Is it ever too late to learn the violin?

May 18, 2008 at 07:50 PM · As a 32 year old, I'm seriously considering studying the violin. I've loved the violin ever since I was a child, but unfortunately, I have not yet had the opportunity (or made the opportunity) to learn. There are some that say it's never too late. Others warn adult learners of potential frustrations. Some have even said that instructors aren't all that motivated to teach adults. I'm just wondering if I've missed my opportunity. The only music experience I have is 8 years of choir and that didn't even teach me how to read music properly. I'm looking to learn simply for my own enjoyment. What are some of the experiences with other adult students? When did you start your study? Were you able to find a teacher that doesn't think "negatively" towards adult beginners?

Replies (84)

May 18, 2008 at 07:59 PM · It's never too late, 30+ is very common for adult beginners to pick the instrument up for the fist time. I started at 29 myself, I'm still very much a beginner but considerably better than I was a year ago, so I focus on that. Hopefully by the time I'm 35 I'll be respectable.

It can definitely be frustrating and some teachers have no interest in teaching adult beginners, but a lot of teachers have no interest in teaching children beginners either. Many focus solely on intermediate to advanced students. But there is definitely a plethora of teachers who will teach adult beginners no problem. My $60.00 is as green as a kids $60.00. The best way to find out if they will teach adult beginners is to simply ask them. If they are apprehensive or negative about it at all, just move on and don't bother yourself.

Some people are negative about adults picking the instrument up and there is a "rough" learning curve associated with the instrument for at least the first year. Don't expect to sound great after 6 months, it takes a lot of time. Improvement with this instrument is measured in years not weeks or months. As long as you set your goals and expectations you can be successful as an adult beginner.

May 18, 2008 at 09:18 PM · It's fine to start as an adult, but just one thing. Every adult I've began to teach has decided that they've either not got the time, the money etc etc to continue lessons.

Child learners is different - parents want them to learn, the children want to learn so every length is met to make sure that the child's lessons continue and a routine is set in place. Adults don't tend to stay long and after a while, I'd had enough and now refuse to teach adults.

If you get a teacher, make sure that you don't have to leave them after a couple of months, because it's not fair. Otherwise, go for it!

May 18, 2008 at 10:05 PM · Traeonna, Jonathan above definitely wouldn't be a good teacher for you. As an adult beginner you should run hard and fast from any negativity at all IMO. Some (a lot IMO) people and teachers do carry a bias towards adult beginners which you should dismiss out of hand basically. Don't listen to anyone who says anything about what adult beginners "typically do" or anything of that sort. You can do it, rent a violin, get a teacher and go for it...

May 18, 2008 at 10:05 PM · Hi there Traeonna,

Well young person..... :)

I started the violin a couple of months ago with a violin teacher who advertised that she also took adult pupils and am loving it. I'm a couple of years older than you so by all means, if the teacher's cool with it, go for it!

(Total disclosure: I'm not a total beginner in music, having played classical guitar for over twenty years)

As long as you find an understanding teacher and are willing to put in the work (a decent amount of practice every day) then there's no reason that you shouldn't have a whale of a time.

Just in case you think that it's all right for me with the music background, I'd say that, whilst I've got a certain amount of facility with the left hand, I was terrified at first of this "bow thing" in my right, holding the thing under my chin without my hands gripping it like grim death, dealing with the different tuning (guitar low to high is E A D G B E, violin is G D A E and if that isn't a recipe for musical dyslexia...), and if someone could tell me where they put the frets, I'd be grateful!

I might not get to any great heights with this instrument but it's great fun all the same.

Really, go for it.

All the best.

Matt.

May 18, 2008 at 10:38 PM · Greetings,

Traeonna, hope this anecdote cheers you up...

I have a student who started at 32. She got caught in the depression loop and was pressured into taking way too many of the wrong kind of drugs by the local hospital. She snapped out of a drug induced fit just in time to stop herself stabbing her family and ran to the local temple for help. Among other things they suggested she take up a musical instrument. When she cam e to me I thought she had some really kind of really deep need for music that had been supressed along with lots of other kinds of rage. She got off the drugs really fast with a good doctor and in two years of just a little practice every day is banging out some very tricky post elementary concertos. Initally when I tried to persuade her to play in public she would panic and close up. Last month she played a twenty minute duet concert with me in a restaurantt crowded with complete strangers without batting an eye lid.

Is 32 too late for...what???? If everone in the world tried to learn something new every year for their whole life we`d probably all be a lot happier.

Cheers,

Buri

May 19, 2008 at 12:12 AM · Thirty-two is actually pretty young to be an adult fiddle beginner. My fiddle students range from about 50 to 75. A couple had little other music background. ;) Sue

May 19, 2008 at 01:30 AM · Hi Traeonna,

I started taking violin lessons in my late 50s; I wish I had started back at your tender age. I had no musical background either and couldn't read music. Finding a teacher was a journey but it is possible. I'd like to recommend a book: "Making Music for the Joy of It", by Stephanie Judy. It's billed a a guide for adult beginning and amateur musicians. A quote from Pete Seeger about the book: "This book shows how you can start anytime in life any place." There's a chapter about finding a teacher that's pretty good. I got my copy from Amazon.com.

When I started my odyssey, I thought it was unusual for an adult to begin an instrument - with no background. I've since found out that there are many, many of us out there. I even found a summer camp (SummerKeys in Maine) that takes adult beginners and I went last year. What an eye opener that was - meeting all these grown ups who've recently started taking lessons. It was terrific and I'm going back this year. One of my issues was that while it may be cute to hear little kids play with less than perfect intonation, it isn't cute to hear an adult do it. I was always very self-conscious about my sound but at SummerKeys I learned that other adult beginners don't sound any better than I do, and that's the way it is. We're all not going to sound like the professionals you hear on the radio. I would encourage you to try to join a beginner orchestra, maybe after you've been taking lessons for a year or so, and perhaps hook up with some other beginners to play duets, trios, quartets, whatever. It made a big difference in my playing. Good luck and do take the time to find a teacher you can feel comfortable with.

May 19, 2008 at 03:31 AM · I started 4 years ago at age 42. I am loving it. I notice that there is a big change in the way my teacher approaches my lessons as compared with my daughters. I think my lessons are more relaxed and fun. The whole point of my lesson is to enjoy myself and get better at the violin.

May 19, 2008 at 04:29 AM · I already shared this on another similar thread before ...

One of my teacher's students is a 87 year old Japanese lady who started to learn to play the violin at 60. She'll be playing the Mendelssohn concerto as a soloist for her 88th anniversary. I heard her play at a student recital and you could instantly sense that she really loves playing. I don't think she is an undiscovered natural talent or genius, but she has all the really important ingredients: passion, patience, time to practise, perseverance.

May 19, 2008 at 06:03 AM · There is a lot of great wisdom in the previous messages. I started violin at 31. My teacher started me off with Suzuki Violin book 1. I found it to be quite helpful to hear a melody right out of the gate. The only advice I would give is, try to be forgiving of yourself, at first. It is good to think critically of yourself, if it is constructive in nature. Technique is crucial but always remember that you are expressing your heart when you play. I too loved the violin as a child. It helps on the days when my instrument does not feel like a trusted friend, to remember that passion. So whether you are playing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star", or eventually a Bach Violin Concerto, try to cut yourself some slack. Everytime you play you are building and advancing. Go for it! God Bless!

May 19, 2008 at 10:19 AM · It's never too late.

May 19, 2008 at 04:55 PM · I'm 19 and just started violin.

(I know that most of the adult learners posting here are almost double my age or more, but I figured I'd give my 2 cents anyways.)

Most of my instrument playing friends have been playing since they were little, but have only recently begun to take music seriously.

Surrounded by peers who have been playing since childhood does make things a little intimidating. Like I will never be able to play along at their level (which is realistic considering I'm new) but I have heard people say that even 19 was much to old to ever consider getting anywhere with the violin.

A moment of inspiration hit me when I took a visit to the local luthier. He demonstrated some of his ability on my newly adjusted violin and made it sound so beautiful. Upon handing back the violin, he suggested that I give it a quick playing test as well to see if the adjustments were okay.

Embarrassed,I told him that I was new to violin and that I should have started a long time ago.

He simply continued doing work around the shop while saying, "Well, I didn't start learning 'till I was 19."

He gave a warm smile and then went back to his work.

I left the shop thinking, "Wow... I'm 19..."

(I never told the luthier my age but I still found it inspiring...and also a bit strange. )

As long as you have passion and commitment, there is nothing stopping you from enjoying the violin.

Unfortunately, I'm having trouble finding a teacher as well, and I am very eager to learn. The teachers I have been in contact with were actually very accepting toward adult learners; however, they are much too far away from me to take lessons with.

May 19, 2008 at 03:09 PM · Hey, Traeonna. I started just over a year ago - in time to be scratching away somewhere in Suzuki Book 1 by my 50th birthday.

There are, of course, people who think it's silly for adults to begin the violin, but their opinions are usually based on experiences or preconceptions that may or may not apply to you - and you should take 'em for what they're worth. If you were thinking you might play professionally, it's not likely to happen within the next decade - and perhaps not ever. It just takes too many thousands of hours of practice, and those are much easier to find the time for if your mom and dad are feeding you while you are putting in two or three or four hours a day, seven days a week. So if you hear people say "You're never going to get anywhere," you may want to consider if you want to get wherever it is they are thinking of.

You do need to practice, and you should think ahead about whether you're going to be able to find the time. Your rate of progress is directly related to your time practicing productively, so you need to be able to find the time, and figure out how to make good use of it. I truly would not recommend it if you cannot imagine how you are going to find half an hour a day with your hands on the fiddle. You can read on this site about using your time productively (and about books on that topic). For example, I listen to my current pieces on an iPod while riding the commuter train, which gives me time for mental practice when I certainly could not be playing.

I do not know any adult beginners who have quit (as someone mentioned), but I know some do. Both a teacher I talked to when I was thinking about whether to start, and the first teacher I had spoke as if this is common. I guess the issue there is that it is your own business. Naturally, your teacher may feel disappointed if you do not keep it up, but let's face it: it is your life, not theirs. And, as an adult, you play for yourself, not for your teacher or your parents. I think most instructors are grown ups and they accept that some of their students (of whatever age) will be good and some not so much so, and that some will go on and some will not. Some will move, some will go to another teacher. Some will take up the tuba. And meanwhile, they are getting $60 an hour.

On the topic of keeping it up: particularly if you have been involved in choral music, you may find the first few months acutely painful. You simply will not play in tune at first. It does get better in a bit - you have to hang in there to get over the hump.

Finding a teacher: ask around. If you know someone whose kid is taking lessons, ask how they feel about the teacher. Ask at the music store. Ask at the local school or college whether they have a list of people who are approved to give privates to their students for credit. Ask anyone you know who plays. Call the teacher and ask if they teach adult beginners. Some people specialize in kids or adults, some in beginners or advanced students. Some really do teach a wide range.

This is the perfect time of year to ask a prospective teacher if their students are giving a recital that is open to the public (and it will give you an opportunity to see whether you can stand to hear music played badly out of tune or whether it makes you try to sink your fingernails into your eardrums). There you will see the range of students they teach, whether the pieces they have permitted or encouraged their students to play are well matched to their ability, whether the students appear at ease with their instruments, etc. Bad performances are not necessarily the fault of the teacher, but lots of people struggling with what is beyond them is a bad sign. Etc.

Remember that your teacher is your employee. Naturally, you respect their ability to play the instrument (and you should hear them play before you decide to employ them). Naturally, you believe, based on your investigations and questions, that they are a good instructor, and you follow their instructions and suggestions because they almost always know more about what will be useful to you as you learn to play than you do yourself. But you need to be making the decisions your parents would make if you were a child - you can interview a teacher before you hire them through a test lesson (which you should expect to pay for, although you may not have to) to see if you are suited to one another. At that lesson you can ask them what books you would use, how they usually go about teaching adults, what their expectations are about practice time, equipment, etc. If you find you are not suited, you try someone else. If you think you are suited, you start lessons.

If you find your instructor turns out not to be the best choice for you, there are many natural moments when you can replace them without a lot of heartrending discussion (although if you enjoy that type of thing, you can see if they feel like hashing it out - but don't be surprised if they don't want to). Many teachers are tied to either the college or the public school academic calendars. Many of them take summer vacations, teach at camps over the summer, are super busy in June doing wedding gigs, get busy at the end of the summer when school starts again, take off over the winter holidays, and so on. All of these provide moments when it is pretty easy to rearrange your schedules so they do not include one another. You can also just say, "I think I need to take a break from lessons..." and add a reason if you want. When you return to the violin (even if it is the next day) you hire someone else. As an adult, you are not stuck with someone who doesn't suit you.

Hey, if you decide to go for, have fun!

May 19, 2008 at 05:50 PM · "I'm just wondering if I've missed my opportunity."

At 19 your wondering if you've missed an opportunity to play music? You think learning stopped when you graduated from high school, and you'd spend the rest of your life coasting :-)

At the end of your life do you want to look back and think fondly off all the time you spent watching television, or time spent actually doesn't something?

May 19, 2008 at 07:46 PM · In September of '07 I took up the violin again. Before thyat I had not played the violin since 1985. With my teacher(s) I have made advancement beyond what I could have immagined. It's never too late!

May 19, 2008 at 07:51 PM · There are two questions here: 1. Is it too late? No.

2. Do teachers like teaching adult beginners? As Jonathan said, many teachers don't, simply out of experience. My experience has been much like his: most adults quit, and quit earlier than youngsters. Adults tend to miss more lessons, and cancel just before their lessons, forcing us to either have stricter pay-up-front policies, or write off the lesson. You also have to remember what's in it for the teacher. It's not just about the money, but rather about the satisfaction of passing our years of musical skill and insight. We busted our butts on Bach, we chopped away at Tchaikovsky, we spent hour upon hour at Paganini. I guess in the end it can be simply uninteresting teaching beginners, and especially when they will advance extremely slowly. It would be like going to med school and having to just put band-aids on and nothing else.

May 19, 2008 at 11:02 PM · The main issue is that you have good ears... Don't worry about your age--- if you seriously want to learn something, go for it. I will say that learning a musical instrument isn't easy-- it will take hours of practice, learning how to read music, and many frustrating days that will make you want to quit, but DON'T QUIT! Once you figure it out, the benefits outweigh the frustrations and you'll be glad you stuck with it. This is your first instrument, plus you're learning to read music, so give it time. It won't happen overnight. Since you've been in choir for 8 years, you are probably OK with the "ear" side of the music, and ear training is probably the most difficult to teach people. Good musical ears are the most significant factor in learning any instrument, especially violin because it doesn't have frets and you have to know exactly where to put your fingers and how much to adjust your fingers to get the right note. You can learn violin technique and how to read music anytime. Just don't quit, or you'll regret it!

May 20, 2008 at 02:01 AM · Every person I know who tried the violin as a child had quit it before Jr. High School. The few that stuck with it were not the norm at all. In my adult group classes we probably had about a 60% drop out/quit rate each quater meaning by 9 months we only had 2 of the original class still going(don't know if they really quit or went with private instruction though). I think the idea that adults quit more than children is largely a misconception. Perhaps adults who are beginner beginer as in just picked the instrument up quit at a very high clip I don't doubt that at all, but I would wager so do a ton of children who start in thier school musical programs and most private teachers don't see them. But I doubt that adults who have been playing one year + quit at any abnormally high rate.

And again not all adults progress at a "very slow rate" (i.e. the gents story above about his two year student playing the Bach Concerti at two years, most kids won't be doing that in two years).

Teachers who won't teach adults because they won't go on to be professionals or make a career out of it are silly. 99% of your child students won't either.

May 20, 2008 at 12:26 AM · It's never too late to go for anything you have a real desire to learn, if you'll work for it. I'm 61yrs. I started up again late last year after Mom died and I was suddenly alone in the middle of a dark midwestern winter, far from home and friends. I'll be retiring soon and taking off on a long slow road trip down to the gulf, then west to the coast, to end up on a boat in the California delta and Blondie, my fiddle, is going too. You'll be suprised how fast the daily practice gets into your heart as well as your muscles. How quickly the little victories pile up, how soon that collection of old wood and glue, string and horsehair starts making beautiful noises, how satisfing it can be...

Go for it! And dump any teacher who is not enthusiastically on your side.

May 20, 2008 at 01:24 AM · I am an adult in my 40s and have been playing for 3 years. I LOVE it! I am using the Suzuki books with a wonderful teacher and play in group and private lessons, and in the local youth orchestra with my kids. I just played in the solo recital and had a blast. This summer I will finish Suzuki book 3, and work out of the Barbara Barber books before heading into the Seitz/Vivaldi concertos in book 4 (and the glorious Bach double.) LISTEN A LOT, to all kinds of violin music. It helps immensely. Also: practice daily, and if you can't spend a lot of time, even a little practice time helps. You can intellectualize all you want, but your fingers have a lot to learn too, and they learn by doing. Often. Don't let anyone tell you it's too late. It was a thrill to be in a long black skirt, in a real recital hall, with a real pianist behind me (and my legs shaking like jello)...it was so amazing and surreal, and WONDERFUL! Go for it!

Also: I have never played before and never read music. Yes: old dogs DO learn new tricks! : )

May 20, 2008 at 12:26 AM · Traeonna,

It's never to late. I started four years ago, at age 56, taking lessons with a bunch of kids. Well, not actually with the kids. We all have private lessons, but it does sometimes feel odd to pitch up at lesson a little early and wait for an eight-year-old to finish, and to then be followed when my lesson is done by another little one. Recitals are interesting, too, but I remember when our boys were taking piano lessons and there were two adults in their group. They were there, performing at the recitals along with the kids, and I didn't think it odd. Recitals are just part of learning any instrument.

The kids and I were all beginners at the violin. The kids were started in Sukuki Book 1. I was started in Suzuki book 2 because I could already read music (studied organ, pipe, not rock, for fourteen years). Now it's four years later, and two weeks ago my teacher started me on Mozart's Concerto No. 3 in G.

You didn't say whether you have any previous music experience. It helps but it isn't mandatory.

There's been a lot of good points made in the previous posts, and I hope you've been encouraged to forge ahead. The only comments that gave me pause were the few that state adult students don't stick with it. That hasn't been what I've observed, but my experience there is very limited, being confined to the very few adult beginners I know personally, and what my teachers have told about teaching adults. My first, current, and substitute teachers that have filled in when my current teacher had scheduling conflicts, have all said they enjoy teaching adults. The adult beginners I know (only two) don't miss their lessons or call to cancel at the last minute. I certainly don't. There are times when I know I won't be able to make a lesson, but it's always at least a month in advance, we can both plan for it and no one is caught by surprise. The ones who don't show up, are late, or don't practice are the kids. My teacher told me she likes to teach adults because adults practice. She said she's found that her adult students have a goal and are willing to put in the effort to achieve it, whereas the kids often are taking lessons because mom and dad say they will, not because they particularly want to learn to play the violin. Anyway, I hope you don't let the negative comments from some teachers put you off.

In addition to getting a teacher, be looking for a group you can play with regularly. It will probably be intimidating at first, but I think it helps one advance faster, and it's fun! Maybe I'm wrong, maybe most adult beginners only want to play at home for their own amazement, but I don't think so.

Go for it!

May 20, 2008 at 04:23 PM · Michael,

These posts are made largely out of opinion and usually, this is derived from personal experience. This is my experience of adult beginners (and I've had many students). This is how I make my living and many adults have quit without a backwards glance, leaving me with space I don't really want in my timetable. For one thing, it doesn't make any money.

I would thank you to not back up your own advice by referring to mine giving out "negativity". As I've already said, this treatment from adult beginners has happened a few times now and to be perfectly honest, I don't want it to happen again, bug**r that.

Please don't use my posts to back up your own advice again.

May 20, 2008 at 04:14 PM · Jonathan, maybe you can learn a thing or two from the Japanese.

Over here, no matter what you teach, be it a language, computer lessons or musical instruments, if a student reschedules or cancels one full day in advance, they can do so without a charge, any later than that and the full lesson fee is due to the teacher (or school).

Music schools usually charge for a full month payable in advance and often lessons are fixed and cannot be rescheduled at all. Also, whether you join a school or the studio of a private teacher, it is common to pay an upfront joining fee, which is often about 100 USD. This probably contributes to students being more committed, regardless of age group. However, the culture here is already geared towards perseverance. People are more likely to stick to a commitment than in Western societies. Nevertheless, the policies described should help.

May 20, 2008 at 04:43 PM · Johnathan,

You haven't been teaching very long according to your blog, maybe the adults are just being polite? Perhaps it's you and your negativity they sense and they don't want you as a teacher? Certainly with so many adults jumping ship on you it's a possibility.

When you post something on a public message board it is perfectly fine and within board policy for me to comment on it. If you take an issue with that it's probably best not to comment at all.

May 20, 2008 at 04:43 PM · It's not the payments during study that's the problem. It's people deciding that they don't want to continue lessons. You can usually see it coming with cancellations etc (although I've NEVER let myself by short changed in this way, always gotten what I'm due).

I'd rather just continue not teaching adults. I prefer teaching children anyway.

Nothing against adults learning, it's just I choose not to teach them, for the reasons given above and in previous posts.

May 20, 2008 at 04:51 PM · Michael,

My blog only refers to class music teaching, NOT instrumental teaching, which I've been doing considerably longer.

I'm anything but negative to students whilst I teach them. My students have had fantastic results and I am known by my employers as a very committed and POSITIVE person.

I just choose not to take adults into my private teaching timetable, for reasons given above. You'd think if I was negative, parents certainly wouldn't want me teaching their kids, but they do and the children progress wonderfully.

So I would thank you to just accept my point of view and stop challenging it, it won't change.

May 20, 2008 at 04:53 PM · Jonathan,

if you kindly take a look at the topic of this thread and what the original poster wrote, you will find it is ALL about a 32 year old wanting to start learning the violin, wondering how to find a teacher. It is absolutely NOT about teaching kids. Consequently, if you choose to comment and talk about how you don't teach adults, you should expect to be challenged, given the topic. Thanks for your understanding.

May 20, 2008 at 05:33 PM · Johnathan,

I'm not challenging anything just stating perhaps if all adult students are finding reaons to leave you perhaps it's you and not them?

I don't care if you teach adults or not, frankly I think both are better off that you don't, and I was warning the OP to run hard and fast from teachers like you who will be negative from the offset concerning adults.

The OP is looking for encouragement I see no reason to come into the thread and give her the business and all this negativity towards adult beginners. I dont' see what point is served by it is all. This is about encouraging the OP, not about you IMO.

May 20, 2008 at 04:57 PM · Yes and I gave my tuppence worth! If I knew it going to cause such a rift I wouldn't have bothered.

As much as I'd love to continue this stimulating exchange that's developed just because I offered a point of view that wasn't all about back-patting and encouragement, I'm going offline now, to teach as it happens.

Cheers.

May 20, 2008 at 05:05 PM · Michael,

there is nothing wrong with teachers specialising in teaching children, no matter what their reasons may be. Likewise, there is nothing wrong with teachers specialising in teaching adults.

The only thing which might be just a little worrisome about Jonathan's post in the context of this thread is that it may have been somewhat discouraging to the original poster, but hopefully it wasn't.

Nevertheless, I believe we should provide encouragement to her instead, which hopefully we did by challenging Jonathan's negative sounding outlook on adult students of the violin.

May 20, 2008 at 06:10 PM · Benjamin,

I agree I have no issue with teachers specializing in teaching whoever they want be it children, students, adults, or even professionals. I can understand that that's why some people teach elementary school, others college level coursees, and others decide to teach adults. But that's a far cry from a college professor lecturing a steel worker as to why he shouldn't pursue a higher education because based on his experience most drop out with nothing but loans to show for it.

However as a bit of advice I want to relay some life experience to the OP, and that is to run hard and fast from any teacher who is the slightest bit negative towards adults learning. Don't waste your time, there are too many great teachers out there who are much better suited, or even prefer adults over children.

I don't care if someone only wants to teach cats the violin. But selecting a teacher is hard and if you sit down first day and hear from the teacher how it's a "long road for adults", and that "most quit" I would get out of there.

May 20, 2008 at 05:56 PM · At 32, it is definitely too late for ONE thing....to become a child prodigy.

Otherwise, if it's what you really want, and even if everyone in the world is trying to talk you out of it, and it's still what you really want, then DO IT.

Oscar Levant once said, "It's not what you are, it's what you don't become that hurts."

If you go for it and it doesn't work out, you can always quit. But if you never give it a shot, you'll always wonder, and there will always be that sense that you missed an opportunity. And it isn't a matter of age.

Sandy

May 20, 2008 at 06:18 PM · Excellent post Sandy!

May 21, 2008 at 01:44 AM · Traeonna....Yes there are lots of teachers that LIKE to teach adults and enjoy it very much. My teacher loves it and she is very good with adults. She retired from teaching violin in the public school and also was in our local philharmonic for 25 years. Violin lessons are the highlight of my week!! You have to really, really want to do it though. I'm very dedicated and I practice an hour and a half to two hours a day. I'm pretty obsessed with it. BTW I'm 44. I've been taking a couple of years or so this last time. I first started originally taking lessons when I was around 19 years old. I also took piano from my mom when I was a child. She was a piano teacher. Also I have many years in various choirs, so I wasn't going into it without any knowledge of music. That said, I don't believe you have to have a music background to start taking lessons. I do believe you have to be extremely dedicated to keep up the lessons. You must be very self motivated to keep going even if some days you just don't feel like it. I keep going without no plans to quit... no matter what. I also have goals for myself that I want to accomplish.

So if you want to do it... just do it. Don't let negativity bring you down. There are plenty of people out there that will build you up and plenty that will tear you down for whatever you are doing. I personally ignore all of them!!

May 20, 2008 at 06:39 PM · That reminds me of the baker in the Alchemist, if anyone read that story before.

May 21, 2008 at 12:57 AM · I started taking violin lessons about two years ago, at the age of

78. I am in my second book of "Essential Elements For Strings".

I have a most wonderful teacher. She tells me, I am doing fine.

Hope I have enough time left, to be able to play in the third and

fourth positions.

.

May 21, 2008 at 02:34 AM · Atta boy Jack!!! You're my hero!

May 21, 2008 at 04:16 AM · Michael,

"... to run hard and fast from any teacher who is the slightest bit negative towards adults learning. Don't waste your time, there are too many great teachers out there who are much better suited, or even prefer adults over children."

I agree in principle with you. I also agree -in principle- that there is the danger of a negative feedback loop as you had pointed out, that teachers who are not fit or not motivated enough to teach adults may well contribute to them leaving in droves (and not necessarily tell the real reason why they did so).

However, I was just a tad concerned about the tone the exchange seemed to be headed. I don't know Jonathan and I presume you don't know him either. I try to be careful not to make assumptions about others I don't know. Even though his post was a little too negative for my personal taste, he still deserves the benefit of the doubt, that is, he might just have been unlucky getting a bunch of adult students who weren't really serious about learning the violin, it is at least a possibility.

But, yes, it is definitely correct that a teacher who doesn't like to teach a student is anything but ideal for that student and one should be looking elsewhere. Luckily, there are teachers who like to teach adults and do not have any bias against them.

May 21, 2008 at 05:09 AM · Oh for heaven's sake, don't pick on Jonathan. He's being honest about his experiences. I have to tell you that he's not the only one who chooses not to teach adults, and for a variety of reasons. One being that they need ENDLESS AFFIRMATION! ;)

We all do, really.

But some people do peter out when they realize that it's hard to play the fiddle, it's going to take years, there are no short-cuts, etc. etc. Kids often would like to peter out, but he's right, quite often they have the determination of their parents to get them through the throes of beginning violin, until they reach the point where things start getting more rewarding.

May 21, 2008 at 05:15 AM · Greetings,

I am often approached by adults expressing a desire to play the violin. I love to talk to them and gladly accpet them as students. However, I have found it helpful to sit down and discuss the degre eof comittment the person can make and try to give an overall picture of what it might entail. I often give a ten minute lesson just to show exactly how basic and relatively non-musicla the preliminary stages will be. One doe snot put the bow on the string and play a nice tune straightaway... After a forthright discussion such a sthis which includes explanation of long term financial comittment, fees in advance, instrument rental and so forth we can usually arrive at a mutual agreement about whether we wish to work together for the next few years.

Cheers,

Buri

Yixi, give us a quick affirmation. I`m having a bad day!

May 21, 2008 at 05:18 AM · Buri, you are the pruniest. It's a major compliment.

May 21, 2008 at 05:25 AM · Buri - I'll help you out here. I think your approach is a very good one. The first two years are the hardest to overcome without some sort of internal or external motivation to keep you going through the most agonizing stages of learning the violin (or viola). It is best for all involved to get a good understanding of what it is really going to take to start sounding "decent".

As an adult, we are all more self critical in what we do than children. This can make the learning process extremely frustrating at times. Prunes help overcome this alot! :-)

It is possible to find teachers who like to teach adults. You just have to do some research and looking around.

It never is to late to learn if you are truly motivated (a strong internal motivation is necessary) to work through the challenges and reach your goal. And those goals change all the time. The more you learn, the more you start realizing how much more you need to learn. It never really ends.

May 21, 2008 at 05:52 AM · I didn’t read all the posts but just saw my name mentioned by our very BURI!!!

Yes, for an adult, the commitment is the key. An adult can have so many choices of hobbies in life, you learn gardening one day and Tai Chi the next, but when it comes to violin, it’s a real discipline. Without the commitment to a tough discipline like this, one is bound to be discouraged very quickly.

But if you are so committed, then you are in even a bigger trouble because we v.commies will make sure you are never to be free from the pursuit of a true freedom (in the violin world any way)!:) How can anyone be too late to pursue freedom and happiness?

May 21, 2008 at 07:10 AM · Someone mentioned that they noticed a difference in the way their teacher taught adults versus younger students. In my case, I started at 43, and noticed right away that there ISN'T any difference. I'm put through the same taxing program of scales, etudes and concerto-progression that his serious youngsters are put through. I appreciate that, and actually wouldn't accept anything less. But my teacher is in his 70's and is always calling me a youngster, so maybe he didn't notice :)

All kidding aside, I actually like having a teacher a generation older than me. I really get a "mentor-student" feeling out of it. I'm curious as to the relative ages of the other adult students here compared to their teachers, and whether the teachers that have negative experiences with adult learners were significantly younger than those students. Not making any assumptions, I'm just curious as to whether the age dynamic is relevant at all.

May 21, 2008 at 09:30 AM · "But my teacher is in his 70's and is always calling me a youngster, so maybe he didn't notice :)"

Priceless!

May 21, 2008 at 10:07 AM · Sandy- Oh Come on! Not be a child prodigy starting violin at 32? It all depends on how childish you act. Works for me.

May 21, 2008 at 12:25 PM · I prefer to think of it as "middle aged prodigy."

:) Sandy

May 21, 2008 at 12:54 PM · ...or in my case, "senior citizen prodigy."

May 21, 2008 at 01:09 PM · .

May 21, 2008 at 01:04 PM · Quick: please provide endless affirmation! YES...needed frequently! : ) Erica

May 21, 2008 at 01:07 PM · "Endless affirmation" is a great idea. However, the most important source of endless affirmation, ultimately, should be yourself. It's always nice to have the support of those around you, but the most important place that affirmation has to come from is within you, at the very your core of being, in your soul. And you can't let anyone or anything take it away from you. Without that inner drive, the least little roadblock can stop you; with that inner drive, nothing can stop you. If that becomes your attitude, you'd be amazed at what you can achieve.

Sandy

May 21, 2008 at 01:15 PM · Michael,

expressing concern and calling for civilised discussion has absolutely nothing to do with being a "little general". Furthermore, expressing disagreement is a vital ingredient for any interesting discussion. Finally, how strong the disagreement is expressed has nothing to do with how civil the discussion is conducted. One person may express disagreement 10.000 times stronger than some other person, while at the very same time doing so 10.000 times more civil. Thank you.

May 21, 2008 at 01:31 PM · Benjamin, you lecturing anyone about civility on this board is quite funny to me... I've yet to read a topic where you aren't embroiled in some snarky back and forth with someone (now it's me apparently). I even erased my post to you because I didn't feel like adding to the turn this topic has taken. But apparently you're on this board 24/7 and read it during the 35 seconds it was up. Yes you are being a "little general" leave it to the mods that's why they're here. You're not in the position to tell people how to post on this board. You tend to equate patronizing and sarcasm to civility and I disagree...

May 21, 2008 at 01:41 PM · Michael, funny you should say that because 1) it was the owner of the board who chimed in on a similar tenor as I had and 2) I didn't actually tell you what to do, I merely explained why I didn't object (to Jonathan) in the same tone you did, and only after you made it look as if I was being too soft on him.

May 21, 2008 at 02:16 PM · O.K. Benjamin next time I disagree with someone instead of saying exactly what I mean in a perfectly fine tone. I'll just patronize them so I can be in line with you and get your posting seal of approval.... LOL seriously pal get over yourself, all you do is argue with people on this board all day everyday. For you to lecture anyone about civility on this board is really pushing the limits of reason.

Why don't you go back to lecturing the VSA award winning violin makers on this site as to why buying violins from no names in Romania is better than buying one of theirs... And with that... I'm done, you'll obviously go on the ignore list, I won't play your game here.

May 21, 2008 at 01:52 PM · Michael, it seems to me that you could benefit from reading comprehension exercises. I NEVER said any such thing.

May 21, 2008 at 01:51 PM · "But my teacher is in his 70's and is always calling me a youngster, so maybe he didn't notice :)"

Fantastic.

Am I the only one who now has a vision of a 70 odd year old violin tutor at the end of a lesson thinking something along the lines of,

"Hmmm. Must have a word with that one's mother. She didn't even turn up to walk him home. Children are so advanced these days...."

:D

Cheers,

Matt.

May 21, 2008 at 02:00 PM · Wow! People sure do get passionate (and touchy) about certain subjects!!

I'll just add that I went through 8 teachers in my first 6 - 8 months of learning the violin, for many of the reasons people have listed, i.e. negativity, incompatible approaches to teaching, personality, etc. Examples: one teacher didn't like the smell of my body cream. Another nearly had me break my arm to get my elbow way under the violin - in the first 2 lessons! Another just loved chatting with me and we spent 3/4 of each lesson time in conversation not related to playing the violin. Another was a tad too 'new agey', i.e. had to light candles in the music room, etc. Plus, I was not prepared to pay her for a month of lessons up front. Another had a $10,000 violin he wanted to sell me. One man was very nice but he was primarily a violist and I felt I wanted to study with someone who was, first and foremost, a violinist. Another seemed to have no specific method and just asked me what I wanted to learn; obviously someone who didn't know what to do with a student who was older than he was. And so it goes. Luckily I live in NY so there are lots of teachers to choose from. I've now been with my teacher for 5 years.

Let me add that the teacher who loved to talk was the first, and she was exceptionally nice and did give me a very gentle introduction to playing the violin. That is, she didn't overwhelm me with material so I could just ease into the instrument.

May 21, 2008 at 09:00 PM · That's funny, Matt. The conservatory that provides the lessons here requires the parents to be present at lessons. When I started I was told, in all seriousness, that my wife would not have to accompany me.

May 21, 2008 at 09:10 PM · "That's funny, Matt. The conservatory that provides the lessons here requires the parents to be present at lessons. When I started I was told, in all seriousness, that my wife would not have to accompany me."

You've got to be kidding me!

She could have taken that in such a terrible way. *hides*

Cheers,

Matt.

May 21, 2008 at 10:12 PM · Laurie- endless affirmation, this is SO true. totally keeps me motivated!!

Rae-Ann- I'm glad you finally found a good teacher, i can't believe those teacher's you've been thru!!

May 21, 2008 at 10:43 PM · I started taking lessons with my daughter 3 years ago, at age 40. I think two things keep me at it - an almost desperate drive to learn, and truly endless affirmation from my teacher.

For the poll regarding age - he's a few years older than I.

May 21, 2008 at 11:16 PM · Almost immediately after saying I could come to lessons by myself, she realized what she'd said, and we had a good laugh. She had been repeating the conservatory's rules to parents over and over all afternoon, and had fallen into a bit of a rut, and it just popped out. At least she said 'wife' and not 'mother.'

May 21, 2008 at 11:54 PM · "Almost immediately after saying I could come to lessons by myself, she realized what she'd said, and we had a good laugh. She had been repeating the conservatory's rules to parents over and over all afternoon, and had fallen into a bit of a rut, and it just popped out. At least she said 'wife' and not 'mother.' "

Aye, that was the bit that had me imagining your better half dealing out a well earned slap.

Ouch.

Cheers,

Matt.

May 22, 2008 at 05:13 PM · Benjamin K & Michael D. sound like a married couple.

May 23, 2008 at 01:00 AM · Royce! LOL!

May 23, 2008 at 01:29 AM · or an unhappy schizophrenic...

May 23, 2008 at 03:05 AM · I think we've sufficiently scared Traeonna away. Guys, back to practice!

May 23, 2008 at 03:18 AM · To address the original question: I picked up a violin for the first time in my life at age 36. I am now 49 and make my living with a violin. I play in a string quartet that performs regularly, I have a full private studio and play in 2 orchestras. Most recently I was hired to play with Anne Murray's concert when it came to my area.

When I started violin, my goal was to be able to play well enough to play in church. 2 years later, I was playing in the local community Symphony (mix of Professionals and amateurs/students).

Before I started, I was already a musician, had played in the orchestra for several years as a clarinetist, and played piano, so that did make the progress easier.

I was lucky to have some teachers that I really bonded with, who were encouraging and and proud of my progress. I've since earned a BFA with music concentration, so had to do the whole jury thing in my early 40s...an experience:).

I've been teaching for quite some years now, initially with some oversight from MY teachers (one of whom studied with both Galamian and Gingold). I have some students of my own beginning to play at quite an advanced level, and I continually check with my teachers to ensure that I am still capable of carrying them.

My favorite students are the middle school/high school and adult beginners. I wish that you lived closer....we could have a good time learning together.

Hope you find some encouragment in this. It's changed my life....go for it!! You'll NEVER regret it:).

DC

May 23, 2008 at 04:54 AM · now that@s how it should be!

Wonderful!

Buri

May 23, 2008 at 07:31 AM · Dottie, you fully inspired me. I started at 36 a few months ago too!! I too played the piano (not at all advanced, but being able to read music sure helps alot). I'm struggling in my community orchestra, but it's getting better and better! I hope I can play all the notes in 2 years!

May 25, 2008 at 07:40 PM · Jack,

I just read your profile. You are one amazing guy! Keep it up!

Total inspiration!

Dottie, you're an inspiration too, though being a professional musician already, somewhat out of my league! I'm still struggling with some 'counting' issues and generally learning to 'crawl' with this instrument. But even I can see progress, so definitely worth it to keep going.

Buri, what is the 20 minute duet concert your student played by the way?

May 25, 2008 at 10:26 PM · Sandy,

What you said is very powerful! You are always full of wisdom and all these inspiring words! I spent the last ½ hour searching for more quotes of yours at v.com. They are so many and all over the place! Can you please do us a favour to put them all in one file?:) Seriously, where do you find them other than those from within yourself?

May 25, 2008 at 11:46 PM · Greetings,

Bernadette,the student in question had been adamant in her refusal to play to anyone or even with a pianist. I`ve kind of got her to talk about a lot of bad stuff she experienced a sa child which it all centers around- very nasty. Basically she had bene unable to make the transition to adulthood as a result. (no connection with my refusal to grow up kind of thing). So I pushed her to travel abroad for a few weeks. That took about a years persuasion. Eventually she got into the ide a and planned a tour of Vienna and Prague going to a concert everynight. This might not sound such a big deal, but for someone who had been afraid to leave her neighbourhood for 30 years it is quite something!

After she came back she commented that she had `finally managed to do soemthing an adult would do.` So I seized the moment and sugegsted we play a concert together in my friend`s restaurant. I think she was still so amazed at what she had achieved that she just went out and did a loa d of duets in front of strangers without batting an eyelid.

Wish I had the same kind of guts.

Cheers,

Buri

May 26, 2008 at 08:15 PM · Buri,

You are clearly very caring and very patient. Not to mention astute, as the timing of your suggestion proves. Now that she's done it, and proved it to herself, I'm sure it'll be a huge leap in her healing and growing process. Thank you so much for what you've done, and for sharing some 'news' that is beautiful, heartwarming and positive. I wish we got more. A bit more 'positive bombardment' really wouldn't go amiss.

So it wasn't once concerto that lasted 20 minutes but a series of duets? I was just curious if there was an 'accessible' longer concerto for someone who can play relatively comfortably in third position, venture into 5th or 2nd yet isn't quite the galloping virtuoso yet :)

Thanks for sharing, and for the hours of work that preceeded that paragraph.

May 26, 2008 at 10:46 PM · Greetings,

there are quite a few very tuneful concrtos written for beginners. A lot of peopel seem to roll their eyes when they hear the word Seitz or Reiding. I have to confess I like most of them...sort of like the Eurovision Song Contets thingy. One thing that springs t mind is don`t get too hung up on cocnertos. They are not the be all and end all. You may well be ready to take a good shot at the Corelli sonatas or even the Handel F major. The Vivaldi G minor is a ggod cocnerto that might stretch you a bit.

Try downloading the ASTA repertoire list and see what is out there at the kind of level you think you are.

Best of luck,

Buri

May 27, 2008 at 01:12 AM · Solos for Young Violinists has some beautiful concertos (yes, the Rieding is lovely in Volume 2) and the Dvorak Sonantina...

May 27, 2008 at 01:20 AM · Greetings,

I think I`ve moaned about this before. Why say `young violinists` or is that most adults like to be described as young....?

Cheers,

Buri

May 27, 2008 at 04:13 AM · Young = being young in the violin world? How about this, anyone under 30 or having less than one year of experience in playing the violin is a young violinist!

May 27, 2008 at 11:59 PM · I've recieved some private emails in response to my previous post here about beginning at age 36, containing questions about the practical aspects of 'how' I did what I did. So, I thought I'd answer here in case others wish to chime in.

One of the questions had to do with how much I practiced. When I took up violin, I had one grown son, another in HS, a daughter in MS and a 4 yr. old. I was a stay at home mom at the time, but my time was not really my own. So, I took practice time wherever I could get it. I had a bench chest that my violin case sat open on, and I would leave the violin in plain sight, and grab it when I could. Yes, there were some days that I was able to practice long periods, but more likely were small practices grabbed out of life. I have vivid memories of bringing the music stand into the kitchen/dining room and spending a few minutes practicing while preparing dinner. I would lay my violin on the counter top while working, then grab it for a few here and there.

I would also use TV time to silently practice my left hand, drilling on spacing, intervals, scales, then eventually passages, and even vibrato motion. In short, I grabbed whatever time I could, and spent it with a violin in my hands.

One of the things that was most important was finding other people to play with as early as possible. I was lucky in that... I ended up with a quartet of students at similar levels and we met and just played and played and played. The MOST important thing you can do to develop musicality, intonation and sound is to play chamber music...at least, that is my belief. At first, our efforts were no more than mangled hymns, which were a source of much laughter. (I still have the tapes I recorded then). We eventually graduated to simple quartet arrangments, then gradually more difficult.

Another thing that was important to ME was that I had a couple of play-along CDs. Initially it was very basic things (Applebaum's Sting Tunes, which is great for beginners.... Accompaniment parts in many styles to everything from Mary had a Little Lamb to various early folk songs.) This helped me to feel like I was making music, and really reinforced steadiness and intonation. Eventually I bought a Music Minus One CD that contained the Vivaldi A minor plus the duet in A minor and other things. It was good for me to attempt to play some bits with a CD since it helped me to clearly hear where my intonation needed work.

Mostly, I want to say just play, play, play...and in the early months, perhaps you are better served by many short practices than one long and grueling one. Face it...as beginners, there is not so much that we can do that will productively fill a 2 hr. practice block.

I will say this...a good teacher is crucial. My first teacher, who moved away after only 7 months of instruction, had taught us an improper set up. The second teacher, who I had the following year, was old and very ill and became blind during our time. He also didn't seem to have any expectations that adults could really play. The whole year I was there he never went any farther than a couple of etudes. And he couldn't see well enough to correct my set up.

The THIRD teacher (the one who studied with Galamain, Gingold, Feneveys, etc.) had to immediately work to fix my bow hand. That took some hard work since I had been practicing incessantly and WRONGLY for 1 1/2 years. However, he told me on my first lesson that my previous teacher had 'seriously underestimated my potential'.

Moral of the story...if you practice a lot, WRONG, you can't really go any where. I have him to thank for my really good bow hand. Get the best help you can early. As someone who is proficient in both woodwinds and piano, I can tell you that learning strings is a different animal altogether. In my opinion, no one who wants to become truly proficient should attempt it on his/her own.

Hope this helps.... chime on in here all. :)

Dottie

May 27, 2008 at 05:25 PM · Dottie thank you so much for sharing!

I hope you keep on sharing. I'm shure you have many stories and experiences that could be useful to all of us, late starter.

Many ,many thanks

And congratulations for your great achievement!

Very sincerely

P. Trouvé

May 31, 2008 at 11:56 PM · I'm really glad I found this site and have enjoyed reading all your inputs. I'm 51 and about to start. What I didn't hear from anyone in all the "age" posts I've been reading is that we are all different, with different talents and abilities. I am a self taught piano player as of Jan 01 of this year and am a rank beginner, but I have Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata (1st) committed to memory and play it quite well actually, self taught classical guitarist (also fairly respectable) so now at the age of 51, will try the violin...just because I always wanted to and we'll see what happens. Dave

June 1, 2008 at 12:24 AM · Good luck Dave. I have been at it 3 years, and it's great. Go for it!

June 11, 2008 at 12:23 AM · I would like to thank everyone for taking the time to respond to my post. I really appreciate hearing all of your thoughts and it has given me something to think about as I further investigate the opportunities in my area to learn violin. My husband is about to go off to boot for a few months and when he gets back, I believe he will be gone a year over in Iraq. I thought this would be a good time to something I have always wanted to and provide a positive distraction. I have found a possible instructor in the area and hope to meet with her sometime this summer to talk more. Again, everyone, thank you for expressing your opinions and sharing your stories with me. I am very grateful.

@Michael Czeiszperger "I'm just wondering if I've missed my opportunity." At 19 your wondering if you've missed an opportunity to play music?

I think you have mistaken me for another that had responded. I am 32, not 19...although due to my youthful looks, I am mistaken for much younger than I truly am. Recently, someone thought my 7 year old was my little brother. We both got a giggle out of that. My son politely corrected the ladies, and then giggled again.

@Yixi Zhang I think we've sufficiently scared Traeonna away. Guys, back to practice!

Luckily, I am not so easily scared. I was quite amused by some of the silliness.

As to some of the more heated comments, I simply seek to understand the points of both parties. Being an instructor myself (I teach computer-related classes), I understand that some instructors just prefer certain ages or types of people. I love my adult students because they're so open to learning and are appreciative of what I am teaching them. I also love my younger students because they are fun, full of energy, and keep me on my toes.

Again, thank you all for responding!

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