Adult violin beginners

July 9, 2010 at 03:59 PM ·

Hi everyone!

I´m currently writing a thesis about adult violin beginners and would like to hear about your wishes, position problems, what repertoire your´re interested in and why you chose to play the violin...

Thank you for your help!

Best wishes,


Replies (23)

July 10, 2010 at 08:29 PM ·

I would be honored to be one of many that will post to your blog.

My name is Randy 48 and started learning violin 6 months ago, the reason I started learning was simple, I have always enjoyed music as a vocalist and a small amount of piano BUT try to carry a piano < lol seriously  violin & violas have such a calling voice to me,  I have been learning on my own using DVD's,Internet, and any other medium that I can find till today 7/10/10 had my first lesson ! !  Man - O - Man was I doing a whole bunch WRONG !  but he was understanding to my issues

July 10, 2010 at 10:44 PM ·


I am going to add my comments here.  I started violin about 7-8 months ago and am 35 yrs old (I moved from playing the bass guitar).

wishes: I wish to play well enough join NYLSO ( late starters orchestra). I also wish to play many of the pieces that I absolutely adore (vivaldi, bach, beethoven - LOL)..

position problems - I personally don't struggle with the positions that I know so far as much as with bowing (from time to time)... vibrato is of course still an issue and so is sounding good on the E string :)

what repertoire your´re interested in : primarily baroque because, for some reason, that's what had drawn me to the violin in the first place (although I really liked the viola and cello too but life is too short to learn all of them.. at least starting at 35 :-) ).

why you chose to play the violin: I always played the 6 string, then moved to bass guitar and still kept trying to play classical music on the bass but at one point I just figured that I should play music written for a specific instrument ON that instrument.. :-) I love the playability of the violin and the viola. I probably still prefer the sound of the viola more than the violin..

I don't know if this helps at all - but there it is..


July 10, 2010 at 11:24 PM ·

Late starter on viola, early starter on piano many moons ago.  I'm 44 currently.  My wish is that I learn to make the device make the noise I want.  :-)  That sounds odd, but I have no strong desire to play in a community orchestra or chamber group; I just love the sound of a viola and want to be able to play it well.  I consider it a perfect solo voice, so I suppose violasolo pieces and concerti and viola+piano pieces are what I'm ultimately aiming for, as well as arrangements of my own for both instruments.

The only real problem I've had is that I started on a 16.5" inch viola that made it impossible for me to keep my index finger down while using my pinky.  Sadly, I traded down to a 16" -- it's nice, but the other one sounded better -- and I can currently use all four fingers on all four strings though I do still have to lift my index finger on the C string to use my pinky.  I'm content with that for the moment, and it may improve since I am a VERY recent beginner -- middle of April -- and I'm still sort of "programming" my hands to stretch in the correct direction.

Rep that interests me includes Baroque and early Classical stuff, as well as rock, especially arena rock like Styx, VH, Journey, ELO, and Queen.  My fave in Baroque is Haendel, but someday I'd like to do the Bach cello suite things on a viola, if it's possible.

I chose to add a stringed instrument to the piano because I love good voices, and I wanted a vocally evocative instrument.  When I started arranging Journey for piano, I found it extremely unsatisfying since that music is SO vocally driven.  I also started wanting to arrange Haendel arias for piano and ran into the same problem -- the piano can support that sort of music, but not carry it in its entirety.  I juggled the idea of violin versus viola for a bit, but violins are too high.  I prefer the richness of the viola.

The one thing I'm not interested in on a viola is the traditional "completing inner harmonies" thing.  I can already do that on a piano in a far more thorough way as opposed to one note at a time on a viola.  Like I said, I consider it a perfect solo voice.  It's vocal, like most strings, and it's dead-center of the human vocal range.  Altos, countertenors, contraltos, and tenors all sing on a viola.

July 11, 2010 at 12:22 AM ·

I wished I could play fast and I got it but now I wish I could get better vibrato - sometimes great and  sometimes horrible. My worst position is 1 or 2 without open strings. With open strings you have an aural guide to the right note and in position 3 and above the angle your hand is at guides you to the right note. But in 1 and 2 its easy to play out of tune by yourself. I like romantic period violin concertos and some modern. Why - because I love the bow and the high notes.


I just put a new set of strings on my violin for the first time ( 1st time on a traditional acoustic ). I wound it up on the peg really neat and tidy but they are a little diagnal toward the nut slot from the peg. Is that bad? Could that make them break over time? Making them last is more important than looking good around the peg. They arent REAL diagnal - only a little.

July 11, 2010 at 01:22 AM ·

I just find this whole topic weird.

I started violin a day after my 18th birthday, at first my wish was to achieve an extreme level of playing and become a professional, but then my appreciation for music broaden as I learnt more and grew up as an adult, and only just recently I decided that I will only consider the violin as a hobby, as I've started to like my primary job more and more now - which is computer programming.

I've been playing for just about 2 and a half years. As for the rep... I am a bit ambitious I have to admit :P But as to what specifics, It doesn't bother me - I think my love comes from playing the violin, not music itself - only recently has my appreciation for music developed.

I think once I've fixed my problem - which is playing relaxed and comfortably in the higher-region, then progress will fly. The current challenge is however working on sound-quality, doing everything with intention and bow-control (That thing is harder then it looks!)

July 11, 2010 at 11:07 AM ·

54.  Want to apply my piano pedagogy to strings.  Started the viola a year ago, now violin.  Wishes?  Good intonation - what a bummer!

July 11, 2010 at 04:47 PM ·

As of the 11/7/10 I have been playing less than a week, thus far I have documented my findings in my blog on here, any more information that you require I would be happy to send you, please just drop me a message and I shall get back to you :)

July 12, 2010 at 04:17 PM ·


I'm 45. started on the violin 3 years ago (about) change to viola, but intend to play both.

Wishes: play well enough to enjoy myself and people enjoy my playing.

Position problem: mostly when going down, going up seems easier for me, I do not know why

What I want to play: hum... on viola, well it's moslty quartet, trio and some jazz.  And you do not want to know on the violin.....


July 12, 2010 at 05:08 PM ·

I'm an adult "re-beginner".  I played in HS, then other things took over.  I started up about 8 months ago after a 30 year absence.  Oddly enough, a lot of things came back quickly, some things- like 3rd position on the lower strings, I'm struggling with.  To my surprise, I'm starting to get vibrato down, which I tried in vain as a teenager- too tense!  The biggest challenges are finding time after work when the brain is not too trashed and exhausted.  Physically, if I can manage to practice at least 45 minutes, the aches in the second knuckles goes away. 

July 12, 2010 at 06:00 PM ·


My father played the violin.  Or perhaps more accurately, the fiddle.  I listened to him play my whole life.  Music was part of our home.  I assumed that I was required to try and learn to play just as I assumed that learning the German language was a requirment in our household.  My father was also fluent in German. 

I played the violin in the 5th grade for about half of the school year.  I loved it.  I was always told that I had a 'good ear' and everyone was very encouraging.  But, I felt the pressure of my peers as it was considered very uncool to play the violin.  I quit.

But my love for the violin never quit.  The sound reaches me and resonates deeply within me.  At age 51 I decided it was not too late to try and learn it again.  My father passed away and I have been using his violin for this last year in my lessons.   All aspects of the instrument are challenging at my age.  Trying to get my left hand and right hand to do totally different activities requires much concentration.  Finger positions on of the left hand for me seem to be about muscle training.  Fortunately I have no arthuritus.   Learning to read notes is also challenging as I have never been good at studying or memorization.  But the more I learn the easier it is for me to pick out a tune by ear.  I love to practice now whereas practice was chore when I was young.  The challenge is making the time. 

I would simply love to get proficient enough with the instrument to be able to play along with friends who sing, play the piano and guitar together.  I do enjoy fiddle music and classical alike but I don't see myself playing classical for friends.  I am still undecided as to whether I want to play the violin or fiddle but am leaning towards fiddle.  For now I am sticking with Suzuki to build a foundation and avoid bad habits that will make it harder for me later on.

For me, the main challenge has been giving myself permission to try and learn this most difficult instrument for the sheer pleasure of it regardless of how good I will or not get playing it.

I'd love to have access to your thesis when you are done.  Deborah 

July 12, 2010 at 06:18 PM ·

Hi Louise

May I know if you plan to do qualitative analysis on the responses posted to your research question? Specifically, are you going to use any QDA (qualitative data analysis) software like NVivo, XSight, Atlas.Ti, or Provalis QDA Miner to do coding on the comments and then create a flow chart? 

Or are you going to use some other research methodologies?

Which university are you with? Is this for your PhD dissertation? How many responses to your research question do you need in order to do the qualitative analysis? Pray tell please?

I'm just a grad student who's very interested to learn more about how to do qualitative analysis.

Thanks in advance.

All the best for your thesis!



July 12, 2010 at 07:27 PM ·

Nice project!!!

Does someone who started in her late teens count?

Well anyway, I consider that late teens are almost adults and I'm an adult now (21). But pls feel free to not consider my post if it doesn't "fit". 

My whishes/goal: Play a few pieces of the professionnal repertoire with a professionnal sound.  This is very ambitious... and I will probably not live long ennough to do so... I already started to play a few not to hard mvt or pieces of the professionnal repertoire but to really sound professionnal is another story... (I succeeded in parts of them but I seem to have a very hard time to be consistent and "keep" my technical gains.  It all goes away overnight ; )  If ever I start to sound professionnal and thus become happy, I "have to" make a major "amateurish/studently sudden mistake" to show to the audience I'm not!  It's everything or nothing and always, the two extents are present when I play.  Because of this, my teacher says I'm quite hard to "size" and evaluate in exams. How can you praise bribes of maturness when it comes along with the worst "beginner" mistakes possible.  As a kid, this would look like a sign that something acceptable will eventually come out. But as an adult, it looks like a funny parody and I am often "misjudged" for my unusual "everything or nothing" style ; ) 

I don't wish that much to enter in a group. I would like to but I could live without it.  I'm truly a sound maniac and prefer the sound of a solo violin with accompagniment (so I should say duets because I like the piano to be heard as much as the violin.)

What I have found the most difficult is the fact that, with an older face (I mean older than a kid...), you are automatically labeled and negativly juged by people in general (especially those who evaluate you in exams or competitions) 

Position problems: not related with my age (long neck, chronic freezing hands, too delicate to have a full tone so I have to work very very much to overcome this)

Why did I chose the violin? Pure coincidence.  I just wanted to try it after short trials of other instruments that I didn't like as much.  In my case, the question should be: Did I know what I was getting into and how much it would shape my futur life? NO!!! ; )

Good luck in your project!


July 13, 2010 at 01:01 AM ·

I'm 56 started taking lesson two years ago, just starting Suzuki 4, and also work out of Wohlfahrt and Sevcik, practice at least an hour a day.

Goals are just go as far as I can go. Play in the local community orchestra, which ours is pretty good.

My main problem is timing, counting while playing an getting all the notes the correct length on long 6 or 8 note slurs. We adults as a group think there is some "secret" to playing well. We research the hell out playing tips, hoping for a short cut, but the only secret is PRACTICE.  Also, as adults we care about annoying others with our bad sound, so we play lighter, and slower which makes us sound WORSE.

So we need practice alot  and with loud abandonment ( :

July 13, 2010 at 07:16 AM ·

I am 48. I began violin 6 years ago when my older daughter started learning. I learnt the piano as a child. I am fortunate in that music comes easy to me. The hardest part is finding time to practice - work/family/life commitments seem to intervene.

My aim was to be able to play well enough to join a community orchestra (which I have now achieved). My aim of playing the Bach double concerto has been achieved. One of my aims was to learn the Mendelssohn VC which I attempted but realised that I need to put this aside and I will try again at a later stage. Am now learning the Accolay VC - much easier.

As an adult beginner, my real aim was to get proficient enough to play orchestral music and enjoy it.



July 13, 2010 at 10:03 PM ·

Hi everyone!

Thanks for your messages! I`ve now decided to write a tutor for adult beginners as my thesis and would like to include all your wishes!

Pieces, techniques, improvisation, composition, explanation for something you dont quite understand...what do you miss in the tutor you use? What do you think is most important to include? Would any of you be willing to try out a couple of exercises/pieces which I would like to put into it? I`d be very grateful!


Best wishes,


July 13, 2010 at 10:12 PM ·

Anything that helps both of us is a blessing. I would be happy to help in any way posible :)

July 14, 2010 at 10:14 AM ·

 I'm 53,  self-taught & been playing pop & country-cajun for about 4 years.


I started on bagpipes, but got tired of all the jokes, so I switched.  (g)

July 14, 2010 at 11:37 AM ·

Started at age 49... will be 51 in October... My wishes , just to play well enough to share my enjoyment when I play ... Postion ... LOL ... I can understand why it is best to start young , some of the postions just do not feel natural to an adult and require a lot of work and mind set to at least be able to get in the postion and hopefully get the sweet tone/ voice that we all seek to repertoire , I seek a  more humble one in that I do not have the life time to devote to learn and play a classical repertoire  well so  I seek comfort in trying to play Bluegrass / Folk music which maybe a bit more forgiving to my feebled attempts .   Those that aspirer to classical play will always be held at least by me to a high regard for not only their attempt but my small understanding of just what it takes to be good. As to my choice to learn to play , it is based on a long time interest / admire for the Violin along with the opportunity to play and a need to help over come  personal  problems and loss....


July 14, 2010 at 01:18 PM ·

It appears that Charlie Bordeau and I are your oldest respondents so far. I am also 56 however I've only been playing for a month. Since the focus of your thesis has changed I would point you toward Basics and Practice by Simon Fischer (two books),There is also an interview of him by Lori here on v-com. Although I haven't progressed enough to get a lot of benefit yet I expect to refer to these two books often.

Over time my taste in music has changed. I was into rock and roll when I was young and I still listen to much of it. Now I also like some Jazz Sax (Sanborn, Koz,  Paul Taylor) Piano, and non-traditional acoustic guitar (Ottmar Liebert, Jesse Cook, Leo Kotke) as well as traditional classical guitar.

My taste in violin music is almost exclusively Baroque - Albinoni, Vivaldi, Locatelli, Torelli, Tellemann, Fasch, Marcello, Pandolfi, Corelli, etc.

My goals are to be able to play in a small amateur group (duet, quartet, etc) and for my personal enjoyment.

How did I choose the violin? Inheriting one from my father is part of it but that wasn't a compelling reason. I just enjoy the music and want to be able to play it. I also enjoy a challenge.

I would encourage you to visit Adult Starters - violin/fiddle on Facebook and Adult Beginners on


July 15, 2010 at 06:11 PM ·


Ive never posted anything on the site before, im mostly intimidated by everyone but since i could be helpfull to someone im coming out of the shell.

Im a 24 year old Violin Student, i started out some months ago but have been with a private teacher for one month. i have always wanted to learn to play but my family had other problems in my youth and we couldent really focus on what i wanted at the time so now some 20 years later i found my own way to a teacher and an instrument so im giving it my all, i cant be a pro or concert violinist but i would be very happy if i just learn how to play it well enough to play Bach, Bartok , Paganini , Sibelius , Tartini...

But mostly for Bach, i fell in love with the 2nd Partita in D Minor, La Ciaconna when i was about 4 years old, it was my grandmothers favorite piece of music ever written.

I hope i have helped,

Ana Ottenwalder



July 16, 2010 at 08:47 PM ·

I've been playing for about a year now.  I started playing because I love the violin.  I always wanted to learn as a child but never had the opportunity.  So on my 30th birthday, I decided to get a violin and start lessons (I told my husband he was could have been a new Corvette).  My goal is to master the instrument, in spite of my age.

Position problems?  They mostly come from having short, double-jointed fingers...they will only reach so far. 

As far as repetoire, anything that makes people want to dance.  A big part of my attraction to the violin is its ability to evoke joy in people.

July 18, 2010 at 03:02 PM ·

I'm 62, but I started taking violin lesson seven years ago, so I guess that puts me behind Dale and Charlie in the beginner-starting-date category.

My first instrument, which I rarely play anymore, was the organ.  I started taking private lessons at age ten, and continued through college and a couple years beyond.  So why switch?  Practicality entered into it; if you move, you can't take the pipe organ with you.  Even if you don't move and you also have one at home to practice on, it's not what you are going to be playing when you perform.

Second instrument was/is guitar.  Much more portable

But what really got me looking seriously at the violin, and this is gong to sound strange,  was listening to Joan Baez and the occasional violin accompaniment on her recordings.  Really loved the way the violin blended in with the other instruments.  I thought what I was liking was a bluegrass sound and that I'd like to do that, but decided later not so much.  Turned out I didn't know actually what bluegrass was.  It's interesting, sometimes, but not what gets me going.

Anyway, that lead to me searching for and buying a violin at about age 24.  I carted the thing around for the next several decades.  But I was unable to find a teacher in the various places we moved to, and also afraid to touch the instrument because it was a complete mystery to me.  No frets!?!  How do you know where the notes are?   Never mind that - how do you hold it?  And what do you do with the bow?  It would have helped had there been someone around who played the violin that I could have at least watched, but didn't have that, either.

The stalemate ended when the local symphony decided to offer lessons, and that was my beginning.  I'm still taking lessons, and a little over year ago added viola.  (Still don't quite understand all the viola jokes.  They're funny, but why does the viola take such a hit?  Why not, oh, say, the bassoon?  'Bassoon' even sounds funny.)   So now I'm switching between viola and violin in the small ensemble I regularly play with.  As to where I am with lessons, my teacher started me this summer on the Bach Cello Suites for viola.  I'm finding them to be very challenging/difficult, but lots of fun.  Probably because it's Bach (ahh, Bach, for you M.A.S.H. fans).  My organ teacher would regularly complain that it seemed all I wanted to play was Bach.  Guess I've changed instruments, but not preferences.

I have two violins now, my original purchase, a 130 year-old Romanian-made instrument, and a five-string Dahlia.  The Dahlia was the reason my teacher started me on the viola.  As she rightly said, 'The viola strings are there, why not learn to play the viola?'  I don't yet have a viola of my own,  but I do have a borrowed 16" viola, and it just feels right.  Which do I prefer, violin or viola?  Still not sure, but the sound of the viola is very nice. 

July 26, 2010 at 07:43 PM ·

My first instrument was cornet, which I started studying at age 8.  I played for 8 or 9 years then stopped for various reasons - not least of which was my reaction to family pressure - and didn't touch an instrument again for over 25 years.  But music was in my head and needed a way out, and in the mid '90s I found myself fitting chords to just about every piece of music I had ever heard on the radio.  I took up guitar at that time, then fell into bluegrass mandolin in 2002.

My entry into violin was equally accidental - a friend gave me a violin in 2008.  I noodled with it a bit at the bluegrass jams, then discovered that another friend was into classical violin.  After harmonizing with him on things like the Brahms waltz I realized that it was time to get serious, and signed up for lessons at the local music store.

I have a good ear, and knowledge of music theory, and I think my teacher is interested in seeing just how far and how fast he can push me; after 7 or 8 months of lessons he has me working on (or perhaps I should say struggling with) the Bach double concerto.  I don't really have a vibrato yet, but my teacher isn't concerned; he feels that this will come in due course.  Besides, he's keeping me busy enough just working on technique and tone.

Position problems?  Not really.  In my early lessons my teacher told me not to worry about position numbers, just go up there and find the notes.  Surprisingly, they were usually there.  Now when I go back and play my early assignments I find myself saying,"Hey, that's just third (or fifth, or whatever) position," and suddenly it becomes simple.

Of the instruments I've played, I've found that the violin is by far the most difficult.  But I 

can see that the expressive capabilities of the violin make it worthwhile.  The experience has caused me to rethink the nature of learning itself.  In my work as a computer programmer, I've adopted a practice that I 

call "demand learning".  If I need to know something - usually a certain fact or technique - I can look it up and quickly add it to my "repertoire" rather than taking long (and expensive!) courses.  To an extent this works with the guitar or mandolin too.  But getting a decent tone from a violin is a different matter altogether.  It seems that proficiency on the violin is something that has to just develop over time.  Forums like these can provide a lot of helpful tips, but it's still going to take a lot of effort; there are no cookbook solutions.

Nevertheless I'm having a great time.  A number of friends turn out to be closet musicians, and we've been drawing them out; our best gathering so far is three violins and two cellos.  One of the cellos is played by my wife, another adult beginner.  She has no childhood musical experience, just a bit of guitar over the past few years.  She too often finds it frustrating - but for her as for me, the rewards are worth it.

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