Your Thoughts on Quitting Violin

October 25, 2012 at 03:08 AM · I think a lot of you will recognize me as a poster couple years ago talking about how passionate I was with violin. This was in high school.

College kind of changed that. So, I was a music major last year (Freshman year), and I was pretty excited and passionate about it (as I was in high school), but come Spring Semester, I started to dread practicing and violin. I kind of attributed this to my lazy personality. I usually procrastinate, and only occasionally have bouts of diligence and determination.

Even though in high school, I felt intimidated by the other more talented and younger students, they inspired me to work harder and made me think I can do it too. Well in college, I felt put off by everyone. I think I was subconsciously reminded by anyone in the music school that this may not be the right path for me, and occasional unsuccessful lessons made me think I would never be good enough no matter how hard I try. Even my violin teacher, who is great and really nice, sometimes had his moments where he would unintentionally say things which made me think I will NEVER improve (ie "why do you keep doing this?!" or "your intonation never has a center"). Please note I'm not saying he's mean and a bad teacher. I learned a lot from him, but I think the standard he had for my learning really backfired in a way that made feel I don't deserve to be in that standard to begin with.

So, this semester (beginning of my sophomore year), I switched my major to English. I love it. Yeah I'm not so passionate, but when I write about books I love, or even analyses on sociocultural topics, I get this rewarding, no-pressure feeling. Nothing in this field hangs on just ONE performance, and my improvement here just felt natural, whereas in music, I constantly felt like Sisyphus pushing up a boulder against all odds. Compared to being an English Major, being music major was just a dreadful, stressful life.

Now comes my real question, should I just quit?

I asked my violin teacher this, and (as expected) he was very disapproving of me quitting. He explained that if I quit, there's a very good chance that if I ever decide to come back, I won't be as free (ie college students have more free time than adults in the working world) to take it back up again, or as an adult, learning an instrument may no longer come as natural compared to now.

Even my friends said I shouldn't quit. Now is the only opportunity I will get to study with a great violinist and have the time for it.

But there's this nagging feeling that I don't want to do this anymore. I NEVER practice, so I feel like I'm wasting my teacher's time to begin with. And when I do, I don't get the results I expect in my lesson (I always find a way to mess it up). This past September, the back-to-school excitement motivated me to practice everyday for a good amount of time, but that has died off. Right now I feel like I'm wasting everyone's time and money by continuing. I feel like I could be doing other things to enjoy my time as a college student.

What do you guys think? The only reason why I'm so unsure is because of what my teacher said (I might regret it when I'm older). And there's also the fact that maybe I'm going through a slump and I'll find a way back. Thoughts? Your experience of quitting and not regretting?

Replies (65)

October 25, 2012 at 03:23 AM · Well, in my opinion if you are not passionate in any way with the instrument and don't want to do it, all you are doing is learning a skill; it's like a high school kid who likes math but hates doing it. Yes it's a good skill to have, but unless you are using it often, it's useless. Granted if you want to come back to it may not have enough time, but if you feel like its hard to accomplish things, you probably do need a break. Music isn't for everyone even if they think so. So I say, take a break and come back when you miss it.

October 25, 2012 at 03:30 AM · First, if you never practice, you've probably already quit. It's very difficult to keep your "edge" with violin without playing a lot.... So, maybe the question, is "should you try to get back to where you were...when you were practicing and really into it?" I'd say there must have been something you really enjoyed about it, to do it as you did, but there also must have been a lot you didn't enjoy to move away from it as you did.

Figure out what you liked about it in the past (sounds as though you've already started to do that...) and move back to that, but stay away from what you didn't like (sounds as though you've started on that as well). There are many ways to enjoy violin.

Your life can be a work of art- shape it so it's beautiful and enjoyable to you!

October 25, 2012 at 04:06 AM · quitting viola in high school is a big regret of mine. Now that I'm in my 40's I realized I had lost 25+ years of learning and skill development that is extremely difficult to catch-up on when you are older.

I quite because it wasn't what my friends were doing, and hence no longer fun. Now, it is the center of my social circle and has been since graduating college and getting my career off the ground.

Sounds like it became to competitive and not fun anymore for you. My vote (if I get one), don't quit, just put it in a different context.

October 25, 2012 at 08:27 AM · My advice is to RELAX and ENJOY your music . Be content with the skills you already have and play music that speaks to you , gypsy violin , irish folk , whatever . Now in my forties I've learned that its ok not to be "good" at everything . More and more I'm taking the time to smell the flowers and really be present in the moment.

find your path in music and enjoy :-)

October 25, 2012 at 01:05 PM · I started college as a music major, but when my lessons, orchestra, chamber groups, and opera performances started taking over my life, I knew I needed to change my major.

Like you, I became an English major. Nice choice!

I continued my lessons at the university after switching majors, but after I quit playing in the orchestra I was eventually run out of the music department entirely. It turned out to be a mixed blessing, since all the reading and writing required of English majors takes up as much time - or more - as preparing for a life as a professional musician.

When I moved to a different city for graduate school, I didn't even take a violin with me. Now I'm finishing up a PhD in English and I have found a new appreciation for the violin. By the way, it turns out you don't go backwards for every day you don't practice. I play nearly as well as I did ten years ago, and in some ways I think I play more musically now.

I think I am able to enjoy it now because I became an English major: now that I can play for my own pleasure instead of for a grade, my fiddle has once again become a source of great joy for me.

A violinist is somebody who plays the violin, not somebody who takes lessons. You will always be able to play for fun, whether with friends in chamber groups or in a local amateur orchestra.

October 25, 2012 at 01:06 PM · I took a year off from violin when I was 12. Then I started again when I was 13, and although I never had another lesson I kept on learning. That was 65 years ago. I added cello lessons when I was 14, and can get by on viola (since I was 40). So now my greatest enjoyment is making music with other people. I practice every day, although at my age just ot slow the decline of my skill level.

I don't know what your skill level is, but since it was sufficient for you to start college as a music major, it must be reasonably good. Why did you keep on doing it if you don't enjoy it?

Playing music with other people is a great joy. I've been doing it almost continuously for the past 64 years (except when I was in grad school - but I did practice even then).

You can take the threat out of it by dropping lessons, but it is a shame to do that when good teachers are so available to you. Is there a college orchestra you can join, just to keep you in the game?

One of my music partners is a retired doctor who studied violin seriously through high school and continued to play seriously until he finished his stint as an Air Force doctor and entered residency and medical practice. At that time he stopped playing and did not start again until he was 60 years old - in preparation for a musical retirement. It took him years of lessons to get going again, and even at 77 he is still improving, which gives me some indication of how good he must have been when he was younger and how much he lost by discontinuing for 30 years. We get together for weekly piano trios, where I am the cellist (will do that in about 4 hours this morning), and we both play 1st violin in a local conductor-less chamber orchestra 3 times a month.

Please find a way to keep your skills up, and a context in which you can enjoy it. There are plenty of opportunities to play with other people without it being a competition - or even as a competition you can win (even I was concertmaster of our local symphony orchestra for about 20 years).


October 25, 2012 at 01:30 PM · I like the answers that tell you to do what you really want to do; getting it right at your age can make a big difference in the rest of your life.

As to music in general and violin in particular, you will see enough examples on this and other forums to make it clear that regardless of what you do or do not do with music, there is a piece of you, musical, that will always be there, and may - even must - surface at some point. If you take music as pleasure rather than obsession, you will nurture this part of you, I think, and find yourself inevitably drawn back.

October 25, 2012 at 01:43 PM · Thank you for the wonderful responses, but I'd like to answer some general questions you guys directly/indirectly posted in your answers.

1.)I loved violin back then because I felt classical music spoke to me (it still does), and I loved the idea that I can control my interpretation to suit what I am feeling.

2.) I barely got into the music program (really 2 violin professors wanted me out, but my teacher wanted me in because he said for someone who's been playing for 3 years at the time of my audition, I was really good). So I guess my skill level is adequate, but not amazing. In fact, I finished my high school years with the 1st movement of Bruch, just to give an example of how low my level was.

3.) A lot of you guys mention joining orchestra. Well, I HATE orchestra. That was one of the first things I wanted to get out of as a music major. Gradually, I started to hate the repertoire we played (over the top symphonies are hardly appealing to me). What exacerbated the situation was the snobby, competitiveness of orchestra. No offense, but this whole "yeah I'm 1st violin blah blah blah" pissed me off to no end. Yeah you can say I was jealous, but it just made me despise the whole atmosphere too.

4.) I continued lessons to keep an appearance for my mom. She would hate if I quit, so I'm just doing it for her. I guess I've already quit as you guys have said, so maybe I should just stop?

5.) Another secret as to why I quit: I sucked at ear training. I only passed ear training because of theory and the homeworks. But every time we were tested on sight singing and melodic/harmonic dictation, I would fail. My teacher for that class even felt that as a violinist, ear training should be the class that's telling me something's wrong. I took the hint and booked it.

Thank you again for all your warm responses :)

October 25, 2012 at 02:29 PM · I don't know of ANYONE who, later in life, said "I sure am glad I quite playing!" Anyone else run into someone years later that reported they were glad they quit? What I HAVE heard repeatedly is regret--both individually, and regret that others (specifically parents) LET them quit.

October 25, 2012 at 03:21 PM · Well, in response to a previous poster who questioned whether anyone ever was happy they quit: I quit for about 5 months or so, after only playing on weekends (because of a busy post-college non-musical job) for several years prior. I majored in music in college, but then found my way into an office job that was very rewarding financially. While in that field of work, I only practiced on weekends, and it was a struggle to do so because the violin always felt 'foreign' in my hands from lack of playing. But I felt an obligation to keep up the skill somewhat. I don't know if I really enjoyed it so much as felt it was a duty. When I finally left cubicle-life and my demanding job (I was in my 30's by this point), I went to Europe for 6 months to 'detox'. I did not bring my violin. After 5 months or so there, I took up the violin again, returned to the US and found my way back to music. What I found was that my playing was much freer, and that I had a fresher perspective on both music and my technical issues, the latter which I was able to address much more effectively. I definitely improved more in the years after my hiatus than I had in music school-- and without a teacher (this is either a comment on the unsuitability of my teachers in college or a testament to my BRILLIANT ability to analyze technical problems .... *said sarcastically, btw*).

So, while I didn't quit for good (and maybe that's what the previous poster was talking about), I did take a break from the violin, which I found to be very beneficial. Music school wasn't for me either, for a variety of reasons, I think, but I toughed it out anyway for the degree.

For the original poster, I vote for quitting ... and you can always come back if you want. Don't hang onto something just because you fear you can never have it again. And don't do something that takes up as much of your time as the violin can if you feel it doesn't feed your soul. My 2 cents, fwiw.

October 25, 2012 at 03:59 PM · I'm with Nairobi and Lisa here. Back off and let the desire return. And btw, Liandra, your writing is wonderful. It just sings. The shift of academic concentration seems like a great choice. The two are very compatible (which is why I enjoy doing both as well).

And Lisa, I enjoyed reading your post; you put it all so well. Actually, I enjoyed reading everyone's comments. So interesting to hear others' perspectives.

October 25, 2012 at 04:43 PM · for starters, good for you for having the courage to make the change & it sounds like it was a good decision if you find that you are now happier. In terms of the violin, the pressure is now off & you can get a better perspective on where you want it to fit in your life.

From what you say, it sounds as though your passion for classical music and the violin may have been trampled a bit by your experiences as a music major, but that passion still stays with you. Depending on what else is going on in your life this may come & go, but how great would it be to be able to enjoy it to fullest?

"as an adult, learning an instrument may no longer come as natural compared to now"

….I would absolutely agree with your teacher on that. If you are able to stick with it and you choose to keep music in your life down the road, you'll really benefit from the skills you develop during this window. Of course if it doesn't make you happy, then walk away even if for just a while or scale back.

Have you done much group music other than your orchestra at school? Between orchestra and chamber music, my group music experiences are a great part of my life, I even get the occasional gig out of it, and I definitely regret that didn't work harder at the violin in my formative years.

October 25, 2012 at 05:17 PM · i vote for quitting. that may sound strange, but it's what i did with no regrets. i was l7 when i started as a music major in college - it was like being a nun -total devotion to music, in my case piano practice, chorus, all the music classes plus english, history, pe, etc. i had reached a certain level after 10 years of piano, and i never lost that, and if you can play decently, you are always in demand for one things or another. i switched to English, then to history, and ended up as a history majuor. now i am retired and playing the violin, a great challenge and wonderful experience. i love playing with other people - my virtuoso teacher, other friends who play guitar, fiddle, mandolin, and many jam sessions too. i do not regret leaving a career as a professional musician. many of us are put on a track and we just stay on it, it's hard to get off. for some of us, that's best. others are content to stick with it. it is a hard choice for a teenager. just some thoughts. good luck whichever way you go.

October 25, 2012 at 08:59 PM · You asked about our experiences of quitting and not regretting. What I did quit -- and never regretted quitting -- was the desire to go into music professionally. I was 21, nearly done with my degree program as a performance major, when I made the decision. But the music-making went right on -- that's the part I didn't quit, thank goodness.

"A lot of you guys mention joining orchestra … one of the first things I wanted to get out of as a music major. Gradually, I started to hate the repertoire we played (over the top symphonies are hardly appealing to me)."

This echoes my experience. As a preadolescent kid, I had the ambition to become a symphony player; but by 21, the heavy-duty symphonic training was getting on my nerves -- high decibel levels, long evening hours, lack of individual freedom and creativity, the snobby atmosphere you touched on. Since I now had more than enough semester hours in orchestra, I dropped it and gained more time for the recital and small chamber material I preferred.

Finding the right niche for music-making often involves this process of elimination -- pinpointing activities that are a drag on your musical life and then getting rid of them as soon as practical. You may find the music more enjoyable now -- with the pressures of being a music major off your shoulders -- time will tell.

October 25, 2012 at 09:06 PM · Stop being lazy! If you're naturally lazy, you won't make it in anything. There are too many lazy people in america. You don't want to be one of them. Take you violin, practice and turn yourself into a violinist.

good luck!

October 25, 2012 at 09:09 PM · The best advice I have ever heard is that if you absolutely can't imagine doing anything else, then go to music school. Sounds to me like you are doing- and really liking- something else. There's no shortage of professional musicians. Do what you love, and I hope you find the same joy in being an amateur musician that so many of us have found.

October 26, 2012 at 01:15 AM · Well, I've seen a very fine adult violinist on youtube... like working closely with one of the top soloist of the 20th century!

Had to stoped for a reason, and when I listen to his videos now, he/she barely sounds and play better than a medium-good amateur student... as in every conservatory...

It is so sad... It traumatized me. I mean, if it happens to even...them. What about us mortals if we quit???

But if you really don't like it anymore, then it's an unesessary burden in your life...

If ever, though, you think you would like to do violin when you retire at 65 yo or so... well maybe to keep a little touch with it once in a while would not harm... Because your body will change over years and become as stiff as a tree :( Well, from what I've seen and heard.

Good luck... I have no doubt that the hardest part is saying bye to a beloved teacher... courage in either paths

October 26, 2012 at 01:45 AM · there are far more people who play music for their own enjoyment than there is that do it for a living. Play for the love of music , its what first drew you to it.

October 26, 2012 at 02:00 AM · I think I've properly condensed all of the given advice and made a decision: I will quit.

Of course, I won't burn down bridges - specifically my violin - in case I get the urge to pick it up again next semester, or maybe in 20 years. I love being an English major, and I will go wherever that leads me. Music, on the other hand, should be fun as most of you said. So it's only right for me to quit for now and come back to it before it officially traumatizes me.

If it's worth anyone's time though, I am sad I won't be able to see my teacher every week. He's very funny and I learned a lot about life and violin thanks to him. I guess that's the price I pay for my individual happiness, huh?

Response to Jim Fellows: I don't know if it's just me, but your tone in that response is so emphatic I just had to give my answer to that. I don't know anyone who's glad they've quit permanently, but as this thread has shown, there have been many others who found joy in rediscovering it in a different time of their lives. I also know of other music majors in my school who now hate their instrument more than I do, but are still keeping at it for god know why. I don't want to be like them. I don't want to dread and regret practicing. Wasting time is the worst because you can never get it back. I don't want to look back 10 years from now and think "I could have been doing this if I hadn't locked myself in the school's practice room for 5 hours." Get my drift? So it's not such an obvious question to answer. Since this question is also VERY personal to me (despite being asked by numerous other violinists) it's important I get the advice I can get.

Thank you very much again. I appreciate how understanding and consoling you guys are.

/edit to answer another general question: Yes I am currently in a chamber music group. It's a little fun but I think I need a break from that as well.

October 26, 2012 at 02:55 AM · There are voices of experience here, but there was one that really spoke to me. In fact when I read Mendy Smith's comment, I felt an electric shock. I could have written her comments (except for one strange word: "viola" LOL). I stopped playing the violin when I left for college because I wasn't going to major in it, I wasn't good enough anyway. The best I could manage as a high school senior was a crappy Mozart 3.

I studied chemistry in college, and then in graduate school, and now my wife and I both are college chemistry professors. I have no regrets about that, obviously. But my violin sat in a box for 25 years. That was BAD. I justified it by making money as a pianist (accompanying music majors at recitals). I thought I didn't have TIME in college. Let me tell you something -- I have time NOW, I just finished practicing 75 minutes, and I really AM busy now. Back in college I didn't know what "busy" even meant.

Like you, I could have played in the college's orchestra, I was easily good enough for that (I did not go to a college with a competitive music program, they really needed violins). But I also did not like it, and I still don't. Orchestra just is not my thing really. I do enjoy chamber music however because the all the competitive crap (who's first chair, etc.) goes away.

Did I find joy in rediscovering the violin in my late 40s? Yes, it happened when my daughter started taking lessons. I hope she will not quit when she goes to college because I'm spending ca. $2000 a year on her lessons. I do feel a lot of frustration at what I missed out on all these years. I could have been happier, it's really that simple.

What I suggest you do is take the rest of the term off to give yourself a chance to cool off emotionally because I think you're kind of topsy turvy right now. Then, scale back your lessons to once every other week. Let your teacher know that your goals have changed -- you want to play and practice for maintenance of your skill, pure enjoyment, and maybe gradual growth if it works out. Ask for your teacher's help reorganizing your practice chart and selecting repertoire to meet this goal. Tell him/her you need it to be easy for a while. If (s)he doesn't understand, get a different teacher -- outside the college if necessary. Find the time to play, shoot for 5 hours a week.

An English major who loves what she is studying but also plays the violin nicely is a fine thing to be.

October 26, 2012 at 03:18 AM · For me, all the times that I've felt like quitting were times where either I didn't have performance opportunities, or were times where I didn't feel like I was making any improvement despite the fact that I was practicing.

So (1) I wonder if you need to create performance opportunities that are fun. And (2) consider doing some slow, practice, really quietly, at roughly a piano dynamic level. Just really perfect something at a really slow tempo with a really beautiful sound. After you do that, you will always improve.

But I also recognize not everyone is me, so I hope your decision satisfies you. While I think that music is a wonderful thing, there are many wonderful things to do in life. English is a tremendous major. Communication is so important and a skill in writing will help you in your career, no matter what you do, and is enjoyable to boot. :)

Good luck!!!

October 26, 2012 at 03:18 AM · I'm a little late to the party, but I wanted to say that I support your decision to quit. I was a little older than you when I quit for the first time. I was around 22 and in graduate school to get a PhD for Neuroscience. I quit for about 8 years. Although I schlepped my violin from closet to closet as I finished my PhD and started a postdoc in another new city, I didn't really expect to pick it up again. I didn't even listen to any violin or other classical music during that time.

I started to play again, that time, when I broke up with a very serious boyfriend and moved into my own apartment. I just needed a change and something new and creative to occupy myself and for some reason violin seemed like it. I played then for about 5 years, including in an orchestra, and then I quit again after my first child was born. That gap lasted another 8 years. I started again about 6 years ago and don't plan to quit again.

What those gaps have been really good for is resetting expectations. In college I was around some musical superstars, and it was much more depressing for me than inspiring to be around them. Somewhere I had gotten my priorities and goals totally turned around and it took at least 8 years for them to reorient. My current level of progress probably wouldn't look all that impressive to a conservatory teacher, but it's enough for me. And it has also really helped to join a laid back orchestra that is all volunteer and doesn't require auditions.

I may be a minority here, but I think the business about it being harder when you are an adult student is overblown. My memory is admittedly kind of non-standard. but my experience has been that while I can't find my car keys to save my life, every piece I've ever played, even 25 and 30 years ago, is right there, waiting to be dusted off. I can usually take that older muscle memory and build on it now, but it is nice to have that muscle memory. As for the rest of being a student, I'm much more disciplined and grounded, and willing to delay gratification than I was then. I don't regret quitting at all. But I'm also glad I came back when I was ready.

October 26, 2012 at 04:43 AM · so youve lost that lovin feeling towards playing your violin and you want to break up?! There is nothing wrong with stepping away, changing it up and doing what you want. You wont be letting anyone down, its your life. Maybe you will pick it back up later when you have kids and they want to play, maybe you switch to mandoline and play bluegrass who knows? The important thing is to do what makes you happy. I didnt start playing till I was in my late 30's and I am playing for my own enjoyment and edification. Do what makes you happy.

October 26, 2012 at 05:19 AM · Perhaps you can say, "for one month, I will absolutely not touch the violin once" and see how you feel. Do anything else related to music, but don't play. When you come back to it, you might look at it differently.

Also, your campus probably has free counseling / therapy (I mean with a real therapist). When I was thinking about changing my major and really really anguishing on it, therapy was a great place for me to clarify my thoughts on that and on other things. I can't emphasize enough how glad I am I started going. Something to consider.

Pardon. I just read that you have made a decision. Congrats. That's the hardest part, and to get there, you have probably thought about this a lot. I still think that music is a puzzle piece for every soul, but how that fits for you is part of your journey.

October 26, 2012 at 01:11 PM · Are you sure you should be in college right now? College is still very much about expanding your world and "finding yourself", but it is $$$ to be spending time with two subjects about which you are conflicted. (You said you aren't passionate about your new major.) At the end of a bachelors, it would be nice to have solid skills AND a great desire, plus something you can parlay into a living.

October 26, 2012 at 02:21 PM · I think that perhaps you are making the right decision by changing your focus. I stuck with what I loved through college and made a career out of it. Unfortunately, spending all of my time and energy on realizing someone else's vision and ignoring my own resulted in negativity on my part and an eventual career change. Twenty years later, I am now finally ready to revisit my prior passion and am successful and happy in my second career - one in which my ego is not on the line.

October 26, 2012 at 07:23 PM · "I am sad I won't be able to see my teacher every week. He's very funny and I learned a lot about life and violin thanks to him."

Liandra, be sure you tell your teacher this. Maybe you can still take some lessons with him, if not now, next year or so. As you said, don't burn bridges. He knows how brutal music schoool can be- he went himself- and make sure he knows how much you have enjoyed studying with him.

October 26, 2012 at 10:21 PM · I quit violin once, but my violin didn't quit me. Turns out all I needed was a break. I came back and even though I'm going to grad school for engineering instead of music, I'm a happier (and better, honestly) violinist than I would have been if I hadn't experimented with quitting.

October 27, 2012 at 03:53 AM · Good for you for pondering all this, Liandra, listening to all our responses with an objective sense, and being mature, and honest about it all. And remember, however this turns out, weeks/months/years from now, we're always here, and would love to hear an update! some things are eternal. : )

October 27, 2012 at 03:55 AM · ... and I love what Michael just wrote, above my post! Well put.

October 27, 2012 at 06:34 AM · If it really isn't what you want in life, quit being a music major, and do something else for a career. However, don't quit playing your instrument, just stay away from orchestras, and seek out opportunities in chamber music. As a teacher, I advocate strongly for music-making being a life-long commitment, whether you elect to make it a profession or not.

I say this as someone who decided against majoring in music, worked as a software developer during the dot-com boom, became frustrated that what I did on a daily basis didn't really make a difference for anyone, and got back into playing through chamber music, and ended up in a new hybrid career teaching both subjects and helping young people overcome life challenges.

October 27, 2012 at 08:45 AM · My opinion, you gonna regtret quitting...

October 27, 2012 at 11:44 AM · I say, go see a band with a fiddle in it, then go see an Irish session. Go listen to other styles, jazz, blues, Gypsy, Celtic, bluegrass, in a live format, and see if anything speaks to you. It all starts with the desire to play something, and I think you need to reconnect to that desire, till you do, you might feel lost. Yes, the violin requires discipline, but starting with a deep-seated love and need to play.

October 27, 2012 at 12:16 PM · Is there no way of taking a 'leave of absence' for a period? I'm really worried that all you are experiencing is a period of burn-out - we all get them. I had one after over 20 yrs of science - just didn't want to see another experiment ever again and hid in admin. Fortunately, I did not quit because after a few years I fell right back in love with it.

Quitting is such a drastic step after so much time and love investment. However, strongly you feel it now, give yourself the benefit of a pause so that you can be sure of our decision.

December 26, 2012 at 10:27 AM · Maybe you need to find a different style of violin music.

Are you studying classical violin? What about bluegrass or celtic, country or Tirolian folk music?

There are many forms of violin music that are fun and satisfying and not quite as arduous to practice as classical. Instead of quitting violin perhaps you could branch out and find a genre that fits your current lifestyle.

December 26, 2012 at 10:49 AM · question: can students opt for chamber music performances than symphony performances? perhaps you would be happier in an intimate and yet social music making setting?

these guys seem quite content

December 28, 2012 at 08:14 PM · Liandra:

I didn’t get as far as you have in violin study but there are subtile things in my life that it influenced. Scientists have found that there are pathways through the brain that are created from the study of music and more so from the violin. Therefore all of the years of your practice are not in vain or wasted.

The playing of grace notes influenced me to modify computer commands that I used hundreds of thousands of times. The program, AutoCad, is a drawing program used for mechanical and architectural drawing. As it comes there are “aliases” using two keystrokes for written commands. But the two letters that they use for each command jump all over the key board. If I could hit two adjacent keys like playing a grace note, I would have only to find one location on the key board and use only one motion. Trivial, but it added speed. If I hadn’t played the fiddle, I would never have thought of it.

The only advice that I will give you; Don’t keep your bow in the case long term. Get a brad (tiny nail) and put it in the wall behind the door of a room that gets light every day. Hanging the bow outside of the case will keep the mites away that destroy bow hair in the dark.

Yes, I did come back to the violin after many years.


December 28, 2012 at 11:08 PM · sorry, there is no escaping the violin. I thought I had 40yrs after putting it down... but look at me now.. a pityfull sight...


Elise Marley....

December 28, 2012 at 11:57 PM · Hey, I switched from veterinary medicine to English when I was at your stage. I'm now retired after more than 30 years as a Professor of English. I still like dogs, but I'm not as fond of writing as I once was. Just putting your violin down for a spell is no problem. It's in your blood by now and you'll take it up again when you feel like it. You might even switch to Irish fiddling or bluegrass. So? Enjoy ALL the wonderful facets of life. Each has its time.

March 18, 2017 at 02:21 PM · My teacher puts a pressure on me by saying "maybe it isn't worth it, maybe it's a wrong choice?" I think he sees me as a weak student. I started when I was 18, I'm 19 now. I began thinking about quitting after he said such things to me.

March 18, 2017 at 05:07 PM · I wouldn't quit because of teacher pressure. Either find a new teacher or let yourself relax.

March 18, 2017 at 05:24 PM · This post is 5 years old...

However, I wonder what this person is up to now.

March 18, 2017 at 05:24 PM · This post is 5 years old...

However, I wonder what this person is up to now.

March 18, 2017 at 05:24 PM · This post is 5 years old...

However, I wonder what this person is up to now.

March 18, 2017 at 06:41 PM · From Google, it appears that she's getting an MA in English at NYU, with a focus on "18th-century English literature, animal studies, and postcolonial studies". So quitting seemed to have worked out well for her.

I hope she decides to come back to playing someday, though. Bruch in just 3 total years of study suggests both enormous focus and dedication as well as talent.

March 18, 2017 at 07:08 PM · Unfortunately I may be joining her status in terms of quitting also.

March 18, 2017 at 07:39 PM · Classic example of someone who improved too quickly and burned out. This is why I try to tell new students to pace themselves for the long term. It's not that we CAN'T improve at a drastic rate; it's that if we burn out by practicing too much early on and end up quitting, then obviously we'll never get where we're trying to go.

March 18, 2017 at 08:13 PM · I think for some, like myself. We improve very much at one point because we have the time to, and get very discouraged when we lose the time to practice ,and when we get back to it, we just can't get back to where we were.

March 18, 2017 at 08:20 PM · Well, I also think it's possible to have a huge passion for the hobby, and no interest whatsoever in the profession. Thus I hope that sometime in her future she'll rediscover passion for the hobby. Adult amateurs are largely free of the pressures and competitive dynamics that she disliked.

I have learned to live with the fact that I will never again play like the 16-year-old me, and I may very well never entirely reach the level of the 27-year-old me in many respects (a sizable step down post-hiatus, but still competent enough to sound fairly professional, unlike the 40+ me, who still sounds like an amateur). There will always be that frustration in the back of my head, but I've learned to find satisfaction in making music imperfectly.

March 18, 2017 at 08:26 PM · Time now for VIOLA!

March 18, 2017 at 08:26 PM · Time now for VIOLA!

March 19, 2017 at 01:43 AM · Nah ... get yourself an electric upright bass and don't look back. :)

March 19, 2017 at 01:59 AM · To quit or not to quit, that is not the question.

Quitting is easy; I quitted numerous times, only that the violin kept coming back to me. I finally decided to take an early retirement to devote myself to it. See, if the violin is really for you, or shall I say, you for it, you’ll never be able to completely quit the violin. Yet, if you are not sure, exercise your freedom to choose. Remember, whatever you decide to do, the experience and skills you’ve gained with learning the violin is never wasted.

My CAN$0.02

March 20, 2017 at 05:20 PM · @Lydia Leong

Do you really think that you played better when you were 16?

That's odd. One of the particular aspects of classical music is that most players I've seen don't deteriorate that much - that is, unless their former learning was technically flawed and need to be re-learned, which doesn't seem to be your case.

This opinion about your playing is only yours or shared by others as well?

I've thought of quitting many times before, often due to my lack of progress, and the fact that I don't have much time to practice as I wish I'd have. In the end, I picture a 30-year-old me calling me an idiot for not sticking with it, so I figure it that as long as it doesn't interfere with any duties I have I might as well keep taking lessons - and bear in mind that I am a very slow learner, so it is particularly awkward for me.

March 20, 2017 at 06:30 PM · It's shared.

When I quit as a teenager, I was playing at a very high level -- call it equivalent to someone entering a first-tier conservatory. I came back to the violin almost ten years later, and when I picked up the violin, I couldn't even manage to play a scale. I had to painstakingly remember how to play. The left hand came back pretty well, if not with quite the same degree of precision. I had to basically re-learn the right hand -- I had to re-acquire a spiccato from scratch, for instance. It took me a couple of months to get back to the point where I could play the Bruch. It also took about a year for my ear to re-adjust to really fine pitch discrimination. After that it was mostly skill recovery and fluency, but never quite back to the same point.

Then I stopped playing for almost another decade. Interestingly, this time when I picked up the violin again, I was able to play fairly decently, but on a kind of autopilot mode. My right hand was much more affected than my left again, though (which I attribute to my left-hand technique having been set very consciously but my right hand is more intuitive), but I'd basically lost any semblance of a decent vibrato.

In a way, this second time was more difficult to recover from than the total wreckage of the previous hiatus. Then, I had to very carefully and methodically rebuild my technique. Instead, I've managed to sort of slop through, incrementally getting skills back. (This is punctuated by odd moments when suddenly in the middle of a practice session I will remember the right way to do something, and miraculously something is better.) But I'm missing the same sense of absolute control that I had when I was younger.

I now do some things better than I did when I was younger -- my right hand is better, for instance, because my teacher has spent a lot of the time (four years now) working on sound production, encouraging a denser, more soloistic sound, rather than the blend-y orchestral-player sound that I had. My current teacher re-taught me a vibrato from scratch, which is slower and more relaxed and better-controlled than what I'd had. I have a bunch of new technical tricks.

My suspicion is that the fundamental problem isn't that I'm not able to return to that level of playing. It's that I simply don't spend enough time practicing, and I'm spending almost all of my practice time on repertoire, rather than the methodical and patient drill needed to build the brain-to-muscle connections that grant very precise control over everything. And I don't prepare the repertoire with the kind of care that means that your brain is aware of, and governs, everything that you are doing.

If you look at recent conservatory graduates, especially those who have done intensive audition preparations, you will find that their technique is temporarily honed to a razor's edge. Most of them won't maintain quite that edge for the remainder of their playing careers, and depending how much they let themselves go, that edge can be dulled substantially by the time they're middle-aged. Practice is required to build and maintain that kind of technique.

March 20, 2017 at 06:35 PM · I believe you must, in the end, be true to yourself. Everything that happens begins between our ears determines who we are. What you think shapes everything else.

We shape our own attitude. Our ambitions are what drive us. If you don't have the ambition, then I don't see any long term progress.

I look at my violin much like the friend who tells you the truth even though it hurts.That person is probably your best friend if they mean it in the right way.

There's no hiding with the violin. It tells you everything you put into it.This in return, can tell us a lot about ourselves. There's no cheat, no fudging. This is outright hardcore learning. Every advancement is earned and should be celebrated!

March 20, 2017 at 08:10 PM · Timothy, you took words out my mouth!

I just had a recital at our community conservatory today (Mendelssohn concerto vmt 1). I have to say, it was the worst performance I ever remembered I did in my adult life. I was very nervous and I didn't sleep for more than 3 hours last night. The pianist never played the piece before and couldn’t put the notes together. About five minutes before the performance, she said to me that we should not perform it because “I don’t think you are ready.” Apparently, a couple of people didn’t show for today’s performance. Quitting seems to be normal in this group. I decided to play anyway because I told people I would and I showed up. During the entire performance, I didn’t know what the pianist was doing and I had to keep bringing her back by repeating certain bars for her to catch up. My husband (who was in the audience)later told me that the pianist was completely lost and it would be much better had I played unaccompanied.

I thought the whole experience was hilarious. Lesson learned: 1) Don’t play with an accompanist unless you have one that you can trust. 2) If your accompanist gets lost, don’t wait and wait until him/her to catch up. Move on. 3) No matter how badly you performed, someone will tell you how great you just did. 4) You’ll learn the most when you played at your worst. 5) If you quit because you are not ready or scared, you’ll learn nothing from it.

March 20, 2017 at 08:16 PM · I don't quite agree with Yixi's point one on "don't play with an accompanist you don't trust." I would say that you should always rehearse with the pianist and get everything straight before the performance.

March 20, 2017 at 08:21 PM · Ella, yes, if you can. I didn't have the luxury to work everything out with the pianist. Also, one should practice performance and performance itself is valuable practice. Waiting till everything is perfect before performance? You'll never be good at performance. That's another lesson I've learned awhile ago.

Edit: I'm following Jeewon's advice that polishing starts after performance.

March 20, 2017 at 09:29 PM · I agree with Yixi that it's a great idea to practice performing. I played in a studio recital yesterday with a cellist friend. Her teacher, whose studio it was, told us that most of her adult students outright refuse to play in these recitals. There were just 6 of us, and everyone knows what it feels like to perform in front of an 'audience' (there were approximately 6 audience members too ;-) ) so it's a very supportive environment. And indeed, now I know what I need to practice more.

March 20, 2017 at 09:53 PM · I found your story very funny, Yixi, and I'm glad you decided to play the performance anyway!

When I was preparing for a concerto performance with orchestra a few years back, my teacher had me rehearse with a pianist -- and instructed the pianist to play badly and try to deliberately throw me off. That was a fantastic exercise.

March 20, 2017 at 11:57 PM · Lydia! I know Emil can be bad but I didn't know he is this bad! :D I'm kidding. That's brilliant! Now I'm feeling grateful to my pianist.

Zina: "And indeed, now I know what I need to practice more." I feel the same way after each performance. More precisely, I know better how to practice for performance. In my practice room, I have a big mirror and I watch myself with certain focus, but performance gives us a "mirror" to look at ourselves that is not available at any private setting. This "mirror" is brutally honest. It hurts us once but helps us for a long while. Isn't it?

March 21, 2017 at 02:32 AM · Emil is really excellent at teaching performance prep. :-) When things inevitably got a little bit off in the performance, I didn't panic; I knew what to do. And feeling prepared helped hugely, as well -- prepared in the sense of being well-armed, so to speak, and comfortable with the notion that things will go wrong and you have to move past that mentally so you don't, as he puts it, feel like you're presiding over a train wreck.

I'm finding some of his other ideas on this front, like reversing the direction of all bowings for practice purposes, or practicing with totally mixed-up bowings, to be very useful as well

March 21, 2017 at 03:32 AM · Ha! I'll try these tricks. Thanks a bunch, Lydia!

March 22, 2017 at 05:34 AM · If you love classical and hate orchestra,

1. Download parts from Imslp and just play with iTunes, YouTube, or Spotify. You can play what you want when you want. You'll learn repertoire and play with the best musicians. No metronome beeping. Your pitch will stabilize and your sight reading will improve. You can play more relaxed because no-one is there judging you. Remember, you play for you-- because you love it!

2. Find people who like chamber music- again print parts off of Imslp and learn with recordings, that way your sight reading won't limit your repertoire.

3. As you improve, who knows, you might just find a larger ensemble you like to play with. Not all orchestras a filled with judgemental control freaks. Shop around.

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