If you could begin learning the violin all over again...

November 12, 2008 at 06:57 PM ·

...what, if anything, would you do differently, this time?

Replies (44)

November 12, 2008 at 11:31 PM ·

I would take cello lessons!!!

November 13, 2008 at 01:38 AM ·

1) I would have started at 3. 


2) I would have started playing without a chin rest sooner or never played with one at all.


3) I'd take lessons with Joey Corpus, Midori, Drew Lecher, Stephen Brivati, and, of course, Anne-Sophie Mutter.

4)  I'd play all unknown or rarely played repertoire of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

5)  I would have gone to a conservatory in Germany when I was 10 under my mother's insistence, of course.  



Sounds good to me.



November 13, 2008 at 03:43 AM ·

LoL Daniel!

Tension is definitely the big one for me.  Took me a long time to understand it...learn how to deal with it...and eventually to play with alot less of it.



November 13, 2008 at 04:30 AM ·

I would have started 55 years ago instead of guitar.  Guitar was a way to perform for others and get compliments, but violin I play for my own pleasure.  And the more I please myself, the more others are pleased also. 

November 13, 2008 at 06:56 AM ·

I would have insisted on learning vibrato sooner - much sooner! 

November 13, 2008 at 07:19 AM ·

with the wisdom of hindsight, I would have ...

- started a decade or two earlier.

- bought a better bow right from the start.

- bought a silent violin earlier (for practise at the office).

- devoted more time/effort to sight reading exercises.

November 13, 2008 at 03:52 PM ·

I wish I had had proper instruction on how to play with no shoulder rest. The retooling (to play without a shoulder rest) in my late 40s was slow and award but the benefits were so high that I wonder what it might have been like to play that way at a much earlier age. 

November 13, 2008 at 03:56 PM ·

I wish my parents would have forced me to practice and hour everyday from age three... Then I could have been a prodigy!

November 13, 2008 at 03:58 PM ·

I would have to agree with most, that I wish I'd started when I was young. Oh well, cant change the past.

November 13, 2008 at 04:24 PM ·

quote from Paul:  "I wish my parents would have forced me to practice and hour everyday from age three... Then I could have been a prodigy!"

But then you probably wouldn't have liked it as much as you do....being forced to do something and choosing to do something makes a big difference.


November 13, 2008 at 05:27 PM ·

Elizabeth - not necessarily. There are always exceptions, though I'm not sure there's a rule in this case.

I was forced to practice and play as a child. I didn't much appreciate it then but am sure glad my parents forced me on music at a young age. I wouldn't been even near the amount of music I am today. I'll be forever grateful for my folks for doing that for me.

Of the people that I've spoken to over the years, I think just as many people who were forced in it are still appreciative of the "nudging", as those who were forced and are upset by it. Obviously, not a scientific survey by any means...

November 13, 2008 at 05:58 PM ·

I also wish my parents have forced me to play any instrument at all when I was really young. I started in my twenties though...its definitely frustrating when everyone you meet in regards to the violin asks you why you started that late in life....Its a huge game of catch up that you end up having to deal with. I think the benefits of starting early far outway negatives that could arise.

I am curious though, if there are any people out there that began music later in life, and are genuinely happy that they did wait to start violin? Or are we all (the late violin-bloomers) plagued with a life-long game of catch up to the early bird violinists?

November 13, 2008 at 06:29 PM ·

As someone who only took up the violin for myself, I don't regret not starting as a child.

What I do regret is not getting my second violin upgrade several years before I finally splashed out (in spite of the advice of two teachers). I also wish I had got involved in orchestral playing earlier than I did.  

November 13, 2008 at 06:39 PM ·

I started at the age of about 9 or 10.  I know I would have started WAY WAY younger.  I think that's the only ting I'd change. I feel that I started to old to be good at a younger age.

November 13, 2008 at 06:41 PM ·

 The reasons I wish I had started younger are for the obvious skill reasons, and also, the childhood memories that I can only imagine.  

My first recital at five...

My debut with the Ny Phil at 8

My first cd at 8...


Wait a minute, that's Sarah Chang's childhood memories (sigh)


No, but on a serious note.  I hate looking forward to playing the Sibelius!  If i would have started younger, I'd be playing it right now!!!!



November 13, 2008 at 07:17 PM ·

With what Daniel said, I don't think he knows how lucky he is to have started at age nine. That four-year gap from when I started playing (thirteen), could be all the difference of whether or not I make it as a soloist....

Who knows where I'll be in my playing but I know it would be so much better and instead of working on only the second movement of the Tchaikovsky, I could be playing the whole thing at Carnegie hall..... As a child, the time is also there to play hours everyday, as a teenager, no such luck.

November 13, 2008 at 07:28 PM ·

Paul, that's the wisdom that comes with maturity ; )

November 13, 2008 at 07:56 PM ·

When I read your question - what would you do if you could learn the violin all over again -- my immediate reaction was: that's what I do every day!

There is of course the idea that if I could do it all over again, I'd do everything right from the beginning, but that's not possible. For me, it's more a matter of perpetual reconstruction. Taking things apart and putting them together again, hopefully in a way that is just a little more functional.

November 13, 2008 at 08:35 PM ·

I would practice more, earlier.

Basically, I would practice for an hour every day starting very early in my studies, and not miss a day.

I didn't really do that.

November 13, 2008 at 09:53 PM ·

I would have love to be born in a rich and musical family who could have payed me 3 lessons a week with a famous teacher (JOKE) Who wouldn't like it though...

I think in music, a lot have to do with opportunities.  You can try to create them but it's too often impossible.  And even if you have started at age 3 , it doesn't mean you have started at a good school, it doesn't mean your family is rich ennough to actually pay you 3 lessons a week with a famous teacher so I think great artists are a mix between talent and opportunities. Yes life is unfair but I am not jealous of anyone and am so greatful to the great masters for all the wounderful music they gave us!


November 14, 2008 at 03:43 AM ·

I would practice 2 to 3 hours a day and play with a cloth because now I have these little bumps on my left side of my neck and some turn into scars.

November 14, 2008 at 04:09 AM ·

Well, I sense a pretty common thread running through these comments...

...and that goes ditto for me, because I got in a little "late" myself!

I do appreciate the comments.  I have a son who is about to turn 5, and I'm really torn, because I would so dearly love to see him take on the instrument...but...it's difficult for me to separate out how much of that is my "vicarious" interest as a parent, and how much is reality.  What's the saying; "Too soon old; too late wise," or something like that?  In retrospect, although I sometimes think how great it would have been to have had my parents impose this on me when I was young, it's also very important to me that I chose it myself - even if that late start doomed me to more or less lifetime hacker status.

I think I'll just sit back, use my judgement, and see what happens.


Thanks again and I hope more of you will share your thoughts...it's always instructive to hear what people who have "been down that road" think, looking backward.

November 14, 2008 at 05:16 AM ·

I would not allow myself to settle for a teacher whose teaching style was not one that meshed with my learning style.  Alas...at least I have a wonderful teacher now!!! :-)

November 14, 2008 at 04:16 PM ·

I would anticipate, at age 12, how much I'd love the violin at age 50, and apply myself accordingly.

In any event, my thoroughly average talent would have limited how good I'd get. But I was away from the violin for 25 years before returning to it with a passion. I really, really regret not having kept at it during those years, and not having worked harder as a kid.

November 14, 2008 at 09:49 PM ·

I'm surprised to hear so many people wishing they had started earlier.  Sure we all want to be better musicians, but as we all know violin is REALLY tough.  In my everyday dealings with people, I'm amazed at how many people USED TO PLAY the violin.  By that, I mean, they probably started too early, didn't have the coordination and patience to play such a difficult instrument, and gave up after a few months or a few years.  And from my limited experience, people who take up an instrument and quit, tend to give it up for life.

Of course, there are exceptions.  Sarah Chang for example was simply wired for violin playing, just like Tiger Woods was wired for golf.  But they are oddballs (I mean that in a good way).  For the vast majority of us, I believe you should be at least 8-9 years old before even attempting to play violin.  Perhaps some suzuki teachers can chime in here with real statistics.  What is the drop out rate for students that start young vs those that start a little older?

I am especially interested in this topic because I have a 7 year old.  He is playing piano now, but I would like him to switch to cello or violin at some point so he can participate in the school orchestra.  Any words of advice on when he should make the switch?



November 14, 2008 at 11:19 PM ·

I wish I had started earlier too - at age 4 or 5 rather than 12.    I was definitely keen and interested but my parents didn't really encourage it for various reasons.  

I also wish I had been able to buy Johannes the violin when I was a student.

Smiley - i'd expose your son to cello/violin music, maybe take him to a few concerts (especially a youth orchestra if you can so he can see other kids having fun playing) - and then at some poiint ask him if he'd like to learn...

November 14, 2008 at 11:22 PM ·

I wish that my first  public-school teacher had stayed in my little, rural district longer.  He was a clarinetist by trade, was taking lessons at Eastman while starting string students! But I played well, learned a lot, practiced some because he said so. I wish the string-player teachers who followed had told me to get to WORK. I wish my parents had understood that I was really musical and had done more. I had piano lessons w/various village people, could have gone an hour and change away for piano, violin, voice (at Eastman), but the idea never came up once. I wish I had practiced more and listened a LOT more then. Sue    

November 15, 2008 at 01:17 AM ·

I played the violin in public school and now after over ten years I went back to it. Last week I took my first private lesson. My teacher told me I was holding the bow incorrectly and tried showing me how to hold it properly. I can't do it! My thumb keeps slipping out from under the frog and my pinky keeps popping out of position. I'm having so much difficulty trying to hold the bow now, that I wish I had learned it the right way the first time. 

November 15, 2008 at 02:33 AM ·

 My teacher will be Maxim Vengerov. 


November 15, 2008 at 02:47 AM ·

>I am curious though, if there are any people out there that began music later in life, and are genuinely happy that they did wait to start violin?

That would be me. It never would have worked for me as a child. Even as a 20-something. Weirdly, 42 was the right time for me to start. No regrets, one way or the other.

November 15, 2008 at 03:46 PM ·

Well, I guess I could have started at 4, or 3, or 2, instead of 10, and practiced 7, or  8, or 9 hours a day, but I still wouldn't ever sound like Rabin, or Oistrakh, or Kreisler.  

No regrets, very fortunate in every way!

November 15, 2008 at 04:26 PM ·

in response to ...

"I'm surprised to hear so many people wishing they had started earlier.  Sure we all want to be better musicians, but as we all know violin is REALLY tough.  In my everyday dealings with people, I'm amazed at how many people USED TO PLAY the violin.  By that, I mean, they probably started too early, didn't have the coordination and patience to play such a difficult instrument, and gave up after a few months or a few years."

and ...

"... I believe you should be at least 8-9 years old before even attempting to play violin."

I am one of those who say they wish they had started earlier, but that does not mean I wish I had started as a child or even as a teenager. Quite to the contrary, I am glad that I didn't start on the violin as a child or as a teenager because I know that this would have meant an early end most likely I would have never come back to it then. As a child and as a teenager I did not have the maturity to put in the effort, especially not repetitive practise such as scales etc. And I was far too stubborn for anybody to have forced me successfully to practise.

Yet, I wish I had started on the violin earlier than I did, but definitely during my adult life, not any earlier.

November 15, 2008 at 07:15 PM ·

I have only been playing for 6 years (started when i was 7, 13 now)

but i would have practiced more as a young child, as i pracitce more now and it makes such a difference, i just wonder what i would be like if i pracitced alot when i was younger

November 16, 2008 at 02:29 AM ·

      I f I could start all over again... I would never say I hate the violin again...I would never back up from practicing again... I would listen to my violin teacher. I would not neglict my talent  and than force myself to recover what I lost....I would be a different kind of a person. I would have more courage , earlier...

       If I could start all over again...But I can't . I can only work on what I am now.I  just know I would have taken my violin and told her  "I LOVE YOU " with the passion that I have now.I plain big "I LOVE YOU." , and that would have changed my life.


November 16, 2008 at 03:34 AM ·

Sounds like the answers here are the same as for the rest of life, really.  If I could  _________  (raise my kids, go to college, make career decisions, start violin, make dating/marriage decisions etc., etc. ) again/over I would bring to that ___________  some of the wisdom that I have gleaned from learning some of life's hard lessons. 

Ah, if it were but so...      :)


November 16, 2008 at 04:09 AM ·

No Sevcik.

November 16, 2008 at 05:25 AM ·

I would buy a far better violin than the one I had for so long, and I'd buy it just before college. I'm happy to have it now, but it would have changed my life, had I had it then.

November 16, 2008 at 08:13 AM ·

I would have tried a bit harder so my mother would not have sold my violin because it sounded so awful and she was scared i would not get a husband if I played the violin.

Now I got a husband AND a violin!

November 16, 2008 at 04:05 PM ·

Louise, your posting made me laugh!

Do you relly think violin can make a partner (wife husband or girlfriend boyfriend) go away?  I have always think that since a violinist spend so much hours with his instrument, the other partner could be jealous of the violin!  (he or she should't because at least he or she knows were the violinist is in permanance instead of worrying where he or she could be...!!!!!!! JOKE) Honestly, i think we often see 2 musicians together because they understand eachother!  BUT THERE IS NO RULE TO FIND OUT OF THIS! I only find this so funny :) lol!


November 16, 2008 at 05:00 PM ·

I don't have any regrets. I used to wish that my parents had forced me to practice, or that I was naturally some kind of prodigy, but I don't anymore. I realize that for me, violin is not about being a soloist or any sort of professional musician, spending my whole life perfecting my playing. It's about enjoying music for what it is. What I do regret is not realizing this earlier. I spent a lot of time having a very competitive attitude, which not only did not help me, but hurt me in the long run. A few years after I had realized this, I read Robert Frost's essay "Education by Poetry", and the part about self belief helped me confirm that I am not fit to be a professional violinist, nor do I have any desire to be one. My academics are just way too important to me to sacrifice even a little for the violin. However, that does not mean I can't enjoy playing violin in my free time.

My view on becoming a soloist is that you must ask yourself just how much you are willing to sacrifice for a one in a million chance. I don't want to judge anyone for chosing violin, it is a noble decision considering how much hard work must be put into becoming a musician. But I recognize that this choice must be well thought out and must reflect what you really want.

November 16, 2008 at 06:34 PM ·

I wouldn't...

November 16, 2008 at 10:13 PM ·

I wish I even KNEW what a violin was 3 years ago (... I am being serious haha)

I have no regrets really, my teacher says my playing is developing fast. I like the effort I put in now; I don't think I could manage a career in music. My career will be programming, music will be my soul.

November 17, 2008 at 12:23 PM ·

Actually practise between lessons as a schoolboy, rather than wait 40 years.  But really I'm with Bart - start again every time you pick it up.  (Which reminds me of the great Bobby Wellins, running a saxophone class I was taking, who took his instrument out, played a few notes, and said, half to himself, "I always wonder if I'll remember how to play it".)

November 17, 2008 at 01:32 PM ·

Helen Martin, I enjoyed your comments.

I don't have any of your resume except that (my significantly lesser) facility was cultivated but no technique or musicianship was taught. 

I always had teachers who were capable players but no one seemed to have an intellectual foundation of violin playing. So I acquired a little facility that sustained me until around age 46 when I met a true scholar of violin playing. It has made a huge difference.

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