What is considered unattainable for late starters?
Hi, I am a late starter, and this is my first post.
So there are no late starter world-class violinists. I believe, however, that a late starter, if trained well, can sound as good as a professional if the piece is easy enough. I'm curious to know about the repertoires that are considered inaccessible for a late starter, and what techniques exactly in the repertoire that are inaccessible (e.g., intonation, left hand pizzicato, double stops, etc...)
What's the furthest you have ever seen a late starter go? Can a late starter play Vivaldi's presto well enough, or one of the more advanced pieces like the caprices by Paganini? And by well enough, I mean in a way that's free of mistakes and with the right tempo.
Basically, I am curious to know what my limits will be. Will I ever be able to play pieces that are full of richochet bowing like Paganini's 1st caprice? Or will I ever be able to play Bach's adagio?
I understand that people are different and that there are many factors involved, so I'll never know an exact answer to my question unless I've practiced for perhaps a decade. But I think that observations about late starters can give a rough estimate.
Thanks in advance.
Depends on what you mean by late starter. I've met several teenage starters who play in regional professional orchestras. The extreme example is Terje Moe Hansen, who started at 19 and became a soloist and conservatory professor.
Technically, nothing is impossible....Realistically anything listed as an 8 or above on http://www.violinmasterclass.com/ will most likely not be possible for the vast majority of late starters...I don't think there is a single case of a late starter playing anything from the level 10 repertoire.
For most late starters, the main limitation is the amount of time that can be devoted to learning the instrument. If you have to support yourself, you can't practice for hours every day, and often scheduling lessons around a full-time work schedule is difficult.
Not know what is the definition of late, in terms of onset of puberty or other? Compared with common people living before WWII, malnutrition is rare today, which means that kids growing more rapidly than before. I know among Italians, many started relatively late can play Paganini capricci, for example Piero Farulli, from a shoemaker family, not had chance to touch instrument, started violin at 14 and later became violist and violinist, once teaching in Scuola di Fiesole, one of my former teachers was his student.
Happpy Easter and welcome M.Hemeda!
Late starting for me as a violinist was in my early 60s - although I'd already had a lifetime of cello playing before and therefore had some idea of the relationship between bow and strings - so I've never really thought about the solo violin repertoire, certainly as far as the higher reaches are concerned.
You haven't said how old you are, so we can give no answer. However, you can do the math yourself.
Scott, can you cite the source? The formula appears to suggest smarter ( higher IQ) folks decline at a greater rate := )
A cosine in this sort of equation is strange, I would have expected perhaps an inverse exponential function for the decline. There is also something missing from the equation - a constant for today's date ;)
Trevor, I am sure it is a joke: )
Definitely a joke.
Cosines linked to finger length? Maybe something to do withfinger curvature, or the arc-shpaed finger-fall? Does this part of the formula make longer or shorter fingers lapse their trainability faster?
The only way to find out is to go for it.
All-- For those that don't know him, Scott C. can be a very funny guy.
The question is more whether ones life will be sustainable enough for ones goals.
V is a coefficient=.0821.
Mr/Mrs Hemeda you still have not told us what you meant by late starter. That would help greatly to answer your question. If you are 12yrs old, that is a lot different than if you are 50.
I agree with Trevor about études;: I find it better to do fully aware, analytical, repetitive practice of extracts of repertoire (solo, chamber or orchestral). But I may take Kreutzer's on vacation since these études have a real musical structure.
The thing is, if you're a really late starter, when you're in your dotage you'll want people to remark that that old guy must have been really good at one time. That would make my day.
To be half-serious and semi-quantitative:
Dear all, thanks for your helpful answers and for being welcoming. And sorry for ambiguously using the term late starters. Personally, I am in my mid twenties and I've started about a year ago. And happy Easter everyone
Everything is possible, just not likely. But put into perspective that also not every early beginning infant ever plays advanced Paganini either. So I would stop worrying about the "attainable" (which is a big unknown, with so many variables depending on the individual, specific training, circumstances, etc.) and work to be the best violinist you can be, day by day-which is itself a huge undertaking.
As a late starter (31 years old) I am genuinely curious as to how far I could go with Violin repertoire.
"Also, what is the most difficult classical piece you have observed or taught a late starter (30-ish) playing successfully (passably)?"
Thank you @Andrew!
Will, the necessary (but not sufficient) conditions for kids to advance are (1) a good teacher (2) effective, focused practice of at least 3 hours a day. That should also apply to adult beginners (who may face additional challenges).
3 hours? I don't think it's necessary for adults. I did that for about 8 months in 2007-08 (age 24-25) and about a month at the end of 2015 (age 32), but other than those times I've rarely averaged more than an hour and a half a day. Shorter practice times will still add up over years, if the practice is focused and effective. If you've already missed the boat on getting into a conservatory, there's no need to rush to be at a certain level within a certain number of years. I estimate that, by the time I'm 40, I'll have accumulated as much focused, effective practice time as a 20-year-old conservatory student.
Tutti, the Italian system sounds great. 300 euros or less a year and zero to Paganini in 10 years! Were it in the US, it would drive a lot of unregulated private studios, none of which can do zero to paganni for ALL of its students, out of business.
Scott wrote, "V is a coefficient, 0.0821". That's the gas constant, so it suggests the origins of his equation are in classical statistical thermodynamics...
The real question is not, "What level can a student who starts at X age get to?"
Tutti violini, I think we may have some confusion over the terms we're using. I use "conservatory" to refer to a place for advanced training like Juilliard or Curtis, where the average age of students entering is around 18.
David: a good teacher is USUALLY required. There are exceptions. Albert Sammons, one of the leading British violinists in the first half of the 20th century, was taught by his father to intermediate level and almost completely self-taught beyond that. But obviously no one can really count on being one of those exceptions.
YOU set your limits. Don't let anyone else tell you what you can and cannot achieve. Just because it hasn't been done, doesn't mean it can't be done. Pour your heart into it and practice like crazy. You got this!
"'The real question is not, "What level can a student who starts at X age get to?"'
I had to LOL at Scott.
A vital factor seems to have been omitted from the Scott Cole Equation - the ratio between time spent in productive practice and the time spent on violinist.com, which time may (or may not in some rare instances) result in more efficient use of productive practice time.
"Grasshopper ... when you can play fingered tenths in left-hand pizzicato then you will be ready to leave."
I have these kind of conversations a lot with my teacher... I dedicate 2-3 hours daily to practice, in the weekends maybe more and it shows. According to my teacher, if I keep practicing like this, I will be able to become a very good violinist... But not a professional.
I'd actually say the opposite. There are some nontrivial number of people at the top of the profession who have inherited significant money, and whose ability to play and perform at the highest levels are bolstered by the security that it gives. (Connections don't hurt either.)
I guess sometimes our teachers think we aren’t good enough but avoid saying that directly. They have more than one reason to be careful.
@ Will Willy Ouch!
I agree with Lydia and disagree with Carols.
"Maybe that wasn't good enough" is what is required to play at an advanced level, professional or otherwise, regardless age and/or economics.
"That because I am comfortably settled I will never have the fear, the panic that either crushes you or makes you..."
Quote: "fear, the panic that either crushes you or makes you able to do things otherwise impossible for you"
Not really adding anything to this conversation, but I find these sorts of conversations interesting. I'm an adult returner, and I'm now "at the Bruch level" and am finding that it is not as important a goal-post as I thought it was a year ago. And, I'm not as interested in learning the Bruch concerto as I am in learning the other music that I've amassed over the years. May still have to learn this concerto if I am to play the other music on my list, though. I'll likely never be able to play the concerto with an orchestra, and would prefer to learn pieces that I may likely one day play with a pianist.
Late-starting spammer, clearly.
Regarding the sub-topic about fear leading to professional playing:
I guess there are two schools of pedagogy here: Accommodation or Challenge, meaning you either help students step by step with care, or you throw them into challenging situations where they would either prevail or fail. Of course these two methods can combine.
M. Hemeda, I don't know your age, and I don't know what you define as a late start, but I'm 46 and picking the violin back up after 30 years. I started at age 7 or 8 and played for 7 or 8 years before putting it down. Early on in those 7 or 8 years I was good enough to earn a seat in my city's youth symphony. That gives you some idea of my previous knowledge/experience, which is oh-so-modest compared to a lot of the mega-professional talent on this site.
I met a late teenage near-beginner who was already quietly studying (not with a teacher) Bach unaccompanied. By far the worst thing about his playing was the VSO he was using.
Chelsea, I'm super-interested in your ability to resume playing at a high level after a 30-year break.
He is not a classical musician, but this fellow started as a self-taught violinist for two years starting at age 17, then moved to Budapest to study classical violin and Hungarian music at the age of 19 where he practiced 5-8 hours a day for a while.
Lydia Leong, I'm not exactly what you consider a "high ability!" I looked at your profile and with your credentials, if you consider yourself an amateur, then I'm Poindexter from "Revenge of the Nerds!" (Joke-sort of) I guess I should say I consider myself at a higher place than where I thought I would be after just 1 lesson and 2 solid weeks of practicing.
To be honest, achieving it on hour a day for 8 months to a year seems wildly optimistic...
I think it just becomes harder as you get older. It's easiest to learn music (or a language) before the age of 10, then there are the physical limitations as you get older as well as financial and time constraints, and maybe lack of energy from other responsibilities in life.
I also think age matters, but more so at very advanced soloist level. If it didn’t that much, I would expect to see soloists of Hahn or Perlman caliber who started at 11, 12 years old where they were basically still free of financial and other responsibilities. I think in no other instruments than the violin (even other string instruments) is the learner expected to start at such an early age to have a significantly higher chance to become really, really superb. Age is not everything but maybe a necessary condition.
tutti, the thing is, no one in the top 10 or top 20 started later than 11-12 years of age, for violin.
Tutti, the number of learners starting at 3-5, in my expectation, would be even lower than the number starting at 11-12, making the ratio of those 3-5 among global soloists even disproportionately higher.
Chelsea, welcome to v.com. I too returned to the violin after more than two decades.
Chelsea, my brother went to Elgin Academy. :-)
Lydia, from birth until age 6 I lived just 3 blocks from Elgin Academy. Now, I only live an hour and half from D.C. Up until 4 years ago I'd been living in Baltimore City for a few years and didn't care for the city life there, so now I'm up just over the border of PA/MD for some peace and tranquility. During the week I still commute to the same job though down in Baltimore County. I work for the State of MD, which gives me a bigger push to pursue my musical dream because my State job is a slave job. The benefits are the only thing keeping me there, LOL.
David Zhang, thank you for the welcome and for sharing your observation. You said your goal is still evolving. I wasn't clear: Have you played professionally then?
"I have youthful enthusiasm and fierce determination", Chelsea, you just took the words out of my mouth :)
It's not impossible, it's just a giant time management problem, along with all the responsibilities of being an adult.
Yixi, I hope you'll post about your performance-diploma experience and how that's different from just studying privately. Sounds fascinating. :-)
Lydia, the chief difference for me between studying for a performance diploma and private studies with tutors is the former provides more structured and well-rounded education than the latter. The former requires much much more work:-).
Very interesting. Is their performance diploma a post-bacc credential, or in lieu of a BM? That much academic coursework is surprising given that I'd figure that would be more undergrad.
It's an university transferable undergrad program in a college. The diploma basically takes care of the first two years of works towards a BMus.
I think it would come as a surprise to many to know just how well one must play to get a job in a regional orchestra.
What is considered unattainable for late starters is child prodigy status!!
Oh, I'm under no illusions about how good regional orchestra players are. That's why I'm estimating it's at least 5-10 years away.
I think there's a big difference between starting in your teens and starting in your twenties (or later). Andrew, your steady 1.5 hours (plus the not-quite-year of 3 hours/day) is very much in your favor in terms of making good progress, although it's surprising that you haven't needed a teacher to learn advanced repertoire.
I should mention that the principal second violinist in my community orchestra is completely self-taught (no lessons whatsoever), started in her early 20s, and has reached Bruch or Mozart concerto level in her mid-30s. According to our concertmaster, who has known her much longer than I have (I only joined the orchestra two months ago after filling in as acting principal violist for one concert last year), the only noticeable sign that she's self-taught is a rather limited vibrato.
Hey Andrew, I don't know if you saw my response to you in the
To be fair, some really otherwise great-playing professionals can have a very "ho-hum" vibrato, more utilitarian than artistic. It's rare, but happens. With a few older professionals, it can get very wobbly if they don't "take care" of it.
“To be a good violinist, it's not enough to play all the notes in tune and in tempo. I think a truly mature player needs to be able to pay attention to so many little details that she has to be solid technically and musically to effectively address these issues so that the entire piece of music can be presented coherently and beautifully.”
I agree with Yixi.
Another moderately late starter would be Leonard Bernstein. He started formal piano lessons at 13. Five years later he was a music major at Yale, composition classes with Walter Piston followed by conducting lessons with Fritz Reiner. At 25 he was appointed assistant conductor of NY Phil. Talent matters.
I think one has to ask why virtually every great musician in history has been a child prodigy. One can argue that a few of the greatest violinists have done some of their best playing in their 40s through 70s. But you have to have a good early foundation to build on. I know lots of the people who start later like to encourage one another on here, but the reality is, by the time you’re of college age, you should have probably covered most of the standard literature on the violin with a steady progression of development in order to be a professional level player. Starting later on is possible, but much like learning a language, at an older age, there will be accents and colloquialisms that an older person (even in their teens) won’t pick up as naturally. Music (much like athletics) as Mary-Ellen correctly pointed out, is not really a field you can make a mid career switch into.
It's worth noting that mid-career switchers often still fulfill Nate's criteria -- people who had already reached a very high level of playing by the end of high school, who just chose not to go to conservatory but instead enter another profession.
I do believe being a "Professional" is hard for even little children, prodigies or not, so it will be even moreso for late starters. That being said, playing the violin transcends just having a "big" career, and I feel that a violinist with even the most humble aspirations should give it his/her all. When we say "adults can't make it", this is usually true regarding a career the way this world works, but playing the violin well itself is attainable by some, even it being a very difficult and unlikely proposition. Thus I prefer to have my mind open regarding what is "possible" or not (with no disrespect towards those who will inevitably disagree.)
Starting early would give you an advantage in virtually every aspect of life, be it music or non-music, business or non-business, professional or recreational. But in some aspects it has consistently proved to to be relatively more important than others. Violins are one of those.
Being a **performing** professional is very, very hard even for graduates of respectable music schools. What percentage of conservatory graduates can say that they earn all or even most of their living by performing.
To Adalberto's point, there is a difference between striving to play one's best, and striving to be professional.
That's right. Working and keeping a job are not the same thing. We might have fun working (such as learning something we are passionate about), but having a job is usually not about fun.
tutti, I believe reliable data on kids' age when they start learning the violin is non-existent.
I find it interesting that the Suzuki method has created that mindset, seeing as Shinichi Suzuki himself started learning violin at 18.
I suspect that what many countries call a "conservatory" for children, is what the US would probably call a "community music school". In the US the word "conservatory" is reserved for a college-equivalent (i.e., post-secondary education).
Even before Suzuki, I believe most famous soloists would start very young. I don't think Suzuki himself invented that young age for violin out of nowhere.
So it was Suzuki that has greatly catalyzed the belief and practice of kids having to start very early then? This, if true, would be interesting.
I think that Tutti violino is making a good point: There must be small violins in order to teach violin to pre-schoolers and before they were not so available. I mean... a 1/16 violin? Rarely.
out of a 109 posts, I could only see one reply from the OP...hmmm
When the question is vague, the answers will be rich:-) What does "late starters" mean? Who has the crystal ball to look into anyone's future of violin progress, especially those who we've never heard?
I agree with Yixi, although I would say that for many people, it's useful to have a long-term goal (or set of goals) in mind, and then to work with your teacher to develop a plan to reach those goals. Some violin-related skills can be taught in a variety of orders, and the emphasis of what you do can be changed to help you reach goals sooner rather than later. And your other activities will vary.
I agree with Lydia. When I returned I had amassed a pretty long list of repertoire that I wanted to learn, then added to it as we are wont to do, and over a year after working with this teacher I finished one piece on the list, and am starting another on the list. I've asked to forgo the orchestral solos (like Bruch) for now because I have so much other rep on my list that my teacher is fine with not doing the Bruch right now. (It's not because the Bruch is too hard for me, I have the skills for it, but I'm working on rep that is more of the solo violin, or violin/piano, type instead.)
I have a 1/1000 violin. It's called a Christmas-tree ornament.
Paul is right. And there's a whole pile of encore repertoire at the level (including most Kreisler pieces), the Baroque-period chamber literature, and some of the less-difficult Romantic-period sonatinas / sonatas, too.
Lydia - your last sentence is precisely why at this moment I'm choosing to forgo the major concertos. And working with a pianist is important!
Lydia, Paul and Pamela, all very well said. Unlike kids, we don't have to have all the chops to be a good player and musician. We have to prioritize what to learn to make the most sense to each of us without following the "standard program" that kids are expected to go through. For me, my teacher and I have decided to forgo Paganini, even though part of me still feel that learning those caprices would likely to make many technical parts of a concerto easier.
My teacher assigns Paganini caprices, and we did a bit of Paganini No. 1 (which he teaches by assigning all the sections of thirds and tenths first). The latter, by itself, forced me to improve my thirds significantly, but the reward-to-practice ratio was still low. On the one hand, the caprices are difficult enough that they always drive technical improvement (some of the skills turn out to be unexpectedly useful in ordinary repertoire), but they require more patience than I usually have at the end of a long day.
Thank you, Lydia! What you said make perfect sense. I will raise the Paganini issue with my teacher again. She is usually open to suggestions if I really want to try something.
There've been so many great comments, and I'd like to also join in with an anecdote. I know of a guy who started when he was 35 (and is totally blind by the way). The beginning was slightly rocky for him but only because it was difficult to get a good sense of how to hold everything since he couldn't see. However, he was determined to give it his best try and never worried much about whether he could get far. He didn't feel he had anything to lose. He learned everything by ear from recordings and had lessons twice a week. After 4 years he performed the Mendelssohn violin concerto with a local community orchestra. Now, he might not be a professional player, but he is an excellent advanced amateur player and has a polished technique, capable of great sound and excellent expression. He's been playing for about 16 years now and I'd rank his level of playing somewhere around a senior music major or first year master's student. I realize that he is not typical for everyone because he did almost nothing but practice, but I'd consider him to be a good idea of what can be accomplished if the desire and the commitment are really strong.
I would respectfully disagree with Paul and Pamela. I believe a careful study of the “standard” concertos, solo Bach, and some Paganini is necessary to be technically solid enough to explore orchestral and chamber music.
I noted that Paul mentioned Beethoven sonatas. To play the easiest one (#5) really well is impressive. To play the other ones really well, I don't know how many pros would be happy to demonstrate that :-) Same goes for Mozart concerti. They are part of audition and violin competition reps for very good reason.
I disagree with David.
Lydia, one of course can play orchestral/chamber music and advance through solo rep concurrently. We all did.
I agree with Lydia. I don't know why David asserts that "Paganini is necessary to be technically solid enough to explore orchestral and chamber music." Did your teacher suggested this to you, David? I also happen to know a few quite good amateur orchestra and chamber players who haven't even done any romantic concerto, let alone Paganini caprices, but they've learned all the necessary chops required for playing chamber music and orchestra repertories through years of working on these materials. You'd see them playing as the principal second or even concertmaster and a lot are strong 1st violinists in chamber workshops and community orchestras. While their tone production can be improved, they don't seem to have much difficulty handling the notes of some the most difficulty works. Most of all, they seem to really enjoy reading through a bunch of music and performing.
Yixi, some Paganini is part of required audition rep. for entry to many respectable music schools along with standard concertos and solo Bach. It is also the “capstone rep” in all Italian conservatories ( which are equivalent to community music schools in the US according Lydia) based on information provided by a frequent v.com contributor. It not that big of a deal.
There's no question that someone who has studied four or five romantic concertos (say Bruch, Lalo, Mendelssohn, Saint-Saens) will be able to cover more of the chamber literature than someone who has only done Haydn and Mozart. There is freakishly hard stuff in the quartet literature, and that takes preparation. And sure there's hard Haydn too. But what one really doesn't need, if one is hoping to play classical-era chamber music of average difficulty, is to spend months learning cadenzas full of parlor tricks. If you're going to do that hoping to prepare to play quartet literature, why not just work on harder quartet parts?
Actually, only the top tier of conservatories require Paganini for undergrad auditions. And you don't even need Paganini to audition for many MM and DMA programs. You'll note that no one will ever ask you to play Paganini on a professional orchestra audition. (For that matter, I think Paganini concertos are pretty much never played in pro auditions.)
Lydia, I could not answer your question since I haven’t played much Paganini ( or enough orchestral/chambers music for that matter).
Lydia, my teacher would completely agree with you regarding Paganini. She frequently juried youth competitions and some of her students went into top tier conservatories so I think she knows what she is doing as a teacher. For some reason I don't entirely know, violin teachers I've met here in Canada all seem to put much more emphasis on the basics, such as daily scale practice, than on virtuosic stuff such as Don't op35, Gaviniès or Paganini. They all did these works when they grew up, but they don't think they are necessary and usually don't assign to their students except a few very promising young students, such as those ones I know who gone to Julliard or Curtis.
Neither Dont op. 35 nor Gavinies are virtuosic. You don't really get into virtuosic until you hit, say, Wieniawski Ecole Moderne, and Paganini Caprices.
On the subject of zero to Paganini in ten years, our Italian poster wrote:
Well, it's a very small sample but I happened to heard one Italian conservatory student from Milan playing in one of the music camps I went a few years ago. She said she studied more than 5 years but her playing was below average among the community conservatory students here. She wasn't happy about the violin education she got in Italy, but then that's just her view, I don't know what was really going on there. Check it out before you send your kids to Italy to study violin :-)
“If you're going to do that hoping to prepare to play quartet literature, why not just work on harder quartet parts?”
David, one of the challenges of this discussion is it seems that you may have some theoretical notion of Paganini that's not related to the reality of what's actually in the Caprices, and for that matter, a theoretical notion of the orchestral and chamber-music literature that's not necessarily related to the reality there either.
I imagine that one of the reasons some people pursue a DMA is that they need more time to develop as violinists, and have dedicated time to do nothing other than practice and study. This would be especially true of people who get a later start, in their teens (or only start taking private lessons in their teens).
Lydia is correct about most orchestra players and Paganini caprices.
Violino, when you have an open door policy, some atrition is of course expected. I bet even in Julliard the graduation rate is not 100%.
The Italian system takes all that “mystique” out of Paganini!
Seeing as a lot of these questions are to do with "Can I become a professional as a late starter", I think we have to look at what making a living as a professional entails. I see this a lot with young players (I think I was the same) - they ask, what is the hardest violin music anyone can play and they are told Paganini Caprices. So that becomes the top of the mountain that they aspire to and feel that they can call themselves consummate violinists. The problem is that chops becomes emphasized over playing with feeling and all other aspects of musicality. So, somebody plays the notes of Paganini but can't play a simple tune in a moving way. As for the real world, the majority of people don't want to hear Paganini Caprices - they want to hear beautiful music, simple tunes, things that move them. To illustrate, look at Itzhak Perlman on Spotify. Guess what has the most hits? I'll give you a clue - not Paganini! It's actually Schindlers list, by a long way. A very simple tune that many late starters could play in a musical and meaningful way. I know as artists we are not looking to appease the common denominator but being a professional means being hired doesn't it? We have to walk that line or play as an amateur. So, to answer the OP's question - what's out of reach for a late starter? Maybe music that the majority does not want to hear. :) I was a college rebel once that didn't want to do anything remotely commercial but now I'm doing it for a living I know we have to be a bit flexible! I remember playing avant garde music and seeing an audience really not into it and then one day I was on a gig playing White Christmas and noticed this look of wonder (probably nostalgia too) and realized that I was actually bringing some joy to these people and wasn't that really it? Isn't that what brings us to music in the first place before we have all these pressures of what we should play to make us worth our salt? It's the audience member with the look of wonder in their eye that qualifies us ultimately. Also the reality is that we get paid if we play something that will move people. I'm lucky that I had a teacher that early on told me that technique only ultimately serves the music and allows you to express what you want without barriers. That seems to be lost from what I read and people I talk to.
David, I am afraid you have missed the point Lydia and Mary Ellen have made about Paganini caprices, which is consistent with my teacher's view as well as some of her colleagues. It's not weather Paganini is doable for an advanced adult student, but whether it is useful to spend tons of time working on them if a solo career is not something one is aiming for. My teacher told me that while I can certainly tackle Paganini like some of her young students are doing, she doesn't think it's worthwhile for me because most stuff in paganini isn't useful. I have a lot to learn and there are so many more useful great works available for me to work and enjoy. It's a practical rather than theoretical decision made by a experienced concertizing violinist and teacher. Your Italian example suggests one can do Paganini in 10 years. So what?
Yixi, I did not.
David, on the Italian system, if every kid practices 3 hours a day, every day, for 10 years, and you drop all the kids who fail to make enough progress by the prescribed timeline (and non-serious students never start to begin with), if you
I believe a truce can be called for here, as no side is "wrong"-there are many ways towards mastery besides Paganini, BUT the Caprices and other Paganini repertoire can be useful (relative to the student needs) in that they can help make feel everything else technically "easier" in comparison. Of course you can achieve this through scales, etc. but I still do not believe investing time in the Caprices will be an "utter waste" if you are not going to be a soloist-just "not needed".
Calculus is different. Calculus is used in fundamental ways across a wide range of disciplines. We can be specific about the ways it's used in economics, decision sciences, all social sciences that use statistics, and all STEM disciplines.
I happen to think the Italian system, as it is described here, has a lot of merit.
As much as I would like to see state-sponsored arts in the United States (and I believe strongly that public schools should continue to teach orchestral instruments to all children), there's also a large benefit in allowing all children to learn who want the violin to merely be a hobby.
Italy is a beautiful country with wonderful people and rich culture. I visit Italy every 2nd year for chamber music workshop organized by a Canadian. Does Italian conservatory system produce violinists competitive enough internationally? I don't know. Young Italian violinists who are rarely seen in world's leading international violin or chamber music competitions. I'm amazed to see how many Curtis students/graduates have been wining top International violin and string quartet competitions prizes. I've also seen students from South Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, U.S. and various European countries other than Italy went to finals and semifinals if not wining the top prizes. I'd like to be proven wrong, but if my observation is not too far off from the reality that Italian system has not been producing the finest players in the world these days, then one wonders why.
So this is viola rather than violin, but I learned today that Jonathan Vinocour, principal violist of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, started playing viola at 10 with no prior experience on any other string instrument, didn't decide to focus on music until he was 21 (his undergrad major was chemistry rather than music), and was SFSO's principal violist at 30. Given the rarity of career viola soloists, a principal violist in a major orchestra is basically at the pinnacle of the profession.
I think Vinocour is probably more characterized as a serious music student who simply chose to initially enter a different career path, rather than someone who didn't seriously study the instrument until late in life.
"Does Italian conservatory system produce violinists competitive enough internationally? I don't know. Young Italian violinists who are rarely seen in world's leading international violin or chamber music competitions."
Re: Vinocour... true, he was a serious student, but I also wanted to note that he didn't start when he was very young. I wouldn't call 10 a late start at all, but when I started I was rejected by teachers who categorically refused to accept beginners in double-digit ages, more than one saying I was too old to ever progress beyond beginner level.
I haven't really been following this thread much...
An outlier maybe, but Steve Doman started violin at 14, switched to viola a couple of years later and has just got a full-time job with the LSO. He's clearly very talented and I have no idea whether violin was his very first instrument, but it's interesting none the less.
Yes, I disagree with the tonality of the discussion "some places of the world naturally train the best violinists". It is a very one-sided point of view, akin to the US's current tribalistic and warped, nationalistic "ideals" (though, maybe not nearly as bad.)
I'm not sure what your point is. Most parents starting their children out at age 4 or 5 are doing so as one of many educational experiences they are giving their children. It's more like signing them up for youth soccer, which many of the same parents do for the same children at the same age. Nobody is really worrying about whether their children are cut out for it in the long run or not.
"In order to start a child at 4 or 5 years old you would need extremely keen insight to know if they are cut out for it. How would you know this at such a young age?"
Sometimes Junior is told he can't quit because parents need to teach Junior that he should persevere at something even if it's hard.
The idea that certain ethnicity or demographic groups excel more at certain activities seems to be too politically incorrect nowadays. But please allow me to discuss further as I'm only interested in understanding it better.
Maybe that should be a separate topic? Though it is a bit of a hot potato....
Again, I'm with Lydia. And I agree with Elise that the question of Asians is one that deserves its own thread, wherein the hot potato might be liberally buttered and salted.
In my defense, I didn’t bring up this hot potato, and we probably had gone 1000 miles away from the original question (to which direct answers still have been quite limited) so I thought it was fine to ask. But I’ll stop it here.
East Asians, like Europeans, are not all alike!
Firstly, we honestly don't have any reliable data on the number of students learning the instrument by country, at each level, and among those the number who climbed higher to proficiency. Secondly we are not comparing classes of 10 vs 200 students who are identical. For example, while it is true that China has a big population, at the same time its GDP is lower, making people less likely to bring their kids to lessons. Another example is the availability and accessibility of good teachers.
East Asia might have a higher volume of early starters, and the same may be true of the East Asian diaspora.
It's a culture, rather than merely ethnicity-related. "Human biodiversity" is a non-scientific travesty designed to promote fear and hatred among humans, and while made to sound "plausible", basically a modern variation on eugenics (equally bad). The difference is not just the numbers, but it has nothing to do with inborn superiority/inferiority, which is silly and inherently racist (yes, it is.) Moreover, it's very unfair on those Asians that don't fit the "super Asian" role academically (be it music or whatever endeavor "they" are usually successful at.)
By the way, I find the ethnic stereotypes offensive, precisely because I'm a late starter and everyone thinks I've been playing since I was 3.
Further: at least in the US, I don't think most non-string-playing parents, outside of Asian-Americans, are aware of how early most string players start. Most Americans who learn a musical instrument learn a wind instrument at school, and many wind instruments are unhealthy to start playing when younger than about 10. So maybe it shouldn't be surprising that, among my non-Asian, non-musician friends, the majority seem to believe 12-14 is the time to start on string instruments, because what they know is how school wind bands work. And they are surprised when I tell them that their 8-year-olds are not only old enough to start, but already regarded by some teachers as too old.
@tutti, now you're talking - performance in competitions is not explained by population alone. And we can't actually rule out anything.
Andrew - what was the background or training of those teachers who rejected you for being too old? And was it for the violin or viola? I noticed that people who teach viola seemed to be more open to so-called "late starters." But that's just my observation. I'm sorry that happened to you.
@tutti, sorry, what I meant was GDP
It was for violin. Even though I intended to switch to viola, I was looking for violin lessons at first because there was an old violin in my uncle's possession that hadn't been played since my great-uncle died more than 20 years earlier.
Scott Cole: V is a coefficient=.0821.
"Asians have more nomadic components in heredity and genealogy, their personalities might be a little bit different from Europeans"
“I picture them like bulldozers with money. The only problem is I think they sometimes loose what's the best for the child.”
Quite honestly, it seems depressing how stuck in the mud everyone here is. Why can't someone in their 20s, who practices 3 hours a day for 10 years, become as accomplished as someone who did the same thing starting in their early teens?
Again, I suspect the reason so many parents start their kids at such a young age is that, for many years, parents were being told that anyone who didn't start by age 5 or 6 had already missed the bus on ever being able to play violin at a decent level and shouldn't bother starting. I still occasionally hear people claiming it's impossible to develop the fine motor skills if you don't start at that age.
"Why can't someone in their 20s, who practices 3 hours a day for 10 years, become as accomplished as someone who did the same thing starting in their early teens?"
But, wait, why would a late starter have to catch up to people who are the same age? Wouldn't a 40-year-old late starter just reaching a sufficiently high level to consider professional auditions be competing mainly with recent conservatory graduates in their early 20s, simply because those are the people auditioning for the same jobs?
No, a 40 who started at age 20 will not likely reach the level of proficiency of a recent conservatory graduate. Or even the level of proficiency to get into a top tier program. In the same way a person who has read books for years will not reach the level of proficiency of a PhD in literature from Harvard. Or someone who can do their personal taxes cannot compete for jobs with a CPA who has a master's from Wharton. For the record, I've been playing for 30+ years, have went to an solid music school and can't match a 25 year old coming out of Julliard :)
More broadly, there are an awful lot of 40-something tenured orchestral players who are not competitive with 20-something recent grads from top conservatories. The standard of playing has increased significantly over the course of a generation. Getting the job and keeping the job are different; it is very hard for anyone to maintain the peak level of technique that people tend to reach during their student years.
Julie: I'm not talking about a 40-year-old beginner. I'm talking about a 20-year-old starter potentially reaching a level of playing ability by age 40 that is comparable to a 22-year-old conservatory grad.
I suspect that the late starters who are going to be that good actually reach that point well before age 40. There are some 19-year-old late starters who've managed to be competitive players by the time they're 30, for instance (see Daniel Kurganov's YouTube channel for an example, and his old v.com posts). As I noted previously, though, there seems to be a real delta for the people who start post-college, suggesting the issue is not primarily age-related per se but life circumstances.
Sorry, I edited my earlier response to be clearer. I was talking about a 40 year old who had been playing for 20 years, but my response didn't say that.
"I don't think that an adult beginner will be able to reach the level of a 20 something conservatory grad ever."
True... that said, things that are considered bad technique on the violin may be considered necessary adjustments on the viola. I do things on viola that I myself would never do when I play violin. (I own a violin, but viola became my primary instrument about a year after I started.) For example, I lift my first finger completely away from the fingerboard in order to get the hand mobility I need for vibrato, and I've seen some of the world's leading violists do the same.
"More broadly, there are an awful lot of 40-something tenured orchestral players who are not competitive with 20-something recent grads from top conservatories. The standard of playing has increased significantly over the course of a generation. Getting the job and keeping the job are different; it is very hard for anyone to maintain the peak level of technique that people tend to reach during their student years."
Aren't there a lot of fiddle competitions?
Seriously, though: Aren't fiddle competitions far more prevalent than classical violin competitions, particularly at the adult level?
To answer the "unattainable" question you would be hard pressed to find an adult beginner who could attain the standard reached if he/she had started playing age 5 with regular daily practice.
Timothy where's this bluegrass picnic held, where there are thousands who attend?
Dumb thought, if the picnic attracts 100 fiddlers and each brings 2-3 reluctant friends/family, plus the local people who come to protest ... easily thousands in audience (giggle)
My impression is that fiddle competitions tend to be open to all ages, whereas there are few violin competitions open to violinists over 20, and virtually none (I haven't heard of a single one) open to violinists over 35. I know of a lot more regularly held fiddle competitions than violin competitions.
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