at the end of November)

The reason for planning all my sessions for all of October is that generally I haven't been finding time to practice, because I've been waiting, just in case a rehearsal gets called, or I get asked to teach some where. Thing is, that very rarely happens, and then most of the time I just end up sitting around doing nothing. So for this month, I'm not accepting any extra rehearsals, or teaching, unless they can come in my non-allotted time (which, even with 4 hours practice, plus Uni, is still a fair amount).

Just try it, for one month. If you need some ideas on how to practice, head over to to get some ideas. Don't worry about inspiration for this month - just get down and do it. Then after a month of doing that, decide whether it's something you want to continue, or whether you really want to find something else.

The great thing about doing this for a month is that it takes about 21-28 days to form a habit. So, in reality, you'll get used to practicing this much, and wanting to practice, that it will feel odd if you can't practice at that time.

If you want to follow how I go, I'll post at least weekly (if not bi-weekly or more often) updates on how I'm going at my blog:

October 1, 2007 at 01:30 PM · Sander--I love that Lakota Indian Tribe quote. Thanks for sharing. Beautiful way of thinking about life.

Best wishes on getting fit Ben!

October 1, 2007 at 01:38 PM · Kimberlee - it is so beautiful that the Reform Jews seem to have adopted it; I have heard it at almost every b'nai mitzvah I have attended.

October 1, 2007 at 10:39 PM · Greetings,

I think the Lakotas also said `If the horse is dead it`s time to get off.`

Cool bunch of dudes. Did we wipe them out?



October 2, 2007 at 12:02 AM · Wikipedia doesn't say that they're extinct buri, so I guess they're still around.

October 2, 2007 at 12:07 AM · probably in Starbucks.

October 2, 2007 at 07:37 AM · Stephanie, I have a friend who teaches oral comprehension at a private level. She has been able to get people who were dismissed from conservatories and universities, because of their oral comprehension skills, back into the schools. I think, one of her students is now head of the aural comprehension department at Julliard or so.

Her husband makes harpsichords, violins and hammer klaviers. He has a very interesting article here It tells how one can become engaged with the music so that it becomes more natural to the self. She also has found ways in which listening becomes more natural.

I myself didn't acquire the performing skills I am now honing until I had composed for a number of years and didn't practice that much (or at least I thought I wasn't). What happened was that, when I was composing, the music integrated into my mind in a way in which I had to give it free reign, so to speak. When I "had to" practice again because I had to perform my own music after winning a competition, I found that my playing had changed and things happened by themselves that used to cause me difficulty before. I found that music spun through my head in a much lighter way than the type of forced "disciplined" and rather fear based approach I had been around: do what you're told or we will get mad or ridicule you. The music is there regardless of whether anyone feels they are worthy of it, same as air or water or flowers or sunshine. I would say that you just have to learn how to nurture the ability to let it happen rather than to make it happen.

This is making you think too much so I will put it differently.

Have you ever looked for something and have been so intent to find it that you spend hours until finally when you have given up you just happen to run into it? Music can be the same way. Part of you knows where it is the whole time. The only problem is that that part of you is so quiet or subtle that it doesn't emerge till you have stopped trying to make it work. You can't make a flower grow but you can watch it grow. You can water it and plant it in the right place where the soil is fertile for it and there's the right amount of sun but it's the seed which really makes it grow. The music is the same way except you have to watch it grow otherwise it dissapears, you have to let that part of it which happens by itself be it's essence. That's the part you can experience. When you experience that part of the music, you learn to trust where the music comes from and everything falls into place all by itself.

"Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius."

— Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

October 2, 2007 at 06:55 PM · Thanks for all the great advice but do you not think i am a bit past it! I know i am only 16 but i feel soo behind everyone else. look at nicola benedetti who is 19 and brilliant. I don't want to be the same as her but iwould hope to play with a permanebt national orchestra. Am i just mad?

October 2, 2007 at 07:40 PM · Stephanie, you'll never know till you try - and sixteen is still young. Get practicing!

October 2, 2007 at 07:42 PM · The good news is that you will not need to be as good as Benedetti or good as quickly to reach your goal. Whether the goal is attainable is unknowable for you at this time. So give it your best for some more years, see where you come out, and then evaluate your options.

October 2, 2007 at 08:48 PM · As far as 16 being too old, have you heard of Carter Brey? He is the principle cellist of the New York Philharmonic and was a soloist for some years before that. He didn't start cello until the age of 12, and wasn't "serious" until 15-16. You might like to read more about him here.

October 3, 2007 at 08:08 AM · Stephanie, do you know the standard of other young Irish violinists? To join the NSO, for example, you would probably need to do a degree at the RIAM or one of the other Music Schools. Have you been to any of the Feiseanna? Feis Ceoil, Feis Maitiu etc, would give you a good idea of the standard that is out there in your age group. I do not think that you would necessarily have to win, but to be of a standard where you could compete comfortably. Even if you are not already at that standard, (which you may well be) you must aim for that standard by the time of your leaving cert, as you will audition with all the others for those music college places. Also, could you talk to your teacher about this? She may have some very good advice, as she has probably been down this road in some shape or form herself. And,of course, take all the lovely, poitive good advice that has gone before on the thread. Good Luck!

October 3, 2007 at 06:31 PM · It's perfectly possible to become very good, even if you only get "serious" at 15 or 16. The concertmeister of the Vienna Wolksoper, who, by the way, is only in his late twenties and leading expierienced musicians much older than he is, only started to practice seriously at your age. But he did quit school at the same time. Just remember, keep all the doors open until you're sure what you want. If you're sure, than start practising!

October 4, 2007 at 07:23 AM · stephanie, having been a child prodigy doesn't really mean what everyone says it does. In classical music, where so much emphasis is put on virtuosity, it seems to mean so much because then a person has all this technique to be virtuosic. In other genres of music it seems to mean much less, and there is nothing wrong with this.

In the time of Josquin Des Prez or rather just Josquin (two generations before Stradivari), the type of show off level of mania we hear today would have been laughed at, then music had a much more meditative quality and it was still considered more to be part of the healing arts, as it was for indigenous peoples. For me this quality returned with Jazz music.

But to go back to everything in between where many people say that a young beginning is essential and that so much virtuosity is required: Despite everything, one still has to learn to play one simple melody and allow it to resonate with one's soul. All the rest of the notes are sort of letting go of the dross perhaps and seeing that it takes care of itself while the essence of life emerges. That's all virtuosity is perhaps and I don't believe it has anything really to do with having started early. Having started late in life might very well be an advantage, because then one doesn't have the skills to bypass playing from the heart by adapting into the whole techno stuff of virtuosity.

I'm a late starter on violin and that has it's advantages for sure, but then having not started as late on piano I can see how that fits into the play as well. Everything is as it should be, always has been. Try looking at just one thing (whatever it is, a leaf a pink umbrella whatever), look at it and tell yourself "that's exactly where it should be as is everything in life." Then do this with other things or go on with the wonderful daily things you do, but I think that might help you let go of being "depressed" more than anything else, because then you see the harmony that is there. Then you see the harmony that is there rather than how you've been programmed to look at things, making judgements based on resentments of what should be there. I mean. Everything is exactly how it should be. And don't feel bad if you get mad and think everything is just wrong (that's part of expressing yourself, part of the tension – relaxation, breathing in – breathing out we do as humans). But do allow yourself to become aware of those moments when you actually do see that everything is as it should be, and in it's lightness, let that be greater than everything that seems to get in the way.

October 4, 2007 at 08:00 AM · Also, since people have brought age into it. I had one year of piano lessons when I was 8, then the teacher dismissed me, maybe for political reasons because of my parents religious or social beliefs, maybe because I could learn without doing what she told me to do (she literally sat next to me and bent over in pain once telling me I had to be faithful and practice as if it was some sort of painful torture one had to go through to inflict on others), but I'm sure it was because I needed to be free. Then, I had flute lessons and played in the band and orchestra in highschool, but I didn't start piano again till I was 15.

You can look on youtube by doing a search for Bartok and Bijkerk and you will find 2 videos of Bartok's suite for piano opus 14 I play. I'm 48 right now, I didn't really start to have the performing skills I have now till about oh 5 years ago. I'm still honing these skills. I'm just saying don't give up.

And practice! But let yourself breath too.

And you don't know how much it means to me to hear someone who actually dares to love the violin or music as much as you do. Trust that and let go of the people who try to dissuade you from that, they don't really mean it no matter how ridiculous they are.

October 5, 2007 at 02:11 PM · I need to figure out how to print out a whole thread of commentary. What lovely and uplifting things you all have said. Thanks :) Sue

October 7, 2007 at 12:04 AM · Stephanie,

Many people have said some very encouraging things that are good to consider. Not knowing what your playing is like, none of us can know for sure whether or not you will be able to "make it," and considering that, I think it is somewhat irresponsible to say "you definately can: where there's a will there's a way." When I was your age I was asking the same questions and heard the same answers. Looking back, I think it would have been kinder for someone to encourage me to pursue music and another field simultaneously, and both wholeheartedly. Eventually you will see how things pan out and which field is more realistic for you to be financially dependent on.

October 7, 2007 at 03:21 PM · Thanks for all the great advice!!!!

October 8, 2007 at 02:39 AM · I was in your situation when I moved on to high school Philharmonic orchestra, which is one orchestra lower than the symphony, which is the "varsity" orchestra. I was given incredibly hard music (It was hard for me at least). I thought I couldn't play it and the other two pieces and i even considered dropping out of orchestra and maybe even changing my future from being a violinist to being in the military, because Im in a JROTC program and the military is interesting to me. But I kept on thinking, I'm not dropping out of orchestra, I want to be a violinist, and i will get this music down! I am not giving music up! And I was right because music is my true passion. I ended up practicing a lot, asking my teachers a lot of questions, and now I almost got the music down. Actually i dropped out of the JROTC drill team so that I can get practice time in because the JROTC teams practices twice a day everyday after school during school week. Sometimes they will practice for 4 hours on weekends. I am happy with the decision I made because I knew it was what I wanted, but I thought I wasn't going to make it because the music was way above my level. (That hard music piece I had the main trouble with was called Simple Symphony:1st movement Boisterous Bouree by Benjamin Britten. And hey if you search youtube for it and see it, it may seem easy for yall, but not for me since Ive only been playing for 8 months and moved on from playing easy music to music 10 steps above my level)

Its all about the attitude and work that will get you where you want. If you think very positively, you will see a significant difference in the way you play and look at music. it was like that for me at least.

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