Adults are quitters?!

May 8, 2010 at 04:31 PM ·

The other day I was chatting with my teacher after lesson - her newest adult student just quit after 3 months. She admits that she does not like to take adult beginners because they cannot commit - they cancel lessons more often due to work/family obligations, they don't practice consistently (and have good reasons/excuses), and they quit! In fact, she said that she has never had any adults continuing except two - one has been with her for 6+ years, and the other is me: 8.5 months and counting, and she joked that we are not "normal." She is a serious teacher, who invests a lot of thought and care in her students, and I empathize with her frustration that after pouring her heart and energy into a student and seeing him/her starting to flourish, they suddenly quit...

I see many adult starters* on this site who have been taking lessons/playing for years and are still going strong (which gives me hope, BTW), but I suspect that they are the exceptions rather than the norms. Among the people I know personally, no adult beginners have moved beyond Suzuki Book 4 level except one.  Beside the obvious reason that adults have family and/or job commitments that are hard to balance with a "hobby" that demands so much time and energy, are there other reasons that are unique to adults, why adult beginners, as a group, quit more often (if my teacher's experience and my circle are representative of the general population)? Are we more easily frustrated and demoralized than kids? Are we less willing to commit? Do kids continue because their parents would not allow them to quit, and adults just lack discipline? Do people give up because they can not catch up with their kids (many adult beginners I know started with their kids)? Do they quit because their age (stiff fingers, arthritis, etc.) prevents them from attaining higher levels? Or maybe some just switch teachers more often?

Dear teachers, what have been your experiences with adult beginners? Do you share my teacher's sentiment? What is the quitting ratio between adults and kids? On average, how long does an adult student last? What's the longest time that an adult student has stayed with you?

Dear adult starters,  if you have played violin or stayed with a teacher for more than 2 years (a rather arbitrary number, I know) , have you ever thought about quitting?  If so, what are your reasons? What makes you continue?

Thanks in advance for your answers!

(* I use "starters" here because many of them have gone beyond the beginner stage.)

Replies (96)

May 8, 2010 at 04:38 PM ·

A long time ago I took a couple of violin lessons. Though I play cello, or perhaps because if it, I realized that my progress was going to be much slower than my tolerance for my own playing was going to permit. I think the smaller type of kids probably are more used to just doing what theyr'e told, and keep plugging away, without that same kind of rational evaluation of time vs benefit, or maybe it's because everything they're doing is learning, so the difficulty of an instrument doesn't seem out of proportion or unusual to them, where adults quickly realize what they've into, relative to the rest of what they do, and decide to spend that time elsewhere.

About seven months ago I started taking piano lessons, and I found that much less daunting than the violin, so I've continued, and am enjoying it, so from my perspective it's just a matter of the work in>pleasure out cycle being more rewarding, enough to keep going rather than getting discouraged.

May 8, 2010 at 04:58 PM ·

For some adults they just find the demands of job & family do not leave enough room for learning an instrument. Either go in with both feet or not at all.  Being single really helps me to be able to play.  if I were married with children living with us...... I could still play only if the wife & kids understood how important this is for me and they were supportive and allowed a schedule to allow me to practice, go to lessons, play gigs.

May 8, 2010 at 06:42 PM ·

I am an adult who have started with my teacher when I was a teen (at 16) 5 years ago!  I have been through all the process of emotional torture it can bring!  I started "innocently" wanting to become a professionnal musician because I fell in love immidiately with the violin and had the mental talent and ear to progress rapidly at first which gave me the "false hope" that it could be possible... (However, I hit a wall with my body who is far from beeing acceptable for a professional musician! But this didn't show at first as I could overcome it.) 

I basically went from practicing minimum 5 hours a day and more on weekends in my first years to  having to cut my routine drastically two years ago when I decided "against my will" to go in a non-musical path that was very demanding.  Now I can not even practice everyday (sometimes not even every week...) and have to cancel numerous violin lessons!  The love is still there but it is more of an element to add more torture ; )  I now wish that I would not be born with such a love for music and ear to know if I play well or not because I would be innocently happy lol   I know I should quit because life would be so much more easy and enjoyable but the question is: can someone ignore a part of his/her soul just because it would be in his/her best interest???   I don't think so.  Anyway, the guilt and "violin haunting thoughs" if I would quit would not be fun either.  The only thing I dislike with arts as violin is that when you reach a certain level, it always takes more of your time if you want to play well and to one point, you just don't have that time.  (I'm very far from beeing that good and even so according to charts, I should practice 5 hours a day at the level I am... and obviously, I know from experience that I always need more than the time indicated for "average" to learn something) 

I know that if my love for music haven't been that strong, I would have quit this is sure!

Perhpas you teacher is right! Just odds and stubburns like us persist and continu as adults!

But I am also victim of my stubburn personality...   So pls don't think every adult will automatically live as much frustration!  Music is fun...when you have time!

Each one is unique!

Good luck!


May 8, 2010 at 06:54 PM ·

Absoluntly agree with Royce here!  If you have the chance (or perhaps the misfortune if you love it too much... ; )  to discover music while beeing young, it is compulsory to try to plan your life all around music!  If my goal was to have a family (in addition as a woman thus the mother...), I couldn't play violin!  (I would become crazy with my perfectionist personality! I wouldn't feel loyal to either the kids or the violin. One would always be neglected for the other...)   My violin teacher has curiously more "dads" than "moms" who follow lessons...

Bravo to those who can! (some exceptional people can do the two very well)


May 8, 2010 at 07:26 PM ·

I always believed (for some reason) that I had great musical ability and natural talent. Now, five years after starting the violin, my progress is much slower than I ever expected...that would be a good enough reason for me to quit.

I'm only sticking with it because I bought myself a vey nice violin, and can't bear to give it away.

May 8, 2010 at 07:34 PM ·

I'll probably receive some negative reactions to this comment, but I really believe that kids learn faster than adults; their brains are just more pliable, and less cluttered with a lifetime of other "stuff."  I started a thread about this some time ago and there were people who agreed with the above statement and others who vehemently opposed it (or perhaps just didn't want to accept it). 

I consider myself a reasonably advanced violinist, though still an amateur, but I have no doubt that no matter how much I practice, my 8 year old will surpass me within a few years if he sticks with it.  The rate at which he learns is mind boggling compared to my "snails pace" learning.  I don't know, but perhaps the slow rate of progress has something to do with the quitting rate for adults.

At any rate, I surmise that some adults hear a beautifully played violin and wish they could do it too, so they take up the instrument.  But they do not realize the time and commitment required to get to that level, or even to a passable level that doesn't cause people to cringe upon hearing their playing.  I'm still working on getting past that "cringe" level myself, but I fully realize that it will take thousands more hours of practice to get there, so for now, I have committed myself and am trying to enjoy the journey as much as I can. 


May 8, 2010 at 07:40 PM ·


You must have posted the same time I did.  Don't you dare quit.  Music has so much to offer, and you already have so much invested.  You are one of the adult beginner success stories.  Stick with it.  Aside from having kids, there is nothing that will enrich your life more than music. 

May 8, 2010 at 08:11 PM ·

@ Smiley-- What you have posted is valid. Look up Fluid Cognition vs Crystalline Cognition.

May 8, 2010 at 08:21 PM ·

Smiley, yes there is ; )  having animals!  The relationship you can have with a horse or a parrot that can live over 20 years old is quite something!  I believe very much in zootherapy and it's benefical effects on people's health.  Having animals is also one of these things who makes you become a better person!


ps: I agree that kids learn faster although it's also a question of how much time one can spend.  When I spent more time on my violin as a teen, I used to progress as fast if not faster than my costudents kids with who I catched up in a few years. However, with less time, I just stayed at the same level and began to experience this snail progress... ; ) Perhaps one can never compete with gifted kids but you can pretty easily, with much work, catch up with all the average kids.  (this is just my opinion...) 

 I don't know if this is true and if any doctors on this site have heard about this but in a lecture, a doctor said that studies have recently shown that contrarely to what we though, brain cells can be a little regenerate at the age of about 40-50, allowing the intelligence to grow slightly or at least to not go down as much as what was though.  Is this true?

lol maybe this would explain why some exceptional violinists had an impressive improovment and reach a new level around the age of 40-50 when most start to decline...  (perhaps also just the product of very gifted persons with cumulated experience who never slacked on the hard work!) Who knows! (I certainly don't know!)


May 8, 2010 at 08:44 PM ·


That was a very nice response, thank-you! Kids are indeed very enriching, and I really hope that mine have a whole lot more success with the violin or any other instrument they choose than I am having. That would be a bit of a consolation, to have a kid who can actually play.

I do enjoy practicing though. it's just the sense I have that if I could practice a little more often, I would be that much closer to playing beautifully (and get past that 'cringe' level too)!

May 8, 2010 at 09:50 PM ·

As an adult quitter that is struggling to find a way to start back into lessons, I think Royce has the key point.
I hear about practicing 5 hours a day, and I dream about having that much time a day to do anything! I have too many other conflicting things going on, and work is not always within normal hours. Right now, I am looking at having Monday or Thursday evening after 7:00 PM for lessons; those are the two days I have available.
When I was taking lessons before, it was not amenable to an evening schedule, so I had to rush after leaving work early, or I had to try and fit it into a lunch break. Both options end up being rushed, and it is difficult to feel good about the lesson.
I would love to be able to devote more time to violin, but I would also love to devote more time to grandkids (I have the 7 year old over Tuesday evening until 10:00, and Friday after work until Saturday evening), and keeping up the yard, and spend more time with my wife, and..... maybe a 30 hour day would work?

May 8, 2010 at 09:58 PM ·

I've started many adult violin students from scratch, re-started adults that played violin in childhood, and taken transfer adult violin students. 

Off the top of my head, the top reasons for adult students leaving my studio are:

  • Moving away
  • Financial difficulties
  • Family obligations (new baby, etc)
  • Employment obligations (new time consuming job, etc)
  • Health issues (not caused by violin playing)

I do have adult students that stick with violin through thick and thin.  They have OCVD (Obsessive Compulsive Violin Disorder).  These poor souls show up every week...

It has been rare to have an adult student quit because they don't like the violin, or don't want to do the practicing, or get impatient or frustrated.  But it happens, and that is okay.  If we're lucky, we eventually find what we really want to do.

In my experience, the age group that quits violin the most are kids in middle school.  Ages 11-13 seem to be the years that kids make the choice whether they want to nail their flag to the mast and stick with violin, or be happier doing something else. 

To throw 3.44 cents in, don't worry about what other adult students are doing.  How other adult students feel about violin shouldn't effect how you feel about the violin.  Good luck!

May 8, 2010 at 10:06 PM ·

It must be very different for those of us adults who return to the violin rather than start.  I started at age 5 and stopped at 14 - and then started again at about 54 and have been playing with passion for just over 2 years.  I take a long lesson about every 3 weeks and my playing is now far better than it ever was as a child - indeed I've astonished myself as to what can be achieved.  After having a hard time playing brahms lullaby when I picked the instrument up I am now working, and doing pretty well (promise to post on Utube anon), on handel's sonatas 3 and 4 and Bach concerto in A (and a hundred other pieces :D ). 

If I am not atypical (and I have no reason to suppose I am) then the idea that you have to learn when you are young means that, like riding the fabled bicycle, the key finger/body motions and skills are hardwired in your brain at that time and can be picked up anytime thereafter. 

I started a blog on the subject of returners and one way of coming back at and will, anon, post more on the subject here too.


May 8, 2010 at 11:44 PM ·


I suspect that you are right about kids having less clutters in their brains thus learn faster, or maybe adults have left school for too long and are not accustomed to learning anymore.  However, the comparison between your son and you may not be fair if your son is also progressing much faster than other kids. Also, because you are much more advanced, it's reasonable that progress is slower for you.


You read my mind!  Yes, I'm concerned (not really worried yet) because I will be facing the "Book 4 curse" soon - I'm still very much in love with the violin, and would be devastated if I found out so soon that violin is really not for me, i.e. for whatever reason, I just cannot go beyond Book 4, and the love affair ends abruptly. I guess I will just have to continue to work hard (and hopefully smart too) regardless of what happens, and see where the journey will take me.

It's interesting that you mentioned financial difficulties. I'd think parents lose jobs and face financial difficulties too, but I suspect that they will only cut their kids' lessons as the last resort. However, for adult students, private lessons are probably the first to go.  So, there is a difference in mentality with regard to lessons, kids'  vs. adults' - the former is treated as a necessity/investment and the latter, a luxury. This reminds me of an incident - before I started,  I approached a coworker to inquire about violin lessons as his children are taking both piano and violin lessons from prominent teachers.  His first reaction was that why would I waste money taking lessons?! According to him, I should just take instructions from and call it good. I was quite offended...

Thanks everyone for your input! I really enjoyed your stories and insights. Please keep them coming!

May 9, 2010 at 02:10 AM ·

About the "Book 4 Curse" - I am an adult beginner, and have been playing just over three years.  My teacher uses the Suzuki books, although she is not a Suzuki teacher.  I am somewhere in the middle of Book 4, and I say somewhere because after a prolonged siege over Christmas (Vivaldi), we thought it would be just as well for me to play some other music for awhile that was of a similar level - and some that was easier.  For me, at least, almost every piece in Book 4 was just brutally harder than what preceded it.  I basically need more time to consolidate what I've got right now.  I'm sure not everyone hits that point at the same place, but those are longer pieces, and they take longer to bring up to snuff, and I do think there is a bigger step between each successive one than in the other books.

I will say that I left my first teacher after about four months when summer came around and it was convenient to do so.  I have just run into her (somewhat awkwardly, she is now taking lessons with my current teacher) and she said she wondered if I had quit.  So some of those quitters may just have quit a given teacher and not the instrument, you know?

May 9, 2010 at 02:42 AM ·


what I sometimes notice and sense a litlte bit here is that other issues aside perhaps teacher sare not always flexible enough with adults. What I mean by this is that children are in a kind of socially constructed situation whereby they are considered to be vessels that can be filled systematically with knowledge , usually from a textbook. Book four in order is the same in principle as working through a school history book chapter by chapter and there is no subconscious need to really question this or do things differnetly.  Adults on the other hand are kind of used to being competent and have a quite experienced mentasl chema of doing things socially with others.  

What I am tentitively suggestion might be helpful is something I do a great dela of with adults in particlar and that is playing duets together. There are so really elementary ones of great musicla value even by writers such as Wohlfarht and these srve for me as a very powerful means of reinforcing the feeling each lesson that yes, `this is the prize and yep, you can actually do it now. We can just make music together.`



May 9, 2010 at 03:31 AM ·

 I am also an adult returner, and yes, I think it's much easier to return than to start from scratch in adulthood.

 I am fortunate that my teacher is very patient and forgiving, and willing to meet me where I am--my biggest problem is that I start a lot of projects but only finish a fraction of those.  I have quit or stopped in the middle of several pieces that never made it to performance level.  I also had a scale-practicing plan that I--ahem--seem to have quit.  For me the biggest factor is definitely conflict with work and family responsibilities, followed by financial issues.  I have two kids, one of whom plays the violin, and some days the only playing of my violin I do is with her.  And I work full-time.  Several years ago I had a more demanding job and I didn't play at all then.  Good lessons are expensive.  I don't begrudge my teacher the cost, I think she deserves it, but there is the matter of the budget, which isn't only about me.

If you're worried about quitting, I would highly recommend blogging.  I found this site when I was looking for something to help my daughter 3 and a half years ago when she was struggling with Suzuki.  Then I started playing again myself, and decided to  blog to keep myself from quitting.  I thought that was a legitimate concern--I quit violin twice before, once in graduate school and again before my daughter was born.  I think it works by the same principle as an exercise journal, or a running buddy.  If you don't practice, if you quit, you don't have anything to blog about, or tell your buddy about.  It keeps you honest, more or less.

May 9, 2010 at 03:41 AM ·

Buri really nailed it!  In addition to the other issues, adults (beeing very self critical and sometimes very self conscious) are harder to please than kids.  A candy or sticker at the end of the lesson won't make the trick ; )  We must always be remind of why we are actually doing violin (perhaps this is why we run for cds, concerts, master classes and... Always in search of motivation, of having approbation that we are not alliens, finding a meaning and perhaps we are more goal oriented than a kid who just plays the book without question.   An adult is also harder to cheer up than a kid because we don't have as much this notion of magic, that a magical solution exists etc. We can't be "fed up" with lies or stories because we know they are not true ; )   Perhaps this can lead to frustration and "down periods" which violin teachers don't like (or sometimes understand) very much!  And, to conclude with my initial idea, since an adult is harder to please than a kid, just the good words of the teacher won,t be ennough for him/her to be totally happy.  Adults need to make their surroundings happy contrarely to kids (I think) mostly care about the teacher's (and mommy's) good comments period.   

Perhaps all this can be really difficult for some teacher/student matches! What is also quite something is when your teacher see you grow up and end up in a different situation than when you started the lessons...  This happened to me just from passing from a teen with a ton of time to invest to music (thus much progres..) to a busy adult with school and not much time!  Without wanting it, I know that my teacher has been a witness of all this insecurity I had towards the futur and the emotional issues that come with these changes of situation as well!   I am very grateful that she have always been understanding although I know that she sometimes would like to push and challenge me as in the good old days...

Maybe I'm wrong but I suspect a cause for "adult quitting" is when teachers just don't accept these  new situation changes comming with the transition between childhood/teen or teen/adult. Or just a new job or new condition related to ilness or so.

Interesting discussion!


May 9, 2010 at 05:36 AM ·

Hi Joyce,

To me, stop playing for reasons beyond one's control is not same as quitting. One quits because she is frustrated or is no longer interested, but if she has to put the violin aside for awhile due to other more pressing priorities, be it the demand of school, job, finance, children or what have you, I call it 'parking' rather than quitting. I belong to the second situation. I had parked my violin for more than 25 years because other obligations took their priorities over violin. Although I didn't know when if ever I would play it again, I love violin too much to ever decided to quit. I returned nearly three years ago and have been sticking to a very demanding teacher for more than two years and loving every moment of it. Yes, I might park it again from time to time, but quitting? Unthinkable! It's the kind of love that worths the life-time commitment.

I'm not sure what's normal for adults in terms of playing the violin, but what does it matter? Are most so-called normal people the happiest or most enlightened ones we ever know? I'm not so sure. I'd say, look into your heart and ask what was the original intent for picking up the violin? Is this intent still valid and true? When you know why you do what you do, what others tend to do ain't matter. 

May 9, 2010 at 07:57 AM ·

My guess would be that adult learners quit because they can, as well as pressures from life. As an adult with adult responsibilities one has to make adult decisions.

As a child you have a whole different set of reasons for doing whatever it is you do. Parents/teachers have a greater influence on motivation.

ELISE: I agree with you. I am also in a similar position though my gap is a mere 30 years. The first few weeks of returning were hell and I still have  a few issues but my learning is much more fast and deeper than it was when I was a child. Each week brings visible - or should that be audible - improvements.That's because of after a lifetime of learning I have learnt how to learn.

In the end it has to come down to motivation. If it's just "it would be nice to" then I'd guess that that won't be sufficient to overcome the difficulties than will be encountered. If it's a deeper "need" then overcoming those challenges can be part of the pleasure - in a mountain climbing sort of way.

May 9, 2010 at 01:23 PM ·

How often do we adults have to rearrange our schedule to accommodate those frequent serendipitous matters that spots our life/daily routine? When I was a boy the universe revolved around me, and the older that I have got the more I have to revolve around the Universe!

This past semester I agreed to my lessons being from 2:30 PM-3:00 PM Wednesdays because nothing and no one ever took that slot in my life! I go to work from 3:45 AM to 12:20 PM, a quick bite and shower, then go to lessons. But Oh No! That's when everyone and everything decided that NOW wanted that slot! Therapist, Nurse Practitioner, Mechanic, Friends and or their kids (Sick and have to be picked up at school or take them to their practice, etc., which I love doing), Tests, miscellaneous appointments like electrician, plumbers, cable people, ..........

Fortunately I get two 30 minuet breaks at work that I have been using to practicing my violin! Fortunately I have places in my building that I can play!

May 9, 2010 at 02:14 PM ·

I can understand  this , I am at such a point , but will not quit , as adults we will have things that must be done , and those that we would like to do . Just this week I have had my job change from where i had time to practice at work , ( I had my boss's Ok with this ) to where I am now lucky to be still employed . I now work an off 8 hour shift that now makes what I have to take care of each day very hard to do , ... the choice comes between what must be done  and what I would like to do ... I have come to far and have invested to much in lessons to give up I feel that even if I can only get that 5 or 10 minutes a day or even in a week that my lesson is one thing that I LIKE AND WILL DO ME GOOD if not on a skill level at least for my own soul and feelings . I know that this may not be fair to my teacher , but he understands what the real world is and that of adult students , from the start he made it plain that the lessons would be based on what I wanted and Level ... Will I be a Great Violinist ... No but will I get to a level that I can enjoy making music and be able to share my enjoyment .... Some day Yes , but not today , maybe tomorrow ..... I think it comes down to just how much we are willing to do for the goals and values we set in life, some times it is not what we do or how well we do is as important as to what we have tried and come away with ....


May 9, 2010 at 02:16 PM ·

 This is not rocket science. Adults--all of us--tend not to stick with most things that are difficult, and that includes diets, exercise, learning Chinese, or Aikido.

And come to think of it, most kids quit at some point as well, as the boys discover baseball and the girls discover horses.

The kids that do continue (of their own volition) are driven in ways that adults are not: one powerful drive is the natural need of teenagers to demonstrate their prowess to the opposite sex. This is played out not only on the stage but the football field, the tennis court, and in countless other ways, including cars, and clothing. While this is not the only reason, it helps to propel students through the teenage years, where they acquire much if not most of their virtuosity.

The needs of young adults--especially the love of virtuosity and the need for display--begins to diminish most adults. The fantasies of triumph and renown on the stage are gradually shed. The removal of this powerful impetus means that the adult is far less likely to spend hours attempting to perfect technique. This is also true for successful professional violinists: I doubt that very many violinists in top orchestras practice much beyond what they really have to do.

May 9, 2010 at 02:57 PM ·

I agree but could this diminished "triumph" ideas also be related to something I observed in myself and many others: as you become an adult, you are forced to become more realistic...  You know that there are most chances that your irrealistical teenage dreams won't ever be true. 

Beeing reslistic is hard and I suspect that this could be an explanation to the quitting phenomenon as well!

As for your horse thing!  It might be true!  I promised myself to have a horseback riding lesson once a month later on!  (No intention to do jumps and risky stuff for my violin though ; )  It's just a childhood dream that I could never do (my parents always told me that I would become quadriplegic...)  But you can become cripple from crossing the street too... so ; )


May 9, 2010 at 03:58 PM ·

When I was in college (back in the precambrian era) one of my professors wrote an equation on the chalkboard:

Happiness = Reality / Expectation

(the right side of the equation is Reality DIVIDED BY Expectation)

Eons later, I still remember this equation.  In simple terms, this equation says that one's happiness is affected by two factors.  Reality INCREASES happiness while expectation DECREASES it.  When Reality exceeds expectation, we are generally happy.  The converse is also true.  When expectation is high and reality is low (e.g., we expect more than we achieve), that is where we become discontent.

Violin is such a beautiful instrument and we hear it played more than any other classical instrument.  The artists we hear are professionals who have devoted their entire lives to it.  These beautiful sounds set up high expectations.  But because it is such a difficult instrument to master, reality is relatively low.  I believe this is one key reason that adult beginners get discouraged.

As with any endeavor, it is important to have realistic expectations.  If one's goal is to become a virtuoso, then discontent will quickly follow for the vast majority of us.  But if one sets realistic goals, with realistic milestones along the way (e.g., lower expectations), then they are more likely to persevere.  With violin, there is no end to the road, only the journey itself.  Even virtuosos are continually striving to improve.


May 10, 2010 at 12:47 AM ·


Duets really are excellent!   I think you are right that after a while, adults need to do something that is musical, and not just something that is a struggle, at least part of the time.  I have played some duets by Mazas which were challenging but achievable.  And I have spent the last couple of months working on a Handel trio sonata which, except for some passage work in third and fourth positions, was much more accessible to me than the Vivaldi.  Not to mention the movements are short, so it is possible to have some sort of feeling of achievement with a reasonable amount of effort.  And I am playing much easier music socially. 

It seems to me, thinking about what people are saying here, that a challenge for adults is finding satisfaction in the work - and that can be hard when you struggle sometimes to even find the time to play, and then the results are so far from what you can hear when the piece is played well.  And, because you are grown up, you have the discrimination to tell the difference between what might be and what is. 

Teachers who find they often lose their adult students might want to consider what changes in their approach will help create a situation where the student enjoys the work and the result - duets, as Stephen says, workshops with other adults, pieces that are achievable within a shorter period of time, alternating or mixed up with those that are going to take months.  If you only have a hour or two a day to practice/play  in and you pay someone 50 or 60 bucks a week to instruct you, you are not very likely to take much of your time to play music "just for fun" if it is not what your teacher is working with.  You can get awfully tired of struggling with what you cannot achieve every time you play.

May 10, 2010 at 02:08 PM ·

Hello, and thanks for this interesting thread!   I am an adult student and I have stuck with my teacher (and the violin) for exactly three years, and I have no thoughts at all of quitting!  Instead, I find myself more and more committed to the violin over time.

I attribute this to a few things which might be peculiar to my situation:

1) my teacher is firm in lessons and demands that I practice, but she is very flexible about scheduling lessons, which is extremely important given my sometimes unpredictable work schedule.

2) I have joined an amateur adult orchestra which allows me to play once a week for the sheer joy of playing with other people.  This has helped to counteract the inevitable frustration of learning more slowly than I would like, and it provides a supportive community of similar adults with whom I can share my experiences.

3)  I originally learned to read music and play basic violin as a child. 

I too have found that I learn more slowly as an adult.  Things that were much easier as a child are cumbersome now ... partly because my joints are stiffer and get strained more quickly, and partly because music competes with work, subway delays, cooking, running, and my husband!  I really think I had more focus as a child than I do as a busy adult because my mind was less cluttered with worries.  I have noticed this is also true with other things (like French) that I try to learn for the first time now.

But my teacher has also said she enjoys teaching me, because I can appreciate music and musicianship in a different way than her young students.  And though she is sometimes frustrated with my lack of time to practice (and says so!), she seems to like the challenge of helping me to think less and feel the music more.  We are now working on the Bach double, and it has been fun for both of us to learn which movements suit my personality better, and for me to take an active role in choosing what I will play next.

And to all those other adults out there who are sticking with it - yay us!



May 10, 2010 at 02:42 PM ·

>> She admits that she does not like to take adult beginners because they cannot commit

IMO, that's a function of her approach, not some failing on her students' part.  In my experience, adults can attain a very high level of development.  It wasn't too long ago, however, that most private teachers would not take adult students.  The market changed that;  people with more time, income and intent to learn.  And once a teacher has taken someone in their '70's from Twinkle to Kreutzer, the teacher's attitude will change.

I have a number of psychological teaching points which I use with my adult students.  I won't be boring and type them all out, but they have to do with how adults learn, and how adults feel when they start their studies.  These teaching points work and about 1/3 of my students are adults.  Adults also have more money for good instruments.  :-)

May 10, 2010 at 03:40 PM ·

Adult beginner: 5 years in...practice 30 min to an hour almost daily, and playing in Suzuki 4 plus back of 2nds in youth orchestra...LOVE it!   Would not give it up for the world!!!  : )

May 10, 2010 at 04:42 PM ·

 I am an adult beginner, having never really touched a violin prior to age 40.  Like Erica, I am in Suzuki Book 4, and like one of the other posters, I am really struggling with it.

In many ways, I think adults learn better than children.  My daughter will always be a better musician than I am, but she doesn't have the years of discipline in focus and effort that I have, and that makes a tremendous difference.

I think the discussion about happiness and reality and expectation is really important.  I never thought I was doing this to become a performer.  I didn't really think I'd get beyond Book 1!  Instead, i play because I have always been happiest on the steep side of a learning curve, and I've yet to see this violin learning curve flattening out.  As long as I am learning, I am happy.

That's not to say it isn't really frustrating at times, but knowing that I get to keep learning if I keep working keeps me going.

I have many responsibilities.  I have two kids, a sizable commute, a near-full-time job, etc. I only get to practice about 1/2 hour a day.  But that time is a special time, and I find myself working to make sure it happens every day, even when I have many other things that need doing.

I also have a very understanding, patient, and flexible teacher.  That, too, makes all the difference.


May 10, 2010 at 04:50 PM ·

I'm in Suzuki book 4 now.  I'm also in other books of varying difficulty.  My problem is that I hear what the viola is supposed to sound like, and I get mad at myself for not being able to achieve that sound.

Just recently I had an 'AH-HA!' moment where my instructor showed me the loose wrist technique and stated that she wanted me to start practicing and using that technique from now on.  The effect on the notes was immediate.  Everything sounded better.

I work full time and I play an hour each morning before work and several hours during the weekend.  I eat, sleep, and dream the viola.  However, for me, time and practice is not the most frustrating thing I deal with.....I apparently have this very weird thing in my mind where if I hear a piece of music, I can replicate it exactly on my instrument.  So the frustrating thing for me is not to rely on that, but to actually read the notes like I'm supposed to.  For me, that's frustrating; especially when it's easier for me to do it the other way.

My instructor is aware of that and always stops me, points to somewhere in the piece, and says,"Start here..."  Grrrr.  It's so FRUSTRATING.  But anyway, I have no intentions of quitting, no matter how hard it is for me to do it the 'right' way.

---Ann Marie

May 10, 2010 at 05:19 PM ·

 sorry but I don't know the suzuki method.....I am currently between grade 5 and 6 by ABRSM standards, does anyone know where in a 'suzuki book' is that?

I got 'here' after 3 years and 4 months of learning, started at 37yr of age with NO prior experience on any instrument.

I am not thinking of quitting, rather the opposite, I am MORE AND MORE HOOKED by the violin and I practice daily and take weekly lessons (did lessons fortnightly until 10 months ago then increased to weekly as I 'can't get enough' :))

May 10, 2010 at 06:44 PM ·

Totally agree with Buri. In addition (and in reflection of one of my own endeavors), adult beginners need to be given more incentive. The thought of becoming a better player may have been initially satisfying, but there needs to be an extra amount of pressure to really get them to see the value of practice. Duets provide this team mentality—you wouldn't want to let down the team, would you? A performance opportunity can really light a fire under them; think recitals, open mics, jams, sessions, etc. In my case, it was a competition. I was scared to death of making a fool of myself so I practiced and practiced. I didn't exactly score so well, but that wasn't the point. In the process of preparation, I really developed a deep understanding (and love) for what I was practicing. This makes me want to stick with it.

May 10, 2010 at 07:33 PM ·

I'm surprised to see that so many adult beginners and re-beginners on this board are at the Suzuki Book 4 level.  Gals/guys, please keep at it, when you have survived the "Book 4 Curse," you will be my new heroes (not that you aren't inspiring now)! :)

To relieve myself from the uncertainty, I decided to sightread through Book 4 yesterday - I survived! :)  I was far from sounding good or fluid, or playing at tempo, but one thing for sure - there was nothing I couldn't do technically or physically (that was my main concern) in Book 4, which was a huge relief! In fact, I realized that my teacher has prepared me quite well for it - I have been playing Kayser and Trott in addition to scales and arpeggios.  At the beginning of Book 3, I told her my concern about Book 4 - she assured me that I was doing everything so I shouldn't have to worry, but to ease my worries, she had me review all the Suzuki pieces I had played, starting from the Twinkle Variations. She also added pieces from Solos for Young Violinists here and there...  Perhaps I'm more fortunate than the people I know that succumbed to the Curse - one has cinder blocks for fingers, so playing double stops/chords was impossible for him. One conceded that practicing became too physically painful as the pieces got longer/harder. One played along with her kid, but did not take lessons, and only played Suzuki pieces without any supplement materials (although she practiced 2hrs/day). One could not read music well, so while she managed to play by ear from Book 1-3, Book 4 was just too daunting. One lagged far behind from her kid in Book 4 and got discouraged (so competing with your kids is a bad idea!)...

I also agree about playing duets - my teacher playing duets with me (Suzuki pieces) is usually the highlight of my lessons.  I also play a 2-hour duet session weekly with another adult student - the one that beat the "Book 4 Curse." We both enjoy it very much, and it has helped us a great deal (I mentioned it in another thread). It looks like playing in groups/orchestras will definitely keep the fire burning.

Jo, the 3rd movement of Vivaldi Concerto in A minor is in Suzuki Book 4, and is listed for ABRSM grade 7 (and ASTA level 5). Also, the 2nd violin part of Bach's Double Concerto in D minor is the last piece of Suzuki 4.

May 10, 2010 at 07:54 PM ·

Good show Joyce!!!!!

May 10, 2010 at 09:09 PM ·

I began playing violin about 3-1/2 years ago, at the age of 43... and I just graduated from Suzuki Book 4. I love the violin and have no intention of quitting, but I do admit that I've had many moments of frustration. As adults, we are accustomed to being proficient at what we do, so it can be a very humbling experience to be a beginner again. Most of the students at my violin school are children, and it was an odd feeling the first time I participated in a recital with them. I had to allow part of myself to be a child again - to embrace the exhilaration of trying something new, and to give myself permission to make mistakes. Now I have other adults coming up to me after the recitals and praising me for my bravery. It doesn't feel like courage, to me... it's closer to stubbornness, I guess. ;)

May 10, 2010 at 11:58 PM ·

The town I live in has a large number of adult beginners and rebeginners right now, many of whom I happen to know.  I'm in awe of them.  I've never stopped playing for more than two years (twice) and I can't imagine how difficult it must be to start from scratch as an adult.

There seem to be a few things that contribute to success.  The first is finding a teacher who likes to work with adult beginners.  Not all do.  Many adults do better with bi-weekly lessons- more time to learn between lessons, I guess.  As with most endeavors, building a community helps, too.  One local teacher started a string orchestra for this group, which they love.  Another group of teachers offers coaching for chamber ensembles.  The players support each other, and all realize they're no worse than the next guy!  Playing with others also gives one a different perspective from just practicing alone.

Adult-only recitals, featuring adult beverages afterward, allow the adults to celebrate their achievements without having to compare themselves to the smarty-pants 8-year-old playing La Folia.

Not all adults will stick with it.  Others, given good support, will, and will love it, at least after their part of the recital is over!

May 11, 2010 at 01:15 AM ·

"Adult-only recitals, featuring adult beverages afterward, allow the adults to celebrate their achievements without having to compare themselves to the smarty-pants 8-year-old playing La Folia."

Haha ; )  In addition, I'm sure the mood is more "friendly" with this setup than when you play in a concert where everyone just cares about his kid without talking much to others (and sometimes don't even stay to listen to the others when his kid has played!!!).   

Lisa, Your town seems wonderful!  If I hadn't have a good teacher, I would consider moove there for all the events you told about! ; )



May 11, 2010 at 02:02 AM ·

As an adult I need to know how, but I also need to know why. Many teachers just teach how. This is very unsatisfying. Kids don't always care about why. When you have choices, and no one telling you want to do, you put your resources into activities you find fullfilling and therefore there needs to be some intellectual or cognitive satisfaction. That is the challenge for teachers of adults. You have to be that type of teacher or they will quit and they probably should. Even tedious exercise can be interesting if the purpose is clear. Violin is too hard to go forward without a reason that is pretty specific. You don't do things because your mom or dad tells you too. Most kids would quit if their parents let them. The parents usually don't play and don't even understand what they are asking the child to do or they might let them quit if they did. It takes exceptional people and families with a lot of self discipliine to perservere regardless of the student's age. At a certain level you can't make anyone play violin. Mozart and all the rest. Who can force someone to play that?

May 11, 2010 at 03:22 AM · It is not easy being an adult student, especially with job-related and family responsibilities. I began playing the violin after a gap of 26 years and it is a challenge to even squeeze in an hour's worth of practice everyday.

May 11, 2010 at 04:07 AM ·

Smiley put it aptly:  "Happiness = Reality / Expectation".

I liken it to New Year's resolutions which are oftentimes unrealistic.  When we fail to reach those goals we quit in frustration.  As adults, our expectation for immediate results is quite high.  When starting any new adventure for the first time, we must set realistic goals.  The first year or two will be rough, but gradually we will get better as long as we keep a consistent practice regime, even if it is only 30 minutes a day. 

We are also very social beings.  When we do something as a group, we receive encouragement from our peers to keep going despite our failings.  This is where, as musicians, the community orchestra, chamber music, and duets with our teachers come into play. 

I heard a program on the radio this morning that resonated with me on the value of music in an adult's life: The basic concept is that when we interact as equals, great achievements can be made.


May 11, 2010 at 05:33 AM ·

Jo, the 3rd movement of Vivaldi Concerto in A minor is in Suzuki Book 4, and is listed for ABRSM grade 7 (and ASTA level 5). Also, the 2nd violin part of Bach's Double Concerto in D minor is the last piece of Suzuki 4.


Thank you Joyce :)

I am actually at the moment learning the 1st Violin part of the Bach Double in Dminor (the whole lot) and Meditation from Thais alongside another couple of easier pieces so yes I think I must be at about book 4 level.  My curiosity about Suzuki led me to order book 4 today so I will see when I get it in a few days :) I know other people have told me it's difficult to compare ABRSM grades with suzuki books as they go down 'different roads' in the learning journey

May 11, 2010 at 06:01 AM ·

I'm a complete adult beginner (just about to turn 30) and have been playing for a year and a half. I'm completely in love with violin, and will not look back at all. I've been wanting to play since I was a child, but we could just never afford it. This past Christmas I bought myself a gorgeous Gliga violin, which made me love playing even more. I've put a significant investment into the violin, and I'm so happy with my progress after such a short time it's given me inspiration to keep going.

A friend of mine living on the other side of the country is moving here to Sydney at the end of the year. She plays trumpet and asked me if I wanted to look for a community band to join, to which I happily accepted. Having a goal will motivate me to practice more and be comfortable enough with my playing to be able to play both with and in front of others.

I admit I don't have as much time to practice as I'd like. I take Kung Fu classes three times a week, and yoga once a week, and my lessons each Tuesday are only half an hour (though they are private lessons). Even if I don't practice the piece I'm learning, I'll belt out a few scales, or some random notes, put the instrument down, and feel happy that I've done at least something.

I'm hoping in a few years time I'll be playing in local bands and entertaining my friends. I'm not looking to be a professional musician (I'm an IT professional, furthest thing from a musician!) but as long as I can make music, and share music with others, that'll be enough to keep me happy for a lifetime.

May 11, 2010 at 07:01 AM ·


Jo et al.,

to behonest I can`t really see the point of you ordering the Suzuki book four if you are not working throuhg th Suzuki method.   Jo,  you are already doing the Bach Double and a veyr difficult piece (Thais is exceptionally hard actually...) so you already have the kind of control of the isntrument whihc would allow you to shop around. You might actually find it more useful to look up the ASTA repertoirelists and see what pieces they rank as of comparable difficulty. It`s a ver fine list.  I woudln`t necessarily buy the ASTA repertoire book which also has viola and cello etc. Although it is considerably more detialed I think the list you can download from the Internet is good enough for most people@es need until rather later.



May 11, 2010 at 07:25 AM ·

Joyce, add me to the list of non quitter :) When I started with my current teacher I told her my goal is to play Tchaikovsky concerto, so I have a long way to go. Even tho I'm not using Suzuki method, I think I'm past book 4 too. I'm in whatever book mozart concerto is in :) 

@Smiley, probably some kids do learn faster, but not in my case, I feel that I can learn everything faster now, than when I was a kid. As a kid I remember how difficult physics was in middle school, I couldn't stand reading any book that's only text, so I only read comic books :) I didn't learn piano as fast as I wished I could. I struggled learning english in elementary school (it's not my first language), now I swallow books like chocolate, my english is like a thousand times better than when I started college. my piano skills improved a lot during college. I'm sure if I had learned violin when I was a kid I wouldn't learn nearly as fast as I do now, not even close. maybe learning method has something to do with that? or maybe some people just have different timing? anyway that's just based on my experience. 

May 11, 2010 at 11:02 AM ·

Thank you for your message Stephen.

I have looked at the ASTA violin repertoire list.  I must say as with me living in the UK I have not heard of ASTA before and so don't really know 'how they work', it is certainly different from ABRSM repertoire for their grades.

I see they have 10 levels, in ABRSM it's up to grade 8 and Meditation from Thais 'used to be' I was told, on a grade 7 list in 1997 or so.....(most told me 7, one person told me 6), Czardas by Monti is on currently the ABRSM grade 8 list, yet I see that ASTA has placed this in the same list as Meditation......

There is another piece in ASTA level 7 list I am learning at present and it's the 'air on G string' version by Wilhemj.

so......would it be ok for me to say I can look at level 7 ASTA list for pieces I might want to approach next in my learning? is that how it works?

Thank you

to be back on topic, I can see how adults can 'quit' more easily, but if one goes into violin learning not expecting 'an easy ride' and with the strong desire to get there, then they will :)

I work 6 days a week, am a single parent and commute to work.  I only have a total of 5 hours MAX a day  (for 6 days, on 7th day I work 14 hours)I can 'spare' for ANY activity which includes washing and household chores.  On 4 days a week I use up some of this time for violin lesson, double bass lesson and 2 orchestras I have joined, so I can only practice violin 2 hours a day 4, 1 to 1 and a half hours for 2 days a week and half an hour on the 7th day, but I do always do this and I never miss a day practice (well I might miss one day every 6 months or so).

I have been learning for 3 years and 4 months and instead of quitting I am now practicing more and more, I used to practice 30 minutes 3 times a week and sometimes not practice at all for weeks and weeks, now since I have been with my new teacher 10 months ago I have had a 'fresh lease of enthusiasm' and since I have been going MAD with violin and I never want to put it down :)

May 11, 2010 at 11:57 AM ·


Adults are certainly more analytical than kids.  And to excel at violin (or anything for that matter) it requires a high degree of analysis and self awareness.  This is where adults have the upper hand on kids IMO.  Adults generally have a deeper understanding of what they are doing and why.  They are less accepting of bad technique and out of tune notes or sloppy playing and have more discipline to work out the bumps, as opposed to playing a piece from beginning to end just for enjoyment, while ignoring all the problems in between. 

That said, I have applied those analytical skills to my own playing and have managed to make good progress over the past 2 years.  However, I have also tried to impart those skills to my 8 year old.  So not only does he have a faster learning aptitude, but he (like it or not) practices effectively. These two factors combined allow him to progress at a much faster rate than myself.

So to re-phrase my original statement, I would submit that children ARE CAPABLE of learning faster than adults.  But it does require an understanding of what they are doing and the discipline to do it properly.


May 11, 2010 at 01:25 PM ·

"Adult-only recitals, featuring adult beverages afterward, allow the adults to celebrate their achievements without having to compare themselves to the smarty-pants 8-year-old playing La Folia."

This just cracks me up!  But actually the kids inspire me...they just get up there and play!!!   We should all remember to be free and childlike sometimes too! 

Keep it up adult beginners!  WHOO HOOO!!!!  : )

May 11, 2010 at 01:44 PM ·

As an adult beginner who woke up this morning thinking it was probably time to stop, I can offer you one little case history.  Started 3 years ago, just turned 57.  Immense difficulty getting a stable set-up (described in detail in the Accessories supplement of the October 2009 issue of The Strad).  Any halfway reasonable person would have stopped long ago, because an enormous amount of time has been spent searching for the right chin rest etc.  Various joints have been painful at times -- one of the most worrisome is on the right index finger, the most essential to bowing -- still, they mostly haven't reached a critical point.  But last night I went to bed with considerable jaw-joint pain, again, obviously from the lateral pressure of the chin rest, even though my present set-up is better than any before.  I love practicing (except when the violin pops away on a down-shift), I am entranced by the hope of beauty and grace, and I am able to give the violin several hours a day.   But I often think that "forgetting" the violin on the Metro might be a reasonable thing to do.  Many are called but few ...... 

May 11, 2010 at 03:05 PM ·

I began working on the Thais this past February and it is now May... I love this peice and what it has taught me!

May 11, 2010 at 07:28 PM ·

Me too!  Couldn’t even contemplate the thought of quitting, I’m just starting to see the possibilities!  But I’ve known 2 adults that have quit since I started and a couple of kids as well…hard to nail this one down.  With these folks, the kids and adults both quit for similar reasons from what I understand…it was difficult and needed a really determined attitude and I just don’t think they loved it enough to deal with these things.

I too started in late thirties with no prior musical background, was a full time working single mom (I am married now, but still work full time) and I love to see so many adult students here because sometimes I think we can all get kind of feeling like we’re by ourselves – often around many kid students, but the adults who play that we know are often accomplished to some degree already.  I’ve been playing for 3 years, 4 months as well (not counting days or anythingJ) and am also in Suzuki 4.  Did not know about the curse!  I fully intend to kick butt on Suzuki 4 (only now I admit the curse thought will be in the back of my mindJ)!  My daughter has recently finished both violin parts to the Bach Double Concerto and is well into Book 5 (Vivaldi G minor and past) and I get to hear her lessons and her practice a lot, the pieces that are ahead of me, and it’s good in that it’s far enough ahead to keep me motivated, but not so far as to seem beyond reach.  All the best wishes to you/us all learning this instrument as adults (with all the mental and physical deficiencies that anyone over the age of 8 seems to have!) – in my opinion the most beautiful and versatile.  To the couple of posters that have had little thoughts of quitting, if you love the violin, please please don’t!!!

May 11, 2010 at 08:42 PM ·

there is no Suzuki Bk 4 curse, I don't use Suzuki book, but I think oonce you get to that level, its takes more time to absorb and process which means more time to practice, which most adults doesn't have. The frustrations of not learning it the way you used to learn the previous book  is taking its toll.

Its all about time, its either its your friend or foe, make it your friend, without really stressing too much out of it. If today is not a good day to practice because you don't have time, then, let it go. Not the end of the world, but rather pace  your lesson instead of every week, make it every other week, that way you have plenty or enough time to study the piece.

Come Fall, I am going to take once a month lesson, because of course of work, I need to find a way to work out a lesson even if its just once a month, no way I am quitting right now, I invested time as hard as it was and still is, money, and gray hair and wrinkles here and there. I gain friends I never imagine have in this music circles.




May 11, 2010 at 09:46 PM ·

Thais! It's such a RUSH!!!!!

Go Heather Go! Go Heather Go!

Go Elinor Go! Go Elinor Go!

Wait until you get into the Accolay A minor Concerto!

May 11, 2010 at 10:24 PM ·

See, more motivation!!  Thanks Royce.

May 12, 2010 at 12:01 AM ·

Any day Sis! Any day!

May 12, 2010 at 12:05 AM ·

Lawrance,  from what I see, setups issues seems to be an extended family problem... ; )      Perhaps Proulx's bodies are not those of violinists but watch out for the musical ear  (ok ok I'll calm down ; ) There is always conducting left for us... of one of our favorite Cd's in the livingroom!    (better to laugh than to cry ; )

Seriously, I had a lot of these setup problems too (Curiously, as yours, my bow index joint is also terrible! Very swollen because it made itself an ugly protective "bump") and think so many times that life has just put a violin in my hands to add an extra psychological torture.  (Those who don't know don't suffer... ; )

BUT   think (well hope) it's possible to overcome these and tell something even more interesting because of all these challenges...  Amateurs are in these few people left who do this for the sheer love of it, not for glory or money. Also  facing all these sacrifices to get there.  Violin (like other hobbies) is one of the last ways to tell, "no I'll do what I want for at least that part of my life"  (you know all the responsibilities and not so fun things we have to deal with as adults...)  If it's not violin, I hope you'll find anything that you love as much because this is so important!  Good luck!

Anyway,  as I often say, violin is as a pet who one day bites you of a sort and the next one, cries to have your love...  (Perhsps they owned us... ; )    

All the best!!!   


Go, Go everyone!  I give you all Stanley Cups just for still beeing there! 


May 12, 2010 at 12:09 AM ·

Hey Royce!  Where is my "atta girl?'  LOL

May 12, 2010 at 06:59 AM ·

Smiley's equation certainly makes sense, but it's probably hard to be good at anything if one just has low expectations and be happy with them.  Raising expectations when one attains modest success is a human nature. When I first started, I did not aim high - all I wanted was to be able to play simple slow pieces beautifully some day. Even though I'm still light-years from reaching that goal, I have moved the bar higher - now I dream about being able to play Solo Bach beautifully (Not sure if it is realistic)...  This is not to say that I will be unhappy if I never reach that goal. However, I imagine that it would be less satisfying when/if I reach my original goal.

Lawrence, I salute you! I hope you can find a solution soon so you don't have to give up. Wish you best of luck!  I went through several rounds of chinrest/shoulder rest combo searches myself (and envision more to come), so I can totally relate! Sometimes I wonder whether violinists (cyclists too) are masochists...  ^_^

> only now I admit the curse thought will be in the back of my mind
> there is no Suzuki Bk 4 curse

Sorry, I did not intend to scare anyone! Yes, the "Book 4 curse" coinage was based on anecdotes in my surroundings, for lack of a better term (I thought it was obvious!)... I am glad to find out that many adult starters have moved beyond it, and are enjoying some really nice repertoire. (I love Meditation from Thaïs and Accolay, BTW! :) )

May 12, 2010 at 07:36 AM ·

Yes, I have moved past the Accolay and the Meditation (Thais). It took quite an effort, though.

May 12, 2010 at 11:36 AM ·

for those who have started violin as adults, shouldn't it be just like gardening in that above all it should be enjoyment? who really cares whether you grow couple pots or couple long as you enjoy it...

so here is a suggestion:  dig a hole and bury that suzuki book 4 figuratively:)

May 12, 2010 at 12:45 PM ·

Al, very good idea! Also take a picture stepping on the "evil" book ca be a very benefical thing! 

I actually did this once with some chemistry books.  Perhaps the next ones to be stepped on are definitivly my physics books this summer ; )   (I can't  throw them in a camp fire just in case... not that I wouldn't like to ; )  As for my brother (also in science) he slaps them as a "punishment"! 

Back to homework...


May 12, 2010 at 01:03 PM ·

have to be careful with your physics books.  don't stump too hard since for each action there is a reaction:):)

May 12, 2010 at 01:34 PM ·

but then again don, some do find it thrilling to plot the courses with little flags and try to reach them per time period.  a goal, if not a mission.  kids are grown, been there and done that, time to climb another mountain.  even if it is mission impossible, as long as they have fun doing it, it is cool or at least should be cool.  i can imagine temporary bumps or short periods of frustration, but over on the long run, it should be, at least to me, i don't care because i love it, whether i am good at it or not:).  and with time and practice, i will get a little better everyday...  little gems that make us get up every morning...

adults have so many things to be distracted with.  i admire them all for even hanging in there, since i have long quitted...hit the ceiling with those hateful double stops!:)  of course, if  they love it and don't mind what others think or may be thinking, i admire them even more! 

my dream, as i have related to smiley recently, is that one day i can play duet on that slow bach piece for 2 violins with my kid.  the setting could be sitting on a wheelchair during nursing home visiting hours.:)  since  i am a quitter, i shall live with regret.:)  so see how lucky you people are with fate in your own hands...:)

link to that bach:

May 12, 2010 at 01:40 PM ·

Since this topic has morphed to "Suzuki Book 4: love it or hate it" may I add that the Vivaldi A is delightful, and even if there are challenges, it is a lovely piece that makes SO MUCH sense on the violin.  It may take me a LONG while to get it clean, but it surely is satisfying.  (I cannot say the same of the killer chords on the last Seitz tho...)

May 12, 2010 at 02:46 PM ·

Go Erica Go! Atta' Girl!!!!

Music is likened to Language (and if there is some truth to this) kids minds are engaged in learning Language and Motor skills so I can see an advantage that they would have over adults.

May 12, 2010 at 02:47 PM ·

When I started playing again (to stay on subject) I bought suzuki 3 and found it not challenging enough - so I  bought 5 6 and 7 but never actually looked at 4.  Who knows, if I had started with that maybe I would now instead be an adult quitter :D

Jump to book 6 - the two Handel sonatas are not difficult, beautiful music and a heap of fun to play.

Note to self: go buy book 4 and see if I can play it...


May 12, 2010 at 03:14 PM ·

"have to be careful with your physics books.  don't stump too hard since for each action there is a reaction:):)"

But why should they react, I will happilly give them my cinetic energy!!!   ; )     


May 12, 2010 at 03:39 PM ·

I never imagined the family of Suzuki Book 4 was so large - hi everyone!  I'll be thinking of all of you as I play Vivaldi Am Concerto 3rd movement on Friday - my teacher has me down to play it A to Z.  Despite the months, there's that passage of 16th notes about halfway through that is still a trainwreck when I try to play it at tempo. 

I'm about 1/2 way through the second page of Bach's Dm Concerto for Two Violins - lots more to go.  Plus I am working on assignments in Maza duets, Sitt scales, Whistler 3rd/5th position shifts, Applebaum. 

To be honest, from time to time I think about how much extra time I would have in my day if I put the violin back under the couch.  But what could take its place that would feed the soul so well?  Watch TV? No thanks.  Nothing can replace the elation that comes with feeling more precisely how my bow travels, how my fingers fall and lift off the string, finding the groove.  Tiny improvements in dexterity and pitch perception put me on top of the world.


P.S. I played Suzuki cello age 10-11. Went to sea in early 20's for a few months (crew on a sailboat) - taught myself a few camp songs and carols on the fiddle.  Was stuck at the same level for a few years - gave it up.  4 years ago, I started playing daily and found some traditional fiddle teachers.  What a difference!  Teachers are great!  1 1/2 years ago I began classical lessons. 

May 12, 2010 at 04:20 PM ·

I guess it's time for the "Adult Violin Students Playing Suzuki 4" group page on Facebook!  : )


May 12, 2010 at 04:36 PM ·

:)  I don't have as much experience on the adult beginner side, although some of my favorite students have been adults or college students!  But in my studio book 4 is a different sort of landmark--it's always seemed to me as the pint where the musical world starts to explode wide open and there's so much we can play!  Of course that depends on the foundation of technique, shifting, etc. etc. and as a fairly young teacher myself who has't brought too many students past that point yet, and who did not have very great training when i was at that point,  I'm always looking for new preparatory and supplementary material around that level!  But my 2c--kudos to all of you, and ENJOY the wonderful world you're stepping into!!

May 12, 2010 at 05:59 PM ·

don, i think you are right on.  IF i were a teacher, i would open up more with adults and invite them to pick pieces to study (as long as they are not outrageously out of track). i figure that if you pick the piece, you should be more motivated and probably practice more.  i mean, there is something to learn from any piece and there must be suzuki equivalents that are more adult themed if there is such a thing.  for the first couple years of study, it is really about fingering and bowing, so a creative teacher can pick up any piece of music and rearrange it for different purposes.  i think suzukis are used because they are no brainers, like eating cereals for breakfast:)

it is kinda suck for the 50 yo when he/she has to compare notes with a 5 yo  over the same suzuki book:)   doesn't help self esteem for sure:)

May 12, 2010 at 06:07 PM ·

Al, I'm not quite 50 years old yet, but I did practice Suzuki Book 1 along with a 5-year-old, and quite enjoyed it actually (and my first teacher was a college freshman).  I guess I must have low self-esteem... :D

Erica, I think the "Suzuki Book 4 Adult Support Group" is a great idea! Can someone please start one? It looks like I will finally have to surrender to Facebook after resisting it for so long... :)

Don, I agree with you. That's why I highly recommend any adult beginner to find someone to play duets with. There are many simple and beautiful duet materials out there. I mentioned it in another thread already, but I cannot help to give it another plug, try - "Easy Baroque Duets for Violin" by Betty Barlow (My teacher recommended it to us).  The music in there is easy, beautiful, and makes sense.

May 12, 2010 at 06:11 PM ·

joyce, i think low or high self esteem types are going to have issues along the way.  the 3rd type is stretchable self esteem:); you are lucky.

May 12, 2010 at 11:31 PM ·

My theory is that so many of us in are Book 4 because it takes so darn long to get out if it.      ;-)

May 13, 2010 at 01:03 AM ·

I had a nice "date" with book 4 this evening.  My fingers cooperated!  Maybe I'll get to start the Bach Double this summer....MAYBE one of my kids will suffer to play it SLOWLY with me....HA!

May 13, 2010 at 01:27 AM ·

I checked...there is no Adult Beginner Violinist page on Facebook...someone brave start it! 

May 13, 2010 at 01:36 AM ·

Suzuki book 4 god damn. Those semi-quavers will be the death of me.



May 13, 2010 at 02:15 AM ·

Smiley's equation certainly makes sense, but it's probably hard to be good at anything if one just has low expectations and be happy with them.


I never meant to imply that we should keep our goals and expectations low.  In fact, I'm a big believer in setting high expectations.  The key is, our goals have to be realistic.  And as musicians, we need to have a keen understanding of our abilities and rate of progress so we can set attainable goals and hence avoid disappointment. 

Your goal of playing solo Bach is ambitious given that you are a beginner, but it is definitely attainable if you set your mind to it.  For most people, it takes quite a few years of dedication and daily practice to be able to tackle solo Bach with any degree of proficiency.  As long as you understand that, then that is a terrific goal to shoot for.  After all, Bach is like the holy grail for violinists.

BTW, I just read your blog from April, 2010, and you are one terrific writer.  In addition, your observations about the playing characteristics of different violins was amazingly astute for a beginning violinist.  I think you'll be digging into solo Bach sooner than you realize -- that is, if you can make it past that darn book 4 :-)  We're rooting for you.  Keep it up.



May 13, 2010 at 02:29 AM ·

New Facebook Group:

Adult Beginners - Violin/Fiddle

See you all there!


May 13, 2010 at 02:52 AM ·

Ouf I though it was an arithmic again...

adult beginner  -   violin/fiddle

Reading this, it would mean that the more fiddle you do, the more the "adult beginner" of the arithmic stays big but the more violin you do, the more the "adult beginer" diminishes! (just joking ; )    Anyway without  (=) it isn't even maths!  Ouf...

Bravo for this facebook!


May 13, 2010 at 03:33 AM ·

Joined the facebook. Been reading this thread since the beginning. :)

May 13, 2010 at 04:53 AM ·

 Greetings, all!  I am Joyce's teacher.  I just wanted to post a couple things, before I have to run off to bed in order to be refreshed enough tomorrow to chase after my 1.5 year old.  

1.  Joyce will definitely get to solo Bach - I have no doubt.  (and this book 4 curse thing was news to me...)

2.  I have nothing against adult students.  I enjoy working with adults - it's often much easier to explain things.  I don't have to watch my language.  :)  My only issue with them is a financial one.  When I take on any student, I promise him/her that slot of my life EVERY week.  My time is money.  Especially now that I'm a parent, that time is even more valuable.  If that student cancels consistently - whatever age - it's money lost (unless I begin charging by the semester, which I may sometime in the future).  I totally understand how difficult and challenging it can be to motivate oneself in the beginning.  It's difficult to stay motivated, no matter WHAT your age is.  I don't think that has been the issue in the past with my adult students (I really haven't had too many - and it's not because I've refused them, but just because it's children that are usually referred to me).  It has simply been the case that demands from family have changed, or that someone lost a job.  

When I take on adult students, I try to teach to their goals.  They're in the driver's seat much more than I allow for my young students, because they're doing this purely for fun (although not to say that violin for kids shouldn't be fun... I have different goals for kids).  It should be enjoyable.  And if it eventually happened that I had enough adult students to make it worth it, I would definitely do an adult recital or party, complete with adult beverages.  I'm all for it!  The opportunity just hasn't presented itself yet.  

Although I've used the word "quit," "taking a break" is a much better way to put it, regarding my adult students who've stopped lessons.  I've taken a break from many activities in MY life - tennis lessons, golf lessons, salsa dancing - but I'm sure I'll resume them sometime later.  


May 13, 2010 at 06:07 AM ·

Hi Lisa, it's great to hear from you! It's even better to see that you are making a clear distinction between quitting and taking a break, which I call 'parking'. We park one project or the other at work all the time due to competing priorities, why this kind of flexibility be problematic when it comes to our projects outside work? Quitting or not, adult students ideally should be more thoughtful and respectful to themselves and to their teachers than kids are, although we may frequently be surprised.

May 13, 2010 at 08:33 AM ·

someone on another forum said something very true:

if your hobby is gardening/reading/playing golf, no-one would 'question' how 'skilled' you are, if you have Kew Gardens at the back of your house or if you've read over 100,000 books and so on....yet....when your hobby is learning/playing an instrument this comes straight into the equation and we feel like we are not succeding unless we can say we got to book n. so and so or reached the skills of grade so and so.....

just food for thought..... :)

May 13, 2010 at 09:00 AM ·

That is true. I don't mention playing to many people, simply because they ask me how good I am, or want me to play for them. As a beginnger, especially as an adult, I am very shy about letting people see me play, but when I paint, people want to see pictures I've done, and if I showed them a finger paint they would be happy. Of course I don't tell people I paint either, simply because I don't want them to start asking me to paint for them. I'm not a monkey in a circus.


(Edit) I think it's like that for any art form. People want to see or hear you, and so they automatically want something to scale your playing to. I don't like people knowing because someone that isn't very interested in the violin would listen to be play, and then go home to listen to Bach as a comparison.

May 13, 2010 at 03:40 PM ·

 It's so nice to know how many adult starters are out there, and it's really helped my perspective on playing knowing that others are doing the same thing.

I am thankful for everyone's posts, and in many other discussions as well.

I'm also really looking forward to my lesson this afternoon.  Can't wait!

May 13, 2010 at 06:19 PM ·

Jo and Kristen - you really described well and honestly a good point.  It's true and interesting the 1st thing people naturally want to know is 'how good you are'.  Not so much with other things, as Al pointed out originally.  I studied art at one point, and people also seem to want to 'see your stuff', but maybe don't know how to judge it?, so they're accepting - wtih violin everone has an opinion or a reaction - maybe it's more wired into humans to react to sound and music in some way.  Anyway, although I am much more competant with visual art than the violin (so far!), I love the violin much more.  I think I got my arts mixed up originally:).

And Ann, I agree it does feel good to share this stuff with people who understand.  Looking forward to my lesson tonight as well!

May 13, 2010 at 06:22 PM ·

Wow, it's nice to have my teacher having so much faith in me. I really appreciate it, Lisa! :) I hope you don't feel that I put you on the spot...

Thank you Smiley for your nice words, and thanks for rooting for me. :)

I agree with Yixi's point about always remembering and reexamining one's intent. Sometimes we can be too wrapped up in frustration or the tasks at hand, and forget why we do it in the first place...

Now regarding recitals, I'm wondering how many of you have participated in your teacher's studio recitals? Lisa kept asking me (and the other adult student) to do it, but it just seems too stressful, so I have kept myself on the wrong side of the stage so far. I like the idea of an adult student recital, although I'm still not keen on participating in it myself - I just have no desire to perform in front of people. I doubt that any studio alone will have enough adult students to make it worthwhile.  If teachers like this idea, maybe they can organize a joint recital for their adult students.

This thread has had lots of turns and surprises, but it's really fun and enjoyable ( I'm sorry that it's going to end soon when it reaches the magic number! :(  ).  I appreciate everyone's responses. Thank you!

May 13, 2010 at 06:50 PM ·

art (painting) vs violin:

doesn't painting have more of a work in progress feel and violin performance has certain finality to it?

we show our painting, we get feedback and we go back to work on it more.

we show our playing in a recital.  that's it.  can't ask the crowd to come back next week to see our improvement.


May 13, 2010 at 07:26 PM ·

Oh, it could be the opposite. If you play well, people want encore so you'll play the same piece again and again. But if you hang up your painting for sell, people either buy it or not. No one will tell you to paint that picture again:)

I always think violin playing is a bit like Chinese brush painting, every stroke counts and you can't and shouldn't fix what's not going right, but you can do is constantly shaping the whole thing. This takes a lot of on-going training and it shows right away when out of shape.

May 14, 2010 at 01:57 AM ·

 Just joined the Facebook group. Great idea! :D Hopefully it will help keep my motivation high. ;)

May 14, 2010 at 06:41 AM ·

Joyce, why don't you want to perform? Each year I pay a lot of money go to places for chamber retreats and summer music camp so that I get chances to perform and have some clear goals and deadlines to meet. You'll learn so much in each performance that you'll never get to learn in your own practice room or at your teacher's studio. It's a lot of work but can be very motivating. Go for it! You'll never know if it is for you until your've tried it.

May 14, 2010 at 07:11 AM ·

I'm a bit surprized at the reaction here to people wanting to hear you play.  Isn't that the at least one major purpose of learning - and shouldn't we be grateful when others express an interest?  Of course they want to see how good you are - and if its just that its very very positive. 

The only time to worry and resist is, IMO, when they want to see how bad you are...


May 14, 2010 at 01:21 PM ·

 Joyce, I never performed in recitals when I was a kid.  My private teacher didn't have them.  I did do one school recital once, I think.  But I disliked the whole thought of performing solo and was generally relieved that I didn't have to do it.  If asked, I would have said I'd rather have a root canal.

Fast forward about 25 years and I find that I kind of enjoy playing recitals as an adult, in a way that I never did as a kid.  I seem to have dropped enough of the nerves that it can be fun, and I do learn a lot, as Yixi said.  At my age, I really don't have anything to lose--except performance anxiety.  People are generally friendly and supportive, and they say nice things, which continues to surprise me every time it happens, although I guess it shouldn't by now.  

I'm also surprised that so many adults are in Suzuki book 4--mostly because I'm surprised adults are in Suzuki anything.  (I didn't do Suzuki as a kid either.)  Is it common for teachers to use the Suzuki method with adults?

May 14, 2010 at 01:53 PM ·

Re: Suzuki for adults...I specifically asked my teacher to follow the books b/c I didn't finish the program as a child. So one of my goals is to 'graduate' all 10 books. But she supplements Suzuki with other material (which I think is common for children now as well) and I play in an ensemble, exposing me to a good variety of music and challenges. Several of her other adult beginner students use Suzuki because their children are in the program.


May 14, 2010 at 02:42 PM ·

 I really enjoy working with adults, once they're committed they don't give up.

I got the last word


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