What repertoire should I be playing at 14/15 to be on track for being a violinist (professional)?

Edited: May 5, 2019, 5:06 AM · What repertoire should I be on at 14/15? I only properly started practicing violin at 12/13 but have been playing some time now (7 or so years). I was wondering what sort of repertoire I should be on to be on track for being a professional musician? I was going to finish my grd 8 exam, but I'd rather just work on concertos, etc.
I practice around 2/3 hours on week days and 4/5 on weekends, however currently have sprained my wrist from over-playing.

I am currently on the Bach Partitas 2 and 3 and the Saint Saens concerto, along with exam pieces. I've played Beethoven sonatas, the four seasons (Spring and Summer), Mozart 3rd concerto, Bach Am concerto (movements 1 and 2).

I was also wondering how many hours a day I should be working on violin playing (when my wrist's better!)? Would it be possible for anyone to give me a list of pieces I should work on to reach a professional standard?

Thank you :)

Replies (19)

May 4, 2019, 7:14 PM · And this is why the deleting of threads is sad and should be prevented. The recent thread deleted by another teenager had a ton of information answering this question.
May 4, 2019, 10:50 PM · At this level I think you would have to make extra fast progress in order to reach a professional level. At 15-16 the average for someone persuing a professional career is Bruch concerto and above. Are you dead set on gost into music or do you have other interests that you can pursue a career in? Having a plan B is a good idea. And refember, it is always possible to have plenty of fun playing as an adult amateur.
Edited: May 4, 2019, 11:51 PM · Ella, the Saint-Saens concerto (I assume the OP means #3) is harder than Bruch.

The pieces listed are pretty much on track but the real question is how well the OP plays them.

May 5, 2019, 4:11 AM · Do you have a recording of a recital on YouTube or somewhere?

(Mary Ellen - I think the #3 refered to the Bach solo sonata, not the Saint-Sains, that wasn't specified.)


May 5, 2019, 4:52 AM · Ella Yu- yes I do have many other interests but music (opera and violin) is definitely my passion! Would it be possible for you to give me an idea of an order of works I should work on from now (I just turned 15)?

Thank you :)

May 5, 2019, 4:54 AM · Mary Ellen- thank you for your advice and I have performed several of them to audiences at recitals/recordings, etc.
Yes, I did mean the Saint Saens Concerto 3 :)
May 5, 2019, 4:57 AM · Elise Stanley- I'm afraid I don't have a recording on YouTube but I did perform the first movement of Beethoven's Spring twice and the Bach A minor concerto once, in addition to being in piano trios, orchestras, etc.

I was referring to the solo partita but I also am working on the Saint Saens Concerto 3 in Bm :)

Edited: May 5, 2019, 9:18 AM · Have you started to think through what it is about being a professional player that makes you want to be one, and I mean not just the glamour of it? Because if you can answer this well for yourself, and of course you can refine it with time, you will be on your way to becoming a professional. It sounds to me like you are reasonably on track with your teacher's guidance to become a professional. Are you going to festivals and entering some local competitions? Are you playing chamber music and in an orchestra? As a professional you need to be able to work very well with other people and personalities. Are you in a big city? This makes a difference too. I was about the same as you at that age; some would say I was behind but I didn't know it then and also didn't care. I've accomplished many of my goals as a professional player but have come to the conclusion that there is much more impact in teaching. Playing professionally is great and fun and if that's your first step, go for it. You can do it! Regarding your injury from over playing: get yourself a copy or check out from your library Vigdorchik's "Violin Playing: a Physiological Approach". It is a must for you to understand the human body's motions as it relates to violin playing in order to avoid this in the future.
May 5, 2019, 10:00 AM · Well if you've only been serious for 2 years and you're preparing SS3 then you seem to be on a good trajectory, but for two concerns. First, you seem to be injuring yourself trying to catch up to the kids who got serious when they were barely even sentient. Second, there's a lot of foundation-building rep that you haven't mentioned, which makes me wonder how good your foundation can be.
May 5, 2019, 1:12 PM · Bonny Buckley- thank you so much for such great advice! I have certainly thought through it and am aware it would be a very tiring and competitive career however the thrill of performing would make it worth a lot for me!
I play in a piano trio with a professional/amateur pianist and cellist friend, we had a recital of Fanny Mendelssohn's piano trio movement 2 a few weeks ago. I also have played in 2 orchestras and a string ensemble- currently I am a first violin in my county orchestra. I live in a city with very many musical opportunities, workshops, concerts and so on and am also doing an arts project on female composers! I hope I can always have music in my life, whether I am a full time professional or amateur.

Thank you for the advice regarding my injury! I'll definitely read that, and am having a couple of weeks off because I realise that's better than getting RSI!


May 5, 2019, 1:17 PM · Paul Deck- I think you're right about the fact I am worried I have a disadvantage not to have got to a high standard at an earlier age- I don't always practice for the time I set and now I realise it's important to take a more balanced approach.

You're right I didn't mention foundation repertoire, but I have done a lot of that- which mainly comes from following music grades, etc. - such as some (basic) Handel, etc.- some relatively easy foundation things like that (I can't list them all!) :)

May 5, 2019, 2:33 PM · Yes, I have to agree that how well you play your repertoire is very important. Unfortunately, I missed that you were working on the Saint-Saens concerto. Does your teacher know that you play in pain? I really think you need to go over your technique with your teacher and learn to play in a more relaxed way. Your playing ability will also improve as a result. By the sounds of it you are more or less on track. If you can play really well, that's what matters, even if you skipped essential pieces like the Bruch concerto.
May 5, 2019, 3:11 PM · Hi Lily - you mention Grade 8, so I'm sort of assuming you're from the UK. I also assume you're not getting great advice from your teacher, otherwise you'd not be here.

From what you've said, I'd suggest taking Grade 8. If you are doing well on the Saint-Saens and also Bach partitas 2 and 3 then you should get a Distinction grade. If you do, and you keep going with this kind of repertoire, you are on the right track. Most UK conservatoires will expect to hear a movement of Bach and a movement from a major Romantic concerto so if you're learning that material now, you will be in a very good place to get into a conservatoire in 3-4 years time.

If you don't get a Distinction then that's a sign that what you're working on presently is too challenging for you right now - it doesn't mean being a professional is out of reach for you, but it does mean that you/your teacher are overestimating your ability at present and you need to focus on developing your technique on less difficult repertoire. Then you could still be in a position to play those same pieces at audition in 3-4 years time, just with a different path to getting there.

And of course, even if you decide a career in music isn't for you, then having a Grade 8 on your CV will help with applying university courses in music or anything else :)

May 5, 2019, 5:37 PM · My son is roughly the same age (grade 8 in the US; just turned 14) and I would say he is pretty well on track. He has played the following "big pieces" - all movements - for your comparison: Mozart 3-4-5, Bruch, Mendelssohn, Lalo, Wieniawski 2, Zigeunerweisen, Intro and Rondo Capriccioso, Bach Partitas 2 and 3 and Sonata 1, and several Paganini Caprices (easier ones). He's currently learning Saint-Saens. Because he is young, his teacher is keeping him at this level of rep until HS and then he can start the really big pieces. :)

In his program, it is expected to have learned all 6 Bach Sonatas and Partitas, most of the Paganini Caprices, and at least two big time concertos (Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Brahms, etc.) by the end of high school.

Edited: May 5, 2019, 5:39 PM · One question hasn't been answered yet - the amount of practice time necessary...

Your current practice schedule seems fine. Especially if you're already suffering from over-playing, you shouldn't increase it. The "you have to play X time to achieve a certain goal" is widely overestimated, although there also lies a grain of truth in words like the "10.000 hours rule" - but one hour of focused and planful work will always bring you further than 10 hours of fooling around and practicing what you already know, or even mistakes.

Another vote for a physiological approach. And, apart from literature study, mindfulness and hopefully good advice by your teacher, one part of a strategy avoiding chronic defects can be to diversify. You could get a viola and make it part of your practice routine. For both instruments you need more or less the same skill set - but by changing the game you have to do things slightly differently, your body automatically reacts differently, your brain will be forced to stay flexible by daily switching, and again you will practice more thoughtfully. Even if you don't plan do be a violist, playing viola can do lots of good things for your violin technique, too.

I'm only an adult starter amateur, not half the good player as you are, and so my opinion might not count that much. My experience is rather based on pro sports, medical school, my job as a physician, and a deep interest in "how humans learn best". But hell, my violin playing was skyrocketing when I started with viola...

May 6, 2019, 4:22 AM · Ella Yu-
Thank you for your advice :) my teacher does know and we have been working on posture, bowing technique and the like recently, currently (being mindful of my wrist) I am doing no-vibrato practice and mainly open strings work. I have recently purchased a copy of the Bruch concerto and intend to start on it when my wrist has recovered and perhaps finish that and the Mendelssohn before finishing the Saint Saens as I think you are right that it's good to learn these as well!

Lily :)

May 6, 2019, 4:26 AM · Chris Keating-

Thank you so much for your good advice! I really appreciate it :)
Yes, I am from the UK- I think you're right that finishing off the grades is a good idea because it is a good qualification to have and as I don't find the pieces too hard I can work on Bach, etc. alongside the grd 8 work.

Thank you once more

Lily :)

May 6, 2019, 4:29 AM · Susan Agrawal-
Thank you! This gives me an idea of where I should be in terms of repertoire.
I plan to have learnt the Bruch, Mendelssohn and Bach and some other things by the end of high school.
Best wishes

Lily :)

May 6, 2019, 4:32 AM · Nuuska M-
Thank you so much for your advice!
I'm glad you think my practice time is ok, my teacher and I drew up the timetable but of course I can't keep to it until my wrist is better!
Learning the viola is an interesting idea because you are right it is similar to violin and it might be a fun thing to try! I'll talk to my teacher and parents about it.
And your opinion counts a lot! Your advice is very interesting and helpful

Lily :)

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