Violin is hard
Trying to learn to play the violin is the most difficult endeavor I have ever attempted. Right now I'm barely a beginner.
For me, it is harder than piano.
And if it makes you feel better, it is harder than operating on a person.
One could teach the technical aspects of operating to a modestly adept person. I don't think everyone could learn how to play the violin. It is just too hard.
So, to those of you who can play and have contributed to vcom with advice, know-how, and inspiration, I salute and bow down before you, anticipating one day, hopefully, to join your ranks.
Excuse me, now, as I slink off to practice....
The difficulty of any task or subject varies from person to person due to differences in mentality and ability. Learning to play the violin is not easy, but I wouldn't say it's insane difficult. In other words, it's doable.
I too developed a new level of admiration and respect for the pros. One has to do it to realize what it takes to achieve such a level. That said, I started at 50 and by the time I turned 56 I was playing with a local community orchestra the Beethoven 2nd symphony and don’t consider myself particularly talented. There is hope, and all you need is persistence and motivation (and an average budget to support it). That said... I have miles to go chiselling at the iceberg still, but the journey is personally enriching.
You will get there yourself Toby by dilligent practice of one to two hours a day under the guidance of a competent teacher. It is indeed a hard thing to play and I think smaller increments of 15 minute practice is more effective then an hour straight for newer players trying to strengthen fingers and relax hands and the upper half of the body.
Viola is more hard.
It really isn't particularly harder than piano (or classical guitar), but they have almost opposite learning curves.
So the more you play, the easier it gets?
There's some truth to the violin being "easier" once things become natural. Then it's just a matter of learning new repertoire and to keep up your technical equipment via diligent, careful daily practice. Once things "click", it gets much better.
Tim: I believe you've been playing for three or four years. You wouldn't know. Never heard someone with a few months of piano experience play decently, but it might be just me.
ANY instrument can be insanely hard. It depends on the repertoire. In the 17th century they didn't need to get to the higher positions. We've been both blessed and cursed by people like Paganini and Heifetz that raised the bar. And likewise in piano--it's as difficult as the repertoire you choose to tackle.
Developing the sense of "good playing" can be hard. It requires a good ear to pick up aural responses of your playing, such as bow change, tone colour, phrasing, volume, etc. And for simplicity sake (obviously not able to speak too deeply into this since I don't play the piano), I think there are more physical variables involved in the tone production of the violin, versus the piano. Which I think is why people say it's "easy" - a beginner of piano can play a few simple tunes in a matter of months, but it won't be a few years on the violin.
« Developing the sense of "good playing" can be hard.« I think this could be said of any instrument, even the simplest. Mastering any instrument is difficult, but certainly mastering sound production on fretless string instruments does require some extremely refined motor skills that goes beyond that of many.
it was the OP who said violin is hard, and I agree. but the only other instrument I can compare it with is guitar. I started guitar when 10, violin at 22, I'm now 64. I can play some pretty decent lead guitar, but imho, violin is much harder than guitar, at least for whatever level I've achieved on either.
What makes violin easier than surgery is the fact that if you make a horrific mistake you can just do it over.
Tone production on piano is hard. It isn’t a naturally singing instrument. You need exceptionally good teaching.
No doubt violin is hard. I am a professional violinist and I still vividly remember walking out of my first lesson at the age of four thinking 'Omg it is crazy how many things I have to think of at the same time!'
Anyway the sheer complexity of these tasks is why we assign them to our children. Because it's good for them.
Strange enough, I’ve seen an old abstract from Etude magazine in 1917, said that piano is more difficult for someone especially elder ones, because two scores of different notes involved, which is very unsuitable for some people without special divided hemisphere function, for their brain cannot control.
It's an interesting question about piano vs. violin. I know an excellent professional pianist who decided to take up cello at age 60 and is enjoying that but making glacial progress. Another guy in his late 40s who's never played an instrument before, he took up cello and one year later he's doing Book 7.
How hard can it be?
I remember thinking that learning to play was going to take a more earnest commitment than I originally thought.In my first few lesson I remember commenting to my teacher that I had learned to play several instruments including piano and finger style guitar and that so far the violin seemed the biggest challenge of those. Not to diminish the effort involved in learning the others.
@Paul Deck, many Romanian and Albanian kids also playing violin well at a very tender age, don’t know why, in 1980s there were numerous Tedi Papavram in Tirana. Though parents can urge kids to progress, I wonder how could they progress so fast, I knew some virtuosi in my country (which are pupils of privileged maestri) started to play tough concerti only after tenth year of violin learning, kids with merely three to five years’ training playing concerti will be regarded as ‘prodigies’, I guess there are some ethnic factors but I am not sure, but I indeed find that in some ethnics kids show more early talent than some other ethnics, in YouTube I once saw five years old North Korean kids playing classical guitar, inverosimil.
I always envy how fast a kid can progress. First they have no issue with moving their fingers fast, then with a brain still in development develop neuropathways I can only dream of, and then grow up to have perfect pitch. There is a clear physical advantage in starting young, which establish a strong foundation to built on top of. If they are focused, they can learn in a week what takes me a month... remaining focussed is however their challenge!
I agree with those who mentioned the steep initial learning curve (compared to piano). My high school teacher told me recently "Violin is a journey. I'm still learning." For some reason I found this reassuring.
My undergrad degree was in biology with a focus on neuroscience. As far as I know, literally the only ethnic advantage that actually exists in learning string instruments is average hand size. It turns out that East Asians have the longest fingers, relative to body size, of any ethnicity. But that's only an average. It certainly doesn't help me, seeing as I have the shortest fingers of any adult I know! Everything else is environment. It may be true that speakers of tonal languages also have a bit of an advantage in intonation, but language is of course an environmental factor.
out of 25 responses, only one is from the OP, Toby Yee. I think Toby could use a little more encouragement.
Robots agree, it is hard-
Kids progress fast? Asians do, but many kids as far as I have seen, who enrolled in conservatory courses, progress poorly, Asians can play tough concerti within three to five years, but kids here will do so at ninth or tenth year (the average age to enter first level course is nine), in a word Asians have more ‘prodigies’.
Too funny. I played piano for 20 years before I ever picked up a violin. And while technique was hard, especially that pesky stick thing, for me it was a revelation. It made so much more sense to the way my brain works than piano ever did.
Thank you for all the wonderful and insightful responses.
Violin is undoubtedly harder than piano, if you are a late starter. Absolutely, no question!
I'll be honest: practicing along with my kids, I initially thought I'd be able to do some modest public performances in groups in a couple of years. Instead... it's inspired me to pick back up the trumpet, which I actually sound pretty good on.
Have you tried to peel kids away from Nintendo Switch? Do they look unfocused? Nope. They can go on for hours, hyper focused, if anything.
another adult learner here, I came from a background of guitar, but never really gelled with it (it didn't seem to speak in the way I wanted to speak if that makes sense).
You have no motivation. Of course you can't play, if you think like this. All great violinists were patient and practiced. You're a beginner. You will be a beginner for a long time. Many people these days have none of the dedication needed to master things that take so much time. Persevere.
...but for the real sadists, the instrument would be the viola, and the man taking up the challenge would be William Primrose.
Historically, viola appeared before the existence of modern violin, as for viol or viola da gamba, I do not know whether it is intrinsically bound to modern violin or viola. In etymology, a violin is a smaller viola, just like a mandolin is a smaller mandola, a mandola is suggested to inherit its name from its almond(mandorla)-like shape.
Imagine how hard violin would be if we had to play the kind of chords that guitar and piano are expected to play. We are let off the hook somewhat!
Christopher Payne, some of the triple-stops we have to play (on viola, anyway) are shaped exactly like some guitar chords. Which would be fine, except the neck is much smaller. All my years playing guitar trained me to place all the fingers at once, which isn't always the best way for viola. This continues to be a hard habit to break.
I know they are more difficult - that's what I'm saying. We have chords in the repertoire but we are not quite in the same league as say, jazz guitarists and pianists both in the scope of the chords and the depth of knowledge. I would say that very generally, violinists don't have much knowledge of chords and chord progressions on their own instrument. As it is so difficult, it is not expected of us to the same degree. It's rather like those time management things in a factory or something - if a task is easy for somebody and they finish it quickly then they are given more to do. A beginning pianist or guitarist can learn a tune quickly while the violinist is still trying to play in tune, hold the thing right and produce some kind of decent tone! Piano players and guitarists have nothing better to do than learn harmony!!!
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