Average\Expected repertoire per year of violin study

December 28, 2018, 8:52 PM · I know everyone is different and progress is a very individual thing, but what is a good reference for major repertoire to be learned per year (or other time frame) of violin study.

Replies (37)

December 28, 2018, 10:36 PM · Yes. You said it precisely.
December 28, 2018, 10:42 PM · You've been on this forum long enough to know that there's no clear answer to this question. So if you're hoping for something like "two major concertos per year" nobody's going to say that.
December 28, 2018, 11:07 PM · I think you can answer this question for pre-professional teenagers, in terms of what is a competitive rate of progression. But otherwise there's no real benchmark.

For a pre-professional teenager, a competitive rate of progression is probably three to four concertos a year (the concert-hall repertoire, not student concertos), plus two to four short pieces / other solo repertoire.

December 29, 2018, 1:30 AM · I probably should have worded my question better, but I meant which pieces are representative of the year of violin study. Something like Rieding B-minor year one, Seitz\Bach Double year 2, etc etc. I'm guessing the answer would still be the same, but just thought I would clarify. I'm not looking for competitive rate either, I just wanted to gauge my progress. I know there is no concrete answer, but even an estimate. Even adding years of study to the violinmasterclass.com levels or something like that would be helpful to me.
Edited: December 29, 2018, 4:15 PM · People progress at different rates. I would say that an excellent progression for a well-taught diligently-practicing adult beginner would be Vivaldi A minor (Suzuki book 4 equivalent) by the end of year 1, Bach A minor by the end of year 3 (Suzuki book 7 equivalent) by the end of year 3, and then two to three pieces of significant repertoire per year.

If you were looking for an outside gauge of "expected" progress for kids, I think the notion of the ABRSM / ACM "grades" is that you progress through one grade per year.

Edited: December 29, 2018, 4:21 PM · A year doesn't say much. If A plays 2 hours a day and B plays half an hour a day then B needs to play 4 years in order to play as much A plays in 1 year. Furthermore there is also the quality of the practice. If A has a very good or efficient way of practicing compared with B it further makes a difference.

Even if A and B play the same amount of hours a day and both with good practice habits it can still be very different because as you said yourself everyone is different and progress is a very individual thing.

Thus all in all your question is indeed difficult to answer.

Edited: December 29, 2018, 4:22 PM · This post was a duplicate post by mistake. Please delete.
December 29, 2018, 5:39 PM · On average, for a student practicing approximately 20-30 min. daily consistently, I would say one Suzuki book per year is average for students age 9-10 and above. Some students will move faster, some slower.

It is very much dependent on each individual student. I had a student go from Suzuki book 2 to Walton Viola concerto in four years. In the same four years, I had a similar aged student go from Suzuki book 2 to Suzuki book 5 (Vivaldi G-minor). Obviously there was a huge difference in practice time and motivation between the two students, but it's just an example of how asking where someone "should be" after a certain amount of years doesn't really make sense.
December 29, 2018, 6:47 PM · I'm not sure about all levels, but in my experience as a university student, I would say that in 1 year, a reasonable amount would be:
1 concerto
1 sonata
1 virtuoso piece
2-3 movements of solo Bach
1 Paganini/Dont/Wieniawski caprice
1 extra piece (could be any genre)
Edited: December 30, 2018, 3:03 AM · "Three to four concert level concertos per year" not to be rude but this is ludicrous. Either the kid is preparing to a questionable level, or they have dropped out of school already to practise full time. Most *conservatory students* aren't conquering this amount in a year, let alone teenagers.

Having experienced conservatory and competitive teenage levels, I would say: 1-2 concertos, at least 1 sonata, some solo Bach, etudes or Paganini, a few short flashy concert pieces, and of course lots of technical material. This is the standard for serious players.

Edited: December 30, 2018, 7:58 AM · Interesting
Edited: December 30, 2018, 10:06 AM · Lydia, that sounds a quite fast pace. I would bet that in reality its much slower, because its not all about practicing, its about how flexible the hands are to begin with. If someone has not played any other musical instrument and has average or low average fine motor skills, doing 4 Suzuki books in the first year seems impossible .just saying that that would probably not be the pace adults with no prior instrument experience should measure their progress against even if they practise well and have a good teacher.

The non musical adults I have given my violin to try have had huge problems with tenseness and fine motorskills. So much so that I would never believe they could do more than 2 suzuki books in the first year decently mpw much they tried.

December 30, 2018, 10:34 AM · Maria, I wasn't citing an average pace; I was citing what I would consider to be an excellent one. I have personally seen multiple adult beginners manage that kind of pace with about 1 to 2 hours of daily practice. But there's wild variance, as was noted at the beginning of the thread.

Kate J, I cited that as a competitive pace for a student practicing 2 to 4 hours a day, not as a typical pace. The pace you're citing is a typical pace. Bu there are students that enter their teens with enough technique to pretty much just blaze through repertoire.

December 30, 2018, 11:57 AM · I don't know what competitive means in this context, but those numbers seem high to me also - I don't think I ever did more than 3 concertos a year, either in high school or in undergrad (and I think I learned one concerto total during the two years of my masters). I think my norm in high school was more one to two concertos, maybe one solo bach sonata or partita, and a whole bunch of etudes (including paganini). In college it was basically the same, plus a recital program. I suspect you'd only find 3-4 concertos etc in a couple of the more prestigious pre-college studios (eg Vamoses) - does not seem typical for students entering conservatory to me.
December 30, 2018, 1:31 PM · Irene, that's precisely the sort of studio that I was thinking of. (My own teen years were spent almost purely alongside the students of the Vamos and Cyrus Forough's studios.)
December 30, 2018, 3:14 PM · The question asks about a good reference point, which IMO implies 'typical' or average :)

But still, everyone is different (goal, age, current level, commitment, investment). So regurgitating the obvious, I think it would be more helpful if the OP specified which target group of learners he wishes to be benchmarked against.

December 30, 2018, 3:28 PM · I think the point made earlier in the thread is that rates of progression vary so widely that "typical" or "average" aren't really meaningful. (That's why I noted what I thought were particularly excellent rates of progression.)
Edited: December 30, 2018, 3:35 PM · Would high school students learning 3-4 concertos each year take more than one lesson per week? Even if the student's playing of the work is free of major technical errors at the first lesson, it's still going to take some time to get through it and discuss interpretive matters. Ten minutes of music has to be covered in one month at this rate, assuming each concerto is about 30 to 40 minutes long.
Edited: December 30, 2018, 3:35 PM · If these students are practising 2-4 hours a day and getting through that kind of repertoire, the only realistic outcome is an under-prepared performance (or "just playing the notes").

Anyway, you're right - it varies so much that we can't really answer OP's question. There is no average.

December 30, 2018, 5:29 PM · On a 0--10 grade scale, from absolute beginner to Paganini/Ysaye/Ernst, a good student can make good progress, about one technical grade per year until about level 7. Then things get really tough. Most won't make it it to 10 no matter how hard they work (including me). The technical practice doesn't need to be more than one hour a day - exercises, scales, etudes. I remember doing an average of one new etude every 2 weeks. Preparing repertoire is what really eats up practice time.
Edited: December 30, 2018, 7:46 PM · Is 7 the Bruch Level?
December 30, 2018, 8:17 PM · I'm in conservatory and I do 2 hours of technical work.. probably because I have a little bit of catching up to do, but it's not uncommon.
Edited: December 30, 2018, 8:42 PM · Jocelyn, often yes -- and/or lessons that last more than an hour (even for me as a teen, a 90-minute lesson was more common than 60 minutes, even if strictly speaking I was paying my teacher for an hour). Most concertos don't actually have 30 to 40 minutes of violin playing, once you eliminate the tuttis, too.

Kate, I think it really depends on the technical skill level of the student. I knew kids who learned so quickly that they could bring in a concerto movement -- and sometimes even an entire concerto (depending on length and difficulty)-- in two weeks, at a technically polished and memorized level, ready for interpretive buffing, so to speak. Certainly there are professionals who can do this. (I know that I've had teachers who have done things like learn a concerto from scratch in just a week or two for performance with orchestra, generally to take an opportunity to sub for a soloist who has had to cancel.)

Even for me, an adult amateur who doesn't have that much time to practice, my teacher might very well expect an entire movement's notes to be learned in a week, with allowances for it being under tempo and for particularly technically difficult sections to need instruction.

Edited: December 31, 2018, 12:36 AM · These discussions are nice, because it shows that we come from so different backrounds. Lydia, it is very interesting to hear that excellent pace with good practice with good teaching can bring a student so far. Im assuming you are not talking about adult prodigies, but just adults with good musical skills beforehand,

Now what is considered well taught for instance? It may be a top conservatory with excellent teachers and 90 minute lessons, maybe even 2 lessons a week plus orchestras and music theory and eartraining aso. And endless opportunities for performance training in different settings,

But where we live, being well taught is considered having a qualified teacher, 45-60 minutes tuition per week plus orchestra and music theory. And 2 opportunities to perform per year.

And in some places being well taught means only that you have a qualified teacher for 30 mins per week with no orchestra or music theory. It is quite clear that the students with similar abilities have different rates of progress in different situations. And still all may be considered to be excellent teaching, because we compare to things around us and not universally.

December 31, 2018, 12:59 AM · Otoh, Julian Bream more than once said that he practised each piece for about a year before performing it live for the first time.
December 31, 2018, 2:11 AM · I guess if you are referring to pieces like Mendelssohn, Bruch, Barber etc. that sounds like a reasonable timeframe.
December 31, 2018, 4:10 AM · I find the perspectives here interesting. It shows how different people choose to teach and what they consider learning a piece to mean. Ditto Maria. And MHO, even prodigies won’t be done mastering 10-12 concerto movements plus extra repertoire and technical works a year, at 15 years of age. They may have worked out some of the most difficult technical passages, but will likely revisit some for later study or they were taught these concertos for specific technical development and progression. That is, unless you are counting all of the concert work a student might do for ensembles as well.

In my view, every time one practices a piece, even for play through, one learns something new, expressively, artistically, or otherwise. Like painting, while you can be consistent, no one is the same.

Also once a level of proficiency is attained with more challenging pieces, it must be maintained. Even the greatest and most experienced performers still practice.

Some teachers that teach a lot of repertoire fast for proficiency, and others teach more slowly, demanding mastery, before moving on.

I used to chomp at the bit with some of my teachers because I felt they moved me through repertoire so slowly. But they demanded a level of excellence that well exceeded a lot of the “conservatory preparation” I heard from students at places like Interlochen and at competitive state and national levels. I also see this in my young child who is a sponge for music and is purposefully slowed by a very experienced teacher. I suspect most others would teach far more repertoire with less mastery. (Yes, I think it is important my child has their own teacher and weekly lessons, beyond the daily teaching I do.)

On the other hand, as my level of difficulty progressed, I was able to master more repertoire with greater ease. Once technical aspects of a genre were groomed enough, the focus shifted to artistic development (even though there was always more technical mastery.) Also, the music stayed with me - I can play much of it from memory, even after decades of not playing some of it.

Add in high school students study orchestral and ensemble work with great variability, and electively, contribute to development. Students in well supported areas can have (competitive) school orchestra rehearsals for an hour every weekday, regional/state youth symphony on Saturdays with periodic sectionals for 2-4 hours, possibly an associated ensemble, all-state symphony periodically on Sundays, plus solo competitions, ensemble competitions, and likely play music with friends. As juniors or seniors, they may sub in local symphonies or play weddings. During the summer will be music camps, programs, or institutes with master classes, intensive study, and more symphony and ensemble instruction, mixed in with the fun all kids should have. In my area, you can still excel academically (not “dupe” school), have a life, and practice 3-5 hours a day. At least one hour before school, 2-3 hours after school, some during school if conductors allow time for solo or ensemble competition practice. It helps to have social group, as we’d get together before youth symphony, eat lunch and play together. Plus more practice time can be arranged during lunch or a study hall at some schools.

It requires diligence and a passion for music.

December 31, 2018, 10:54 AM · I wouldn't be too worried about comparing yourself with other people. Some people are just going to tear through repertoire, but you should try and understand your own faults and capabilities and see if you are getting the most out of your talent based on whether you are able to get all the quality practice each day/week that you can handle, and no more.

My teacher has a lot of kids that probably move through repertoire at least twice, if not three times as fast as me, as motivated kids are wont to do, but I just have to respect my own pace and congratulate them for working smart and hard during a good time in their lives to do that kind of work.

However, if you look in the Yuri Yankelevich book it has a list of repertoire that (I think Spivakov) went through during various years with Yankelevich. It is a truly staggering amount of pieces that I bet were done in a probably very polished manner, and should not be taken as a reflection of what 99.99% of violin students will be able to do. It is a superhuman amount of repertoire.


December 31, 2018, 12:03 PM · --Paul D. Bruch concerto; It is of course subjective and arbitrary, I would put Bruch concerto at mostly technical level 7. But, a couple of spots; 10ths, octaves in tune, fast parallel thirds in tune, I would call a level 8 technique.
December 31, 2018, 7:06 PM · My son is in one of the above mentioned pre-college programs, and even within that program it varies considerably. Most of the kids are probably learning about 2 major concertos a year plus a Bach partita/sonata, a virtuosic piece, a handful of Paganini, and a handful of Dont/Rode or similar. Some of the kids are much slower; a few are faster. The faster tend to be kids who don't go to school and practice 4+ hours per day, but even those kids are only learning about 3 concertos a year. The kids officially only get 1 hour-long lesson a week, but most teachers give them extra time. A large number of them take two lessons a week - one with their main teacher, and another on technique with a teaching "assistant" who is really a younger less famous teacher. Some families can't afford or find time for the second lesson, though. And some kids don't need it.

The expectations are high nonetheless. For example, my son was given Wieniawski concerto (required competition piece), which would be considered on the easy side for him. He performed it for studio class after 12 days. At 3.5 weeks he performed it for his program's performance class and for an invited concert. At under 2 months he competed it. This week he was given movements 2 and 3 and is to perform them mid-February. He also has 6 easier etudes, 1 Dont, 1 Paganini caprice, and a movement of solo Bach. He goes to school, though he is still in middle school, so the homework load is lighter. But, yeah, they are expected to work very hard!!!

January 12, 2019, 12:33 PM · I always wondered myself in high school, why my teacher chose what he chose. Having now gotten back into the violin after 20+ years of no playing at all, I can recall with ease the last thing I played. I think that is a testament to good teaching and solid practice regimen. I say listen to your teacher and play what feels right, unless you are fast track to a recording career, Just enjoy it....its a journey, some trains are faster than others, but we all arrive at the station eventually! Cheers!
January 15, 2019, 7:01 AM · Honestly, I could see some people my age (I'm 14) learning 3-4 major concerti a year. Because the best violinists can accomplish in 10 minutes what might take someone else an hour and a half.
Also, I've practiced 4-5 hours on school days, so no, you don't need to drop out of school. You just need to wake up really, really early. Like 4AM early.
Edited: January 15, 2019, 7:40 AM · Depriving yourself of sleep so that you can improve on the violin is an extremely bad bargain for a young teenager. You need 8-9 hours of sleep at that age. Are you going to sleep at 7 PM or 8 PM? If not, then your parents should prohibit this destructive, ill-considered behavior.
January 15, 2019, 11:19 AM · I agree -- I think you will progress faster with 2-3 hours of solid practice and a good night's sleep. My 13yo is up at 6 to practice (which is a real struggle for him) and in bed by 10. Though he does "practice" while asleep sometimes, I think!
January 16, 2019, 2:35 PM · For diligent adult students, expected repertoire within:

1-2 years: Vivaldi A Minor concerto
2-3 years: Bach double and some of the easier Mozart sonata
3-4 years: Haydn G Major, some easier solo Bach
4-5 years: Kabalevsky or Mozart no.3, more solo Bach, Beethoven sonatas and 2 Romances.
5-6 years: Bruch no.1, Lalo 1st mov., more solo Bach, some Kreisler showpieces

This list is do-able IF and only IF the student practices diligently, at least 2 hours/day

January 18, 2019, 6:53 AM · I suppose it's just about possible to imagine an adult beginner who practices 2+ hours a day, but you're also probably imagining someone with probably only one (or, preferably, none) of...

a job
children (or other caring responsibilities)
other hobbies and interests

January 18, 2019, 9:47 AM · When I was in my twenties and single, I regularly carved out two 40-minute practice sessions each day, and could have done another 40 minutes if I'd wanted. And that still left me with plenty of time to do other stuff.

Figure if you have 1 hour of commuting, 8 hours at a job, 8 hours of sleep, and 2 hours of personal time (meals, chores, etc.), you still have 5 hours to do whatever you want. I could practice plenty and still have time to see friends almost every night (engaging with various hobbies in the process).

In my forties, I could manage adequate practice time before I had a kid. I could do 2 hours a day at times, but that was often a stretch. (I was also working a lot more than 8 hours a day, though, plus traveling for business a lot.)

As far as I can tell, a lot of adult beginners or returnees are retired, though.

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