Am I too late?

November 26, 2011 at 10:24 PM ·

Replies (35)

November 26, 2011 at 11:07 PM · I started at 25 and I'm 54 now and it has enriched my life emensely. I live near Brendan Mulvihill, he started at 15 and is about my age. Look for him on youtube. In the years to come you will be so glad you took the step to start.

November 26, 2011 at 11:09 PM · There's a guy on here who started as an adult and is aiming for professional jobs one day. And why not? I'm really sorry, I can't remember who it is, but I love his positivity and desperately hope he makes it, and if he's blooming well going for it then you certainly can!

One of my teacher's other pupils started at 14 and reached Grade 8 in two years.

Blimey, I wish I'd started at fifteen!

November 26, 2011 at 11:33 PM · Stephen - I've started in my mid 50s, so you think you've got problems?!

Of course you can become (better than) reasonable - get good teaching, practice smart and work hard, and you'll get there.

There are even cases of people starting older than you becoming virtuoso classical soloists, though you'd have to be blessed with unusual gifts for that to happen. So just set yourself realistic stretch goals and enjoy the journey!

And do remember there's a whole world beyond classical music where virtuoso technique is less important - you have plenty of time to excel at all kinds of world music, jazz, rock...

Personally, I'm aiming to play in local semi-professional celtic and klezmer dance bands within 5 years or so. I'm having to fit in my practice around work and other commitments, yet I'm still making decent progress. As a student, you'll have plenty time to work on your violin, even if you don't include music in your course.

If your heart's really in it, just go for it! You'll be glad you did...

November 26, 2011 at 11:34 PM · You clearly have the motivation -- that's a big plus.

"… younger people learn these things much quicker, as many studies have shown."

Part of this is that younger people don't have as many things on their minds to keep track of as teens and young adults have -- and they don't have as many other demands on their schedules. Also, it's been said that the person who gets things done is often the one who hasn't yet been told that they can't be done. So he just does them. Some of my experience as a preadolescent beginner bears this out.

November 26, 2011 at 11:46 PM · Of course you can become good at it!

If you go to a normal college with a small music department you should be able to get lessons with one of the violin students for sure, maybe even the professor him/herself. Contact the violin professor for your options.

Of course if they have no music department it means you must seek out a teacher on your own.

November 26, 2011 at 11:49 PM · Oh, my! It is only the last half-century or so that elementary-aged kids (and toddlers) were the typical violin beginners. Many of the virtuosi whose names are household words started at 12, or 15 :) Rent a well-adjusted violin, get a good teacher, pay attention, practice faithfully, don't give up when the "honeymoon" wears off. My oldest fiddle student to date was 69 when he started about 8 years ago. Still at it, practices almost daily, plays at area jams. Sue

November 26, 2011 at 11:56 PM · One thing is for sure ... you picked the a great instrument, and for all the right reasons. Expecting to become a professional violinist starting at 15? Well, I suppose it's possible, but I think most would say it's highly unlikely. I know that disagreeing with the previous post is a no-no, but weren't most of today's "household name" violinists already virtuosos at 15?

My suggestion is to channel some of your vigor and intellect into doing really well in school. Then go to a good university, and develop a rewarding non-musical career in science, medicine, law, journalism, or wherever your talents lie. That way you will have the kind of stability in your life that allows one to enjoy the violin on his own terms.

November 26, 2011 at 11:58 PM · Wow, that's so very motivational! Thank you!

One more question; I live with my parents, we don't live in a very large house and I've heard that the violin isn't very pleasing on the ears in the beginning. So I was wondering just around how long it would take to put out a sound that won't make my parents rip their ears off?

Again, thank you. You seem like such great and helpful people.

November 27, 2011 at 12:03 AM · Find a room you can insulate with blankets, old egg cartons, or styrofoam. It can be in the basement if the ceiling is high enough. My basement ceiling is only 7 feet and I'm 6 feet tall so I have to be just a teeny bit careful about not driving my bow into the ceiling tile. Fortunately it is a carbon fiber bow.

November 27, 2011 at 12:22 AM · Well, we don't have a basement, but I suppose I could barricade myself into me bedroom with blankets. Thanks, Paul!

I'm definitely going to try my best to learn the instrument now. You guys and gals are so inspirational!

November 27, 2011 at 12:29 AM · Stephen - with a good teacher there is no reason why you shouldn't be making a pleasing sound from the start. It will be very simple, but is shouldn't be unpleasant...

November 27, 2011 at 01:01 AM · hi,

i started when i was in grade 8, i reached a semi professional level i guess?...still no match to the professional soloists or orchestras but pretty close. i m better than a lot of people that started at 5. but i practiced a lot and spent my highschool years alone so yea. it's all up to you really :)

November 27, 2011 at 01:30 AM · No, you are not too late. You will need a lot of patience but 15 is not too late. Remember that there is a lot of strategy to effective practicing. Think about everything you do when you practice, pay attention to fixing any bad habits that may arise and never underestimate the value of scales and etudes. Also you're going to need an excellent teacher.

I knew a violinist in school who started when he was 16 and he is now playing with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra.

November 27, 2011 at 02:06 AM · While it's true younger people can learn faster, they rarely have the dedication or drive of older ones (unless they are prodigies, and that's a different game altogether). And you can ask more rounded questions than a kid. Don't minimize your advantages.

You can certainly get better by beginning now than if you go on waiting...right?

Definitely find a good teacher. Practice while your parents are doing something else (or even while you are at school--depending on the kind of school; some even have practice rooms of a sort). I managed to borrow a church 3 days a week while I was learning higher positions...mostly because of my dog. His singing along was NO asset.

November 27, 2011 at 02:22 AM · Hi Stephen,

Start now and don't look back! I have few advice because I started in similar age.

I started when I was 12 but never took any lesson or practiced seriously until 16 when I was moved by The Red Violin. I took lessons for 2 years and reached the level of Bach A-minor concerto and Czardas. Throughout this period, I was playing in a school orchestra which was my biggest motivation for improvement.

Similar to one of your concerns, I stopped playing for 3 years after I went to college but I've since picked it up 2 months ago after joining an orchestra. Playing with an orchestra, rehearsing, and performing is one of the funnest experience you can get. This is one of our performance of Strauss's Waltz An der schönen blauen Donau

To answer your other concern about not being good enough as a late starter, this is valid concern. Consider two people, both practice equally as hard, have equally good teachers but one starts at 5 and another at 15, the younger starter will probably play better. However, being "good" is always relative. There is always someone better than you; just look at thousands of insanely talented little kids on Youtube. However, If you practice hard enough, you can be better than some people who started at 5 but didn't practice as hard as you. There are members in my orchestra who started at 6 or 7 but they are not better than me now. Lastly, I recorded this for another thread; You should be able to play like this, if not better in few years:

Intro of Bruch Violin Concerto

In summary:

1. Start now

2. Practice hard

3. Join an orchestra when you go to college. This is a must! I can't stress this enough. Unless you major in music, it's highly likely that you will give up playing in college if you don't play with others. Plus, you will meet a lot of fellow musicians who share similar interests.

November 27, 2011 at 02:52 AM · Make it happen dude!!!

November 27, 2011 at 03:07 AM · Stephen:

Good equipment to learn on is essential. I want to add to what Sue said in renting a well set-up violin. But also find a really good but maybe worn instrument that is cared for by a luthier or good repairman. Unlike almost everything else, proper use and care can improve a violin. Find a violin repair man who will not only rent to you but also will educate you about the machine called violin. You are lucky to have the facilities of a big city with a good number of violin dealers and repair workshops available. Visit many until you find one that you feel good about.

When you play the violin, you use two instruments, the violin and the bow. Both are critical. For the first year, a just ok bow will do. When you have chosen to continue, upgrade your bow. Your teacher will ask you to do more difficult things and they are a lot easier with a good bow.

One other thing. Keep on reading it is an open university, and it is free. Every subject is examined from many points of view.


November 27, 2011 at 12:36 PM · i think op's concern roots in this line by nick

"Consider two people, both practice equally as hard, have equally good teachers but one starts at 5 and another at 15, the younger starter will probably play better."

i think to generalize like that is to set up barriers which may or may not be there.

sure, if one starts at 15, it is impossible to dream of soloing with major orchestras at the age of 13.

but if we look at all those kids that have started at age 5, the stat will show that it is very rare for a 5 yo to develop into a very high level violin player. to put it bluntly, starting early is not much of an advantage. the imagery of sarah chang performing at a young age often blurs the reality.

if we rule out the extreme mentality of being able to audition for a pro music job 3 years later after starting at 15, the violin world is at one's disposal, not unlike becoming serious with a hobby in other areas, such as photography, singing, chess, marathon training, learning a foreign language, becoming a serious cook, etc.

of all the 5 yo starters out there, i don't know that many who are as driven at learning the violin as 15 yo SELF starters. under good guidance and with a good attitude, a 15 yo with good potential may go very far with this pursuit. what is satisfying is that a 15 yo is mature enough to pursue it with a good purpose so the quality of the learning process makes a difference and imo is what counts.

if we randomly survey v.comers on why they play the violin, i think 99.99% will say--i think they mean it-- because they enjoy it, not because they want to get a job with it. so, why should there be an age limit on enjoyment?

November 27, 2011 at 01:03 PM · I desperately wanted a violin when I was a kid (around seven I think) but was never allowed to get one (frugality with regard to ongoing lessons I suspect).

I had to wait until I was nearly forty to have the time to do it and every day I wish I had started when I was years younger.

Obviously the term "reasonable" with regard to ability is relative, but I'd urge you to go for it.

The fact that you actually WANT to play will put you immediately at an advantage over a lot of kids who are studying instruments under sufferance.

November 27, 2011 at 02:54 PM · Hi Stephen,

you probably have resolved the issue now, but I wanted to suggest that you always get into the habit of playing in time with a metronome. Also, cromatic tuners are cheap and you could pick one up; it will help you tune (tell you if its sharp or flat). Believe me it helps your practice and makes everything more effective if you start in tune (you will never play in tune if the instrument isnt!!). Plus remember to work on your eartrainig every day or start piano.

It may be hard to do all of this but, it is the advice I would have given myself two years ago when I was fourteen....

November 27, 2011 at 03:52 PM · If you fall in love with violin the way I did you won't have any trouble "fitting it in"- you'll gladly skip tv, world of warcraft or whatever for violin and wonder why other people waste their time on non-violin stuff :-) And your goal will be to play the violin as best YOU can, which is always possible no matter what age you started! (I was 43, still sound terrible but just don't care).

From the noise point of view- violin doesn't sound great to begin with (ok, strangling a cat comes to mind!) but it also doesn't carry very much, its a pretty quiet instrument believe it or not. So if you have a big yard go outside to play (which is really nice anyway). Inside I close my study door and windows, sometimes use a draft stopper around the doorway and also turn my fan on to break up the noise a bit.If I'm practicing after 9pm I use a mute.I live in a very small apartment and can hear the neighbours talking but no-one has ever minded so I guess this works.

November 27, 2011 at 03:52 PM · Oh, and be sure to let us know how you go!

November 27, 2011 at 03:52 PM · I started when I was 13 pushing on 14 and I now play professionally . I do think there are disadvantages but there are also advantages. I think it's very valuable to start with more maturity. You come to it more through choice than say somebody that was pushed into it by their parents, you have a different kind of appreciation and awareness of what you are doing to somebody that has just always been playing as far as they can remember and you question reasons for doing things in a healthy way.

If you wanted to be a concert soloist then perhaps it's a little late but that is a very small part of the music making world, as is classical music. I'm also guessing that's not your aim. The violin world often hold up absolutes as to what you can or should do but don't be intimidated. You often hear of famous guitarists that started at your age.

You said is it possible to become reasonably good? Yes, but it's also possible to do more than that. You also mentioned that you were interested in multiple genres. I think this idea of somebody starting when they are 5 or so and developing a high level of virtuosity is pretty much exclusive to the classical world and the violin world specifically. The Beatles were not technical virtuosos with a rigourous training from an early age but they touched the world.

November 27, 2011 at 04:54 PM · Geoff - Thanks, that's good to know. I think I have found a pretty good teacher. :)

Steven - That's great! I'll practice a lot!

Michael - While playing in a great big orchestra is not something very high on my list of goals (yet), it's very motivational to know it could be possible!

Marjory - I didn't think of practicing at school - That's a great tip!

Nick - You sound like you enjoy playing very much, great! Thanks.

James - I'll try my best!

Allan - I'll be planning a trip to a luthier soon, maybe even rent a violin while I'm at it. :)

Al - That's a great point. One of the biggest reason I have come to like the violin so much is because people who play violin look happy when they do. :)

Jody - That's so sad! Still, late is better than never, I guess!

Katrina - The topic is only a day old, and all suggestions are always welcome! Thanks for the tip, I'll look into it.

Ellie - You sound very enthusiastic about it. I'll try to keep you updated!

Christopher - Thinking about it, I'd hate to play if I didn't want to. Like you said, it has advantages to start a bit later, I realize that now.

Thanks, everyone.

November 27, 2011 at 05:54 PM · Dear friends

"too late?" i did't realize that i'm very very love to playing the violin when i was 22 year old...^^ even now i'm not sure where am i in the next time. I have no convenient condition to go with my violin...^^

November 27, 2011 at 07:03 PM · Do it. Keep a blog about it. You'll be pleased that you did when you look back on your first entries and see how much you've learned and grown.

I love teaching high school beginners because usually if they have the motivation to work hard at that age, they usually practice more effectively, plus their motor skills are more developed and they can grasp deeper concepts. It's a great time to build good habits from the start.

--Don't be afraid to try anything your teacher asks you to do.

--Be okay with making mistakes. Mistakes are simply feedback that tell you what to do next time you try.

--Be very particular about setting good habits to begin with. Find an experienced, dedicated teacher to help you with this.

--Don't you dare quit when you go to college. Study time and jobs will eat up your practice time, so you need to have some sort of accountability. This is another reason a blog would be a good idea, because your internet community will cheer you on and make you feel good even on the bad days.

I can't wait to hear all about it!


November 27, 2011 at 07:04 PM · PS Learn the notes on the piano keyboard at the same time. They will help you greatly!

PPS You have excellent spelling and grammar.

November 27, 2011 at 08:11 PM · Stephen: in your OP you mentioned "multiple genres" of music. What style(s) of music would you like to learn on the violin?

November 27, 2011 at 08:26 PM · Duc - I'm glad you love playing the violin so much! I hope i'll love playing as much as I love listening to it. :)

Emily - Thanks for everything you have posted. It's great to hear from someone who actually teaches people my age. Thank you for all the tips, too. And I promise i'll keep a blog. :D

Dave - While I've always liked the sound of the violin, what really made me want to play is the versatility of the instrument. Artists like David Garrett ( and Lindsey Stirling ( who play Rock, Hip Hop and what have you sparked my interest for the instrument, and while it's unlikely that I'll ever be as good as they are, I think their sheer brilliance will encourage me to keep on playing.

November 27, 2011 at 09:28 PM · Ok Stephen, I listened to both those links. I'd call Garrett's piece Classical Rock and Lindsey's Celtic fiddle fusion or something like that. I preferred Lindsey. Try some old school stuff... listen to Jerry Goodman playing violin and keeping up with the great John McLaughlin on guitar... Mahavishnu Orchestra with the *Birds of Fire* album from the late '70's.

November 27, 2011 at 11:31 PM · Stephen - if this is the kind of music that inspires you it's 100% doable, with the right teaching. Compared to high level classical playing you only need a moderate technique.

After that it's all about your musical creativity. Listen a lot, copy the people that inspire you, find others to play with, especially people who are better than you and are happy to mentor you, and your own style will emerge in time.

By the way, I spotted Lindsey when she had about 100 views. But I think you'll have to be better than her musically because I doubt you're as cute :-)

January 6, 2016 at 01:14 AM · I agree with all of you. It's never too late to start the violin, or any instrument pretty much. It's never too late to start pretty much anything, except for certain life skills I guess.

January 6, 2016 at 06:21 PM · It's also never too late to revive a stale thread. :)

January 6, 2016 at 06:23 PM · Of course not.

January 14, 2016 at 01:20 AM · I play on a intergenerational orchestrated. One of the violin players just started playing at 77! She is now 79 and loves it!

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