Many people seem to assume that adults can't become virtuosi because they're adults. I wanted to offer a different way of thinking about it: a statistical model.
If 1000 6-year-olds start the violin, then we can assume that the vast majority, all things the same, will not become good enough to be admitted to a conservatory. Maybe 99/100 will fail. They will not have the manual dexterity, or pitch sensitivity, or be able to develop an attractive vibrato, or a steady rhythmic pulse. Of the 1% left, perhaps only 1% of them will be able to play for decent living in a full-time orchestra.
The problem with adult beginners may not be because they're adults per se, but because the odds are against them to begin with. Even if they had started at the age of 6, most were destined not to become accomplished. Our problem is our sample: relatively few adults begin on the violin. For every 100 children who start, perhaps 1 adult does it as seriously. So the odds are long and our sample size is miniscule. Naturally, adults have other problems, such as declining muscle and tendon elasticity. But what if the most talented of adults started at 30 and practiced 3 hours a day for 20 years? Could he/she make it?
It's difficult to know because, again, so few actually can do that.
Adults certainly are capable of learning difficult tasks: how many neurosurgeons begin training on their specialty before the age of 30? How many fighter pilots are allowed to practice landing $20 million jets on aircraft carriers before the age of 30?
If you saw the recent footage of the Lufthansa pilot trying to land in 100+ MPH crosswinds in Germany, it becomes obvious that adults can and do master terribly difficult hand-eye tasks which are combined with large volumes of other knowledge.
So perhaps adults can't succeed on the violin generally because
A. the sample size of those trying is too small to really know and B. most people don't possess the inherent talents in the first place. It's not simply because they're adults.
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