2 years later, I am quitting violin

February 25, 2013 at 11:10 PM · Two years ago I bought a beginner's violin. It was a little cheap, but it was good for what I needed it for in the beginning. I took private lessons for a year. 6 months after I started playing, I was bought I upgraded to a brand new, beautiful violin that I bought in Paris, France. I just happened to be vacationing in Europe that summer and while I was in Paris, I purchased a violin. It sounded so much more full in tone and beautiful and my playing sounded better. I was encouraged. Before the end of my first year, I had my first Christmas recital. I played in front of 200 people. It was a fantastic experience and my level of playing at the time of the recital was where it was supposed to be. But a few months after the recital, I noticed I had just not gotten any better. I was practicing 3-4 times a week. Some people told me I had to practice everyday. Some said not to practice everyday. So I just did 3-4 times a week. After my first year of private lessons, my instructor said he could no longer teach me anything that I already do not know. I went on to have a few lessons with a more advanced violinist, but it was a nightmare. He treated every lesson like military boot camp and got annoyed too easily because I was not advancing as fast as he wanted me to. At one point he basically said, 'well you are old and its harder for you I guess.' I was at the time, 36 and this was coming from a 23 year old who had been playing violin since he could walk. After that unprofessional, hurtful comment, I never returned to the school. I never even went back for my final lesson either.

So I went home and decided to go on with what my first instructor told me to keep doing. But week after week after week, I kept playing the same. Month after month, I never was able to advance. Finally, by the end of the 2nd year, I came to terms with the reality that no matter how much I love violin, I just cannot play it.

I played French horn for years. And I am able to play trumpet as well. But those instruments no longer spoke to me. I wanted something different and challenging and beautiful. I chose violin. I knew I was never going to be a great violinist, but I was expecting that I'd be expectionally good enough to my standards. I tried and tried and after 2 years, I finally have accepted the reality that it is not happening.

People told me I'd be frustrated and discouraged, but to keep pushing forward. But when you come up against frustration and discouragment every time you play, it no longer becomes fun. The love of playing had become a dreaded chore until finally, there was no love of practicing.

It took me awhile to accept it. And now I have. At least I got one beautiful recital out of it and I learned a lot about my limits. And it saddens me that my beautiful violin I brought home all the way from Paris will never be able to be played to its potential.

So no its time for me to move one. I have not given up music. I am in the process of selecting a new instrument. One better suited to my abilities and I can say it will not be a string instrument. I tried, that is all I could've asked of myself.

Steve

Replies (31)

February 25, 2013 at 11:23 PM · just get the dounis principles... ull be fine... listen to heifetz

February 25, 2013 at 11:49 PM · We might actually be able to be helpful to you if we knew how far you actually got during your first year.

For example what music did you play at your recital?

What supplemental studies did your teacher have you working on? What other pieces have you worked on.

What specific things has this 2nd teacher told you?

And so on.

You have made an investment of time and money into playing the violin, it seems a shame that you would stop on the word of this one youngster.

You are too young to not have additional potential after only one year. If you got through that first year chances are you have a lot more of the right stuff in you.

I know a rock musician (on other instruments) who took up violin and in about 18 months he was playing in the 1st violin section of a community orchestra.

A good and UNDERSTANDING teacher is important, and so is DAILY practice.

Andy

February 26, 2013 at 01:25 AM · Whatever it is, its not an age one. I'm over 60, picked up the violin 5 years ago (but did play it as a child) and never looked back.

All I can think of is that you have hit, not a violin wall strictly but another one. If your hurdle is something else no amount of playing is going to fix it. I think you need a very special teacher - perhaps an expert in Alexander technique, or something akin that will approach your issues with a much bigger mindset than how to make a noise from a violin.

If its still your dream then why not go much further afield before committing to quit?

February 26, 2013 at 02:17 AM · If you want to quit, quit.

If you want to play, play--

find a teacher with whom you can communicate well, who appreciates your goals (and time limitations). Different teachers work better with different students.

If you play other instruments, you know what you need to do. If the desire is there, the rest can be made to work. And another thought; progress is rarely linear or consistent. We make great leaps, then stop, then crawl, then go backwards (or it feels like that), then we leap again.

I've found that when I have fewer expectations I both make better progress and see more clearly what I am actually achieving (which I tend to miss if I'm only looking for what I want/expect to see happening).

February 26, 2013 at 03:34 AM · I definitely agree with Marjory. I'm not going to try and convince you not to quit, but if you don't connect with your teacher, and you go every week and you pay money and you try and listen to everything they say and do and put them into action, of course you are going to feel worse and worse.

There are many good teachers, but if you don't have a teacher that inspires YOU, then you will want to quit. You need to find someone that you connect with, who can keep you level headed when you feel like crap about your progress. One that puts you down, or where weird power dynamics come into play is not going to help you grow. And one teacher may be terrible for one student and great for another.

Anyways, if you are curious, find another teacher, take three lessons and listen to your gut. Then find another teacher and try it out. That's its own adventure, but if you still have any reason to want to play, then you need to hold off on going all in until you find the right fit.

February 26, 2013 at 05:01 AM · Daily practice is essential...and then more practice !

You had two teachers which were not all that good. Try another teacher. The violin requires a good teacher and the lack of one will always impede progress.

You MUST practise every day : scales, bowing, vibrato, reading music etc.

February 26, 2013 at 05:32 AM · I'm completely puzzled why a teacher would tell you that after a mere year of playing, that he couldn't teach you anything that you didn't already know. If that were the case, you would have had to be an absolute genius, and your post implies that you do not feel that to be the case.

Perhaps the teacher that you were with only felt he could teach beginning violin, in which case you should have been better off with the next teacher, who would in theory help you to progress methodically beyond that point.

So I agree. It'd be useful to know at what stage you stopped at.

February 26, 2013 at 05:46 AM · hello

why are you allowing yourself to be so vunerable?

as an adult student, just a few points:

- what your teacher told you is not acceptable and is a sign of his or her own immaturity in principle. however, s/he is 23 and probably did not have many adult students to teach before you. look at it in a mature way; you are older so you have that advantage. either teach that teacher that this attitude is not helpful and is not acceptable to you or find a teacher who has dealt with adult students and realizes that their time is limited as functioning adults.

- in my experience, the best is to practice daily or near daily (well, you can take one day off). it is a time where you dont think about the teacher, what s/he wants, what people expect you to, what you expect to..whatwhatwhat..etc. its just a time about practicing and enjoying your practice as if it were the objective and not the means with some aim that will materialize in a short time span. focus on the material not on the useless spectres that are irrelevant to your practice session. personally, i do an hour to two daily.

-with what i read, all musical instruments are, in the long run, not easy to master and require work.

-if you are not improving, it may just be that your teacher is not focusing on the nitty gritties. or you are not. my teacher has helped loads but i also start my practice with bowing excercises, vibrato excercises..etc..warming up both hands/arms... that my teacher did not prescribe and that i pick up from books and dvds (mr. simon fischer).

February 26, 2013 at 07:42 AM · You do love and want to play the violin but have high expectations for yourself and say you have accepted that you can't play, after just two years and little over a year of coaching.

Your first teacher apparently felt he was not right for you and you felt the same about the second. You have been going it alone since with, you feel, little progress.

The question for you is have you really given up on learning the violin or just on finding a suitable teacher?

Putting aside the answer to that question for a moment. What in your mind are, let's say, four main stumbling blocks to playing better?

February 26, 2013 at 08:15 AM · sorry to hear that.. I'm an adult beginner too (35 now, started one year ago). fortunately I have a very understanding and encouraging teacher, plus a facebook group, where everyone is so encouraging and I can vent if I hit a low. Hope all the best - either you'll find a better teacher with experience of adult pupils, or, well, another instrument that keeps your passion for music alive!

February 26, 2013 at 09:14 AM ·

February 26, 2013 at 09:36 AM · I would say, don't give up. Not if you love the violin. What if you don't get much better in the sense of playing challenging works? You gave a recital, and you can improve in the sense of trying out new repertoires, producing a better tone, improving techniques & vibrato. Your teacher was just silly or in a bad mood & you are more mature.

I took the violin up again last year, aged 60, and I love it. I practise every day but it's no chore. I just love trying out new Playford & folk tunes, also baroque. My teacher is always fretting that I don't 'stretch myself' but he's a gifted & impatient young man; I am a patient & contented older woman. I love my violin & rediscovering it again 45 years after I gave it up at school feels like a miracle.

But if you don't love your violin - if you're only in the game to prove how clever you are, or to utilise your lovely French instrument - then indeed you would be better giving up. Life's too short to waste on something that leaves you cold. Sell your lovely violin to someone who will love and cherish her.

February 26, 2013 at 10:01 AM · "But if you don't love your violin - if you're only in the game to prove how clever you are, or to utilise your lovely French instrument - then indeed you would be better giving up. Life's too short to waste on something that leaves you cold. Sell your lovely violin to someone who will love and cherish her."

well put Mollie.

[Oh and Hi from someone with a very similiar violin history... but maybe a bit more ambitious ;) ]

February 26, 2013 at 03:40 PM · Lots of good comments here, especially Tammuz.

A few ideas ...

1. Are there no other teachers in your area? Sounds like your first teacher just didn't like you and came up with a lame excuse.

2. Are you searching for a new instrument in the hopes of finding something easier than the violin? Maybe if you returned to the trumpet but focused on jazz you would have a head start.

3. Have you considered videotaping your violin lessons? That usually has a way of attenuating poor behavior on the part of the teacher while giving you something you can refer to midweek.

4. Perhaps the violin is not sufficiently social and you feel isolated. You could try to find someone at about your level to play some duets.

February 26, 2013 at 04:06 PM · Many, many great comments, both pro and con.

I would add only this. Yes, you risk something by quitting, and you risk something by sticking with it.

But whatever you finally decide to do, I hope that you recognize that you have not made a mistake. Not only for me personally, but as a psychologist who has spent decades providing (among other things) career counseling, I can tell you that nothing - and I mean NOTHING - you ever do in life is wasted. And no one has a crystal ball; you never know when it will have become an advantage to have done it.

If the violin is ultimately part of your personal fate, this period of doubt will have been a valuable test of your commitment.

If the violin is not for you, then I will tell you that some day there will be something that happens for which your time and energy spent on the violin will prove to provide a unique advantage you could never have predicted and which you could never have achieved in any other way.

And I know you are wise to have shared your dilemma with the talented and good people on this website.

Cheers,

Sandy

February 26, 2013 at 04:39 PM · "Some people told me I had to practice everyday."

I agree with this method. Even so, I prefer to vary the practice routine from one day to the next, although not too widely, so that I don't get into a rut. A few times a year, maybe once every 3-4 months, I'll take a week off.

Good teacher/pupil teamwork and relationships are crucial. Your teacher's comment was indeed unprofessional. I agree with your decision to cut him off by not returning. I would have done likewise. If nothing else, it sends a message that we, the consumers, don't have to put up with such behavior.

And some expert players and one-time child prodigies are poor teachers. Some of them are frustrated prima donnas, bitter that they have to support themselves by teaching. It may take some time and a few tryouts to connect with the right instructor for you, but these folks are definitely out there. If violin is an instrument you really like to play, I'd definitely stay with it.

Some advice Dad shared with me when I was in my teens has proved helpful ever since: Don't make an important decision like this when you're in one of your highs or lows. Put it aside and let things settle awhile so that you can look at the whole situation with a more dispassionate eye.

Keep us posted.

February 26, 2013 at 04:42 PM · I have worked with several adults in recent years,including a beginner, a returnee and a transfer from another instrument. There seems to be something about the two year mark. The ones who lasted more than two or three months mostly left the violin, stopped lessons, or moved onto a different style of music at about the two-year point. Just making mention. You can read into that as much or little as makes sense to you.

February 26, 2013 at 05:16 PM · Prior to Christmas 2011, I had never picked up the violin. My wife got me one for Christmas which I continue to work on learning. I have my setbacks and my successes but giving up is not really an option. I play for myself and my own enjoyment, it doesn't matter how well or if I am pleasing others. I am 60 years old now....

February 26, 2013 at 07:50 PM · Practice everyday is an ideal... but let's be real, people can skip a day if they need to. Busy amateurs and I beleive even pros sometime have other things which happens in their day and they have to adapt to it. We are adults, not babies and we know what it costs to skip a day, a few days, a week etc. And we might accept to pay that price sometimes if we have temporarly another immediate priority to deal with. (only exception is maybe a professional or someone preparing auditions etc.)

If you are serious the rest of the time, you won't become a terrible player.

But as with everything, when one starts learning an art, they can more easily "lose everything overnight" and to become good, it might take a very regular practice schedule...

If I take my example (I think I'm an average/good amateur in the things I do), I practiced everyday

or almost for about the 2-3 first years and when I skiped a day, I used to loose everything. It was a drama when my teacher took a few weeks off for vacations. Now, studying to become a non-musician professional, I've had some bad periods with not much violin and some days or even exam weeks without playing... and my teacher often goes on vacation. But I don't nearly lose as much as before in these breaks periods. I lose a bit but a few days and it's back... ready to progress again. Itzhak Perlman told me (I met him once...) that violin for him was more or less like bicycle even if he still needs to practice to stay fresh (but the base stays there).

I beleive that with experience, there are many ways of becoming an acceptable or even good musician. Practicing daily should be done as much as possible but that doesn't mean to be a maniac over it or feel very guilty if you skip a day or go on vacation where you can't play...

I've knowned kids who were punished if they didn't practice daily. They couldn't go outside if their playing wasn't done. I think this kind of negative reinforcment is not good for kids as adults. We should learn to cultivate the love instead and we will give efforts naturally for something we love very much...

Anyway, just my two cents on that matter...

Good luck!

Anne-Marie

February 26, 2013 at 08:34 PM · Simple:

Your first teacher was limited in what they could teach you, and luckily, they were honest with you about their capacity.

Your second teacher was just a bad match. Pure and simple.

Practicing by yourself is obviously going to lead to no further improvement, as you don't know what needs improvement since you yourself are a beginner.

I would hazard a guess that you don't truly WANT to quit, otherwise why even bother posting about quitting?

I've been playing for a year and a half. The first year and a quarter I did it on my own, trying to keep up with my kids learning Suzuki. I started lessons four months ago, and lucked out in finding an excellent teacher. Each week is a challenge. A new stretch for my fingers and my mind. Doing it on my own felt nice and comfortable. But it also was quite wrong.

Try finding a new teacher.

Or maybe the viola? :^)

February 26, 2013 at 08:52 PM · There are so many good comments on this post, so I will not repeat too much. For background, I also started out with a brass instrument while a child. I played first chair trumpet all the way through high-school. I had some musical ability, it always came easy to me at that age..I learned quickly. I fell out of love with brass and left it behind at age 18.

Fast forward 30 years. I try to teach myself violin. No lessons, only books. Bad habits. A few pointers here and there (a friend and neighbor is a world-renownded violinist and nice guy). I'm learning, but at a much slower pace than when I was a kid. That's okay. Somewhere on this website someone said that even if you have to play one note per minute to get it right...do that. My trumpet teacher from childhood was good, he used to say "if you can't play it slow, you can't play it fast." the human brain is amazing; play it slow so it becomes muscle memory, it comes slower at 54 let me tell you...but it comes, if you start slow, and increase your metronome slowly. Most importantly, enjoy yourself with each bow stroke.

In the Suzuki book Mr. Suzuki says something like...play everything as beautifully as you can. I do that even with the most simplest exercises, and enjoy doing so. I will never play like Heifetz, or even the 12 year old who frequents the jam sessions and is already amazing, but what I play, I will enjoy.

If you enjoy what you play, whatever level you achieve, then is it not worth it? My thought is that if I reach a certain level beyond which I cannot break through, there are likely 1000s of pieces of music at that level that I can work on and enjoy doing so. I so enjoy listening to my 150 year old instrument next to my ear, the complexity of the sound, even a scale, a portion of a simple passage from the adagio of Tchaikovsky violin concerto, makes it worth it. For me, it's worth it, and what's the hurry when you're enjoying yourself along the way?

February 27, 2013 at 12:57 AM · Sounds like you've made your decision; best of luck to you!

February 27, 2013 at 03:19 AM · Your previous post before this was sharing your situation that you haven't learned higher positions after a while of learning violin and that your teacher kept telling you to play a piece you already knew.

Well, mr. Garza, not all adult learners are supposed to be able to play in higher positions after a while (less than two or three years) of learning so maybe your teacher didn't want to teach you higher positions or whatever you haven't learned because you still have to be good at doing what you've learned, maybe by correcting your pitch, or whatever you still need to correct.

If you really love violin, you need patience. This beautiful instrument needs a lot, a lot, a lot of hard work. But everyone has their own limit, i admit. If i were on a woodwind instruments forum, i would be sharing my frustration of not being able to play my flute and i would be in the same situation as you're now, i'd be quitting playing flute because in fact, in more than a year of time i still can't play my flute (but in my case, not only i am not able to play flute, but i dedicate my musical time more for violin)

Good luck on whatever decision you make

February 27, 2013 at 04:42 AM · I've played for a while with only practicing on the weekends, and still advanced -- but mostly so when the efforts and changes made were thoughtful. Of course thoughtful playing daily would be better than thoughtful playing once a week, but there's nothing magical about the formula of daily playing -- it's simply the maximum possible, and therefore the general best. The more important factor is the thoughtful and specific effort put into improving the playing.

The idea that you'll improve simply with 'practice', or repetition alone, done intensely or frequently, unless you just aren't talented enough, is a terrible one.

February 27, 2013 at 05:30 AM · "well you are old and its harder for you I guess."

WHAT?! You were 36. Not old. That makes me angry. You are still not old, not that age means anything!

Honestly man, I really think that the problem was your teachers, not you. It sounds like the first one wasn't experienced enough to teach or play very well, and the second one is one of those people who can play but can't teacher. In fact the reason he couldn't teach is largely because he had been doing it since such a young age that he had barely any memory of the learning process. He certainly didn't have enough teaching experience to be sympathetic to your needs.

I respect your decision whatever you decide is best for you, but I really hope you don't consider this a personal failure. It sounds to me like you were the victim of bad teaching. In this age where people try to learn violin from youtube, and every violin player with a pulse thinks they're a teacher, I think people forget what a REAL violin instructor is. You didn't deserve to be treated that way.

February 27, 2013 at 01:02 PM · To Sue's point, maybe it takes about 2 years to figure out how difficult it is to learn this instrument. In other words reality sets in. It comes down to expectations. If you have any, then don't learn violin because you will probably disappoint yourself. Lets face it, violin is THE toughest instrument to learn. If you accept your ability as it is and focus on the journey, rather than the destination, then there is a better likelihood you will stick it out.

I'm happy to say that I returned to violin about 5 years ago after a 20 year break. I love the fact that it takes me to a completely different place and I use a completely different part of my brain when I play. I look forward to my daily practice and that's all that really matters. I hope that Steven can find the same happiness.

February 27, 2013 at 03:04 PM · I sense the frustration in your post...however you need to decide if you want to play the instrument or not. If you really do...you make whatever arrangements you need to make to move forward. If you really don't want to...then stop.

And you ARE older. It may very well take you longer. I don't see anything wrong with that statement since it's true. And since you know it's true...you accomodate it.

I practice anywhere from 1-3 hours per day, time permitting...and I'm making progress...albeit slowly.

I was not progressing when I was practicing 30 min. 3X a week - all I was doing was maintaining the level I was at.

So while that might be enough time to learn the basics of a new instrument...it might not be enough time to progress to a new level of technical ability in an instrument you've played for a while. At least not for most of us (adult students, returners, etc.).

If you really like the violin...start by finding a new teacher. I think I've already suggested those at a 'music school' might not be the best for you. You might be better off with an experienced private teacher. Someone older who's worked with adults and their particular needs.

February 28, 2013 at 01:42 PM · I can certainly agree with the amount of practice in reference to progress. I used to practice for 30 minutes a day. I made very slow progress.

Now that I practice 2 hours a day, I'm definitely making progress. Plus, something strange happened along the way. I actively search out tough passages and I practice them...over and over. I mean, I actually LOOK for the tough places to work on. A year ago, doing that would have given me a sense of dread. Now, I get a good feeling doing it, and I can't wait to find the next tough passage. I look at it like a puzzle that needs solving.

I wonder how many other violinists on this forum do that.

---Ann Marie

February 28, 2013 at 03:17 PM · Don: "I hardly ever practice anything I can play"

I've got news for you Don, you can't actually 'play' anything (if 'play' means finished, perfected, done}. Thats why we always do scales - they can always be improved.

It doesn't mean you have to work on everything for ever - but I suggest you identify pieces that you are very fond of and want to get as good as possible - ones that you could perform at the drop of a hat. Those you can work on forever...

February 28, 2013 at 04:37 PM · Steven, are we going to hear back from you? Have you made a decision yet?

Hope you're feeling newly encouraged!

March 1, 2013 at 12:07 AM · I agree with the overall message of many of the previous responders - if the violin is just not for you, that's fine. However, if you really want to play, but gave up based on your experiences with the two teachers you told us about, I hope you will try to find a different teacher. Not every teacher is right for every student.

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