Why did you pick up the violin?

November 5, 2018, 7:21 PM · I was reading another thread and Perlman’s name was mentioned.

I still remember watching this on Sesame Street way back in the day and while watching I fell in love with the violin (and Perlman!) and I started my violin journey....first by begging my parents for lessons, finally getting them around 5-6 and the violin has been a love in my life (off and on, we can be transient in our love, haha!) into my early 40’s. I still remember hearing this though and thinking “I need to be able to do this.” Cannot articulate it even now, I just had to and still do.


What inspired you or why did you start playing the violin?

Replies (42)

November 5, 2018, 7:34 PM · I don't remember exactly to be honest. As far as I can remember, a friend suggested x/talked about it and I wanted to try, so I did. I loved it so I kept going to this day.
Edited: November 5, 2018, 8:45 PM · Age 4 or so. Because my parents said "pick two instruments" so I chose violin and piano. Actually I started piano at 3 and violin at 4. And I stayed with both until the last year of high school when I put aside violin to focus on jazz piano. I returned to the violin 25 years later, but I still play jazz piano, and a lot of it actually. My oldest brother chose violin and piano too, eventually dropping violin and then later picking up the trumpet. My other brother started on piano, added cello soon thereafter, and eventually dropped piano for the flute, and now he's mostly a jazz bassist (amateur). We all have day jobs in STEM areas (oldest brother recently retired though).
November 5, 2018, 8:54 PM · Ignorance.
November 6, 2018, 12:15 AM · It was fifth grade, about age 11. I went to a rather limited music store with my father. They had three instruments; a trumpet, a clarinet, a violin. I blew in the trumpet, nothing happened , clarinet, nothing. The violin made a sound the first time. I remember that my reaction was something like: "this one works, I'll do violin" That $100 violin was ****, it was replaced about two years later, when I started with a real violin teacher.
Edited: November 6, 2018, 7:55 AM · I picked it up to play Western Swing and because my fingernails were no good for classical guitar.
November 6, 2018, 5:57 AM · I had to practise.
November 6, 2018, 7:19 AM · After two of my grandsons had been taking violin lessons for a couple years I decided to get a violin and a method book and give it a go. My mistake was when I called a music store to inquire about renting a violin, the store owner suggested that I should “be sure to get a good teacher”. I took his advice. That was seven years ago, I was 56 years old. Sometimes I wonder “what was I thinking”? I am now hooked, and really enjoying the challenge.
Edited: November 6, 2018, 7:44 AM · I had created some discussion forums for Cajun and Zydeco music. One acquaintance lamented that there was no specific forum for cajun fiddle, so I created one. Some time later I walked into a music store to buy a penny whistle, and walked out with a Pallatino violin (earlier, heavier Chinese export).

Anyway, I blew on that thing for weeks before....oh, never mind.

November 6, 2018, 7:46 AM · I had forgotten about seeing Perlman on Sesame Street.

My older brother had started violin. There was some specific developmental reason why my parents started him on it, but I am not sure what that was. Then my parents also had my older sister start.

Overall, I was a very well behaved child. But, I wouldn't stay out of the violin cases. I was 4.5 when my parents let me also start taking lessons.

November 6, 2018, 8:49 AM · First music lesson at secondary school they said we all had to learn either the violin or the recorder. Recorder was what the girls at primary school used to play, so... By such dopey decisions does one's whole future life get determined
Edited: November 10, 2018, 6:49 AM · I'm quite sure that the first night I slept at home after leaving my birth hospital I heard my father practicing the violin. He would have been 28 at the time and had resumed violin lessons after medical school and some evening chamber music experience there. He practiced every day after work and every 4 weeks his (revolving) string quartet practiced at our house. So at some stage in my young life, of course I wanted to emulate my father.

My grandfather gave me my first violin for my 4th birthday and I remember standing on the toy box under the 1st floor window of the bedroom I shared with my baby sister overlooking NYC's West 176ths St. (within view of the Hudson river - and these days viewed almost nightly on the ABC Nightly News weather report) and bowing the heck out of that thing - especially when people were walking by (what a showoff!). After 6 months of what must have been pretty hard to listen to my parents asked me if I wanted to take violin lessons. Of course I said yes - and that's how it started.

November 6, 2018, 10:07 AM · Plain curiosity and wanting a new challenge. I started as an adult after playing piano during my childhood and teens. I couldn't understand how do violinists knew where to place fingers without any visual guidance, how did they know an A was exactly an A and not something between an A and a #A... and I also had read lots of times that violin was harder to play than piano/the hardest instrument to play... so I had to try it by myself. I started lurking a bit and ended up taking lessons in a few months.

Surprisingly, it's not as difficult as I thought it would be, and I'm learning at a good pace regarding I barely practice for 2h a week.

November 6, 2018, 11:00 AM · My older (by 12 years) sister's violin teacher got interested in the Suzuki movement and wanted to start a class in our small Kansas college town. My mother asked me (age five) if I would like to play the violin--to me, this meant being more like my sister whom I admired--so of course I said "yes!" I am sure that had I said "no," the outcome would have been the same; I was going to be learning the violin. In my family we were all expected to learn piano and at least one other instrument so this was just an earlier start to the inevitable. But my parents had absolutely no intention of any child going into professional music; that was entirely my choice.
November 6, 2018, 12:54 PM · I had been playing electric guitar for 13 years when another guitarist recommended the Paganini Caprices for developing my technique further. I got into numbers 11, 5 and 24 but grew frustrated because no matter how hard I tried, it just wouldn't sound good/right to me. Also having to play harmonics or outside the fingerboard was just silly to reach the right notes because you sacrifice tone.

So then I just bought a violin, booked lessons and now one year later the opening section of #5 is actually starting to sound like something. I love playing the violin, I can't get enough of it.
I get chills which I never did with guitar.

November 6, 2018, 1:46 PM · My mother used to take us to the symphony when we were kids. The first time I heard Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, I knew I wanted to play violin in an orchestra. My brothers went to the dark side, one playing cornet and the other clarinet.
Edited: November 6, 2018, 6:16 PM · My parents sent me to recorder lesson with the neighbor upstairs when I was 6. Then they heard about a music school that subsidized lessons for low income kids (my parents income was just above the cut off of course...) and decided to send me there. The rule was that every kid had to take solfeggi classes (in groups) of at least a year before being found ready for a "real" instrument (recorder not being real). That gave everyone time to select an instrument. I selected the violin because I liked its sound. They told me it was difficult and for some reason that also appealed to me.

I started lessons at age 11 but made faster progress because of my ability read the music.

November 6, 2018, 9:16 PM · My parents could not afford piano 8-;
Edited: November 7, 2018, 4:38 AM · I'm the weirdo who picked up the violin mainly because I wanted to play the viola.

I didn't have the opportunity to even hear string instruments early in my life. I grew up in Dubai in the 1980s and 90s, where there was no classical music scene to speak of. I got piano lessons, starting when I was 5, from the mother of one of my classmates at the American school there. I was 12 when my family moved back to the US, and up to that point had never seen a Western string instrument, or even heard one outside of film soundtracks.

But having taken piano lessons for 7 years by then, I knew symphony orchestras existed, and I remember one of the things that excited me most about moving back to the US was having the opportunity to go to concerts. Later that year (November or December 1995?) I finally got to hear an orchestra in person. The Walton viola concerto was on the program that night, so it was the viola I fell in love with first.

I started on violin, though, because there was an old violin in the family that had once belonged to my great-uncle, and had sat untouched on a shelf in my uncle's house in Taiwan for over 20 years since my great-uncle died. There were no other bowed string players in the family; my uncle played the guitar and had been interested in learning the violin but never had time. Now that I wanted to play strings, my parents asked my uncle to bring it over to the US the next time he visited. That's how I ended up with a violin. (I didn't start learning for a few years after that, though, because multiple teachers rejected me saying I was too old to learn a string instrument.)

I switched to viola at the first opportunity, which was in college when I was able to borrow a viola for the entire four years. After I was accepted to medical school I went ahead and bought a professional-level viola, thinking it was a drop in the bucket compared to my med school debt. I still have my great-uncle's old violin, a German Strad copy from the early 1950s, but only play it a few times a year. All that said, the piano remained my main instrument until I graduated from college and no longer had easy access to pianos in practice rooms.

Because of the way I was introduced to the viola, my goal, from the day I started on violin, was to play viola concertos. That's also highly unusual for violists. These days I do most of my playing in orchestras, but I still look for chances to perform as a viola soloist, not least because I love putting the spotlight on an underappreciated instrument. I've done it once, playing the Bruch Romanze with a local community orchestra. More commonly for a violist, I've also come to love playing chamber music, especially Brahms and Schumann.

I still envy people who were able to hear classical ensembles at single-digit ages. It really annoys me when people take the opportunity for granted.

November 7, 2018, 3:18 AM · When I was a very small child, my mom sang in local professional choirs, and conducted a university choir as a graduate student. Music was always in the house from the beginning (she and her sister both learned piano growing up and still play; some family members of former generations were committed and even professional musicians). We had a baby grand piano; my parents listened to all varieties of folk music, classic rock, contemporary choral repertoire on our stereo. I remember my mom studying the scores for Morten Lauridsen's O Magnum Mysterium and Bach liturgical works; I was taken to her concerts. Bach has always been some vestige of Creation—the miracle of dissonances happening such to amplify those perfectly-placed bundles of sixteenth notes in contrapuntal passages; a spacing, a sonority, a cognitive, emotional implication that seems to intimate some design or thing beyond. One concert in particular I remember was an outdoor park concert with a symphony orchestra. Moreover than remembering the choir at that event, I was drawn as a two or three year old to the strings in the orchestra! As it was a symphony concert primarily, I think that a few pieces were orchestral without choir; the silvery continuity of the violins in the high register, all in unison in those late Romantic washes of color as in Dvorak or Smetana or Grieg or Brahms was so alluring to me. Since playing the violin was something mysterious and grown-up, I told my mom I wanted to be a violinist when I grew up. My mom started me on piano a few years after that, and when I was almost 6 we began Suzuki violin lessons. I am truly one of the most fortunate people on Earth, because the wish has been granted, the dream has been fulfilled—I'm now in my first year at a conservatory, but majoring in viola....

I still love a lot of the same music that inspired me in my very first years of playing violin/life. Vivaldi violin concertos are so wonderful! As are Bach concerti (grossi). Today I am more in love with music than ever. I am right now writing a research paper on Schenkerian analysis of BWV 859 Fugue and the relationship between melodic contour and function of pitch within key as that generates textural and harmonic form.

Edited: November 7, 2018, 5:30 AM · In the early days of TV, I became enamored with several violinists on our small black and white set. I particularly remember Florian Zabach, George Liberace (his brother who often showed up on his show), and Jack Benny/Gizelle McKenzie. In fifth grade our school secretary, who also,taught piano, had a violin that one of her kids had tried and given-up on, so my parents bought it for $25. I started taking lessons with Muriel Pfisterer, an Indiana Univ. graduate who. also taught accordian and piano. Mainly I remember how she chain-smoked through my lessons in the small studio in back of the Bringe & Wilsey music store in St. Pete, Fl.

I studied with her through junior high school, then left to study with Peter Kurtz. He was in his eighties at the time, a small but spry gentleman. He had come over from Germany in the early 1900’s, playing his way to the ship’s audience. He ended up in NY, studied with David Mannes and Leapold Auer. He also became the youngest Broadway conductor with the premier of Peer Gynt. He taught for many years in Florence,SC, then retired to St. Pete with wife Marie.

I was high school concertmaster, played in local Youth Symphony and St. Pete Symphony. In college (Florida State) I moved in a different direction and pretty much left violin behind. I did pick it back up in my later years and have played with several community orchestras in Atlanta and now here in Chapel Hill,NC. At age 70 it is still an important part of my retirement life.

Edited: November 7, 2018, 6:45 AM · I first saw Perlman on TV maybe in the 80s, and he was accompanied by a pianist, and they played two pieces, both fast, and Perlman seemed determined to arrive at the end of each piece at least half a bar before the accompaniment. Maybe the accompanist was just slow. Anyway, I didn't immediately latch on to the empty virtuosity of it - Perlman seemed immature to me and less musical than I wanted.
November 7, 2018, 11:20 AM · My dad played. He had played as a kid and played some in his college orchestra (back of the seconds, he said). By the time I came along he wasn't playing much, but he pulled it out, or played the piano, occasionally, and good music was a big part of our household. I knew he had two violins--the one he played then and the one he had used as a kid. One day in 5th grade, there was an announcement on the loudspeaker at school, asking anyone interested in playing a stringed instrument to come to room whatever. My best friend Janet, whose uncle also played the violin, and I looked at each other, and we got up and went. The rest is history LOL! She was VERY talented--I was not. She went on to a pro career and eventually moved back to town. She is now my usual partner for all cultural activities (concerts, plays, operas).
November 7, 2018, 4:52 PM · My family origins include a line of musicians from late 19th cen. Eastern Europe (the family name was Musicant) who played for itinerant theatre companies common in the summer in those times. We have professional musicians in the family still, but alas I am not one of them. According to my mother, at age seven I returned from school and inexplicably asked to play the violin. I started on my uncle’s Markneukirchen violin (I wish I still had it) I took lessons as a child, but only restarted a few years ago. My motivation comes from a love of music, family tradition, and the incredible challenge of learning this amazing instrument.
November 7, 2018, 6:14 PM · I heard a violinist when I was a child and I felt that some part of my psyche broke a little and could not be repaired unless I was able to play the violin as well.
November 8, 2018, 7:00 PM · Thank you everyone for sharing your stories!!!! I just loved reading through the responses.
Edited: November 9, 2018, 7:44 PM · It was in the corner of my grandfather’s house in Tokyo and he let me have it along with some original Suzuki and Zennon materials. We walked down to the nisghborhood shop to get some new strings. He gave me my first lessons on that visit and my first practice recordings were those floppy plastic records.
I started that fall at DePaul in composition.
Edited: November 10, 2018, 6:18 AM · Mendelssohn Violin Concerto is to blame. I wasn't that much of a fan of classical music, although I always knew and felt there was something special about the violin. Even without listening to classical music at all, the violin always attracted me.

One day I happened to listen to the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, and that was the first time I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Something definitely not from Earth. A few weeks later I purchased a violin and started lessons. Any other decision would have been plain wrong.

Edited: November 9, 2018, 11:10 PM · I started playing guitar, but the strings didn't cost enough so I couldn't help feeling that it was "cheap." Then I discovered the violin and soon learned how expensive the strings were, and right then and there I knew violin was for me.
November 10, 2018, 8:20 AM · I first started drums lessons at 5 months old, learning what all these tempo, forte, rhythm, fortissimo, col legno, pizzicato words meant. My mom was not that happy about this but she supported me by buying me an organic drum set. After 9 months of lessons I though:

-Damn, how much a professional soloist drum kit costs? Just $8000? How am I gonna be respected if in the pinnacle of my career I have such a cheap instrument?

So then I started guitar lessons. When I was 2 years old I realized as Mark did that the strings were just $10. What? I'm gonna be humiliated for this in the future. I abandoned the guitar after the first string change.

So I switch to bass. Now that's $40 strings at least, now we are talking about music. But then, again, the bass was too big for me, and it looked cheap, it looked like the cheap instrument no one wants to play, not only looks but is as well, it was like the triangle in the percussion.

So then I switched to triangle lessons until 6 years old, coming back to my roots. Just to check if the sensation was the same as playing the bass. And yeah, it was, it was even worse. This was my first experience with classical: I practiced so hard with world renowned master Pythagoras, and I was ready to play in the orchestra. It was raining outside. I held my triangle very proudly, I was given the score, the conductor came, the symphony was about to begin, there was so many people. I was behind everybody though; looked to the right and noticed this lonely harp. I felt bad for the harp player, but there was not harp player. My parents could not see me actually, may be because the light was not that intense back there. During the first movement, all I saw was a long rest. Man how tempted I was to play it, but I had that constant conductor look, full of intolerance and anger. During the second movement I started to see some quavers, rests, quaver rests actually, but that could not mean any other thing that I was about to play. Later I discovered the composer simply was bored and wanted to play with different kind of rests. So the third movement blasted. Man that was exciting. I was back there with my rests and all, but it was so intense. During a little violin solo section, the closest musician to me, who happened to be a double-bassist that lost himself looking for his seat after the break, held me a torch light. I was so grateful I forgot about the score and failed to play the only one note I had. The conductor wrote me a letter asking me to leave the orchestra within 3 days. In my last rehearsal day I met the double-bassist again. He was changing strings. I saw the string pack price, dropped my triangle and headed to the closest music store to buy a double bass.

So that was when I switched to double bass. Man what a pleasure was to let everyone see my American Express Centurion "Black" Card when buying double-bass strings. For those who don't know, the black card is a level higher than the Platinum. What a change, from being forgotten in the dark, not even noticed as a musician walking by the street because triangles don't even have fancy cases, to be the center of attention. What a big instrument, so big. So big I had to sell my house and 2 of my cars in order to pay transport, airplane fees and back injuries due to transportation and strings.

Then it came depression. This was a dark period of my life, very black dark times, I tried oboe, clarinet, cor anglais, but didn't have the right lungs. I even tried bass clarinet, but same problem.

So then I switch to cello, missing strings, but it was like a cheap version of double-bass. I mean, go for the originals, not the copies, right?
Besides, in the cello section I had a medical problem with my ears, I started to hear weird noises. I had developed Tinnitus, probably due to brass during my dark era. Went to the doctor to ask some solution to Tinnitus, but the doctor said I had no Tinnitus. I told him I was certainly sure it was Tinnitus, I was constantly listening to weird noises. He asked me then what instrument I was playing. I said cello. He replied: oh, then it's the violas. Worry no more, have been diagnosing thousands of cellists during my career and it's always the violas.

So then I switched to viola, to revenge my past. I played as bad as I could, so scratchy and out of tune it was unbearable. I looked to the left, and cellist were smiling to me. Shockingly, I looked to the right, violinists were smiling at me. Almost collapsing, I looked to the conductor but my viola partner immediately moved my head down and told me we are not supposed to do such thing. Why was everybody happy? Kind of being disappointed because the revenge was not going as expected, I switched finally to violin, which seemed the perfect balance. Later I discovered all cellists had an ultimate ear plug in their right ears, violinists in their left ears, and conductors were given when graduated from conservatories special earplugs that filtered out the viola frequency range.

So I began violin lessons, and here I am. I already bought my left ultimate ear plug and I'm ready to rehearsal.

November 10, 2018, 2:46 PM · I play viola, and the two reasons I started were extremely practical. I had originally played trumpet at age 9, but I got braces and it wasn't going so well after that. Then, I had juvenile arthritis (autoimmune disease) that affected my legs and neck primarily and my doctor wanted me to use my hands very actively to try to keep them healthy. I was 13 years old at this point -- kind of late to start violin -- so I went with viola instead.

My son, apart from seeing me play, saw Joshua Bell on Sesame Street sometime around perhaps 2007 (when he was age 2-3) and insisted on playing the violin. I made him wait two more years until he stopped running in circles all day long.

My daughter started violin because her brother played the violin and she wanted to be just like him. It's an ongoing saga.

November 11, 2018, 7:27 AM · I was too young to know that it was impossible. Nice trick mom...
Edited: November 11, 2018, 11:14 AM · My parents had my grandfather-made broken fiddle in a closet for decades. As I turned 50, one day I picked it up, curious of what it might sound like; got it fixed cheaply to a playable state by a sympathetic luthier and tried it. I learned on my own for a short while, enough to play a few simple folk tunes and decided to stick with it and take lessons. I eventually got into classical, which structured approach felt more suited to me. I still have my grandfather's fiddle but long since replaced it with a "real" violin. My grandfather was more the carpenter type, and his fiddle more closely related to a 2x6 with a stick and strings attached, but it did make noise nonetheless! It would be best described as the folk art version of a fiddle ;-)
November 15, 2018, 7:52 AM · I had very little music education when I was young. I was told that my fingers were too short, so don't bother with piano (or anything else). Plus there is no money in the family for this. It wasn't too bad. I was not too interested in playing a musical instrument, and grew up only listen to music as a form for blocking background noise.

Many years later, at some old age, I thought that I will try something that I think that I couldn't do in the past. I thought of music. My first choice was actually flute. Then, I saw a groupon coupon for a trial violin lesson, with violin lend to you during the lesson. I gave it a try and decided to stay on.

I can't say much about my violin playing but it is definitely an enlightening journey so far.

November 15, 2018, 9:25 AM · Why did I pick up a violin?

I had to teach a lesson. As soon as the lesson was over, BAM!--back in the case!

Edited: November 15, 2018, 3:28 PM · A friend moved into a new house and the electric stove was shot. We were switching to gas so I gave him our old stove. In return he gave me an old violin. I was already playing mandolin so I knew where the notes were.

After noodling at bluegrass jams for a while, another friend, who was getting back into violin, got me playing Corelli with him. Then he joined a local orchestra. Shortly afterwards he showed up at my place with a viola, shoved it into my hands, and said, "We need more violists. Learn to play this." I now call myself "The Accidental Violist".

November 15, 2018, 3:31 PM · Seventh Grade, Jr. High back then, the newly elected school board of my up-scaling hometown decided that Arts and Music would be taught five days a week. While the art teacher way overjoyed, the music teacher had to deal with is once-a-week lesson plan where he had bored thousands of students for years. He had a genius idea - part of the class was the standard lesson followed by the major event - over the course of two years all of us would have to attempt to play a scale on every instrument in the orchestra. It was actually fun and leveling. The kid who kicked it off, a trumpet player who was already taking lessons made us all feel pretty bad but we all tried. The next instrument up was an Oboe (accompanied by a huge box of reeds) and Mr. Trumpet only managed to imitate the sound of someone strangling a goose. We worked our way through and one day I got to hold a violin. I had paid attention to the teacher's advice to all before me and I didn't squeak or scratch - I wanted to play this. I asked my parents if I could learn the violin. My father, with his usual style, said "sure, as long as you can pay for it..." That ended the conversation and the dream, until...

Many years later after military service, college and marriage, assisting my mother-in-law get stuff out of her attic I noticed a violin case with a violin in it. I found a teacher, got the instrument brought back to life and at the age of 30 started down the path. It's been 40 years lessons, community orchestra, very limited practice when I had a high-travel job and now in my retirement I'm still playing and I have students - kids who want to play but in the same situation I was in back in 7th grade - family could not afford lessons.

Age and injuries limit what I can do but since I worked hard to gain my skills I've become a good teacher of basics and have handed off more than a few "scholarship students" to the local professionals who like getting a student with both a desire and a solid foundation.

That is my story and my passion.

November 15, 2018, 4:22 PM · In third grade we had to pick our instruments, I couldn't make a sound with trumpet, clarinet, flute, nor did I like the drums. That left me with the violin or cello (essentially), and I chose the violin because it was smaller and yet more grandiose and vibrant. Sometimes I wish I had picked the cello, I wonder if it would have been easier learning...

Still, the violin has been filled with stops and starts and I manage to claw my way back to some semblances of basic profiency, so all in all I've been happy. And, really, there is nothing like playing a super high A or D and hearing that perfect ring. The bliss.

My sister wanted to play the flute but the same music teacher that saw my quick progress with the violin in 3rd and 4th grade insisted that my "talent" would be transferred to my sister, and the violin was forced upon her. She did not continue with it after the 4th grade, and never got around to learning the flute. She did however have a fantastic ear for songs, and could figure out anything on the piano - a gift that I do not have.

November 16, 2018, 7:13 AM · I loved the violin, from my childhood, from 3 years of age. And I still in love with violin and everything around. Woman playing the violin is the most attractive for me :) (And yes, my wife plays violin:)). And I hope my daughter will start soon (she is 2 years), but just if she will want to :)

I really don't remember why, but I loved that sound like a child, and that the play needs great skills, perfection but emotional interest. Sadly there was no opportunity for me to start playing like a child. And I started many years later, but that is a very loong story and I have to go for today, maybe I will write a post about it :)

Shabbat shalom to everyone

November 16, 2018, 8:43 AM · On TV (BBC2, I think) circa 1970 I recall seeing Ruggiero Ricci playing all 24 Paganini caprices. I already played the clarinet, but seeing Ricci play the caprices gave me a severe case of “violin envy”. I bought a tatty old violin+bow for £15 from my clarinet teacher, and I gradually switched from clarinet to violin over the course of the following year. This was helped along by the fact that I bet someone that I could get to violin grade 5 in a year. It’s been violin ever since, apart from some very long interruptions due to job constraints, years spent relearning how to play the violin, and several orders of magnitude price increase in the cost of my violin(s)+bow(s).

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