How To Overcome Problems that Aging Causes?

March 3, 2006 at 06:33 AM · I am returning to playing the violin as a hobby after a 10 year absence. At age 41, I was surprised at how difficult the violin is now, even after several months playing with two community orchestras in the second violin section. My brain, eyes, and fingers don't seem to be able to connect anymore. I cannot play passages as fast as I used to, the notes sometimes "dance" around the page and I have a hard time figuring out "is that really a D?" (I have 20/20 vision by the way). Vibrato is now a nightmare. I really have to work harder than I ever did before. I'm assuming aging is the culprit. How do violinists, especially the great ones, deal with age? Am I destined to be on a downward spiral, eventually to give up my instrument, like Olympic heroes are washed up before age 30? What are the secrets to being able to play well at age 40, 50, 60?

Replies (15)

March 3, 2006 at 10:21 AM · A left handed violinist with no vibrato...Well you could always take up THE VIOLA.

Yes...did you know that you do not really need vibrato with the viola as most of the notes are open strings.

You should email Robby Schwartz (or what ever his name is) as he also cann't do vibrato. He has developed a 'fake' vibrato. I have heard it's quite good.

March 3, 2006 at 11:42 AM · It isn't your age, at least not at 41, it's the 10 year absence. You'd have the same problem if the span was 11-21 or 21-31. If you don't have genuine physical problems, in a couple years you'll be better than you ever were. Been there, done that.

March 3, 2006 at 12:22 PM · I agree. I haven't played as much in the past few years due to elbow tendonitis, but I'm getting back to it, and I'm 64.

I don't know how you are practicing, but I've got a few suggestions. First, set a minimum time each day. The minimum time should be so minimum that you could do it on your worst day when you have no time or energy. I suggest 3 minutes. That's your "daily chore." But that 3 minutes has to be with:

1. Full concentration, at least 100%.

2. Play basic technical things - a shift, a scale, a bow change, a particularly difficult passage from a piece you are learning or practicing.

3. Play different things each day.

4. Play super slowly.

5. Concentrate on getting it PERFECT in every way.

6. At the end of 3 minutes, you can do whatever you want. Keep playing or do something else. But your daily obligation is over.

Advantages? You will concentrate better. You will practice every day. And any additional playing you do will be because you WANT TO, NOT because you HAVE TO.

Maybe it's not for professionals, but it got me through a demanding graduate program in clinical psychology years ago with my technique (such as it is) intact and even improved a little.

Cordially, Sandy

And, PS, playing the viola won't help. It might even cause a lowering in your IQ by a couple of points.

March 3, 2006 at 02:31 PM · Wow, I didn't know that about playing the viola, Sandy.

Is *that* what happened to me? And here I thought it was just all the drinking...


They're right, though. At 41 (I'm not there yet, but at this rate it'll be soon...) your muscles might fatigue more easily at first, but some good exercise should help with that. I also had a sizeable hiatus in playing, and it does take a frustratingly long time to get back your skills. It also depends on how much skill you had when you stopped playing, and how automatic all these things were to you. But you'll find that you do some things better than you did before, too! Don't give up, and don't worry about growing old yet! :)

March 3, 2006 at 02:47 PM · Hey, Patti; your comments are right on. And stay away from that viola. Other things to stay away from that can lower your IQ:

- Working for politicians.

- Believing politicians.

- Listening to politicians.

- Looking at politicians.

- Saying the word "politicians."

Cordially, Sandy

March 3, 2006 at 06:01 PM · christine, it sounds to me as if you need physical exercise to strengthen your deep internal musculature. try pilates or yoga if you can to loosen your muscles up and do stretching exercises to limber up before and after you play.

you may also want to work on breathing exercises if you find your eyes going haywire; you may be holding unnecessary stress if you are a breath-holder when you play the violin.

March 3, 2006 at 09:08 PM · Greetings,

1) assuming you wear glasses , wear them a slittle a sposisble and take them off whenever you can.

2) take Alexander lesosns and yoga. This is not an either or. Yoga is a fantastic practice and AT is a precusor to doing any kind of physicla activity as opposedto being deifnable as a form of exercises.

3) Many mainstream foods will screw you up. In order of badness:

salt (a little good salt is okay)





(bad doesnZ"yt imply giving up If you switched from red meat to chicken you would begin to experience imediate health benifits, for example)





tropical fruit

To protect and limer the joints as well as kick start your immune system take one dessert spoon of



youcan put it on rice or insald or whatever. Do not cook with it. That is dangerous.

And like everyone says, age is not the problem. I play a hell of a lot better at forty than I did at twenty. Its mechanics and undertsanding .



March 3, 2006 at 09:17 PM · Christine: I'll echo an earlier comment . . . it is the 10-year layoff, not the aging. I didn't play for 8 years between ages 29-37. Restarting was excruciating (for me and all who had the misfortune to hear) - it was 6 months before I'd even open the study door while practicing.

But it will come, and there's a silver lining in restarting: you have a golden opportunity to practice smarter, and get rid of any bad habits you might have had earlier. Retraining muscles takes a lot of time, and it is harder as you get older. Careful systematic practice of scales and exercises will help a lot. Hang in there, be patient, and take things gradually. Set limited goals for yourself that are easily achieved (e.g., I'm going to do that set of position changes in Sevcik cleanly). Final suggestion: don't try to do it yourself, get a good teacher, who will be of great help in advising you on exercises appropriate to the skills you need to reacquire. And being an adult, you should be a faster learner! Good luck.

March 4, 2006 at 05:31 AM · Dear Christine,

Rejoice! you're just a young chick! I'm now 52 and started back to playing 2 1/2 years ago after decades off! Maybe a little of what you are experienceing is age - eyesight does change at age 40. Even though your vision may be 20/20 you might be suffering from a stigmatism (the dancing notes).

Yes, it's a challenge to try and regain technique, but all things come with time and persistence. One thing, I have experienced that I do attribute to age, is that I don't retain what I have practiced and learned. I learn something and then the next day, it seems I have to learn it over again. Where as in my youth, I could learn something and it would stick. I have learned to accept this but at the same time, I have the wisdom of experience to be able to set fingering, bowings, phrasing etc. much quicker than in my youth.

So hang in there. What we give up in age, we also gain in wisdom and insight - just give yourself time, your technique will return and rejoice in the maturity of music you have learned over the years! Have fun and good luck,


March 4, 2006 at 03:22 AM · I will be 60 in April and I play better than ever before. The longer I have played and the more I learned the easier it got. I play full length operas and am less tired and stressed than most of the younger players.

I also memorise better now.

Three things:

1. You have to really understand what you are trying to do. Study!

2. You MUST practice regularly and diligently. This doesn't mean lots of time, just every day and carefully.

3. Don't measure what you are doing relative to other people's performance or success.

Have fun!

P.S. If you are experiencing symptoms of vision problems or joint problems have them evaluated thoroughly by a physician. Correct what you can and just put the rest out of your mind; you have done what you can about them so don't worry any more. Just get on with your playing.

March 6, 2006 at 01:39 PM · My little 3-minute idea was actually published in the 1970's in a music journal. I have put the entire article on a web page:

If you don't locate it right away, give it a day or two to get up there.

Cordially, Sandy

March 6, 2006 at 04:18 PM · Hi Christine

"The grass is greener on the side of the fence" applies to our youth. With age,we tend to idealize the past.


March 6, 2006 at 05:33 PM · Hi, Alain: Do yourself a favor. Don't idealize the past. It wasn't as ideal as you think anyway, right? Enjoy every single minute of today, right now. I'm at an age where I'm beginning to see some of my friends and associates develop medical problems and die. Life is too short to look backwards, at any age.

Cheers, Sandy

March 6, 2006 at 10:46 PM · Greetings,

I agree with Sander. the past is ofetn crap becauase we never knew what to do with it. Now I have grown up I can really enjoy eveyr minute of being a child.



March 7, 2006 at 12:05 AM · I refuse to grow up!

So there!!


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