Have you ever thought playing an instrument is childish?

Edited: May 25, 2019, 7:11 AM · Hello, I've sometimes in the past "struggled" about playing the violin, although it could be any instrument really. I sometimes have these bad thoughts about playing an instrument as an adult (20 years old or older), as if it was something that is childish, not mature, not important, a distraction to give up for childish urges and hobbies more than something productive an adult would do.
For those that don't really get what I mean, compare it to videogames, something mostly for kids, teenagers and mid twenties, but that one starts to stop doing when finishing college, finding a house, job, marriage... yeah, that's a great example, videogames.
It's not that I think this way, but it's something I've asked myself sometimes and I wanna know what answers you've come with, if you've asked yourself something similar.
It's related with frustrating practice days, but not really the same thing. It's different, it's not about myself thinking that I'll never be good and it's not worth it. Just in case someone says it's a question you ask yourself when you think you're bad at violin, it's not, at least in my case. Related, but not the same thing.

Share your thoughts, and if you've never asked yourself something remotely similar, think about what would you say to a student of yours asking you this.

Replies (70)

May 24, 2019, 8:35 PM · I'd say not even remotely, that never crossed my mind. If anything I would think of it as being mature behavior for a child.
May 24, 2019, 8:38 PM · NO
Edited: May 24, 2019, 10:16 PM · Childlike yes.
Childish no.
May 24, 2019, 11:16 PM · Most folks learn to walk well before the age of 2. Sounds like walking must be quite a childish activity.
May 24, 2019, 11:22 PM · More than 1 out of 3 Americans over the age of 50 -- more than 40 million people -- play videogames. So even your baseline analogy is ridiculous.

Making music is fundamentally an adult activity.

May 25, 2019, 1:45 AM · Yes, but unless you're a regular performer making music is also fundamentally self-indulgent. I can see how one might ask oneself how devoting such an huge amount of time to useless amusement can be justified? Surely we should spend every spare minute doing things that will benefit the planet?
May 25, 2019, 1:55 AM · It sounds like you have a rather limited concept of what being an adult is, like going to work, and fixing stuff around the house, and then get old fast and die.

And then there's "does it benefit the planet?" question. Yes, making music as an amateur benefits the planet. If only because violins and wind instruments don't produce any CO2 exhaust, which even just being online does.

May 25, 2019, 2:31 AM · What's the definition of a childish activity? The closest one I could find (and not yet think it's perfect) is generally something a child does but an adult doesn't.

The idea that playing violin is childish is, sorry, really dumb.

Edited: May 25, 2019, 2:54 AM · My parents tried to pressure me to quit music the day I got into college and didn't pursue it as a career, saying that only children and retirees could afford to have hobbies. (Needless to say, I didn't quit.)

Now they're having a hard time in semi-retirement and don't know what to do with their time when they stop working completely. I don't want to be in that situation when I get to retirement age.

May 25, 2019, 2:55 AM · Video games, yes, undeniably. But there's nothing deeper than music. Instruments are just a vehicle for it.
Edited: May 25, 2019, 3:49 AM · being an adult = "being productive"? Where does that come from? Why should people quit being creative, curious and seeking fulfillment in sports, arts, learning and even playing video games once they have reached a certain age? Making music is not an activitiy restricted to childhood that is outgrown one day. To me life-long learning and pursuing things that enrich our lives beyond "being productive" is deeply human.
Edited: May 25, 2019, 5:54 AM · We work to support our life, work is not our life. Making music is one of many ways with which to connect to our inner being and to enrich our lives, as Gemma and others have said, nothing is deeper. I enjoy listening to music, but that doesn't compare with what it feels like to make music - even if the music I make is far below the expertise of the recorded music to which I listen.

To consider making music of any kind as childish is, to me, an impoverished way of looking at both the human person and the human heart.

Edited: May 25, 2019, 6:09 AM · Well, it's common to force music upon children, to find out if they are musical, and because children's brains need stretching, and because children need to be aware of what life has to offer, etc.
And then they give it up when they find that their real talents lie in the field of accountancy or rodeo.
But that doesn't make music childish. I can imagine one might feel that way if one is not especially musical and remembers what it was like to be a child doing things that one later gave up.
Adults on skateboards - that's childish!
May 25, 2019, 6:23 AM · "I sometimes have these bad thoughts about playing an instrument as an adult (20 years old or older), as if it was something that is childish, not mature, not important, a distraction to give up for childish urges and hobbies more than something productive an adult would do."

You wouldn't be the first person to have such thoughts, and it is responsible to have them in a sense - to consider that perspective among others and clarify what it means for oneself.

According to some teachers, most adult beginners end up with this line of thought eventually, and come to the conclusion for themselves that it isn't worth it - that the other needs of their lives should come first and replace the time being dedicated to violin playing.

But that also needs to be considered in light of other aspects of the engagement of music in our lives. Is playing violin a worse activity than say watching TV, movies, attending concerts, sports, reading fiction, visiting museums, playing golf, card games, board games, video games, mind games...? If playing music as a child is beneficial, is its engagement in ourselves as adults which we might then pass on to children not beneficial?

If you do not entirely devalue the arts, then isn't its secondary effect of informing the learners and having them participate and contribute to the consumption of the arts, thereby contribute to their upkeep in general sufficient justification?

Even if you value none of that, is not the effect on the self whereby it develops a greater facility for the awareness and appreciation of the art sufficient benefit? I think it is, perhaps to a point, but the limit might be quite far.

And in the end, after we're doing being quite productive, we have to ask ourselves what are we being productive for? What are our fundamental values? Is the beauty of music among them?

Edited: May 25, 2019, 7:48 AM · I'm sorry if some of you took the question badly or got "offended". I'm not trying at all to attack any of you, nor your profession or hobby, it's mine as well, very proudly.

It's just a thought I don't really understand and I wanted to read what other people think, so they can make me think and look at it from another point of view.

Paul, my line of thought was not "if it's something a child would do, then it's childish". That is a really nonsense weak argument, one wouldn't eat then, or walk, as you said.

About videogames... I'm not talking about playing chess in the computer for 1h, or a golf mini game, or Candy Crush 20 minutes each day while commuting. I was talking about the regular kid gamer that's playing for 4 hours straight Call of Duty, first person shooters, Minecraft, FIFA, League of Legends, World of Warcraft, Fortnite... you know, the popular games between 10-25's. You can picture a kid doing that, or even more hours. But when you put a 30 yo, 40 yo... then it's when you start to hear "don't you have anything better to do?", "aren't you too old to be playing videogames?", etc... I put this example so you can understand a little bit what I meant, not because it's exactly the same thing.

Yeah, childish is something a kid would do, or teenager-midtwenties, but an adult won't do, or shouldn't do.
Why do men don't play with cars or dinosaurs in their rooms?
Why women don't build princess castles and play with dolls?

There are thousands of things that are supposed to be played as a kid, but that if you do as an adult, I guess 99.99% of people would say you're nuts.

I repeat, I don't think this way, but it's some buggy question my brain pops up from time to time. If you ask my sincere opinion about music, specially classical, I really couldn't explain why I think it's the most wonderful, magical, not from this world thing that I've ever experienced. If I believe that, why would I ask that question you say? I don't even know.

May 25, 2019, 8:05 AM · Hmmmm....

Is drawing childish?

Is being smart childish?
I see my child is very smart, and that most adults aren’t very smart. (No offence).

Is riding bike childish? I used to ride home from school in my bike back in the 80’s.

Seriously, if your statement was true, then doing pretty much anything would be childish!

So no, it is NOT childish.

May 25, 2019, 8:06 AM · Personally I’m not offended. I’m just surprised (and curious) what chain of logic would lead someone to the conclusion that playing violin is childish.

However I’m not surprised if others would take offense. It’s a bit like coming to a soccer fanpage saying soccer is bad ... though I understand the OP did not mean to offend anyone.

May 25, 2019, 9:40 AM · What's interesting is that, in spite of the meme that persists, most Americans aren't busy 24-7. We just like to THINK we are. But that's what we tell everyone, and ourselves, right?
"Sorry, didn't get to it--I've been SOOOO busy!"

Everything is marketed to us as solving our "too busy" problem. Like having Uber deliver our dinner.

Yeah, right.

Realistically, yes, practicing a musical instrument is technically a big, fat time-waster. So, in that regard, you can call it "childish" because children don't really have to do anything. But let's face it, 90% of what we do in modern societies is trying to find ways to amuse ourselves and piddle away time. It could be watching
Game of Chairs or whatever that new show is, or it could be obsessive working out, or whatever. Even chess is a complete waste of time. Take your pick.

I think what's more prevalent is the view of music as effeminate, rather than childish.

Edited: May 25, 2019, 11:48 AM · I have a very intimate feeling about this question.

I live in Hong Kong, which nearly all parents who can afford such education send their children to learn some music... to the extent that if you say your child know how to play the piano is something like saying my child knows how to walk.

On the other hand, adults who play music (esp. classical instruments) are paradoxically rare to be seen.

A few months ago, I met a not-so-close friend in a gathering while she noticed my violin hickey. She asked what happened, and I told her that I practiced the violin too much recently. She was stunned, and literally asked “isn’t it for kids?”, “oh then you must REALLY love it haha”.

It’s not her, it’s the culture. A culture that makes music something for cool-kids. Well, surely I agree that nothing is more “adult” than music, or art in general. But what can I say?

I once read that Hong Kong is the biggest market of ABRSM examinations, more than 70% (I’m not sure of the figure tho) of the candidate annually were from Hong Kong.

May 25, 2019, 11:48 AM · That is "office job-think" to me. Is it childish to watch movies/play games/hike/watch and/or do sports on your leisure time?

Violin as I see it is a lifestyle more than a "hobby", so it is among the most serious endeavors a human can partake in (which does not mean it isn't fun.) Even as a so-called "hobby", it is no less than all other things people do out of "productive" time.

Having to "produce" all the time isn't a credo I personally live by.

May 25, 2019, 2:12 PM · Did you play as a child, Paul? Any deep-seated resentment of other kids who had music lessons? :)

I was lucky enough to have drum lessons from about age 9 until I was 18. I'm 31 now. Whenever I've gone for a few months without gigging with one band or another I get all antsy and throw myself back into it again. It's just something that's always been there, and that I miss when I'm not doing it. Work and things often get in the way, but music as a creative outlet just seems necessary to me. That's actually how I came to the violin - I live in a small house and practicing drums at home isn't very practical!

I've been playing violin for almost 2 years, and have found it far more rewarding than "doing something productive" in various jobs. A lot of workplaces seem to have cultures that value busyness more than results. I've worked in a couple of burnout jobs that took a toll on my wellbeing, and where "doing something productive" really just meant making more money for the bosses, with little opportunity to progress. I'm feeling pretty good to have found somewhere that lets me go home at 5 and forget about work until the next day.

Now excuse me while I go and spend the next couple of hours playing videogames.

May 25, 2019, 3:10 PM · If playing an instrument is childish, what should we think of soccer! Isn’t that childish to make a living kicking a ball?... well maybe ;-) ... but it pays well!
May 25, 2019, 4:08 PM · Paul,

That you ask the question of others tells me you are questioning yourself. When you decided to start the instrument, did you have any goals in mind? If so, what were they?

I started at the age of 30 fulfilling a repressed desire from my early teens when getting lessons was not possible for me. My goals were modest: To be able to play the melody line of hymns in church. Thanks to a good teacher I went way beyond that initial goal but still get pleasure from playing those melody lines as well as show tunes, movie themes, in addition to the standard rep.

As Mari Kondo would say: "It gives me joy!" Frankly, if it doesn't give you joy them follow Mari's advice and throw it out. If one is living their lives without joy (and I realize that a lot of people are in careers that do not bring them any joy...) that is just so sad.

Perhaps it is that sense of joy that makes you feel uneasy with the violin. After all adults are supposed to be serious and miserable - after all this is work, not play. But why do we call it playing, if it isn't supposed to be fun?

If you can feel the joy that is important enough, if you can share it, that is even better. Sadly there are those who find it a job and find no joy - just ask Mr. Chandler in NYC about when he lost the joy and what followed.

May 25, 2019, 5:04 PM · My father was an amateur violinist. His music friends would come to our home every 4 weeks to play quartets (the other 3 times they played at the others' homes). So, to me playing an instrument was a very adult activity and when my Grandpa Victor gave me a violin for my 4th birthday I felt it was an invitation to begin to join that adult world.

Playing an instrument is a very human activity that uses the human body and brain in very creative ways - as do all the arts. It may seem "childish" but only in the sense that doing it is like "play," but so are many play-like activities that that best practitioners can do for a living. It can be so much fun.

There are people who resent those of us who have found our life's work in activities that are "play" and fun and even some of us who have hobbies that are.

Stay away from them! Our world needs all the joy it can get.

May 25, 2019, 10:33 PM · Milstein said playing the violin was silly.
May 26, 2019, 5:16 AM · @Marty where's the source?
May 26, 2019, 6:25 AM · Actually, I remember thinking that I was doing something adult when I was a child.
May 26, 2019, 10:11 AM · I would argue that many modern jobs are not all that more 'serious' than trying to learn the violin. Would we really say that something like designing algorithms for displaying more 'relevant' ads to people is so much more of an 'adult' thing to do?
May 26, 2019, 11:15 AM · This thread is childish. na na, na NA na
May 26, 2019, 12:07 PM · Somtimes I can lapse into feeling that playing violin, reading, creative writing and so on are self indulgent past times, but then I remember, accurately I believe, that art, music, enjoying nature, complicated cooking, etc are such life enhancing dimensions for those of us fortunate enough to be able to access them in any way or in many ways, alone and/or with others. I watch my father at 84 having lived a good life of teaching and family, even more deeply value his cello playing, alone, with others, in chamber groups, orchstra and lessons, now, as his cello helps him find his way through widowhood.
May 26, 2019, 5:39 PM · Maybe it depends on what you do with it? If you're a professional, obviously not. If you tend to play in public regularly, maybe not. If you're not very good and do it only for yourself, it begins to feel pointless-- what am I doing all this playing for if I'm not practicing to perform? Why am I doing it if I still am not good? Etc.

Take the factor where people tend to automatically assume that if you do something, you're good at it... and if you're not (whether because you're just a beginner, or because you're simply not good), they might feel like it's pointless, wonder why you bother, or even look down on you more than they might if you simply didn't do it at all (is it better to be boring with no hobbies, or to have hobbies you're bad at?).

Partly I think that's because they assume if you do it as an adult, you've been doing it since you were a kid. So, they assume A. in all that time you've gotten good, and B. if you weren't good, you wouldn't have continued into adulthood.

I think music is more socially-acceptable to do as an adult than some things-- dance, for example, is often seen as a little-kid activity, especially since I think people figure once you get to be an adult, if you keep on with it, you either dance professionally, or you quit dancing to teach dance (to kids...). And people start to equate dance with kids, even though they know fabulous adult dancers exist (but those aren't "real people" like your coworker or the guy at the grocery store). If I had a dollar for the number of times I've looked at pictures of a dance competition afterward and they're all of the cutesy bumbling 5-year-olds while the oldest dancers in the highest levels-- some of whom are among the best in the country and the epitome of what it's supposed to be-- are almost ignored...

May 26, 2019, 6:51 PM · That is whay it is SO GOOD!!! I am viola maker, whenever I enter my workshop, I feel as a 10 years old boy again!!!
Edited: May 26, 2019, 7:21 PM · The whole anti-video game thing is hypocrisy of the highest order.

I run into so many people who seem to have no issue with sitting on a coach eating fatty food watching football for hours on end, but can't handle the fact that people of all ages, from little children to grandparents, enjoy the interactivity and community that video games make possible.

After a sixty-hour work-week, if I enjoy grinding rifts in Diablo III as my stress relief, I don't see how anyone else's opinion about what I do as a hobby is relevant, or why I should even care.

Edited: May 26, 2019, 7:15 PM · "Take the factor where people tend to automatically assume that if you do something, you're good at it... and if you're not (whether because you're just a beginner, or because you're simply not good), they might feel like it's pointless, wonder why you bother, or even look down on you more than they might if you simply didn't do it at all (is it better to be boring with no hobbies, or to have hobbies you're bad at?).

Partly I think that's because they assume if you do it as an adult, you've been doing it since you were a kid. So, they assume A. in all that time you've gotten good, and B. if you weren't good, you wouldn't have continued into adulthood."

Isn't this also a bit of an indictment of 21st century culture, where we've even gotten competitive about our hobbies? I see it all the time on social media, where plenty of people I know only mention a hobby if they're really good at it.

Or maybe parents like mine are more common than I thought -- as in, the kind of people who think adults shouldn't put time into anything they don't have a decent shot at make a living doing.

May 26, 2019, 7:34 PM · Possibly. My guess is that often if you mention a hobby such as music, dance, painting, etc., the first question you'll get from a lot of people is, "Are you any good?" As the song says, under pressure! If you have to say no, you feel foolish, and they lose interest.

For some people, it may be competition. For most, my guess would be that they wonder, "If you're no good, why do you bother?"

May 26, 2019, 7:59 PM · The art of the violin.
May 26, 2019, 8:22 PM · Love your commeng LUIS CLAUDIO MANFIO that this is why it is so good! That is just how I feel about riding my bike, too. At 60, hop on it and I'm the best side of 12.
Edited: May 27, 2019, 6:10 AM · "Or maybe parents like mine are more common than I thought -- as in, the kind of people who think adults shouldn't put time into anything they don't have a decent shot at make a living doing"

Now, I really liked that. Interesting.

There are differences. For example, I have never felt or asked myself that playing a concert as a violinist, or any other musician in an orchestra, is childish.

May be because I can say "but they are making money with it, it's their job". Not really, because doing sports, even if you don't do it professionally, doesn't seem to me to be childish. So it's not just a matter of money or job, I guess.

Edited: May 27, 2019, 11:54 AM · I should mention that my parents also tried to pressure me to quit sports because it was clear that I had no future in professional sports. For them it was purely a matter of job prospects, and having hobbies at all was "childish." They would have had no objection to me continuing with music if I was going to try to pursue it as a career, and would have had no objection to me continuing to play soccer if I was considering going pro. (I didn't quit either of the two.)
May 28, 2019, 11:02 AM · I would think of it as much more active than most of people's pastimes. Watching sports is pretty accepted, although sometimes considered childish, but maybe it has less of that connotation because alcohol is pretty heavily associated.

It seems to me that if people are thoughtful about their time, they can fit in a good deal of practice without sacrificing quality family time and important responsibilities that connect you with your neighbors and broader community. At another level, performing music is a beautiful gift that you can give to others, and that benefits the community in and of itself.

People complaining about someone having a productive hobby are probably jelly.

May 28, 2019, 12:04 PM · If taking out my violin every day and thinking "I love this" is childish, then bring it on. I want more of that in my life.
Edited: May 28, 2019, 2:57 PM · Steve Jones wrote:
Yes, but unless you're a regular performer making music is also fundamentally self-indulgent.
I remember a night recently when a bunch of us were playing in a bluegrass jam at a local bar. Self-indulgent? You bet. (And what's wrong with that if we're not hurting anyone?)
I can see how one might ask oneself how devoting such an huge amount of time to useless amusement can be justified?
It certainly isn't "useless amusement" to us. It brings us joy. If you insist that all activities make some contribution to society, at the very least our playing rejuvenates us so we can have the energy go out and be productive again.
Surely we should spend every spare minute doing things that will benefit the planet?
Several times between pieces, other bar patrons would applaud, and we'd see smiles all around the room. At the end of the night, as we were packing up to leave, a couple of people came up and thanked us for the music and told us how much they enjoyed it.

If it's childish to do something you enjoy, then I plead guilty as charged. But if at the same time we're making others' lives happier... well, that's about as mature an activity as I can imagine.

Edited: May 28, 2019, 2:59 PM · Oops! This one slipped out by accident.
May 29, 2019, 8:40 AM · Actually Charlie I totally agree with you - always worth asking oneself the questions though! Among equally self-indulgent but even more useless pastimes I could name carp fishing and surfing. The latter also seems a bit childish to me, but redeemed by being harmless (I guess) as well as useless. As for benefiting the planet, I think the best thing I might do is volunteer for fertiliser.
May 29, 2019, 10:50 AM · Justin Martyr's unknown source only wrote that playing a musical instrument in public worship was childish (?in the sense of being childish under the Law), not the use of musical instruments in general.
Edited: May 29, 2019, 12:38 PM · A couple of thoughts here:

1. Being serious and passionate about something is not "normal" behavior, sadly. Anything that is slightly abnormal can make some people uncomfortable. People have all kinds of names for such "odd" behavior - with various degrees of pejorative connotation. "Childish" is one, "nerdy" is another.

2. This is potentially going to open a real can of worms: but as a woman without children, I find that when people treat my passions as unimportant, it's with the unspoken admonition that I should "grow up" and have kids. Because the serious business of adulthood is work and childrearing. I don't think people think necessarily that music is standing in the way of my having kids - that would be idiotic - but I think people see it as a vestige of my own childhood that (in their minds) I would put behind me if I had a child to raise.

Edited: May 29, 2019, 2:53 PM · I've heard this idea, especially when I was a teenager, but I never agreed with it. I agree with MD's point above: some people seem to think that the process of growing up necessarily means leaving aside the things you do for yourself or your own enjoyment in favor of being in service to other people, particularly in service to raising children. This idea gets applied to women especially. But I think it's sexist when it's implied that a woman's most important calling is motherhood, and it's outdated when applied to anyone. Nowdays there is more widespread understanding and recognition that people need to take care of their own needs first and set healthy boundaries before they can be of real service to others. In my opinion (and speaking as a mother) that's true for mothers as much as anyone. I think that being a musician has probably made me a better parent!
May 30, 2019, 3:31 AM · "Childish" is just a term originated by close-minded people to lock others into a certain way of existing.

When their joys were taken away by the responsibilities of adulthood, they became jealous of other adults who still had freedom, so they tried to make themselves feel better by claiming that their own restrained, joyless existence was a more enlightened and mature path. "Oh, you don't really know anything until you have your own kids," says the weary mother of 3 who is trying her best to bury her resentment at the way her own life has become. "Ah, you don't know anything until you start making real money," said the worn out financial executive who has become so buried in his work that he's forgotten what it feels like to relax.

Misery loves company, and terms like "childish" are just a reflection of that.

To me, the most important aspect of becoming an adult was getting to make my own choices. Good ones and bad ones, but they were all my choices. If music is your choice, then nothing could be more adult than pursuing it.

May 30, 2019, 4:09 AM · Not at all. The word 'childish' has a pejorative connotation, and I consider music as one of the most sublime activities one can engage into.

I also don't agree with your comparison of instrument playing with videogames, which are a completely passive activity and in my opinion a complete waste of time. I'm not saying it's bad per se to waste some time (even Aristotle wrote about eutrapelia). A more adequate comparison for music would be painting, or writing. How can anyone consider Leonardo da Vinci, Shakespeare, Velazquez, Cervantes or Victor Hugo "childish" in a pejorative way?

May 30, 2019, 8:56 AM · I love what Erik wrote in his 3:31 am post.

I find it interesting that several of you are so judgmental (offensively so, in my opinion) about videogames, in a thread that is fundamentally about people being judgmental of how other people spend their leisure time.

Videogames aren't the least bit passive. They are not comparable to watching TV. (And these days, given the huge leap up in the quality of a lot of TV shows, you can argue that a significant amount of TV will engage your brain. Go watch a season of The Wire and tell me that it didn't make you think. Or maybe you're the sort of person who just glazes over when they watch TV, in which case, enjoy your zone-out time, but don't assume other people are similarly tuned out.)

You could probably even argue that playing a videogame is a much more active and brain-engaging activity than reading a book.

May 30, 2019, 11:07 AM · You could probably even argue that playing a videogame is a much more active and brain-engaging activity than reading a book.

Of course you could. And you could also even argue that playing the same videogame is a much more active and brain-engaging activity than playing all of the Bach violin Partitas in a row!

With all due respect, I strongly disagree with what Lydia said.

May 30, 2019, 12:22 PM · It's past time we (including those on this board) consider video games to be just a "waste of time". There are games out there for all purposes. Some, true, are for passing easy time on public transport, but there are a great many games that challenge us mechanically, many that challenge us mentally, and some that tell a great story, and even some that use gameplay itself as a story telling technique.

Many video games are far more mentally engaging than half of the adult fiction pop novels out there, yet people seem fixated to draw a proverbial line in the sand separating the two.

When I see people see deride playing video games as childish, or indeed, playing instruments as childish (although it is true that there is massive attrition in instrument playing when kids go to college/job), I am reminded of a fantastic quote from my favorite author.

"It is usually assumed that children are the natural or the specially appropriate audience for fairy-stories. In describing a fairy-story which they think adults might possibly read for their own entertainment, reviewers frequently indulge in such waggeries as: “this book is for children from the ages of six to sixty.” But I have never yet seen the puff of a new motor-model that began thus: “this toy will amuse infants from seventeen to seventy”; though that to my mind would be much more appropriate. Is there any essential connexion between children and fairy-stories? Is there any call for comment, if an adult reads them for himself? Reads them as tales, that is, not studies them as curios. Adults are allowed to collect and study anything, even old theatre programmes or paper bags.


Among those who still have enough wisdom not to think fairy-stories pernicious, the common opinion seems to be that there is a natural connexion between the minds of children and fairy-stories, of the same order as the connexion between children’s bodies and milk. I think this is an error; at best an error of false sentiment, and one that is therefore most often made by those who, for whatever private reason (such as childlessness), tend to think of children as a special kind of creature, almost a different race, rather than as normal, if immature, members of a particular family, and of the human family at large."

-JRR Tolkien

May 30, 2019, 1:16 PM · Guys, I said videogames because it's quite normal to hear "gaming is for kids/teenagers/college". Once you're an adult (late 20's, 30's), playing videogames is considered a waste of time by many people, and again, I'm not talking about playing chess in the PC, I'm talking about your regular Call of Duty, League of Legends, Fortnite... games that are popular and are played for many hours each week (violin practice, another common ground). It was just the perfect example for you to understand what I meant. I'm not talking about spending 1h each week playing videogames, in fact, spending so little time tells a lot about who's that hobby for. No one would say anything negative about that, unless, I don't know, you play princess and castles with your 40 YO sister.

Anyways, what's important, and I still sense in some comments that it has not been understood well, is that I'm not defending that the violin is childish. The question is quite clear: what would you say to an adult student of yours (+25yo) that says annoyed that he/she sometimes thinks playing violin is childish?

The question let's you know that the answer "should" be it's not childish, but explain your reasons.

May 30, 2019, 1:27 PM · Another vote for, "NO"
May 30, 2019, 2:36 PM · Your implicit definition of "childish" seems to be any activity that does not produce [money, goods, a service that would otherwise be purchased] or reproduce [birthing and rearing children]. To think this way is the hegemony of capitalism, which ironically, is a legacy of Karl Marx's definition of what it means to be a whole person, that is, "a species-being."

You don't need to produce something that can be exchanged in the marketplace to be engaged in an adult activity.

May 30, 2019, 2:45 PM · I understand what you meant, Paul N. I think video games are actually very similar in levels of engagement to music. And they have the distinct advantage of being group activities right from the beginning, which promotes rapid improvement. When playing the violin, it's hard for it to be an effective group activity right from the outset, so you're usually just competing against yourself. That can be discouraging.

Either way, I should add to this discussion that many of my best young students have been engaged in PC/console gaming. It clearly helps the brain to develop, just as other forms of games have promoted mental development in the past. And I grew up playing video games; they added tremendous enrichment to my young life. To this day, I still play games online as a way of keeping connected with my brother and keeping my reflexes up. I've also put out a bounty to my current students that anyone who can best me in Super Smash Bros. will win $200. Of course, they're not going to win. But if they do, they deserve the money! That would require serious practice on their end.

Edited: May 30, 2019, 3:18 PM · I'm not a big video game fan, although occasionally (maybe once a decade) one will grab my attention. My latest one is Portal, which differs from other detailed graphical games in that it's not a first-person shooter in which you sublimiate your violent urges. (Or encourage them? The jury is still out.) You have a gun, but it merely places portals on walls that let you step instantaneously from one to the other. It's a wonderfully thought-provoking puzzle game, full of dark humour that is anything but childish, and I've spent many happy hours playing it (although not to the detriment of my other activities and duties).

Oh, and not all video games are group activities; some are solitary, and some can be one or the other.

Edited: May 31, 2019, 12:32 AM · I kind of miss the Guitar Hero / Rock Band fad. I was playing during a period of time when I wasn't playing the violin, and it filled a void of sorts. (Also, because I was raised almost exclusively on classical music, those games turned out to be my proper introduction to the rock genre.) I was a top 100 Guitar Hero player on Xbox Live for a while.

When you have a family, the leisure time to do anything for 4 hours a night largely goes away (though I still have friends with fairly young kids who still manage to put in 20+ hours of gaming a week). The "leisure is childish" is one of those things that overwhelmed older adults toss out at single/kidfree people to make themselves feel better about their life choices, and to put down the life choices of others who haven't chosen to burden themselves with families.

When I hear people put down videogames, I hear one or more of the following:
(a) people (often elderly) unfamiliar with gaming, uninterested in becoming informed, but totally happy to spew opinions about things they know nothing about
(b) people who aren't attracted to gaming themselves, and are unable to be respectful of things other people are interested in
(c) snobs for whom anything not defined as high culture must be put down
(d) snobs for whom anything not defined as "productive" must be put down

I don't have the kind of free time I had in my pre-kid days, and neither do most of my friends with children, but I'm not in the business of judging how any of them want to spend their time. Some want to game. Some want to knit. Some want to zone out in front of the TV. Some want to read trashy romance novels. To each their own.

Edited: May 31, 2019, 5:42 AM · Karen wrote, "I think it's sexist when it's implied that a woman's most important calling is motherhood, and it's outdated when applied to anyone. Nowdays there is more widespread understanding and recognition that people need to take care of their own needs first and set healthy boundaries before they can be of real service to others."

I feel obliged to agree with what Karen said. It's individual rights and freedom after all. But I'd add that whenever people 'çare more' about themselves and their rights, societies as a whole may suffer.

As a non-white economist I think out of many reasons for a general decline in Western countries' population (especially Caucasian), the main ones are people becoming more individualistic and less family-oriented. Marital bonds are also more tenuous. Women think more about their career progression, gender equality, and own well-being; many start questioning why they need to become mothers having career breaks and be arduously committed to bringing up their kids, while their husbands mostly wouldn't suffer as much. What about men? They are now more inclined to have short term fun, rather than to stay in committed relationships. They are also afraid of marriages and responsibilities, emotional and financial, towards their wives and kids. It's a lot more pleasurable, stress-free, and pain-free to 'play the field'.

There is much more media coverage nowadays concerning unbridled overseas immigration, aging local population, core population dwindling, declining birth rate, Islamification, etc. in western countries. It's becoming inevitable.

Breeding more babies is obviously not a pressing problem for other societies (like Asian, middle-eastern or Indian), and there are more urgent problems (such as environment) but it could be the general trajectory of the whole human race in the end, once societies become advanced enough.

Sorry for my random babbling ...

Edited: May 31, 2019, 8:28 AM · Ah, Matt, as an economist (you, not me) don't you think the fact that entry level jobs in the US no longer pay a family wage (or even a wage sufficient for renting a 2 bedroom apartment independently) has anything to do with the decline of people in their childbearing years delaying or even foregoing having children?
May 31, 2019, 10:20 AM · @Jocelyn thank you, like you I do think there are lots of reasons. I do note, however, most countries with higher birth rates than America are actually poorer. And within those countries, the poorer section of society tend to be more 'profusive' when it comes to child bearing.

So there is actually a pretty strong negative correlation between number of kids and your wealth, within and between countries ...

Edited: May 31, 2019, 11:14 AM · About the off-topic... the fact that in Nigeria (poor) the child birth rate is way higher than in Sweden (rich), for example, does not let you determine and say that wealth is inversely proportional to births. The more money a society handles, the less children they have is a fallacy. What you probably can say is that there's no correlation between wealth and number of kids. I mean, sure, if you have no money you're probably not going to have children, but even then, still a lot of poor people in developed countries have 2 or 3 children. There are thousands of factors that can make a society have more or less children.
May 31, 2019, 11:50 AM · @Paul

This phenomenon is widely studied as far down as causal factors, so I think at this point it IS fair to say that wealth is, on average, inversely proportional to births. In poorer countries (and communities), kids serve a very different purpose.

So there are many aspects here, but for example, access to sex education and contraceptives is higher in wealthy countries than in poor countries. First world countries also tend to have higher rates of equality between genders (i.e. women have the choice between working jobs and having kids, whereas in many poorer countries this is not the case). Furthermore, in 3rd world countries, having children is a way of increasing your ability to work, and given the general lack of social safety net, a way to insure that after you are too old to work, that kids can take care of you in retirement.

Check out the game Papers Please. One of my favorites of the last 5 years.

You know, I've always wondered what would happen if a serious violinist (i.e. professional or conservatory-class) got their hands on Guitar Hero and put in the work. But maybe you don't refer to the time you put into Fire and Flames as "studying repertoire".

Edited: May 31, 2019, 12:51 PM · Yes, James, I agree. In middle-class USA, we view children as consumers. In developing countries, the household is frequently the unit of production, and children are valued as producers from the time they may be 8 or 9 years old.

You guys are making me want to try Guitar Hero.

Edited: May 31, 2019, 7:16 PM · "You know, I've always wondered what would happen if a serious violinist (i.e. professional or conservatory-class) got their hands on Guitar Hero and put in the work. But maybe you don't refer to the time you put into Fire and Flames as "studying repertoire""

How about a serious guitarist gets his/her hands on Guitar Hero?
Meet me, hahahaha. Well, first of all, I played it in the Wii some years ago. I can tell you the tempo and feeling of the songs are weird to real musicians. I played several songs I knew perfectly on a real guitar, with complex solos and rhythms. I tried to play them and I failed even the basic parts, I wasn't hitting in time the notes. I kind of hated the game because of this, I couldn't feel the tempo and go free, and also many patterns and rhythms were bad, wow, that really angered me. They were bad in a subtle way, basically, a musician (guitarist mostly) would notice, a regular person wouldn't. I had a friend that was very good at it, lots of hours, hundreds, and he owned me. One day I brought my guitar and taught him a really easy song, the intro, which was quite groovy, and only told him to press one note each time (root of the actual chords you play). He barely had any sense of tempo, and of course couldn't play very well a single note, except open strings. He gave up in just 5 minutes, saying it was impossible. The single fact that there were 6 strings instead of 5 aligned big buttons really frustrated him.

Hell, even my violin teacher, conservatory trained with a violin degree (a professional violinist basically), thinks the guitar is really complicated and is quite reluctant to give it a try. She gets really blocked when she's holding the guitar and sees a lot of metal things, 6 strings, a really long fretboard, 6 strings again... I always tell her I feel the same way when I see a violin, hahahaha, and I don't know how she doesn't feel it's a "super" easy instrument compared to violin.

I believe guitar hero is like that game you move your feet to press the arrows that appear in the screen. You don't learn to dance or to play music with these games. Of course they help compared to someone that have done nothing, the simple fact that you move your feet or gain a little bit of dexterity in your fingers will help. Anyways, the neck hold of the guitar in the game and the position of the fingers and wrist was so bad, I looked at my friend real sad and "angry" when he played like that the little guitar, hitting every note with that horrible position. My friend got used to play buttons almost with the fingers completely flat, and in a real guitar is quite the opposite. You can imagine how he felt when I gave him my electric guitar. I told him it was completely different, even with those hundred of hours on his back, but he kind of was sure he would rock the house because all the hours spend with that plastic guitar. Just 5 minutes he could manage, hahahaha.

June 1, 2019, 12:10 AM · Indeed, I suspect the Guitar Hero / Rock Band guitar patterns are far more like violin patterns than they are like guitar patterns.

Getting the timing right is actually a matter of adjusting the game's latency. It can be out of sync with your TV.

I found drumming to be fun, too, and a weirdly good application of the rhythm exercises I did as a kid.

June 4, 2019, 4:11 PM · (from James T)
Check out the game Papers Please. One of my favorites of the last 5 years.
Interesting. Maybe I will. One other that I got turned on to was The Stanley Parable. Fun in a totally offbeat way.
June 4, 2019, 4:24 PM · @Lydia

Long-term project

Change all the guitar-hero patterns into A-string notes in a staff (i.e. first, second, third, fourth, extension corresponding to B, C, D, E, F) to match the notes on the Guitar Hero controller into a software like Sibelius, maybe with custom fingerings.

That way when you play Guitar Hero you can use the Sibelius to read the music almost like sight-reading, except with only using 5 notes. Might be a weird psychological trip because the notes won't sound the same, although I suspect much of the discomfort with guitar hero for a violinist is that the "staff" is vertical and you can't really see that far ahead.

Edited: June 7, 2019, 1:39 AM · I did not hear anything like this before. Playing music is beautiful and cultivate and high level for me. Not concerning the age.

I have one obsession which is making my life harder. I still must do something, it is not like some kind of stimulations with hands, but I must do something "good for planet", when I was a teenager this obsession was so huge, I sometimes woke at 4 am with physically felt pain and I must do something (usually programming, my big hobby, and music also but it is impossible at night :) and yes I work as a programmer).

And I am 35. For 16 years do not own TV. And I love vinyl :-)
I still have this, but little more under control. It brings me a lot of exhaustion and headaches in life. From my point of view, I hate video games. (nothing against anyone) But I feel this serious rubbish. I have never played one, I really dislike it, and yes this is childish for me. Even when I have adult guys around who are playing on some kind of stations whenever they can. It is stupid, they go to work, do less what they must do, then go home and burn and waste their time with stupid playing and then go to bed etc. (sometimes they made social duty to girlfriends if there is one).

I am also playing music from an early age. And I never ever felt like it is a waste of time or it is childish. It is really very well spent time with beauty, elegance and self-training, relieving etc. Even if my violin playing is terrible.

I had a feeling of the childish instrument over the recorder. I worked out this stupid feeling. The recorder is a beautiful instrument like the others. It is done by our society. Children, usually at the age of four, are playing recorders. I was playing too, from 3 to 6. And it is common in my country. The feeling rooted in me, but it is nonsense.

Edited: June 7, 2019, 2:09 AM · A very revealing documentary series has been playing on the BBC about the music of India. The spectrum goes from "classical" (raga etc) through folk and street music traditions through to types with increasingly strong western influence - Bollywood, rock and even rap. And of course multiple local variants of each. It's impossible to encompass in a few hours but the presenter's conclusion of "unity in diversity" was quite profound I think.

Of course we in the west have just as rich and diverse a tradition with the added advantage of the printed sheet so that the musical styles of one age can be passed (albeit imperfectly) to subsequent generations. And we also have the violin - arguably the most perfectly developed musical instrument of all. I came away from a documentary about India feeling proud to be a part of our own cultural heritage. Nothing childish about playing the violin!

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