So, am I too old?

July 3, 2012 at 11:25 PM · Hello!

So, I've been studying the violin for 2 years and a half now, I like the way it is going, i dont know if I am the most fast learner but, I love the instrument.

I am right now studying, Bach's violin concerto in A minor, Kreutzer no2, Sevcik 23 and 24 (2nd position), Laoureux, 3 octaves scales and arpeggios.

So, the problem here is, am I too old?

I've started when I was 19 years old! Now Im 22 already (turned 22 last month).

That is what that hold me back to fully give my self to the violin! I love it, but I always think i am too old, people say that I shouldnt think like that, there is still time, but.. cmon! Perlman played Mendelssohn's violin concerto when he was 13 right? lol

The thing is, am I too old to take violin as my profession? Can I hope one day play in one orchestra? I dont want to be a soloist.

Replies (34)

July 3, 2012 at 11:39 PM · You're never too old to start the violin, or even to continue it!

I didn't start as late as you, but still late (12 years old) and I've been playing almost as long as you have (a little under 2 years)

I as well want to play in an orchestra, or become a chamber musician, not a soloist.

Considering that you're playing Bach A Minor concerto (which is in Suzuki book 7 btw), you're probably progressing very quickly.

Maybe it's hard to become a soloist or make a living from the violin starting late in life, but there are a lot of adult starters out there that went on to play at very advanced levels.

July 3, 2012 at 11:46 PM · Most people who have experience would say it's unlikely you would be able to become advanced enough to play in a *major* orchestra--one that would let you have only the one job. BUT that doesn't mean you won't find an orchestra to play in--even make some money from.

Playing the violin can be done at any age--to great personal satisfaction and pleasure for others who listen; there are few (of any age, compared to all those who play) who make their living from a single playing job. So it depends on what you mean by 'professional' ultimately.

I certainly wouldn't make that the primary criterion of whether or not to continue. If you love playing THEN PLAY!

July 3, 2012 at 11:48 PM · To add to what Marjory said:

That being said, there are still smaller/even local orchestras that you could surely join some day, and you can often even make money (not enough to make a living like a professional in a major orchestra, but still getting payed a bit here and there)

July 4, 2012 at 12:50 AM · Does "take violin as my profession" include teaching?

Since you are in Brazil, I suspect that the only people who can give you more educated answers are those who are familiar with the music professions there.

Beside whether you have the talent and the drive to achieve professional playing level (sounds like you do), I believe that the most important factor is how long you can pursue violin study seriously without having to worry about "real life"...

I'm assuming that you are studying in college other than as a music major. Do you have pressure to get a job and support yourself at some point after graduation? Do you have enough support from your family, teacher(s), etc. to achieve your goal? If you don't have to worry about finding a "real" job and support yourself, then it's never too late, unless the professional orchestras in Brazil impose an age limit on the musicians that they would hire.

July 4, 2012 at 01:26 AM · I started the violin at the age of 59. There is no plan in the future to make big or even small bucks playing but I greatly enjoy the violin and hopefully over time I will get good enough to play with some orchestra or group. Even if there is no compensation for me I will be happy with it. If you enjoy playing, don't ever quit, the rewards are wonderful.

July 4, 2012 at 02:08 AM · I played from age 4 until about 10. Then, picked it back up 13years ago at age 20 and have played on and off during that time, but continuously in the last 3 or 4 years. I started playing weddings with my violin duo partner just last year. There is hope for you for playing violin in some performance capacity, be it some type of orchestra, duo, trio or quartet and to make money doing so as well. So, keep on playing and follow that dream. It can be accomplished.

July 4, 2012 at 02:31 AM · My teacher who is like super unbelievable is like one of the famous violinists from China and his son was like one of yehudi menuin's top pupils. he started 19 too. He was considered a prodigy. Talent is talent. Talent can be developed, but some talents are already set.

July 4, 2012 at 03:41 AM · @Allan Garay thank you. But I am 22 u know, and you're alot younger, you can totally make it! I read you post, and you're doing very good! I didnt know about the concerto being part of suzuki 7, My teacher dont follow the suzuki ;S Only played the first book. Becoming a Soloist isnt really my dream you know, I would love to(and I will, I know I will!), some day, play the Mendelssohn violin concerto!

What I dream is really playing in a big orchestra =/ everytime i watch a orchestra playing my eyes fills with tears lol, and I didnt even see yet a major orchestra live!

@marjory lange I really love to play, but I got 2 ways to choose, and I really want to choose the violin. I had once one class with a big orchestra's spalla, he said that I should keep it up, but I dont know if he meant that lol.

@Joyce Lin I dont know about teaching, I really want to play. I am now trying to get into college actually, but I am trying for visual arts, I've got some skills with drawing, so I think I can make some money with it, here is a digital art by me HERE. Its like I have 4 years to study like I am today. One good thing about the college here, I can study in the music school there, while in my art course. My plan is to do the art college, together studying in the music school, like music history, theory classes etc. Then when I am finished with the art, I will have alot of classes done in the music course, so I can focus on the violin. I dont think our orchestras here have a age limit.

@Jennifer Mascaro Cool! I just started playing in weddings too, actually my profile picture is from one wedding that I played. I really want to follow this dream >.<

@kenneth wong OOh! That just gave me alot of hope! I want to practice now! haha

Seriously, since the begining from this year, I have this doubt, and I cant study like before, it always put me down :/ I would have been playing alot better if I kept it up like last year that I was studying alot.

Im trying to get back, but this doubt still knocks on my door every time.

I actualy play and learn (also teach) at this non profit oganization, that is really traditional, has a "martial band" (I dont know if it is called martial band in english, wind instruments + percussion, I play percussion there haha :D), an orchestra, an adult and a child choir. All the musicians are volunteers, only the meastro is paid, all the teachers are volunteers (including me). I've been teaching new kids, actualy starting then in the instrument hehe. (if you want to know more, see some pictures eheh

So thanks guys for answering me, thank you for you time :)

Playing the bach's concerto really cheered me up, seeing that I can play that, one of the concerto I listen the most haha, but still...

And btw, sorry about my english :/

July 4, 2012 at 01:13 PM · 19 too old?! I was past retirement age when I started serious classical violin lessons 4-5 years ago. I had had a handful of years before that playing folk fiddle, which prepared me - a little - but inculcated a few bad habits which thankfully were eradicated very early on by my present teacher.

I am now working on two of Paganini's "Centone" sonatas, which aren't beyond my capabilities (otherwise my teacher wouldn't be doing them with me) but are a delightful and refreshing change from the fine works in Suzuki, whilst introducing me to interesting techniques such as very quick and clean bow crossings across all four strings, and a style of playing that is significantly different from the baroque and 18th century. It is worth remembering that Paganini, a Romantic composer, was a great fan of opera, which must have influenced his compositions and how the player should approach them.

Anyway, "Paganini", without further elaboration, always looks good on a CV ;)

July 4, 2012 at 09:02 PM · I don't know. 22 is practically ancient :-)

July 6, 2012 at 12:49 AM · What John said. You're never too old for music. You don't need to be a prodigy, you just need to be good.

July 6, 2012 at 01:16 AM · Encouragement aside, there are plenty of scientific evidences about the advantages of learning musical instruments at a young age (in other words, disadvantages as a late starter). I'm not sure whether this is what the OP meant by being too old...

Most of the responses here seem to focus on the personal satisfaction and enjoyment of playing music as an amateur (which I don't disagree), but skirt the OP's question - does he have a chance to become a career violinist in a professional orchestra starting at 19 (if I understand his question correctly)?

We all want to be supportive, but it would be irresponsible to lead someone down the wrong path...

July 6, 2012 at 08:09 AM · I know a very good violinist who started when she was in her mid 20s. She might not be a professional, but she sounds excellent and she has lots of fun in local chamber music groups. You're only too old if you think you are. If you don't think you are, then you're probably right.

July 6, 2012 at 10:03 AM · When you audition for an orchestra, do they ask your age or when you started playing the violin? If not, then if you fulfill all the other requirements you should have no trouble.

In general, what do orchestras want to hear when one auditions?

July 6, 2012 at 12:16 PM · I think you have received a good range of answers, particularly since you have not defined what you mean by professional. I would use the broadest definition, e.g., will you be able to make money in some fashion using your violin. The answer is probably yes. Will you be able to make a living? If you include teaching, quite possibly. Will you be able to make a living solely by playing? Not very likely, although it may depend on what you need to live on. Will you be able to make it into a major orchestra or as an international soloist? Almost certainly not. Hope this helps.

July 9, 2012 at 02:19 PM · I didn't start violin until I was 16 - now I'm 21, going into my 2nd year at conservatoire and getting good marks :)

Never say never, aim for what you want to achieve and don't set yourself any limitations. "I can't achieve this because I started too late" etc. is not going to get you anywhere!

July 12, 2012 at 05:25 AM · I was thinking how to tactfully answer this then I read Tom's post. He says it all regarding paid work.

I would just like to add there are an awful lot of very qualified and talented graduates who come out universities every year, all looking to be violinists, so there will be competition for work once you have completed your tertiary training. Why not get a paid job now, and keep violin as a passionate hobby? I suggest you are at least ten years away from being at a professional level. However, if you can stick to it, and have the talent, you will succeed.

This is not aimed at Braulio but is more of a general observation. Since posts are in the form of written texts, describing what one is learning doesn't really give a level of one's playing. I had a go at the Bruch when I was ten but I returned to it and mastered it in my twenties.

Cheers Carlo

July 14, 2012 at 06:51 AM · I started learning violin when I was 18, after about 6.5 years of part time lesson I could play something like this (which I'm quite proud of :)

I know it will take at least another 5-10 years for me just to be a decent violinist. but I don't care how long it will take, it's the journey that is more fun :) I'm not planning to be professional too.

July 14, 2012 at 05:29 PM · Too old to learn? I asked my wife the same question last year. I always wanted to play the violin but I am 50 years old. My wife asked me how old I would be tomorrow if I did NOT play the violin. I said '50'. She then asked how old I would be if I DID play the response: '50'. So she bought me a violin last Christmas and I have been having a blast ever since. I found a wonderful teacher, and I gave my first public performance two weeks ago. You are NEVER too old. Enjoy and have satisfaction with what you do. Life is short and precious.

July 17, 2012 at 04:47 PM · I began learning how to play the violin a year and a half ago, which makes me 37 years old as I write this.

What I want versus what I am/will be capable of doing in the time I have now (and reasonably have left, maybe another 10-20 years) were/still are/always will be major considerations.

- I want to play with an orchestra, but I really won't be able to as a professional. The most I can get near to achieving that want is to SIT with one during their practice sessions.

- I want to perform a solo with an orchestra, but again I won't be able to as a professional. I can, though, do my darndest to save up enough, go for a recital and HIRE an orchestra. (Of course, for the most part the audience will just be friends and family but what the hey...)

I guess its all about aligning within ourselves what is realistic. Though the "next best thing" may not be all that great, it may not be all that bad either.

One thing is for sure: I'm definitely going to start lessons earlier in the next life -- like as soon as am born!

Hopefully to a more supportive set of parents. *smirk*

July 18, 2012 at 02:31 PM · It's never too late to start anything! You were not 100 years old when you start, you were 19! So don't worry about it. But this question really comes down to 2 things: your actual playing, and profession in performing.

I don't know if the progress is fast or not... Everyone has different learning curve on different things for violin. I started learning violin when I was 16, and vibrato has been so natural for me that I never need to learn vibrato so that saved me a big time. With 6 months of playing I already play Accolay... Before I quit at the age of 18 I was on Mendelssohn. I came back when I was 23 and now I'm 27. My left hand can handle something difficult or fast, but it's my right arm having problem catching up. Worst bit is somehow I insist using Heifetz's bow hold which none of my teachers are holding bow like that. So I spent almost 3 years trying to figure out my right arm problem by my own. During these years I didn't learn any new pieces. So at the end I probably have same speed of progress with average player.

Starting late only affect a couple things... Which is the ability to memorize the music and the ability to do finger octave and double-stop harmonic... But these are not the worst...

The worst is that you want to be professional in performing (orchestra/chamber). Classical music world treat adult starter badly in every way. First of all, you don't have any experiences in youth orchestra so you already lost 3 years of experiences. Secondly, when you are able to play anything you're already pass the ages limitation of competition or even the good summer music camp (most of them cap at age of 27~30). If your resume doesn't show a lot of experiences in the field, no one will even check your audition tape. When you finally got enough experiences from amateur orchestra or local competition or masterclass in a music camp that give you an exception to join, you're already too old to be considered... Imagine your resume is: I'm 35 years old, and I have 7 years of experiences with one amateur orchestra. Graduated from so-so music faculty 7 years ago. No solo experiences before, no competition experiences before... Hack who wants to even listen to the audition tape?

July 19, 2012 at 10:36 AM · Listen to all the positive encouragement above, as well as the most realistic options for you; ignore the hackneyed negatives. Age shouldn't deter you from accomplishing your heart's dream-after all, life is not all about being affluent, and each individual is a world different from each other. I started quite late, but am quite happy to have chosen the violin as my "career" of choice-no doubt you will find your own niche with the violin, and there's almost no limit to what a well-taught, motivated, driven, hard-working violin student can achieve with the proper guidance and right circumstances.

Please choose what will make you happy in the end. Money is always important, but so is that you are satisfied doing what you really want to do. It's not as if you won't be able to make money from it, or as many musicians do, you can also have a number of other valid jobs to supplement your income, music-related or otherwise (which is fine.) It's never too late to follow our own path towards our happiness-and if that means dedicating your life to that most difficult of instruments, then so be it.

July 19, 2012 at 10:36 AM · Listen to all the positive encouragement above, as well as the most realistic options for you; ignore the hackneyed negatives. Age shouldn't deter you from accomplishing your heart's dream-after all, life is not all about being affluent, and each individual is a world different from each other. I started quite late, but am quite happy to have chosen the violin as my "career" of choice-no doubt you will find your own niche with the violin, and there's almost no limit to what a well-taught, motivated, driven, hard-working violin student can achieve with the proper guidance and right circumstances.

Please choose what will make you happy in the end. Money is always important, but so is that you are satisfied doing what you really want to do. It's not as if you won't be able to make money from it, or as many musicians do, you can also have a number of other valid jobs to supplement your income, music-related or otherwise (which is fine.) It's never too late to follow your own path towards your happiness-and if that means dedicating your life to that most difficult of instruments, then so be it.

July 23, 2012 at 09:25 AM · Too Old!!! I was two weeks off my sixty eighth birthday when I started playing the violin. I will soon be seventy and enjoy every minute of playing. You are never too old.

July 23, 2012 at 11:52 PM · my goal is to play as well as Milstein did when he was 83, when I'm 83. You have 15 years to get there. :) But of course we first have to both get to 83.

July 24, 2012 at 02:49 AM · Hi. You say that you love the violin. That is reason enough to continue with it and never stop. And it sounds like you are progressing very well, indeed! But if you have professional performing aspirations, the later you start, the harder it is - both for physical reasons as well as the complex demands of life.

As a professional violinist and teacher, I would give the same advice to a very promising student who started in early childhood: it's usually very difficult to make a living as a performer. Keep your dreams and keep practicing, but develop a "plan B". Train and educate yourself to do something else as a back-up. And even if someone started at 4 and is talented and ambitious I would say that unless you just can't imagine yourself being happy doing anything else for a living, then do something else - but keep up the violin for your own pleasure.

July 25, 2012 at 04:41 AM · Raphael is spot on.

Playing music for a living takes loads of things that most of us don't always have. Like time. Sometimes money. Did I mention time.

Always have a back up plan if becoming a professional doesn't work out. That way you can at least feed your family and hopefully yourself. Then you can entertain them after the meal.

July 25, 2012 at 09:30 AM · Continue play the violin because you love it. If your dream is more to play in an orchestra, perhaps take up a less competitive instrument..... trombone perhaps.

February 9, 2013 at 09:02 PM · I have also only been playing 2 and a half years, and I am playing Bach concerto in A minor 1st mvt. I auditioned and was accepted to anderson university school of music after only 2 years of playing(october 2012). I am now in college and studying with Gert Kumi(for three weeks).

February 10, 2013 at 12:31 AM · Shinichi Suzuki started playing at the age of 18, and was self-taught until his mid-twenties (when he became a student of Karl Klingler's). Obviously he never became a virtuoso, but he was a decent enough professional violinist, and certainly managed to leave a lasting stamp on the music world.

My impression is that becoming part of your typical "Freeway Philharmonic" of freelancers is not so much about the resume, as about the connections to get in as a substitute. If you do a good job and are reliable, you're likely to get invited to audition regardless of the resume. (This has been the situation for friends of mine, whether late-starter professionals or amateurs going semi-pro.) That's a different situation than if you want to play for the New York Philharmonic, obviously, but that doesn't sound like your ambition.

February 12, 2013 at 07:57 PM · I'm 15, and I started playing the violin when I was about 7. I started later than almost any of the other violinists in my youth symphony (the average having started when he/she was about 5 and playing for about 9 years). And I'm the principal 2nd violinist.

I think it all has to do with what you get done during your practice time, not so much how much time you spend practicing. Here's what I do: before practicing, I write down my goals for what I want to get done. Then I practice. Once I have accomplished what I wanted to do, I'm done practicing. It works great - I can see constant improvement every day.

You can do it! It's never too late to start the violin.

February 16, 2013 at 05:57 AM · Don't give up. Every year you will be better if you stick to it and practice effectively. I am far, far older than you and am still improving every year.

February 18, 2013 at 09:48 AM · Something I like to point out on these threads is that there's a whole world of violin music where musical imagination and creativity is more important than sheer technique: blues, rock, 'celtic', cajun, old time, klezmer, hot jazz, tango...

Starting in your twenties I would guess that your chances of making a living playing classical violin aren't great - it's just so competitive. (Teaching beginners, on the other hand, may be more practical if you have a flair for it, as others have said.)

But it would certainly be possible to develop the technique to play many other forms of music at a pro level. I took up the fiddle in my 50s and after 4 years I reckon I'm only a couple of years away from being a useful fiddler with local traditional dance bands. If I had more time to practice I think I could have got there in around 3 years - and my abilities are fairly average, I think.

So perhaps if you think more widely, your love of the violin could become your profession?

February 18, 2013 at 07:18 PM · I thought I'd mention, I have a friend who's dad (probably age 45 or so) recently decided to pick up the cello. He made it through Suzuki book 1, and is on to the next level. He enjoys it, and, from watching him play a couple days ago, he shows a good potential to become an advanced player.

I used to know an old man (in his 70's or early 80's, probably) who was learning the harp. He played it because he liked it. Maybe he wasn't advancing like a serious kid-musician, but he was enjoying it, and you could see him improve from time to time. It was inspiring.

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