Adult learners - whats your goal?

December 4, 2012 at 06:13 PM · A number of people on picked up the violin at a later time, or (like myself) returned to it later in life. It can become obsessive - perhaps we are a personality type? I don't know.

So why?

Why the passion - we read (as a current topic) about getting through grades or suzuki books as if they are the most important thing in life - but there is much less discussion about the end point. Whats your goal?

Replies (100)

December 4, 2012 at 07:03 PM · The short answer for me is the chaconne. I don't care if it takes the rest of my life but at some point I will be able to play it. I think I get the gist of your question though; after all the chatter that it's not the destination but the journey, do we have a picture of the destination? I suppose that may change over time; maybe two years from now I'll be so tired of Bach for my own sake that my new goal could change to orchestra performance. Or I suppose there are combinations of many possibilites as they become known to me and that they'll shift in importance along a spectrum. But one thing I do know for certian is that this has been a personal pursuit, my friends and family could give a rip that I can almost play the sonata 1 presto at tempo. Dad just wants to hear Devil Went Down to Georgia. Maybe he'll have to wait till I can play the chaconne! :)

December 4, 2012 at 07:32 PM · I support choirs but I have not directed or performed in a couple of years. When I was an accompanist (guitar, wooden flutes and recorders) I was so comfortable with my instruments that I easily sight read at rehearsal and played immediately following during the service with no problem.

I always enjoy playing with others. At this time my violin, after almost two years (in March) I can play duets with my teacher (sight reading mainly) and have moved into a more disciplined study. Which explains why it is starting to sound terrible, that whole paralysis through analysis thing I think, or maybe I’m just getting better at hearing everything that’s wrong.

My teacher invited me to play with a group she has that plays at nursing homes, but the times do not fit my kid chauffer schedule. But that would fit one of my main goals; I want to be able to play well enough to start playing with small groups. I miss the weekly wine and cheese get togethers to play and chat of my recorder days.

As an amateur guitar and flute player I have played in churches, at weddings and funerals. Usually I refused compensation, but at times it was part of the deal.

I hope to play the violin well enough to be able to play with a church choir, and maybe even sight read at the level I could with the flute and guitar, even making up descants on the fly. I also want to be able to play some of the same composers I used to play with the recorder, Handel, Bach, Telemann, etc., especially the unaccompanied Bach and Telemann.

Nearing sixty I have no delusions of professional orchestras or ensembles, but I would like to be able to play well in public with the competence and confidence I had on my former instruments.

December 4, 2012 at 07:48 PM · It is very difficult to say what your goal is at large... Every time you achieve something, your goal changes.

After I learn violin about a year time, my goal is Mendelssohn Violin Concerto. After achieving that it was playing in any orchestra, followed by a better orchestra, form chamber music group, try to be principle second or concertmaster in any orchestra, get paid for performing, have first student... ... etc.

Problem is... Once you fulfill most goal you will have hard time setting new goal. We're adult learners and we have our career not on violin performance/teaching. There are just limited time we can practice in a day and it will be difficult for us to find more time to improve. Setting goal like "perform in a leading professional orchestra" or "solo with professional orchestra" is nearly impossible for us.

So after a long search, I guess my goal is to make myself happy with violin! I've already seen some professional violinists not happy with their salary and always playing something not necessary they like, but it's the only thing they can do and they are stuck with it! So we are a group of people lucky enough to actually enjoy playing anything we like and have a probably more steady income than those professional violinists.

December 4, 2012 at 08:44 PM · My goal is to help my daughter get better and enjoy the instrument.

It is also to play and have fun playing myself.

I have lately been picking up a number of scores that are probably in the beginner-transitioning-to-whatever's-next category and enjoying playing them whenever I feel like it.

No that I can make tunes that I actually like start to hum off my instrument, my bond to it is growing even more.

And for me, continuing that wonderful feeling is the only actual "long term goal" for me. The rest will come as a natural byproduct of that feeling.

December 5, 2012 at 02:08 AM · Elise:

After retirement, I was moved, totally unaware by a series of circumstances that I cannot explain, to an East Texas county where the largest school system has a string program. String programs are practically unheard of here because Texas schools have bands that support the football teams. And then I was placed by the force in a church where the school system’s string teacher played violin and viola along with a retired English teacher who is an amateur violinist.

In the fifties I played in school orchestra and took private lessons. The string program stopped after the tenth grade and so did my playing of the violin. In 1968-69 I took two semesters of lessons. The violin went back into it’s case for years. Then in 2009 the retired English teacher found out that I could still play a scale then could also read music. So they included me with them playing for one Sunday service special along with a good high school student.

In the early eighties, I became interested in the Catgut Acoustical Society work. During this time I read what I could on violin making and started collecting materials and tools. Alas, I am still a wannabe fiddlemaker. I developed the desire to own the fruit of the work of Carleen Hutchins. Christmas day 2009 I thought to google Bob Spear and found that he was having new family instruments fabricated to his specification in China. Then I found a way to afford a mezzo which I received on the 20th of May 2010.

After this, I had to find a way to justify buying the new mezzo. Of course, I play the hymns rather than sing them.

Now I am among the returners working on intonation and trying to get into my head those details that I didn’t think that important during the 1950’s. For example, I have to mark every sharp or flat in the music then above that put in an up or down arrow on some notes to guide my fingers. My goal now has to be playing well enough for the little old ladies to enjoy while I am chasing the elusive improvements that I know that I need. On compliments, I just say “Thank you.”


December 5, 2012 at 02:31 AM · My goal (45 year old beginner), is not an objective to attain after I "get good". My goal is to get good as the end result itself.

December 5, 2012 at 03:08 AM · To be able to create and express the best, most beautiful music that I can. And to be able to share it with as many people as possible, be they audience members or other musicians.

December 5, 2012 at 03:35 AM · I keep returning to Paganini moto perpetuo-- its my nemesis. Considering it only requires one bow technique all the way through and has relatively few high notes, it's deceptively difficult. Decades ago, I learned Wieniawski scherzo & tarantelle with the help of my teacher. Now I am older, wiser, and far more humbled. If I can get one good play-thru before I croak, I'd be happy.

December 5, 2012 at 03:54 AM · There is no goal, only the journey. If you enjoy the journey then you have achieved the ultimate goal.

December 5, 2012 at 04:21 AM · My goal is to get the violist that is in my head come out of the closet. There is something, ever so simple but quite elusive that I can't quite put my finger on how to do, and that is to go beyond the notes and mechanics and make it music.

Between now an then, I just want to have fun and get to know people who share the same love that I do. So far, my world has become much larger through music.

December 5, 2012 at 08:40 AM · I don't think I'm much of a goal oriented person. Short term objectives to meet whatever deadline is looming, yes, but 'goal', nah.

(which is not so easy to reconcile in Occupational Therapy where there is so much emphasis on 'goal directed services'.

I have always just wanted to be the best player I could be. I remember being surprised when another adult learner said that her goal was to make it into a community orchestra within 5 years of starting. It never occurred to me to be so specific.

I have PLANS to do the Grade 8 exam, but only because of the demand that puts on me to really work on a range of pieces, those dreadful dim7 and c#minor scales, and because my teacher's answer to "when can you say you play the violin, as opposed to learn the violin?" was "when you pass grade 8 exam with at least a distinction" (she was a bit tongue in cheek, but it is also true - to pass grade 8 means scales, bowings, studies, bach unaccompanied, chamber/accompanied, and comfortable moving around the fingerboard).

December 5, 2012 at 12:23 PM · I want to be able to play Bach and Telemann works for solo violin and make them sound decent. That is all I have ever really wanted to do. It is a goal that is still far away !

December 5, 2012 at 12:35 PM · Now that I am 3 years into lessons at the ripe old age of 54, I realize I should have a goal other than simply learning to play. I love learning for its own sake, but now I would really like to find some very tolerant adults to play simple classical music or hymns with. Maybe that would be a good New Year's resolution. So far, my only noteworthy achievement is in VSO-making. I am a quilter who made my very own fabric VSO to scale for my guild's show this fall. The pegs don't turn, it has very cheap strings (thread), and doesn't even have a sound post, but it won a blue ribbon in the "other" category!

December 5, 2012 at 02:49 PM · Dear Betsy,

I tell people I’m a person with two sew machines that doesn’t know how to sew. But like my learning the violin, that’s mainly because I know what it takes to sew well.

Austin's a place where the Children's Museum paints Gibson SGs and has painted fiber glass Les Pauls and Cows.

Being a former leather carver, lace maker and costume maintainer (son’s a High School Mascot), I want to see the quilt VSO. Have any pictures.

This is a link to CowParade Austin 2011

This is a link to the Austin Guitar Town Project

This is a link to some of the guitars at the airport


Pat T.

December 5, 2012 at 04:57 PM · Well I had begun to write my response offline before I finished reading everyone else's response, but then I found everything that I wanted to express in Mendy's post (thanks Mendy!):

" I just want to have fun and get to know people who share the same love that I do. So far, my world has become much larger through music."

Oh so very true! Larger and better. Sure I'm still striving to improve my technique, but it's mainly to enhance my group-music experiences and have more group-music opportunities.

Of course it comes down to personal preferences but sometimes I feel like there's a subset of v.commers here who are "in" on this great, wonderful, life-enhancing secret. Seems like kindred spirits, I would say.

December 5, 2012 at 05:06 PM · I should also mention that learning the violin has given me a greater appreciation of the violin repertoire, the instrument itself and the musicians who play it. If I listen to a violin concerto or a Paganini caprice then I have an understanding of how difficult it is to play that piece. It gives me an insight to the music that I would not otherwise have.

December 5, 2012 at 05:10 PM · My thoughts and goals seem to mesh with everyone elses'.

I am goal-oriented and I feel better/satisfied being on a 'program' of some sort. I don't need to take the exams, but I want to know the material regardless. I also wanted private lessons as a kid and didn't get am enjoying the experience now.

My long-term goals haven't changed. I want to be a more competent player in our community orchestra...and play in smaller ensembles. Can't do that unless I'm more proficient.

I also like 'all' of it. I like the the music, I like the instrument and all the 'stuff' that goes along with it, I like the history, I like getting together with others and discussing all the having this as my 'active' hobby - now that my kids are essentially doing their own thing, just nicely scratches that musical itch I've had since I was very young...

December 5, 2012 at 07:32 PM · Patrick: I enjoyed the cow and guitar art. Folks here probably don't want to be taken down a quilt path. If you want to share your email, I will send you a photo of the VSO. I am not savvy enough to post pictures and whatnot.


December 5, 2012 at 08:52 PM · Hummm, there is no end point for me. I do know what isn't a goal such as performing professionally or teaching, but the aim is to enjoy the challenge and the music. I couldn't possibly reach a point where I no longer want to improve upon what I have already achieved, so there is no end point as such. Every new piece of music takes me to another level that I never imagined I'd be able to play, every piece of music I play makes me want to achieve more, to play it better, to enjoy it more ...

December 5, 2012 at 10:13 PM · I'm still getting over the initial shock that I haven't quit! (three years after starting lessons :) I have surprised myself by how much I like learning the violin. My goal is to find a group of people that I can play music with.

December 6, 2012 at 12:10 AM · Some have already expressed it - The path is the goal. This viewpoint seems to me at this moment most conducive to working hard while limiting my ego's involvement. Of course, I could always spend more and better quality time on the path. I have pieces in my mind, but I'm after quality, which, being a precious resource, is impossible to "achieve".

I also want to make composing a regular practice. That may have to wait until I settle my time better, but it would be nice to have more than a measure or two scrawled out.

December 6, 2012 at 04:07 AM · Doing my last conservatory examination... I started the rep. but the task isn't over yet!!!

Having fun in orchestras and also adult student solo concerts.

Make a few nice recordings (at home as an amateur for family and friends and a souvenir... not to compete with pros of course! That, not even in my craziest dreams...)

December 6, 2012 at 07:29 PM · Elise, thank you for asking. Your post made me see how many of my goals were realized during the last years. Play in an orchestra - check. Play with a pianist - check. Play in a string quartet - check!

Apart from that, the more I play, the more the pieces I'm currently playing become my goals. Until Saturday, it is Bach (BWV 1014) en Hindemith (op. 11/1). More distant goals must wait, in some cases probably forever.

Edit: apart from being enjoyable for its own sake, making music is a completely different way of being with other people. Those two things keep me playing.


December 6, 2012 at 07:54 PM · I agree...Elise, thanks for asking. I wish I could say that the journey was satisfying for me! I have a generalized idea of the playing level I want for myself, and until I get close, I don't think I can relax and get total enjoyment from the journey (can of worms, I know).

But I have recently met one of my goals and that was to join a community orchestra. I'm barely hanging on, but I'm there and learning so much.

I would like to be able to play everything in the Suzuki books because I never completed them as a child. And since my children play, I'd like to work with them through the pieces. This is something I really enjoy.

I don't know if this will ever be possible, but I would love to work with adult beginners in some way. I quickly helped a fellow orchestra mate with her hand position (she requested it), and it was very satisfying when she returned the next week to tell me how much it helped and that her teacher agreed with my advice.

And I just have to say I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to play the violin. This is something I like to remind myself when I'm frustrated with the learning process.

December 7, 2012 at 11:48 AM · Wonderful reading everyone's goals - or non-goals for that matter.

what I get from this is that you are mostly like me - I get the impression that all of us have goals such as performing favorite pieces, playing in ensembles, etc etc but I'm not convinced that they are really what drives at least my inner violnist - these concerete goals don't really feel strong enough to account at least for my passion to play.

The concept that the journey itself is the goal is I think closer to my feeling - but that seems also to avoid the question. What journey?

Perhaps what we truly have in common are two urges: one to actually play and the other to improve. But urges are not a goal - although they could be alone the reason we spend so much of our time with this wooden box. But I think its more than that. My own urges to learn remind me of the hero of that Spielberg movie from the late 70s: 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' - the total obsession he has about something he can not understand, something that causes him (in this case) to build models of a mountain [well worth seeing if you have not - my goodness, the whole thing is on utube: ].

The act of playing may be a bit obsessive - but there is also a goal. If I think about it carefully, its not about performing itself its more primal - its a need to 'let the music out'. I feel there is something inside that I have to express - and that the violin is the only way for me to achieve this. And to let the music out I need better and better skills.

So that apparently is my goal - its open ended but perhaps one day I will be able to play well enough that all the music I need to express will pour out and I will be sated - and then I will put the violin down! :D

December 7, 2012 at 06:42 PM · One more thing that motivates me-- listening to great recordings. It doesn't have to be a big concerto or famous sonata. For me, it's sometimes the lesser-known artists. Rode caprices with Axel Strauss (Naxos), or Cecil Burleigh's music for violin and piano with Zina Schiff for example. The performer's expressive tone can set new goals and allow a student (we are ALL students after all) to develop fully. Of course, I may never reach my goal of sounding like the greatest violinists, but it heleps to know what I'd like to achieve!

Listen to what can be accomplished with expressive, soulful playing on a simple melody:

December 7, 2012 at 07:22 PM · Often when I play a piece of music, technical things such as shifts and bowings, or emotional things such as performance anxiety get in the way. My goal would be to get out of the way: to allow the music to move me, and myself to move with the music, and communicate that to the audience.

It's a very complicated thing to become simple.

Probably my goal is very similar to Elise's.

December 8, 2012 at 04:22 PM · My goals are evolving. A friend who I play Klezmer with is here on sabbatical for a year so my immediate goal is to play with her a lot. My background goal is to play Scottish fiddle music by ear and I'll return to it next year if something more interesting doesn't come up. Long term, my goal is to be able to perform with a group, either a local amateur Klezmer group or in concert with the San Francisco Scottish Fiddlers (of which I am a member).

December 9, 2012 at 05:38 AM · I started too late to have a truly lofty goal, but I couldn't care less given the fact that a truly lofty goal was never my goal in the first place.

In that regard, Allan Lewis' post is a wonderful reminder of both the fact that it's never too late to start any worthwhile endeavor, including violin, as well as the fact that anything worthwhile in life is truly a never-ending path.

December 9, 2012 at 05:44 AM · I will say, however, that my only violin regret is the fact that I was offered the equivalent of taking the "red pill" or the "blue pill", in the form of learning to read sheet music or learning to play by ear.

I chose the "red pill", to read sheet music, thinking that it was the harder path, and that more knowledge is always better.

Now, however, I look to those Irish fiddlers that can listen to XYZ song on the radio, and within a few minutes of "messing about" can play the skeleton of the song lickedy-split. If ever I were to have a "goal" on the violin, it would probably be to have that ability, but from what I've learned thus far, it seems to be those who chose the "blue pill" that wind up with that talent.

December 9, 2012 at 07:44 AM · Benedict - what an interesting issue, you really should start a new topic on it.

I am one of those who can play any song in my head - but I also took the red pill (there was no choice when I started, you used a book....). So how did I end up with blue powers? Because in my teens I played guitar and busked (extensively) with my brother. We had to play anything that the audience requested - (sometimes we would make it up as we went along and tell the 'client' that theirs was 'a different version').

I'll write more on this anon...

December 9, 2012 at 11:53 AM · Nice discussion.

Hmm-I agree that "goals" do tend to change as we progress. I mean my original goal was to be able to play Holiday and Sacred tunes, then I wanted to learn Bach's Double (which I have not). Now that I have started lessons again my goals have changed. So presently my short term goal is to learn to use the bow to it's fullest and maximize it's real estate. My long term goal is to be able to be part of some thing like an Orchestra or small Chamber group. I sometimes get tired of just playing alone and get reclusive.

December 10, 2012 at 05:03 AM · My goal is failure. Seriously, I aim to stay ahead of my daughter as long as I can. But I hope, of course, that she will surpass me. And of course, the better I get, the sweeter that failure will be.

December 10, 2012 at 12:57 PM · Paul :)

I understand you...

I don't have kids but I am a twin sister and we both have good musical heads and ears but struggle a bit with small hands and poor overall physical talent.

I hope so much that my little neice on her way out in a few weeks will have way bigger hands than her mother and aunt and these qwick refelxes so needed in music.. and good ears...and the love of music and everything else that you can't buy at the store! We'll see...

December 10, 2012 at 01:09 PM · Paul Deck says:

My goal is failure


I am a master of this art.

December 10, 2012 at 01:20 PM · elise stanley says:

Benedict - what an interesting issue, you really should start a new topic on it.


I do think it's a very interesting topic, but I'm not sure it would lead to a constructive conversation. I find on this site there tends to be a fairly substantial classical bias, which is all well and fine, but I just dont think starting a thread on the benefits of not learning to read sheet music but learning to play entirely by ear, would be well-received.

I can say, however, that virtually everyone I've asked from the Celtic/Scottish/CB disciplines have stressed to me how critical it is to learn to play by ear rather than notation if you wish to be successful in that music. I think when I have kids I will have them learn by ear first and then learn to read sheet music later on. I will force the blue pill down their throat!

December 10, 2012 at 02:14 PM · Benedict, I also learned to read the music rather than to learn by ear, and I share your regret. But I have found that you can learn to do it just by spending some time on it fairly faithfully and starting with easy tunes. Now that the Christmas season is here there are all those carols. I'm teaching them to my daughter -- by ear.

And regarding certain (if not most) genres of fiddle music I think one reason that learning by ear is so important, frankly, is that there are hundreds upon hundreds of songs, only a fraction of which you can find music for, and many of them are almost imperceptibly different.

Fiddler No. 1: Is that tune called "I Stir My Coffee With My Bow" ?

Fiddler No. 2: No, there is a diddly-diddle in the third measure instead of a diddle-de-dee. Therefore it really was "My Laddie is a Deadhead."

December 10, 2012 at 04:21 PM · Benedict - I think you would get very sympathetic hearing - the Suzuki method (with which you must be familiar), which is now the predominant classical music training method, starts solely with ear training.

We that started with sheet music are becoming rare...

December 10, 2012 at 09:32 PM · Bach for solo violin. My goal is to become good enough to play these pieces, and spend the rest of my life studying and perfecting them. There are plenty of other things I aim to do with my instrument, but this is number 1.

December 11, 2012 at 01:42 PM · A three-octave scale in tune. Actually, I'd settle for just one octave.

December 11, 2012 at 05:08 PM · I'd settle for 'Twinkle' Bill...

Actually, I think we beat ourselves up about this too much. OK so maybe there is a perfect-pitch person in the audience grimacing but the human ear heeds for music more than intonation - just listen to a few superstar recordings :o Often its the control of subtle intonation bending that creates the character or emotion of the piece....

December 11, 2012 at 07:25 PM · With the set backs I seem to be having with my bowing I would be glad if that legato G would sound at one pitch coming out of those staccato eight notes.

But my lesson is tomorrow so I will be wearing a new t-shirt over a long sleeve (yes it did get a little cold here in Texas).

Click here to see the shirt

I haven't been the same since I read Intervals, Scales, and Temperaments back in the eighties


Pat T.

December 11, 2012 at 07:47 PM · Paul, being surpassed by your daughter is not failure. In fact, it's one of the highest forms of success. In the words of Kahlil Gibran:

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;

For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

December 11, 2012 at 07:49 PM · But you are no less a failure if your childs arrow flies but a few feet, as long as the flight was true...

December 12, 2012 at 05:14 AM · I want to improve and I also want to reach the magic 10,000th hour of playing (I've read that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at a skill). I never kept track when I was younger, but I estimate I'm somewhere between 5000 and 7500 hours. And I tell myself that if I practice everyday, in a couple of years I'll get a good violin and bow!

December 12, 2012 at 08:53 AM · hehe Rachel - here's my old topic on the 10K hours!

10K hours

I'm still working on it... but only up to just under 2K (since returning).

December 12, 2012 at 03:43 PM · Charlie, of course I understand that. I only said "my goal is failure" for the shock value.

December 12, 2012 at 04:15 PM · ..many a demise has been mouthed in jest...

December 12, 2012 at 11:50 PM · Thanks for the link Elise! I really enjoyed reading that thread. I'm a believer in the 10,000 hour theory. This is the season of hope, after all.

December 12, 2012 at 11:54 PM · I only want to understand the instrument.

December 13, 2012 at 01:57 AM · What do you mean by 'understand' lionel? You might understand more if you became a luthier and took it apart...

December 13, 2012 at 02:01 AM · I kinda feel I'm on track Rachel. If I ignore my childhood hours (which could not have been many as I didn't practise at all) then I've gone from playing tunes - late beginner I suppose - to a good shot at concertos (Bach Aminor, mozart G, Bruch) in 2K hrs. If I can keep that up I might really be an advanced player by 10K....

Assuming I don't die first that is :-\

December 13, 2012 at 03:01 AM · I practice/play in order to:

- experience myself, as an ordinary adult with plain old bills, responsibilities, fears, and failures, learning to gradually become more graceful and effortless at making something beautiful, hearing more and more nuance, and getting to bring to life in my own way the pieces I love.

- experience being patient, methodical, paying attention to the moment, and having faith in what seems impossible as I practice.

- experience the lesson of using less but more mindful effort, rather than more/forcing effort - the violin doesn't let you cheat

- experience being a student and a teacher at the same time. My favorite line of my teacher's after I'd worked so earnestly at some passage: "Now play it like you don't give a sh*t."

I've got a laundry list of repertoire I'd like to get to, but I'm realizing as I learn that I'd much rather play something of any level with all of my heart, than play something just to display the fact I've learned whatever technique. It sure was nice, though, to finally learn the piece I'd been on a holding pattern on from my teens to my 30's, and realize it was a false limit I'd placed on myself.

December 13, 2012 at 03:11 AM · Hi Diana,

Great answer -- spoken like a true advocate of AT.

December 13, 2012 at 03:28 AM · Thanks, Smiley - yours was too! :)

December 13, 2012 at 03:54 AM · Im a little late to this party but my ultimate goal is to be good enough to try out for the local symphony orchestra.

December 13, 2012 at 04:25 AM · Robert - if thats your 'ultimate goal' then I guess you will put your violin away once you get into the orchestra! Perhaps not ultimate?? :)

December 13, 2012 at 08:07 AM · Elise, I want to understand the instrument in order to write for it properly.

My first instrument is not the violin.

I do write good for guitar and woodwinds but not for strings.

I'm not a big composer so I think it's good to write things which are very playable for a beginner.

When I can record, I play all instruments on a multitracks recorder.

December 13, 2012 at 11:59 AM · Ah, I see - I guess I just started taking for granted that everyone that plays the violin wants to PLAY THE VIOLIN! As if that was the end of the universe. But of course for others - and in particular if you are a composer - its 'just another instrument'.

Did I say that???? I could get ejected from

December 13, 2012 at 01:04 PM · Having been a student of music since age 5 (I'm 50 now) and a touring rock/blues guitarist for many years, I always had a love for many types of music, especially violin. Drove my bandmates crazy on the tour bus. I always wanted to play violin but never had the chance. I mentioned to my wife that I wished I had learned it when I was younger but was probably too old now to learn. She asked me how old I would be in a few years if I did learn it, so I said '50'. She then asked me how old I would be if I did NOT learn it? I again said '50' Sooooo. here I am a few years later, playing the violin to my hearts content and loving every minute of it. Will I attain the status I have as a guitar/keyboard/drummer/touring musician? No, but I am having a blast. And when my time is up on this planet I will not be thinking about what I should have done in my life, I will be content that I did.

December 13, 2012 at 05:25 PM · @Elise- I am the kind of person who sets a long term goal, and then sets intermediate goals that lead to that long term goal. That being said, once a goal is achieved a new goal is set. I believe my goal of being at a level where I could try out for an orchestra with a resonable chance of making it is a few years away. It is going to take alot of hard work and personal investment of time and money. I already know what my next Goal is once I achieve my current one. Whats the point of having a Goal or achieving it if that success means quitting because you've accomplished it? I dont understand why you even went there with your comment when you asked us what are goals were. I have one.

December 13, 2012 at 06:18 PM · RObert, please don't take offence - its a wonderful goal one that many share. It was just your use of the word 'ultimate' which I understand as 'acme', 'peak' and hence also 'final'. Obviously, thats not how you were using it because after your ultimate goal you will have another one. Now I understand...

December 13, 2012 at 06:20 PM · Sam - well put. Isn't that really what (the best) of life is about - identifying your goals and working towards them. I think that really effective goals are actually unreachable so that, as Smiley said way above, the journey realy does become the object - because then you have progression that never ends...

December 13, 2012 at 07:12 PM · Well I would like to play the viola in a string quartet, this is one of my goals.

But I will do it when I'm retired, I'm just 36 years old ! So I've got to study the instrument !

December 13, 2012 at 11:04 PM · Paul Deck said:

Charlie, of course I understand that. I only said "my goal is failure" for the shock value.

I figured so - but that Kahlil Gibran quote was so beautiful I had to find an excuse to slip it in.

December 14, 2012 at 06:21 AM · My goals are moving targets – the moment I think I’m about to reach it, it somehow loses its glamor and I have to modify or set an entirely different one to keep me going. So basically I treat my goals as means to an end rather than ends themselves. That is, a goal is good as long as it pulls me forwards a passionate pursuit, but if I have achieved it, if it is unachievable or if it stops exciting/ motivating me anymore, it will find its way out of my life and to be replaced by different one(s).

Life is short and the journey is long.

December 14, 2012 at 12:14 PM · "Life is short and the journey is long".

Isn't that a bit of a depressing way to look at it? Seems to me you are realizing that 'the journey' is actually a lot of much shorter journeys by setting achievable goals and making new ones when you reach them.

In which case: "the journeys are many but fortunately life is long" - which seems to me a much healthier way to live :D

So whats your current goal that you feel you are about to reach Yixi?

December 14, 2012 at 05:36 PM · Depressing? Quite the opposite, Elise!

“Life is short” means hurry up and enjoy and “the journey is long” is the good news because a long journey is all we have on this world; a journeyless life is no life at all. So what I’m getting it is that every goal I set and keep must be conducive to a meaningful long journey of my life, which consists of a lot of short trips that may and may not be on track. Nevertheless nothing is wasted if the scene is interesting and effort is fruitful and memorable.

My current goal is to stop knitting and get the Mendelssohn vc tucked under my belt. Although neither is quite within my reach yet, so I'm not done and having too much fun!

December 14, 2012 at 07:04 PM · I read it quite the other way: if 'Life is short' and the 'journey is long' it sounds as if it is hopless to try to reach a destination since we are doomed to failure by the lack of time.

Perhaps the original meaning is lost in translation (I'm guessing its a chinese proverb), but I do like your way of interpretation! And I can relate as I'm finally feeling as if the Bruch Gm is within reach - this would be an ENORMOUS milestone for me but I won't consider it 'done' until it flows not just from my fingers but from my inner core....

Good luck with the big M! Whats after that?

December 14, 2012 at 10:18 PM · Ah but Elise, you read differently because you seem to take destination as an end while I take it as a means to the end. The end to me is the quality and richness of the journey itself. Goals I set and destination that I can envision are there so that the paths can be travelled but not the other way around. Based this assumption, the 'Life is short and the journey is long' can only be read positively, yes? It's not a Chinese proverb, by the way. I would say so if it was. It's just my funny way of thinking and talking.

Yes, feeling not yet done is actually a lucky one. Sometimes I do feel sad that certain things are too easy for me to achieve (maybe my stadards are very low) and I just don't value what I've accomplished as much as I probably should. Knowing this tendency of mine, I couldn't stop feeling that I could have had a much shallower character had everything I wanted to accomplish was super easy. Luckily, there are still tons of challenges ahead of me.

What after the big M? Probably some Mozart for a change, and the violin concerto #1 will be nice for instance, but I'm not really sure. My teacher may have different ideas.

December 15, 2012 at 02:08 AM · Elise wrote:

this would be an ENORMOUS milestone for me but I won't consider it 'done' until it flows not just from my fingers but from my inner core....

I'm still trying to achieve that flow with twinkle; I'll get it one of these days. But, who cares, I'm enjoying the journey and that's all that matters. The good news is I have lots of challenges ahead, so I will never run out of things to learn. Violin is truly a lifetime endeavor.

December 15, 2012 at 10:45 PM · I think it's valuable to have violinistic goals such as I want to play in a community orchestra, or I want to play the Bach Chaconne. But I think it's more important that you enjoy the process, that you enjoy the experience every time you pick up the violin. If practicing is drudgery for you, and you're only doing it in the hope that you'll enjoy it someday when you "become good" then it's not worth it.

December 15, 2012 at 11:44 PM · why ask a question and then pick apart peoples answers? this couldve been a fun thread. I know someone else like that. bummer.

December 16, 2012 at 12:15 AM · robert - did you perhaps miss my reply above?

December 16, 2012 at 01:28 AM · eh... never mind.

December 18, 2012 at 03:58 AM · My goal is to make up for lost time. I was denied the opportunity to play as a child, and I just want to play. Someday it would be great to play well enough to participate in a quartet, I love chamber music. In the meantime my fiddling has gotten advanced enough that I can enjoy playing solo or in a group for others - can't tell you how much fun it is to SHARE the instrument with others. It is a JOY to participate in a jam session, duet, or just make somebody smile with the violin. And it makes my heart very happy.

December 18, 2012 at 09:17 AM · Julie - what a happy goal :) Maybe you are ready to play in an orchestra? Its a quartet with training wheels (I may get killed for that!). You get to play difficult pieces without being paranoid about making an error - and it comes with a built in coach who waves a stick at you to keep you in time.

June 14, 2015 at 06:53 PM · I've just discovered this thread - hi, Elise!

I returned to the violin three and a half years ago - I've just turned 64. I love playing, and Things Violin have taken over my life. I've had three teachers - two I parted company with, because I felt they didn't like teaching and didn't really care about my progress or feelings. I'm still with Fiddle Guru after three years, though - he's a professional baroque violinist, a great argufier, very funny, plays like an angel & is hugely inspiring.

I began by thinking that exams would motivate me, and I did pass a very basic one, but I have now realised that I don't really want to take that route - I'm not interested in the Classical Repertoire, and would probably never be much good. But I would love to sound competent when playing Early Music and Folk Fiddle.

My secret dream is that my husband and I could perform with other amateur musicians, in a very low level way at local functions. However, my nerves won't let me get anywhere near that yet, apart from the fact that I don't know any local amateur musicians! A second secret dream would be to play for Country Dancing - John and I have been lifelong dancers. At the moment, I'm nowhere near fast enough.

As I put in more years on the violin, I'll get better - and as I put in more years on the Planet, I'll get worse. Hopefully, somewhere around the mid-line, there'll be about eighteen months when I might be able to play well enough to satisfy me...

Luckily, I loved playing from the first moment I took up my fiddle again, on Christmas Eve 2011, so even if I get nowhere at all, I am happy. Music is the Miracle of my retirement.

June 14, 2015 at 09:53 PM · My goals are to play with others, and to play Bach. Both with nice sound and good intonation. My teacher would be proud of me if he knew ;-).

This is a happy time, because I found a small ensemble (3 recorders, a clarinet and an out of tune violin - me) which has rehearsals every two weeks playing baroque music. And I'm working on the Bach Double. I still have to meet the two stated conditions, and I suppose this is going to remain the case as long as I get to play.

A previous goal was to join a community orchestra. I did so and it wasn't a happy experience. Now I intend to work on basics for the next two years and hope to join (better) ad hoc orchestras after that. But I wonder if my playing will ever be fast enough for that. We'll see.

The real, underlying goal though is to express myself through music. Previously I did so through my voice, now I want to learn how to speak with the voice of my beautiful violin.

June 15, 2015 at 04:13 AM · Hi, all. I have 4 goals, some of which overlap with Mollie's and Zina's. First, get through "Basics". (Yes, Zina, still working on it!) Second, develop my musical voice through my new viola. Third, get fast enough to play a gig with my Scottish Fiddler group. (Aiming for end of this summer.) Fourth (and maybe this is a pipe dream), play chamber music with my viola.

By the way, my teacher told me that the only way to get fast is to play with a metronome and keep track of your progress.

August 10, 2015 at 11:05 AM · Great to see this topic has sprung back to life - the internet just carries on without you doesn't it!

Zina - your course seems very similar to mine. I also joined an orchestra and even got to solo with it - but there were also some not so nice experiences. I'm not really an orchestra animal - like you I want to develop my own voice and I've been working very hard on that for the past 2-3 yrs.

I guess I should give an update. Over the past three years I've worked with three teachers, each of which has given me a lot of insight and improved my playing - the best thing of all is that I seem to be overcoming my performance anxiety (that was crippling). That's a story of its own but the outcome has been to perform with a local chamber music club and then to play two solos at a summer camp in Maine (Mozart sonata and the second movement of the Bach Aminor). Both went really well and best of all I really enjoyed the performance.

Next up a rather challenging chamber music summer camp in NH.

August 10, 2015 at 11:08 AM · Francesca,

I'm afraid I don't agree with your teacher on "By the way, my teacher told me that the only way to get fast is to play with a metronome and keep track of your progress." That works fine once your fingers know how to play fast - I know because I struggled for years with this until my last teacher taught me how to do exercises to speed the finger action. No amount of struggling is going to make you play fast if you can not physically do it. This may be a particular issue for returning and adult learners.

August 10, 2015 at 11:32 AM · great to see you back Elise! I was getting worried.

August 10, 2015 at 12:37 PM · Hi Elise,

Congratulations on your progress! Were your performances recorded? I would certainly enjoy listening to them.


August 10, 2015 at 01:02 PM · Der Weg ist das Ziel. German Proverb

The way is the goal.

August 10, 2015 at 01:14 PM · Hi Jean,

Yes, I took on an admin at FB violinists which was fun but with 13K members it became too much (I'm still a working girl, if you excuse the phrase!)).

Zina - I did upload some on soundcloud but removed them after a while: everything is a work in progress now and what I found is that if someone finds a recording you made 5 years ago they assume you haven't changed. Since thats quite the opposite of the assumption with youngsters its another 'adult violinist' liability.

August 10, 2015 at 03:12 PM · I have no goals, and I have lots of goals, and there are things I don't want to do.

I don't want to be a soloist. I don't want to play in a pop band. I don't want to play folk music. I don't particularly like playing in large orchestras either. I like playing in chamber orchestras, and I love playing chamber music, though I don't get to do that very often.

I want to continue learning as best I can, so lessons will continue for the foreseeable future. I guess the best description of my goal is "I want to do what violists do" (no jokes, please). Learn from teachers, learn technique, learn repertoire, learn the Cello Suites and maybe play them to a teacher's satisfaction (ha), play in duos and trios and quartets and quintets and sextets and octets. I realize that as an adult I am limited in what I can hope to achieve, but I hope I never reach that limit.

August 10, 2015 at 03:39 PM · I don't know that I have solid goals. I'm playing in a chamber ensemble. It would be nice to join a community orchestra at some point, but I'm not ready yet. One day I would like to play unaccompanied Bach, and Biber's Passacaglia. Again, I have a very long way to go and I'm not in a rush to get there.

Really, for now, the journey is the thing. I'm enjoying the process. As for goals, we'll get there when we get there. Unlike child-beginners, I don't have an expiration date imposed by a need to finish my secondary education by a certain time or a professional career won't happen. I already have a career in another profession so this is all gravy.

August 10, 2015 at 04:08 PM · Elise, I think you should keep your old recordings up, just date them -- I'm betting that the progression is interesting to listen to!

My own playing is evolving. This is my second adult return to the violin, and even after two and a half years, my playing is well short of where I left off as an adult in my 20s, and enormously far from how I played as a teenager. Most of that seems to be control, precision, agility, and speed, predominantly in the left hand.

On the other hand, my current teacher has also dramatically altered my sound -- tone production and vibrato -- for the better, although now I have to remember to cut back the denseness of a more soloistic sound when playing in orchestra. And I have a handful of new left-hand tricks; my previous teachers always believed that my hands are too small to do a lot of extensions and big stretches (tenths, for instance). The tenths are still a real pain, but they're doable, and the fingering in true extensions (rather than very fast clean shift-crawls, which is how I was originally taught to compensate) has become pretty natural.

More than anything, though, what I want is to get back that sense of total control.

August 10, 2015 at 04:11 PM · Lydia Leong: "More than anything, though, what I want is to get back that sense of total control."

Total control? That happens? I want that! :-)

August 10, 2015 at 06:26 PM · Yes Lydia - the progression is fun, maybe one day I will have the courage to share it but for now its the present that counts.

Total control? Thats exactly what I don't want - unless you mean technical control but even there I like the chinese adage: "Learn everything and then forget it". I want the technique in my body so that I never have to think of it - so that I can actually completely stop control. I want the music to flow from somewhere inside through the violin - and I will hear it at the time the listeners do.

To wax poetic...

August 10, 2015 at 06:34 PM · To me, that's what total control means - to be able to transmit whatever I'm feeling at the moment to the viola, and have it come out the way I meant it. But *not* having to think about every step. Definitely not that.

August 11, 2015 at 12:45 PM · Elise,

I think it's all about the sleeping giant within us that suddenly decided to wake up. This is the time when we feel we need to express ourselves and do something that perhaps we've always wanted to do but made the excuse that we didn't have time.

Having said that, going through the learning process has helped me in many aspects in professional and personal life. I'm a management & strategy consultants by trade so learning music has helped me in decomposing problems and working on little pieces and being accurate among many other things.

But best of all, it's where you freely express yourself and don't care about the world.

August 11, 2015 at 01:04 PM · Pity we're almost at the thread length limit; this is an interesting discussion.

Total control means that things happen exactly as you want them to happen, just by thinking about it. If possible, it lets you think purely in images and the mechanical things that create the right sound simply happen by themselves. Or you can think about specific technical things, like "I want to drop this finger just a little late".

You still have to apply an interpretation, but control is what lets you immediately execute a suggestion or thought.

August 12, 2015 at 11:00 AM · My aim is simply to have fun making music with good musicians.

As someone who started the fiddle in his late 50s my potential would be very limited if I focused on classical.

But I have wide musical tastes so I'm concentrating on traditional Scottish and English fiddle, where you can go a long way with clean basic technique. It's a world where musicality is more important than virtuosity - the key is learning how to add lift and drive to fairly simple tunes, which is challenging but doable in a way that playing the Chaconne to a high standard is not.

One of the joys of traditional music is that you get the opportunity to sit in on sessions with brilliant professional players - something that's not realistic with classical. I've already reached the level where I can do this without embarrassing myself, and it's a tremendous treat.

But in the past I've enjoyed making music at a high level in classical small choirs, and I'd like to experience that kind of tight ensemble work again. I'm already getting invites to sit in with local dance bands as an occasional, and feel that I'm within a year or two of being able to work up arrangements to performance level with duos and small groups, perhaps for charity gigs.

I know I bang on about this but I do feel that many late starters would have more fun if they weren't exclusively zoned in on classical. You can focus less on developing advanced technique and more on making music!

August 12, 2015 at 01:35 PM · Well said Geoff.

Widely appreciated and enjoyed, classical orchestra and ensemble adult beginner opportunities are not universally available so you have to go with the flow. I enjoy the "classical" development and it is part of my goals, but no direct application. Fun to make them dance.

Be of good service and have fun covers most of it.


August 12, 2015 at 02:15 PM · I was "completely zoned in on classical" as Geoff mentioned because, frankly, I just really adore classical violin and I enjoy playing it and trying to improve, even though it's so terribly difficult and my progress seems glacial most of the time. As I've said in other threads, if that struggle is not a pretty fair part of what you enjoy about classical violin, then obviously it's a poor choice of hobby. As for me, I love it.

But recently one of my local musician friends put together a Brazilian group (AC Jobim bossas and the like), and he included me on violin. The others are guitar, bass, and percussion. I'm the only amateur in the group, but I'm holding my own. I'm playing or doubling a lot of the melodies and harmony parts for now, building up some improv skills (just in rehearsal for now), and enjoying it very much. Knowing all those tunes from my longtime "other career" as a jazz pianist definitely helped. Next rehearsal I'll make a video to share in my blog here on

Five years ago, however, I would not have enjoyed the Brazilian opportunity nearly as much because my overall technique was probably not up to the task, and I would have been stumbling around and playing mostly out of tune. I think having practiced and performed so much classical violin music during that time built those skills much more efficiently than other genres would have.

August 12, 2015 at 02:39 PM · Paul -

I'd certainly agree that a sound foundation in classical technique will help with pretty much any genre, which is why I hang out here.

There are far too many folk musicians with great imagination but iffy technique. Or with such bad technique that you can't even make out what tune they're playing when they lead!

I'd recommend to any adult learner that they find a teacher with some classical background, at least until they have nailed down some of the basics. But at that point, as we've both found, we can play at a higher level with other, less technically demanding genres.

August 12, 2015 at 03:12 PM · Another important factor is the musical / social context for an adult learner. Most of us amateurs are unable to have a solo recital, but play chamber music or in the orchestra.

Where we live and with whom we play will drive us toward better sound and freedom of musical expression, or slow down and limit our ability to grow as a musician. No teacher can help here, unless, he / she is willing to play duets or sit down in a string quartet with the student.

Just like Moses, we may see the promised land, but never get there. Frustrating.

Personally, my goal is to have as much fun as I legally can, and play music until I drop dead - but just 5 minutes after I pass my violin to a trusted friend!

O Elise, where art thou?

August 13, 2015 at 01:33 PM · Geoff wrote, "I'd recommend to any adult learner that they find a teacher with some classical background, at least until they have nailed down some of the basics."

I agree with that. If folk fiddling is going to be your thing, I don't think the basics include four-octave scales in fingered tenths. Double stops, however, should be started as soon as the student can play a reliable two-octave scale and has developed comfortable hand position and can draw the bow on an even plane. I think most teachers tend to start vibrato too soon, double stops too late. Just my thoughts.

I enjoyed this thread. Thanks to Elise for starting us off.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Find a Summer Music Program
Find a Summer Music Program

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Business Directory Business Directory Guide to Online Learning Guide to Online Learning

Dominant Pro Strings

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases


Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin



Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine