On giving up

October 9, 2018, 7:21 AM · I think some of us reach a point such that, after some circumstances, we start to consider if we should stop violin altogether. This is happening to me since a few days, and while I am pretty sure the decision is made and I don't wish to turn back, I'm taking at least a week to start making the necessary calls and sending some emails regarding my decision - this implies telling my teacher I will not be taking lessons anymore (I paid the whole month, so I'd have two lessons left, but I don't care), telling the manager in my school-orchestra that I will not taking part in their activities anymore (even though they were as kind as to take me in despite my low playing level, being all of them amazing), and also getting rid of my instruments (3 violins I have at the time, 2 of which I think will end up on ebay, and the latter in the trash bin).

What's the reason behind this? There are a few. For starters, recently I had to be in a concert (my first concert, I've never played in public before) for which I was not ready at all (at my level, learning close to 5 pieces in three months to perform in a theatre is no possible at all). I was there just because I had to, and this meant ignoring many parts of the score that I am unable to play at the proper speed. That's mistake #1, I think, for I should have told the manager that I am not ready to perform these pieces. Since I was given two tickets for the concert, I decided to give the tickets to my mother and her boyfriend (not my father, they've been together for about 10 years); that's mistake #2 I believe, since I learned that night the boyfriend commented of how bad I played, followed by some comments regarding how I live at the moment (too personal to discuss here) - this apparently lead to a mild argument between my mother and this guy, but I also think he might be right - a "stranger" can provide sometimes the most objective judgment. I've played for about six years, and he's right, my playing should be far better than it is, which suggest it is no longer a matter of how much I practice or if my teacher is qualified enough, but it seems that all in all, I am unable to learn. Also, the fact that my mother recorded the whole think and shared it on her (too much active) social networks, upsets me even more, since I am able to see I played like shit and she is not willing to delete the recordings.

Now, I am not sure about what should I do. Since two days ago when I heard about how bad I played, I've been pondering if it might be time to get another hobby, something else to do with my free time. And also, I'm looking for the best way to quit all my music-related activities. Rather than do it immediatly (which it would be too harsh for myself, and I also think I should wait since my judgment seems to be compromised) I considered do it like this: within two days I should have my regular weekly lesson, and two days after it I'll be sending a text-message to my teacher to inform her that I've decided I will not be taking lessons nor playing violin anymore (at this point, whatever I'm doing is definitely NOT playing violin); I should have rehearsal with this orchestra in the days that follow, which I think I will skip, and two or three days I will send them an email to tell them I will not be playing with them any more (and it won't matter, I wasn't playing before anyway). And what follows is getting rid of my instruments, since they aren't useful anymore - if I am unable to sell them, I guess they will end up in the garbage.

Telling my parents about it seems the hardest part, since I'm not a kid (past mid-twenties) they seem to be somewhat "happy" with this hobby I've had for a few years.

Replies (52)

Edited: October 9, 2018, 8:16 AM · I can understand how you feel. It certainly seems like it's time to take a break.

But if I were you I would not "burn bridges." I would keep my violins, at least the two you think you can sell.

You don't know how you will feel in the future and being able to resume violin with a different perspective might change your life in a positive direction.

I quit violin when I was 12 after almost 8 years of lessons. I knew I was not playing well and not improving, I knew no other kids who played any instrument. Then I moved to another state with my family and played only once in the next year. But when I learned that a girl I liked (the daughter of my Jr. high school music teacher) played the violin I started to practice on my own with passion to have something in common with her. (By the way I did date that girl for a short time, although all before I was old enough to get a driver's license.)

I joined the High School orchestra a year later and after hearing the graduating concertmaster play the solo at the ceremony I thought "I can do that." So I spent the next summer "doing that" and followed that by being the school concertmaster for the next 3 years. During those 3 years I also got started on cello lessons and progressed very fast on that instrument and did a lot of public performing of both solos (cello and violin) and in the HS and community orchestra until I left town to go to college 66 years ago - all those years since I have never stopped playing violin, cello and now - viola. I am so grateful to have been able to do this - whatever my limitations. It is pretty much my raison d'etre - that and my family.

If your town is small enough, you can be the best, if not, just enjoy playing in even smaller venues - even alone.

Wishing you the best of luck.

October 9, 2018, 8:20 AM · "Played like sh*t" is not precise enough! What is your very own, considered analysis of the fateful video? Nerves? Music too tricky? Intonation, tone, rythm? Take a de-e-ep breath!
Edited: October 9, 2018, 8:54 AM · It's good to figure out what you most want to do and find a way to do it! What first attracted you to violin? Did you enjoy it? It sounds like you had a difficult introduction to public performing...I was at least lucky my teacher told me I was in no way "really" ready the first time I went to community orchestra practice, but he also told me I'd never be readier, either, because the only way to get the skills of ensemble playing, with a conductor, is to play in an orchestra. I struggled for some time, and now for years it's been a very fulfilling addition to my life and I don't regret it at all. It was very frustrating and difficult to start, though.

People who make negative comments about performances can be very toxic, and it's rarely good musicians who do that. This is because every good musician has been through the beginning phases and first public performances, and they know first hand how hard it is to play well in the beginning. They usually focus on what you did well, mainly, putting just yourself out there, which is a huge plus! There's always some areas of any performance that can be worked on, and the nerves and stress get tamed over some time, not instantly I get away from toxic people- you need support and encouragement, not negativity. (tbh, reading your msg, my 1st impression was ditch the boyfriend, not the fiddle!).

If I were you, I'd go to your lessons, keep on for a little while longer, and talk to your teacher or some other knowledgeable musicians about your playing, what are the good takeaways, the things you could improve and, more importantly, what are the next small steps to take to do that. Try a constructive problem solving approach, and identify and take the next small steps, then a couple more after that. If you've made it this far, you can make it a little further, and you may end up where you want to be.

Once, I was swimming while a masters team was practicing. Their coach came over and watched me for awhile, and told me I had a great stroke, but seemed slow for someone with such a good stroke. I told him I used to swim a lot, on another masters team, but had dropped it for some reason and just swam occasionally now. He said, "It only takes a minute to quit, but years to get back."

It won't hurt to get a little more perspective and take a few weeks to make your decision. Find someone who's been through it- many people have, and try to gain some perspective before you make your decision. If it's best for your life to quit and find something else, that's the right choice for you. But it's dangerous to make decisions emotionally after one bad experience (probably the criticism, more than the performance!), then you may regret it later when you realized you just could have cut the repertoire back some, practiced a few techniques a little more, and enjoyed some very fulfilling public performances and loved it! Good luck!

October 9, 2018, 8:44 AM · As a violinist, you gotta have thick skin. The first time I performed years ago, I was so nervous I was shaking all over and forgot my music—blanked out during the allegro of my final piece! I recovered and finished the performance, but I was ashamed for weeks. It was a long time before I gave a performance I was proud of.
Performance takes practise, too. Maybe before hitting the sack, you should wait a few weeks and find another opportunity to perform.
If you throw in the towel, you'll regret it forever.
Edited: October 9, 2018, 8:58 AM · When you say school, you mean graduate shool?
It sounds as though perhaps no-one around you is dependable.
You say it suggests it is no longer a matter of...if your teacher is qualified enough. I can't agree. It may possibly suggest that your teacher is rubbish. She should be advising you about what to play in public and when. You don't say if the concert is free or if the audience will be paying. Why does the manager have confidence in you if you don't?
Edited: October 9, 2018, 9:18 AM · Having criticism so close to home, and having a mother who will not remove your "unauthorized autobiography" from public scrutiny must be playing heavily into this. Feeling all eyes are upon you (or ears) is something I might want to walk away from too.

I would suggest telling your mother that her posting the recording, and the embarrassment it is causing you, is leading to your decision to stop playing. If she still refuses, there is a relationship issue there, and a lack of respect for your needs. I can see her side, possibly, about wanting to support you and "I'm so proud of my little boy", but she needs to respect your wishes.

In the end, though, you have to do this for yourself. Talk to your teacher, and talk to whomever in the orchestra, before making a final decision.

I've had a similar situation, on a feeling basis, when I've gotten way behind in some class or the other, and the feeling of "it's too hard" to catch up, and "I don't think I can do it" or "I suck" outweighs the benefits of getting it done. I can be my own worst enemy in situations like this. I know this is a completely different situation, and is not just memorizing facts or whatever, and I know how personal the feeling of failure can be in this situation, whether it is a deserved feeling or not. The reflex to just give up can feel like a load off your shoulders, and give you some breathing room, but, there will most likely be some ongoing self-recrimination for giving up. Don't get rid of the violins. Don't engage in a scorched earth policy here. And don't give you mom more tickets in the future, particularly if she won't respect your wishes.

PS Comments on how you live...sounds like this guy is merely trying to make himself feel better. This all must be very difficult emotionally right now. I'd want to walk away too, and might in the same situation. But, on another level, screw him, don't bring him into your orbit any more than you can get away with. Self-recrimination can be even a worse enemy than other comments from the outside.

Edited: October 9, 2018, 9:12 AM · As someone who played for a while, then stopped playing due to lack of practice (and the frustration from decomposed skills) - I'd say wait a bit.

No one who puts creative work out there would speak in that way to someone who is working hard and doing their best. regardless: ignore what he said. In reality, his "critique" is not about you - it was cruel, and cruelty in that way can only be taken seriously insofar as revealing character traits about the giver (not about you, the receiver).

Now, do you see you need improvement? Yes. Do all musicians (who are serious) see that they need to improve? Yes. I've been told by more than one pro-violinist that they hate seeing/hearing recordings of themselves playing for the same reasons you do: they think they sound awful. We are our own worst critics in so many ways. You have now been afforded the opportunity after playing and seeing your recording, what you wish to improve on next: intonation, bow distribution, bow technique, dynamics, etc.

If you love the violin, which from your posts here it seems like you do, don't be so quick to kick it to the curb.

Edited to add that I completely agree with David above.

Make it VERY clear to your mother that you want this video taken down. If it is on FB, there are ways to get it removed - you might try those avenues as a last resort ;)

October 9, 2018, 9:33 AM · Demian, I can only say what has already been said: Don't burn bridges as Andrew put it.

I have had a performance go truly wrong (I was still a teenager at the time) and was embarrassed about it for a long time. It was a chamber piece and I had selected it and convinced the group to go with it. There was a passage that I wasn't ready for (just this one passage) and practicing it did not help. I also was in a camp for two weeks immediately before the performance (it was a school event and I could not possibly stay away). I took the fiddle to the camp and practiced there as best I could but the conditions were of course unfavorable.

So we got on stage and I was super nervous because of that one passage. I played badly through the first two movements, completely botched my passage and only the third movement was kind of acceptable. And what was worse: I had selected the piece that I myself screwed up. Everyone else played just fine.

It took me a long time to get over this. I never quite considered quitting the violin. But I waited long before doing chamber music again.

Why do I confess to this here? Because I think that my screw up back then was in all likelihood worse than the one you describe in your post. I did eventually get over it and don't usually spend any time thinking about it. It was your post that reawakened the memory.

The fact that you open this discussion here makes me suspect that you are not quite as certain about this as you say. So don't be hasty, please. There are few hobbies as satisfying as music making.

October 9, 2018, 9:45 AM · Yes, Demian, hopefully your post here will be a cathartic exercise to just see how it sounds before you actually act, and to exorcise the demons a bit.
Edited: October 9, 2018, 10:15 AM · Thank you for all your comments, I can't reply to all at the moment but I would like to clarify a few things. I started when I was 20, almost 21. I'm 27. Dropped a few times, but came back. This orchestra is also calls itself a school, you have to audition to enter but I believe they admit pretty much everyone who can play notes and read music. It's not exactly classical music, they teach how to interpret a kind of music that is fairly popular in the region (among "old" folks for the most part).

>"If your town is small enough, you can be the best, if not, just enjoy playing in even smaller venues - even alone."

I do live in a small country for U.S standards (around 4 million people, 1.4 million in my city), but I didn't pick a violin until I was 20, so becoming *good* is very much unlikely. I also have gone through some teachers that weren't exactly ideal (and I wrote about this a few years ago here https://www.violinist.com/discussion/archive/28141/). I'm happy enough with my current teacher, though I wish she were more systematic in her approach.

Andrew Fryer
>"When you say school, you mean graduate shool?"
I am in graduate school, but it isn't anything related to music.

>"You don't say if the concert is free or if the audience will be paying. Why does the manager have confidence in you if you don't."
The audience paid, but we weren't the only ones who performed.

I will read and answer more comments when I get home.

October 9, 2018, 10:36 AM · There are many reasons to pick up a hobby, as many as to give it up.
The opinion of others is never one of those reasons. Neither to follow a path or to end it.
Never make a decision in times of stress. Take a break and later visualize yourself playing and see if you like to play or not.
The orchestra, your mother or her boyfriend are not in the equation.
Edited: October 9, 2018, 11:10 AM · Demian,
There are several issues here, and I think it might be wise to separate them in your thinking:

1. Forget the performance for a minute and pretend it never happened: do you like the simple act of playing the instrument? Do you like the sound and the repertoire? Do you enjoy lessons? All this is about you, not others.

2. Performance-most people don't like to perform. I have many students that have no wish to, and I don't force them. Learning an instrument does NOT have to have performance as its goal. If that were true, I'd just give up tinkling on the piano.

3. IF you do decide to perform, then you will have to develop a thicker skin. Performance implies judgement by others. We know we are being scrutinized, sliced and diced, and categorized, especially when the performer isn't on the highest level. And even then we may or may not like this musical aspect or that.
I've performed probably 1000 times, and quite a few were disasters, at least in my mind. Just picture kindergarteners, during a school performance, yelling "hey, you guys messed up!" I pray none of my recitals ever gets posted on the internet. I wouldn't want cameras on me even while in an orchestral section. But yet for years I still went on stage.

4. I don't know about the relationship between your mother, her boyfriend, and you. But to decide to quit a hobby that you (theoretically) enjoy because of your mom's boyfriend's comments during your first performance seem silly. Understandable for a impressionable younger person, say 14. But not for someone approaching 30. However, you do deserve to be angry at your mother for posting videos.

Obviously, we don't really know you. We can only go by what you have posted. With that limitation in mind, I'll say this:

The violin is difficult. Many things in life, especially many really worth doing, are difficult. If you wish to do and stick with any of these things, not matter what they are, you will have to learn to both take criticism from others and assess yourself in a reasoned and fair manner. Some of your post points towards impulsivity: "...I'm looking for the best way to quit all my music-related activities..." And yet I see some measure of calmer reflection: "...Rather than do it immediatly (which it would be too harsh for myself, and I also think I should wait since my judgment seems to be compromised..."

"I didn't pick a violin until I was 20, so becoming *good* is very much unlikely..." "it seems that all in all, I am unable to learn..." " I am able to see I played like shit..."
These seem pretty defeatist for someone who started at 20. It's supposed to be fun. Why are you so hard on yourself?

The performance you described should have been simply for fun, and you should have just shrugged off any imperfections. I don't understand why so much of your self image and desires for wanting to participate in music depended on it, and I don't see it as reasonable.

As I said, I can ONLY go by what I see and what you have written thus far. On your profile, we only see a hint that you're in a rock band. And your words "Definitely not someone involved in illegal activities of any kind..." imply that you are indeed involved in illegal activities, meaning substances. And you hinted at your "lifestyle,' whatever that is. Fine, that's your life. All I can say is that if you with to accomplish anything in life, you will need to stop being so unreasonable and impulsive when the going gets tough, and learn how to filter criticism and use it constructively.

Edited: October 9, 2018, 11:22 AM · Scott Cole:

>"As I said, I can ONLY go by what I see and what you have written thus far. On your profile, we only see a hint that you're in a rock band. And your words "Definitely not someone involved in illegal activities of any kind..." imply that you are indeed involved in illegal activities, meaning substances. "

I'm not in a rock band, nor do I use drugs (not now, nor ever I was involved with illegal substances of any kind). The profile description is a joke based on a former post here; I don't see from where follows that I'm in a rock band, but I'm not...

"But to decide to quit a hobby that you (theoretically) enjoy because of your mom's boyfriend's comments during your first performance seem silly."
I agree, but it was not just because of the comments, but rather the thoughts that followed form it, this is, disappointment in regard of my playing level to the extent that continuing lessons seems futile.

October 9, 2018, 11:48 AM · You’ve gotten a lot of great advice so far. However I’d like to bring up another thought for you. Whether it be a positive trait or negative trait of mine I cannot say for sure, but spite can be a powerful motivator sometimes.

Why not take this experience and use it to your advantage? Show the video to your teacher and say “I do not want to sound like this again. I keep practicing but I feel like I’m not improving. How can we/I fix this?”.....instead of quitting.

You’ve spent the better part of 6 years with your fiddle, if you are going to end it at least do it on a positive note (pardon the pun). Do not quit your lessons, ect just yet, think about it a bit more and perhaps focus on playing for your own pleasure for a while and then if you still feel your done just put your fiddle away.

Also if you do end up being done, keep at least one violin. You never know.

Edited: October 9, 2018, 12:04 PM · Hey Demian,

Reading a little between the lines (so I'll risk overstepping), it looks like this may be a bigger issue than the violin. In most cities, really low cost counseling is available, usually with students getting their master's or phd's in counseling or psychology, and I have used these kinds of resources to help me get through come issues that I was having a lot of trouble figuring out on my own. I really recommend counseling/therapy to anyone. You can usually find information at university websites, or just googling around.

With that said, I think that you have two competing forces that you have to balance at all times in learning an instrument. One is being honest with yourself about your playing so that you can see your flaws and work on them and improve, and the other is not internalizing criticism so that you start to take not playing perfectly out on yourself. It's a really hard balance, and it's kind of personal for everyone - You need a certain amount of insulation from certain people, and you need some good trusted people who's opinions you can count on and who you know mean you well.

I also think focusing on the path and process of getting better and just enjoying that is key, rather than looking at the goals. It takes soooo long to get halfway decent at the violin, and it's easy to quit, especially at times where you ARE actually getting better. It's often because you are becoming more self aware and your standards for your own playing are getting higher. This is a good thing, because it means you are listening to yourself more carefully, and that is the only way to get better.

I'm not saying 'don't quit', but you need to understand that this is a feeling that many go through. If you elect to keep going, you may need to change some things - how you practice, your teacher, your living situation or any other outside factors that impact your ability or willingness to practice, diet and exercise, etc. If you elect to quit, then you probably just got a bunch of free time back, and that may end up meaning a lot more for you than the violin, but if this is more of an existential crisis (which I imagine a lot of these kinds of things are), then quitting the violin may not solve it.

Oh yeah, and one more thing. Probably every musician has had performances that they absolutely hated. These kinds of performances are really important - Once you have one and realize that it didn't kill you, it sort of puts into perspective the limits of what a good or bad performance says about you. You gotta be willing to have some BAD performances if you want to perform, but it's also good to perform more on your own terms. Starting with lower pressure performances is good rather than just jumping into the deep end and hoping that through magical thinking you will be a master performer the first time. You can and should practice for performing, but performing is the best practice for performing

Good luck!

October 9, 2018, 12:05 PM · @Tom Bop The swimming coach said, "It only takes a minute to quit, but years to get back."

Not necessarily, especially with music skills. At 18, when I started work as a technical trainee in a large metallurgical company, I was already a reasonably good cellist (grade 8) and playing in a local orchestra. On starting work my music playing not only had to go on the back burner but the burner was effectively turned off for the next 7 - 8 years. Why? A 5-1/2 day week with 3 night-schools a week studying for degree level qualifications in science and engineering, and the consequent home studying, meant that playing music and other social activities went out of the window.

in my late 20's I had finished those studies and free time magically re-appeared. I took my cello out of its case, tuned it up (I remember the A was mysteriously still in tune) and started playing again. Two or three weeks later it was like I'd never got off the bus and I joined a local symphony orchestra. Decades later I became a violinist, but that's another story. What I reckon happened with the relatively quick re-acquisition of playing skills after several years of disuse was that the neurological motor skills of playing the cello must have still been there and only needed re-awakening, but specific muscle strength in various areas still needed to be recovered, which only took a very few weeks.

I think the comment by that swimming coach was not well thought out.

October 9, 2018, 12:53 PM · I started playing at age 50. Then put it down at different times. There is not a day goes by that I do not kick myself for not finding the proper teacher years ago and keeping at it (instead letting negative teacher experiences make me give up). I even kick myself for not wanting to play the violin at a young age. In a town that still has no violin instructors. This time around I want to keep going, even though I think I suck, and I’m pretty sure you’re better than me. Don’t be me. Don’t spend all your time thinking “I should have kept at it so I wouldn’t suck so badly now. Gee, where would I be now if I’d not quit. “
October 9, 2018, 1:21 PM · Maybe read the piece I just posted about mediocrity. It's a hobby, not your career. You can enjoy it even if no one else thinks you're any good. :-)
Edited: October 9, 2018, 2:30 PM · Demian,
Fair enough. You're not in a rock band and don't use illicit substances. However, how are we to know that based on your profile?

The photo looks like a very typical rocker group portrait. What else are we supposed to make of it? If you saw a photo of a guy riding a bike on my profile, wouldn't your first impression be "hmm, looks like that guy rides a bike"? In order for it to be a joke, people have to realize it's a joke.

I would agree that forward progress, even in a hobby, can be necessary for enjoyment. This could come back to the teacher's method, and what kinds of goals are being set and then achieved. It's possible you just don't enjoy that process, or you find the violin simply too difficult to progress at. That's perfectly fair. I doubt there's violinist among us, even at high levels, who hasn't wanted to just smash the thing to bits and do something else. We can give ourselves permission to quit things we don't enjoy, as long as we don't make a habit of quitting things just when the goings gets a bit tough.

October 9, 2018, 3:01 PM · I sensed that you are still very passionate about this. I will suggest you just telling yourself and others you are "taking a break" instead of quitting. If you are truly passionate, soon you will be able look beyond how well you play or what you have accomplished.
October 9, 2018, 3:47 PM · Demian,

A sad story. I was also a "late starter" although I was 10 years older - 30 when I had my first lesson. Playing in an orchestra can be fun, if it is the right orchestra for novice players. I was asked to join the community orchestra that was run by a number of professionals and teachers but their attitude was best expressed by the conductor at the first rehearsal where he said: "If you are going to make a mistake, please make it loud so that it's interesting." We all laughed and it broke the tension. I think I managed to play about one measure out of 10 in the first rehearsal.

As to the critique: that was simply cruel. First of all you were in an orchestra section (probably not the firsts and nowhere near the front) so how could he know how you played? Maybe he was trying to impress somebody with how knowledgeable/ sophisticated/ and frankly boorish he is. FWIW: I once played a hymn in church and a member of the congregation gave me a rather nasty comment on my ability to play. Rather than feel bad or get angry, I just handed him my instrument and asked him to demonstrate how it should be played. Turns out he doesn't play anything other than the radio.

Perhaps the violin is finished for you, perhaps it is your time for a time out to determine what you really wanted to do with the instrument in the first place. If it was to please yourself, you will return, if it was to please others, you probably won't. Either way you will have learned some valuable life lessons.

October 9, 2018, 5:05 PM · I have so many thoughts and so many questions. I'm going to try and reduce them to a few though, as I tend to ramble.

1) Have you considered that your lack of progress is due to your teacher? Also, what does your teacher say about this? Have you spoken to them about your overall perceived lack of progress?

2) Have you considered that your lack of progress is due to spending too much time in an orchestra setting and not enough time on the quality of your own playing?

3) Your mom's bf sounds like a douchebag, and we shouldn't really put much stock into the advice of d-bags. Seriously, he sounds like an idiot.

4) I've taught some surprisingly decent players who think they're utter trash. So you should know that your perceptions of yourself aren't always the best gauge for how good you actually are.

5) Personally, I think you should "Scale back" a bit. Take some time to work on fixing the things about your sound that you don't like. Identify specific issues, one at a time, and fix them. Quit orchestra. Don't let yourself get overwhelmed. You wouldn't be the first person to quit violin altogether because of a bad experience; in fact, it's the most common thing in the world. But it's important to recognize that the people who became really good in the long run are the ones that didn't quit. By quitting, you deny yourself the chance to overcome anything, in exchange for ridding yourself of the fear of failure.

Edited: October 9, 2018, 6:20 PM · Don't be so hard on yourself. You are upset that others thought you didn't perform very well, for a performance you yourself admit were not ready for but for whatever reason felt obliged to do. And what other outcome did you expect? You did what you could given the circumstances, and received honest feedback, albeit perhaps too honest. So what if a few more people see the recorded performance, there is no shame in performing at any level and should be proud of YOUR achievement. I doubt many who commented can perform after 6 years of learning as a young adult any better than you did, if at all. Now you have something that tells you what you need to work on as a goal, and a good story to tell later on.
October 9, 2018, 6:52 PM · Demian, your original post strikes me as very "performance"-centered, very much about over-exposure and image. My guess is you are probably a much better player than me, but I will NEVER quit! I think that especially since recordings and various mass-distribution media, music has been turned into a celebrity business that takes away the more private and interior aspects of the real joy in making music, even if you aren't at a professional level. Ask yourself if you really love making music or not, and perhaps leave all the public performance out of the equation, at least until you feel comfortable with your playing again and will feel comfortable in perhaps a more modest and supportive setting.
Edited: October 9, 2018, 7:12 PM · OP: "I've played for about six years, and he's right, my playing should be far better than it is, which suggest it is no longer a matter of how much I practice or if my teacher is qualified enough, but it seems that all in all, I am unable to "

In my humble since limited experience as an adult learner, the most significant thing that has made an impact on my playing is my current teacher: not an expensive violin (I have an ok violin), not choice of strings, not the fact that I practice more (I was putting as much time before, maybe now more), not my esteem or lack thereof, not my faith in my ability or lack thereof. IVe been luck to find a teacher who I can work with, who understands how and what to teach, how to produce a good tone, who is able to break things down so I can practice and who is able to then relate this back to the musicality of the piece. Things always move towards more learning, not merely more playing.

The difference I see in my playing is really concrete, my tone is better, I have more control over the bow...and I am no genius. I am simply stating this to counter your idea that you are not able to learn. After my experience with some teachers, I can say that, provided that you put the time to practice conscientiously, used whatever facilities you have at hand to learn, followed the teachers instructions, if you haven't made progress in producing a good sound, a consistent technique, the fault is not yours. I read your previous thread of searching for a teacher and I sympathize a lot. I was previously in a city where I could hardly find someone who played the violin, let alone a violin teacher. So I realize you might not be spoiled for choice. But you should not let that convince you that you are the source of the problem, whatever you decide to do.

Respectfully, I think its not fair on yourself to take what your mothers boyfriend said into serious consideration...not because it is an a**holic thing to say (which it was), but because it simply comes from ignorance. there is nothing objectively valid about someone criticizing a student's playing with absolutely no idea of what it takes, what the context is, etc. So, don't factor that in while deciding.

October 9, 2018, 7:31 PM · I heartily second Scott Cole's first post, and Erik Williams' post.

I especially endorse the notion of what you are doing for yourself, versus performance. Note that performance is also a skill which has to be built.

I think that people vary in how much they deteriorate when they come back to the instrument. If your technique was never very solid to begin with, you will have much more difficulty picking it up again. If your technique was extremely precise, you may also have difficulty regaining that control.

October 9, 2018, 9:10 PM · "I think some of us reach a point such that, after some circumstances, we start to consider if we should stop violin altogether."

While that would be entirely rational for me, and it has come to mind increasingly at some point, I'd have to say no for myself, despite literal pain and frustration which I've expressed here at times, I find, for now, that I have a drive which keeps me going despite feeling that I'm getting nowhere much of the time.

"This is happening to me since a few days, and while I am pretty sure the decision is made and I don't wish to turn back"

That's cool. It's your life and your decision, and you're free to do what you choose. But is it what you want, or are you rather just very frustrated by not achieving what you would like? It seems like the latter to me, which isn't a great position to be in, as it could gnaw at you, and the recovery might be even harder in the future.

Rather, I suggest taking this experience, what you're feeling now, as grounds to will yourself to do better.

Forget casual negative comments. Most people have no idea how difficult it is to play violin, and while everyone has some ability to identify less that perfect playing, most people are also ignorant of the fact that many many professional performances and recordings have been and continue to be significantly less than perfect.

Criticism in this forum can also be similarly motivating. I think it was such criticism of another's playing on this board which made me, in recognizing that my own playing should be much better than it was, resolve to play better. And I did, and have been doing so, one very slow bow stroke or other movement at a time - resolving to finding a way to play better until it is better, and not glossing over the flaws moving through repertoire or repeating the same material without change.

October 9, 2018, 9:35 PM · There's no such thing as "should" -- everyone progresses at their own rate. I've seen people who were still barely above beginner level after 10 years or more, but if they enjoy playing, who am I to judge?

I started at 16 and things didn't really start to click until I was 23 or 24, which means I played badly for longer than you have. Didn't keep me from getting a lot better later on. A plateau does not mean you will never learn, even if you feel stuck for years. As long as you are physically able to play, you can continue to improve.

And in an orchestra setting, unless you're playing in a professional orchestra or an elite community orchestra, there's a good chance you're not the only one making a ton of mistakes. Many school and community orchestras program music that is above the level of all but a few of the musicians. I've played in community orchestras where certain passages turn into string quartets because no one else can play them -- I was one of the people sitting in the back and faking for years when I started playing in orchestras, and recently I was principal viola in an orchestra like that for a while.

October 9, 2018, 10:04 PM · I'm not familiar with orchestra. I don't understand the circumstances that would force your participation. I detest being recorded and would be mortified by publishing a non approved video. Bad experience. I think that sooner or later something unpleasant happens to all performers. Not the worst thing in the world though. As a singular incident, maybe not a call for an emotionally driven decision. Can you allow yourself some time to decompress?
Edited: October 9, 2018, 10:23 PM · Hi Friend,

I can't add much more than everyone else has said, but I ask that you don't quit from this experience.

We all have those experiences in our musical history. Mine was in 3rd year during a music festival. These are the moments that make or break us as musicians - we become so much stronger when we move past them and force ourselves to progress despite feeling like shit about it and about everything and wanting to do nothing more than give up and crawl into a hole and metaphorically die.

I am a similar age to you - if you ever need a friend and want to talk about music or anything (we are more than our instruments, after all) please email me and get in touch - my email is on my profile. I am happy to offer advice, friendship, and support to help you move on past this and into the next chapter.

One of the biggest challenges I deal with everyday is fighting through depression to work on writing something, practicing, or getting things ready for my choir. Some days it just feels like I'd rather do anything else but I still know I have to do it and it'll be worse not to. Those are the days when I feel like I should just give up everything and throw it away - too much work. not worth it. But then I actually do the things and remember why I love them and why I do them.

All the best wishes - don't give up just yet.

October 11, 2018, 3:51 AM · Relax!

Think of violin playing as a challenge, and don't care at what people think. I started playing almost 3 years ago, as an adult who has at best 2 weekly practise hours and who is prone to get huge headaches that make violin really uncomfortable. And here I am, progressing at a slow pace, but enjoying what I do.

Some months ago, an 11 year old cousin blatantly told me that my piano playing was good, but violin playing really sucked. Would I quit because of it? Not at all! I laughed with him, I asked him if he wanted to try playing it and saw his opinion as a motivating thing.

You may think you could give up performances for a time, but I really think that now, you need a new performance...and you must do everything you reasonably can to nail it!

Edited: October 11, 2018, 4:35 AM · If you're good on the piano, then one day you will be good on the violin.
I've given up classical guitar. That's partly because I still bite my nails and partly because it's so damn lonely. Playing CG can be meditative, but I just prefer being in groups of musicians. So it's the violin for me - until arthritis puts the mockers on it.
October 11, 2018, 5:56 AM · Well, I'm good on the piano... in an 11 year-old opinion. I can play some moderately difficult things (like Mozart and Scarlatti sonatas, Bach's preludes and fugues, some Chopin, some Mussorgsky, some Debussy...)I'm satisfied with that, since I play for my own enjoyment. My goal is to reach in the long term an equivalent violin level. They're radically different instruments, but I've seen that playing violin has made me play a more delicate piano.

Piano is also usually a lonely and meditative instrument. Yet, violin is also lonely for me since I still haven't reached a good enough level to play with other people. Each thing has a time. Enjoy playing the violin until you must find a different instrument or hobby!

What I intended with my answer was showing OP that one must not take very seriously what people say. Not even take oneself very seriously unless one's pursuing a musical career, which is not my case at all...

October 11, 2018, 8:04 AM · When I was 15 I realized I was never going to be "all that" on the piano but I really enjoyed jazz. So I worked on it, got into the all-state jazz orchestra on piano, which connected me eventually to a truly amazing teacher (Bart Polot), and in college I formed a trio with bass (my own brother) and trumpet (Kevin Watt) and we had a blast. Nowadays I moonlight as a jazz pianist in a few different groups, and in fact I have to turn away about half of the scale-paying gigs I'm offered. It's not a significant source of income relative to my day job (which is not all that impressive in terms of pay either), but it sure is fun.

Okay, so that works on the piano. But it's not going to work on the violin. To do "other genres" on the violin you still need facility, tone, bow control, and intonation. My technical skill on the violin is better than my technical skill on the piano, but jazz violin is still extremely difficult, mostly because of the never-ending intonation issue, and the need for facility (finding fingerings for the improv in my mind's ear). I do have a jazz trio with violin and we've played a dozen gigs or so, and I work on it when I have time (which is like never these days) but I feel kind of limited. I can't really play the kind of jazz I would really want to.

If you like computers, buy a small synthesizer like a Yamaha MX61 and get Reaper for your laptop. That's a great way to enjoy and create music for someone who's so far behind the curve technically that you're wondering if you'll ever truly enjoy it.

I'm not trying to be unsupportive -- but being supportive was the role of your mother and her boyfriend (unfortunately he blew it). I'm trying to be candid and forward thinking. Violin is not for everyone. It really comes back to whether you're enjoying the journey. If you're not, then for goodness sake, dump it.

October 11, 2018, 3:12 PM · I've been there too. A lot of otherwise good musicians drop out of the business in their mid-twenties when they hit their technical limits at the same time that they face the financial reality of adult life. I dropped out at 28, came back much later. Starting at 20 is not too late to get good, but it is too late to win the competitive auditions and contests with those who started at 7 yo. If your 6 years have been with the same teacher then it is probably time to move on to someone else. Every teacher has their own strengths and insights. Technical progress is not usually constant. There are plateaus of consolidation interrupted by break- throughs and rapid progress. Another thing to watch out for is that our perception, our understanding of music, and sense of pitch can improve faster than our playing, so that we think we are getting nowhere, or worse, when we are actually improving ! I also do not listen to my recordings; I sound ordinary, mediocre, and want to give it up. So, do not sell all of your violins. Park one or two in the closet and and take a long vacation from playing, lessons, and the orchestra. You will then discover how much you miss it and have the opportunity to think about what you really want to do. If and when you come back to the violin it will take about 2 weeks of intelligent practice to retrieve the former technique. Time solves many problems.~jq
October 12, 2018, 7:44 AM · I'm not particularly fond of telling people what to do with their lives, with things like, "You should do this.." or "don't do that." All we can really offer you is our opinions.
My aunt began to learn the violin last November. She kept it up until spring, when she stopped practicing due to lack of motivation.
I've actually been thinking of switching from violin to lute or perhaps cello, or just keep piano, which is my primary instrument anyway. I don't have the same zeal for violin as I did. I find I can barely stand its high pitches, for one reason. I'm not going to give up, however, because I have motivation: in composing, where I can create the pieces I'd actually want to play; in future advanced pieces I love listening to and yearn to play; and knowing that I have a lifetime to improve.
It seems like this happens constantly. I'm always running into someone who used to play an instrument, or whose relative played, but gave up, because of the difficulty, their teachers, or some other reason. I have three friends who have played the violin in their lifetimes: two who as children for whatever reason quit after a couple of years, if that; and the other, a guitarist, pianist, opera vocalist, and composer who took an extended break lasting a couple of years, though I doubt it was due to discouragement. He's started back up again. I'm not sure how he's progressing.
I'm probably at a slightly lower level than you, and I feel as you described. Like I should be able to play more proficiently than I do after five years, sound better, actually have a vibrato, etc. I've been playing for five years. But I also had a rough start, with a student teacher who taught me all the wrong things. I switched to a professional fiddler, and my playing improved, but I'm still not satisfied.
I agree with what some of the others say: try taking a few weeks, or months, or even a year to work on violin. Have a set date. Try another approach. Then make your decision. If you still don't like where you are in your playing, and you feel as you do now, quit. But if you feel you've made progress, don't.
Quit orchestra. I've never been in one, but if you have low self-confidence in your performances, chances are you hate orchestra. So sure, quit that. I would keep lessons, but again, that's your preferance.
If you don't like the genre you're in, switch. Broaden out. Try pop, rock, fiddle, classical/baroque, country, blues, African, Asian, Scandinavian, etc. Whatever music you enjoy listening to, try it on your violin. It makes no sense to play what you hate. I personally love Scandinavian music, so I'm going to try that out. Maybe you could try composing or arranging (neither of which you need an advanced and expensive computer for). You are not unable to learn, you just need to try a different approach.
You mentioned that your teacher could take a better approach. She probably won't clue in that you even need a different approach than she's offering. I've had six teachers; trust me, sometimes they really just get too lost in what "they" want to teach you, that they forget what you want to learn, or how you need information presented. So approach her instead.
I was discouraged from piano several months ago. I took a more systematic approach to it, and now I absolutely love it again. Maybe in your case it might be similar.
You could also try another instrument, while keeping up violin. Piano, guitar, woodwinds, brass, whatever takes your fancy. Or try another hobby, outside of music. Visual arts, writing, reading...the list is endless. Maybe focus on something else, while keeping violin as a secondary thing. If you don't have much time on your hands, it can be tough, but a lot of musicians play multiple instruments even when stretched for time, and they're successful. I have a few things on the go: piano, violin, writing fiction, homeschooling, essays, online college courses, the farm, reading, sketching, research, foreign language.
Don't perform until you're ready to. I've had three performances so far, two piano/violin, one violin, and all went miserably. As you experienced, my teacher pushed me into one, giving me a month to prepare, and the other two I pushed myself into, but I wasn't ready at all. I basically have had a performance every few years, and all of them went badly. I took a years' break from performing, and now I have a more positive outlook on it and I'm willing to try it again. I have one sort of in mind, a piano recital in May. So perhaps you could work on your technique, record yourself playing, play for a smaller audience, and then try another recital when you feel like you want to, and that you're ready to.
You could also speak to the musicians in the orchestra, particularly the violinists, violists, cellists, and bassists.
This can be an extremely difficult one, but don't let what others say get to you. That musician I mentioned earlier? He's one of the only good musicians I know, and I have this annoying pressure - whenever he and his parents visit or we visit them and they ask me to perform - to impress him, like if he thinks I made a few mistakes it means I'm a terrible musician. I can't seem to shake it. Even though he's never once criticized my playing - he's even put mine above his for certain pieces, though beyond a doubt he is the better musician - that feeling is still there. So I'm either a hypocrite for suggesting not taking people's opinions to heart, or I've learned from my mistakes.
Yeah, I can understand that last part about telling your parents. But remember, it's not their hobby. It's yours. Just because they are happy with it, doesn't mean you will be - and you're not.
If you really feel like quitting, by all means, quit. It makes no sense to pursue something you don't want.
Just know that it takes a long time for violinists, violists, cellists, and bassists to sound half decent, and this stage is probably perfectly normal. It might only take delving further into technique for you to progress, or switching teachers.
Best regards, whatever your decision.
Edited: October 13, 2018, 12:00 PM · Tim, certainly I intended no offense. My post was intended as a few candid thoughts for the OP. As with everything else on this forum, take it or leave it.

"Learning computer music won't help a person learn violin." No, it won't. But I thought this thread was about quitting the violin. Demian wrote, "we start to consider if we should stop violin altogether" (emphasis mine).

I have the synthesizer and the computer and the DAW, and honestly I would need lessons to figure out what the hell to do with it. I actually HAVE had a few lessons and I'm at the stage where I'm more confused now then when I started. But if I wasn't spending so much time practicing the violin and the piano and playing in two orchestras on viola and playing piano gigs, my guess is that I could make a serious dent in learning how to make digital music. I do agree that having had quite a bit of theory back in the day would be an advantage. I also would never EVER expect to become a pro at it. The difference between computer music and playing violin or piano is that you're not trying to learn a physical technique that is, frankly, hard to learn if you're not starting as a child.

October 13, 2018, 6:24 PM · Don't throw away your violins! There are so many variables---could be the wrong teacher, someone who doesn't understand what's holding you back and can't properly help you improve; it could be repertoire you're not passionate about; it could be a where you are at emotionally, and your living circumstances. There's also the fact that you were traumatized by this performance which you weren't ready for! I believe that performance anxiety really damaged my relationship with the violin early on.

I started violin at age 4, and then proceeded to quit and re-start (at LEAST) seven times over the next 25 years. It wasn't until I was at a place mentally where I KNEW I had to play---as it was upsetting me not to---and also that I was mature enough to accept I'd have to go back and re-build skills from the bottom up, that I was able to start again with commitment. Also importantly, I lucked into the perfect teacher for me. All of these requirements had to be met, and I'm not sure it was possible for it to happen much earlier than it did.

I was 30 (now 31) when I started again last winter, and it's been totally different from all my past experiences. I miraculously have no problem now playing like, 75% scales and etudes. My teacher first addressed the way my body was translating my anxiety (about sounding bad, mostly) into my playing, very much hobbling my ability. Now that a lot of this has been rewired, I enjoy the act of playing every time my bow touches the string. I'm also improving very fast compared to the past.

Watch some videos of your favorite violinists and see if that helps you feel excited. That works for me. That Itzhak Perlman bio, I Played Every Note, is great to remind you how it feels to love violin.

Edited: October 14, 2018, 4:34 AM · I know how you feel. I've had my fair share of discouraging events and I've thought I was totally done several times, but I'm still here and I played a violin recital this year (something I was sure I'd never do again). You might think "what does this guy know? He doesn't know me" and you'd be right, but consider this:

At my very first concerto competition as a kid, I got nervous and my bow wobbled in the first round. My teacher at the time was so angry with me for playing badly that he knocked me down a flight of stairs and broke my collarbone. I felt so discouraged and so hurt at that moment that I thought I'd quit playing. To our surprise, the judges forgave a few wobbles and I actually made it past the first round. This meant that I had to play the next round and I did. My broken collarbone vibrated painfully with every note, but because I had already come close to giving up, I played my heart out like I had nothing to lose. I was in tears when I finished, but I ended up winning (this sounds like bragging, but bear with me, it gets worse). I still had to play the performance for winning, and it didn't go well. My nerves were back, and I crumbled. I overheard an audience member saying that my playing sounded "tortured". That crushed me. I was told by my teacher that I should be ashamed, and that I should feel guilty for stealing the opportunity away from someone else and making people listen to me struggle. When I got home I didn't touch my violin for almost a year. I said it was because of the pain, but my collarbone had been reset and had healed. I was just depressed.

Next disappointment: My senior recital in undergrad. Plainly and simply, my program was too ambitious for me and I wasn't ready for it. I slaughtered it. It was just not good. I was handed a CD of the performance but I knew I'd never want to hear it so I snapped it in half. My professor gave me a C for the semester, and I think that was generous. I went into a deep depression and didn't play my violin for six months.

Years later I had an orchestra job and I didn't feel like I could keep up with the standards set by the director. I felt I was slipping behind. I was convinced that I was faking it and tricking people into thinking I belonged there. I don't know if it was impostor syndrome, depression or self-awareness, but I couldn't cope with my feelings of inadequacy and I quit that job.

I went for another orchestra audition and felt so much pressure to win the audition that I had a nervous breakdown before I even played and I walked away and forfeited. I didn't play my violin for 3 years after that.

Recently, I prepared a violin recital. I think there was a part of me that felt a need to close up some unfinished business. I was prepared and I had a good attitude. People seemed to really like it. I hadn't planned on an encore specifically, but people asked for it so I sheepishly played the only thing I had memorized that didn't require accompaniment and they loved it. Now, I'm not trying to make it as a professional violinist anymore, but it's still a part of me that I'll never let go of so the only thing I'm giving up on is the notion that I'll ever actually give up for good. I don't practice as much as I used to, but I make a point of delegating at least a couple of hours a day to practicing my violin. It's like therapy now.

I realize my story isn't the same as yours, but if there is a part of you that loves playing the violin, it will keep making its way back into your life even if you think you're done. Hold onto your fiddle, just in case.

Edited: October 14, 2018, 9:14 AM · @Michael. If that appalling treatment by a teacher happened today you can be sure that they'd never be allowed to teach again - after the jail sentence is done.
October 15, 2018, 8:16 AM · Michael! That is quite a history!! It does make its way back.
October 15, 2018, 4:46 PM · Damn, Michael. I always enjoy your posts on here. That's a lot of baggage that your teacher saddled you with, but I hope you can work out a an approach that works for you for playing.
October 20, 2018, 2:47 PM · Michael Pijoan

I find it hard to believe that teachers like that exist! Why didn't you complain about it to someone else (your parents, or other authorities) ?

October 20, 2018, 3:16 PM · Damian, sometimes it's harder to tell other people about a traumatic experience than it is to just bear it inside yourself.
Edited: October 23, 2018, 1:30 AM · I didn't complain about it for several reasons. Frankly, I was stupid. I was a hopeful and naive young violin student who wanted so deeply to be successful that I put up with a lot of harm. When you want something as badly as I did, you sometimes surprise yourself with what you can endure. This teacher was a well-regarded competition coach and I didn't think anyone would believe me anyway. Now my approach to playing has changed. My life isn't about grinding for the next audition. Now it's really about being able to say things out loud that I can't say with words.
October 23, 2018, 6:06 AM · If that teacher is still around, things do not need be remain in the dark. Might help avoid this happening to other students.
October 23, 2018, 12:24 PM · He’s dead. Lung cancer got him.
October 23, 2018, 1:14 PM · In any case, very sorry you had to go through such an experience Michael.

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

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Violin Finder
Yamaha Violin Finder

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Warchal Metronome

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases



Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Potter Violins

Pro-Am Strings

Violin Lab

Wangbow Violin Bow Workshop