What piece made you switch?

August 14, 2019, 4:08 AM · Hello!
As the thread title suggests, what piece of music made you swutch/take up another inatrument? For example, I am a violinist, but I am more a viola player now. I switcher because, as well as encouragement from my teacher, I had found Glaunov's Elegie, op. 44. It is a gorgeous piece of music, and I wanted to play it. After acquiring a viola, it is now what I am learning and its making me feel amazing.

Replies (26)

August 14, 2019, 6:16 AM · A beautiful composition.

Although not difficult to play, it is one of those pieces which highlights the great divide between amateur and professional in terms of artistic expression and the considerable mastery of technique needed to make it sound exceptional.

I finished off a pot of coffee listening to performances by various artists. Time well spent. Thanks.

August 14, 2019, 6:34 AM · I never switched.
August 14, 2019, 6:35 AM · I added viola so I could play certain chamber music, particularly Mozart's Kegelstat Trio.
August 14, 2019, 6:36 AM · @Paul Deck, then you're missing out. If I could afford it/had time, I'd like the cello as well because of Haydn D major concerto and the Dvorak concerti. 2 of my favourite concertos
Edited: August 14, 2019, 6:44 AM · All right, if Tom is allowed to include "adding the viola" as a form of "switching" then I did that too, for the same reasons. Also I started with two instruments -- violin and piano -- plus I learned jazz (mostly on the piano) so I don't think I'm missing out. I don't need to play the cello. I have a daughter who does that just fine.
August 14, 2019, 9:35 AM · Heard Pag #5, picked up violin. Heard Ballade no 1 (Chopin), started also learning piano when violin allows.

Originally I played electric guitar, mostly metal and rock music. I still do it from time to time when violin is kicking my ass too much, to remind me I really can make music...

Edited: August 14, 2019, 4:23 PM · I never really "switched," but I switched to mostly viola from violin about 4-1/2 years ago because essential tremor became a right-hand problem with the lighter bow. I had actually played some viola during the previous 45 years - maybe 100 hours total (that averages to about 2 hours per year) - but this time I did my warmup by playing the entire Mozart Sinfonia Concertante for the first time (just to see if I could) and later that week I played it with my violinist & pianist friends during one of our weekly piano trio sessions. That has to be my favorite viola part ever.

I like Jake's reason because I was notified this past weekend that our chamber orchestra's harpist wants to have some summer fun (during reduced orchestra schedule) by playing Glazunov's Elegie with viola and Faure's Pavane with flute and viola. I'd never played those versions of either piece (actually never even heard the Glazunov), but they're on my stand now.

Cello was added to my resume a couple of months before my 15th birthday. Dad came home from work that day, handed me a cello with the words, "Fred can't make it to string quartet practice next week, see what you can do!" I had no cello music so I transcribed some of my violin music down an octave and played through things like Humoresque, etc. that first evening. Over the next few days Dad gave me some bass clef music and I worked it out so that I was able to play the Haydn and Mozart parts for the quartet session. Cello lessons started about one month later and lasted a little over 2 years - past the Haydn D Major Concerto - apparently I was a quick study.

My brain has never stumbled switching from violin to cello and vice versa. I wish it were that straightforward going from violin to viola and back. The longer I play viola the more I tend to stumble.

August 14, 2019, 10:07 AM · I never switched but viola class was a requirement for violin majors at Oberlin, so when I needed to find some scholarship money for my last semester at Indiana, I volunteered to play viola in one of the orchestras.

Apologies for bringing down your post with mercenary considerations. I do enjoy playing Bach suites on the viola for fun.

August 14, 2019, 10:49 AM · I started on viola (with Phyllis Ebsworth) when my treble chorister's voice broke; but my parents had nudged me in that direction with 78rpm's of Sammons & Tertis playing the Mozart Concertante, and Frederick Riddle playing the Walton Concerto..

Then followed three decades of mostly violin playing thanks to a shortage of amenable violinists who actually enjoy playing second violin, while the younger generation of violists are much better now than in my young days. I even had to swap my "spare" viola for a decent violin!

August 14, 2019, 10:58 AM · I will answer your question a bit differently. I never switched instruments, but I picked up my violin again after 20+ years away so that I could learn and play Bach's Chaconne. That piece (along with seeing Anne Akiko Meyers perform in concert) inspired me to start up again in 2011 and the violin has been a large part of my life ever since!
August 14, 2019, 11:46 AM · I never switched instruments. I've been an avid music fan since I can remember ad I enjoyed playing on a little keyboard my Mom bought before I was born. I started piano lessons as a toddler. Then, (I think) a friend sort of suggested it and I picked up violin a few years later. After a few more years I started getting involved in chamber music and one day, I was suddenly and unexpectedly assigned the viola part as a violinist in a chamber group. My teacher said the part would sound better on the viola so I needed to get a viola. At the time, I was thinking (why do I have to play viola. It'll sound just fine on a violin. What's the point?" I don't why my attitude was so bad and I regret it soooo much, but everyone pushed and forced me to play viola and I am so glad because ever since I got my hands on a viola, I fell in love with it especially the C string and the deep, rich sound, and have kept playing viola ever since. I love playing all three instruments about equally today, although I don't study the viola but play in some ensembles and for fun.
August 14, 2019, 1:14 PM · I think the issue of "switching" is a bit narrow, so I am glad that folks took my post as an opportunity to open up about adding instruments. The violin is a wonderful instrument with a wonderful repertoire. So, the interesting question is what made people want to add or switch to another instrument. if they played violin. I know very few people who totally switched, but I do know a number who play two instruments.
Edited: August 14, 2019, 3:22 PM · Hearing the Walton viola concerto was what made me take up both violin and viola. (I was a pianist and low brass player before that point, so my "switch" was from different instrument families altogether.) After hearing the Walton, I wanted to play the viola, but started on violin because I could get a violin for free, namely an old violin in the family that hadn't been played in over 20 years. I switched to the viola about a year and a half later, when I was able to get a viola on loan.

I love the Glazunov, by the way. It's deceptively simple, but requires constant attention to phrasing.

August 14, 2019, 3:43 PM · I switched to Viola because I have large hands that aren't doing well on the Violin, I'll continue on the Violin but my new priorities are Cello and Viola. They're definitely more me.
August 14, 2019, 3:57 PM · The Dvorak Piano Quintet and the Brahms Piano Quintet introduced me the world of the viola back in college--and I haven't stopped playing it since!
August 14, 2019, 5:33 PM · The viola part of Schmidts String Quartet in A on CD made me dream of playing something like that. Schumanns Märchenbilder played by Bryony Gibson-Cornish live made me take up the challenge. Bruch's 8 Pieces and the Telemann Viola concert were my door-openers. But still switching happily between instruments.
August 14, 2019, 5:33 PM · The viola part of Schmidts String Quartet in A on CD made me dream of playing something like that. Schumanns Märchenbilder played by Bryony Gibson-Cornish live made me take up the challenge. Bruch's 8 Pieces and the Telemann Viola concert were my door-openers. But still switching happily between instruments.
August 14, 2019, 5:36 PM · The Brahms piano quintet I discovered in my second year at Sixth Form (last year of high school equivalent). We played it in our string group, although sadly I didn't get to play the viola part
Edited: August 16, 2019, 1:58 AM · I've played both violin and viola since childhood. However, unless I wanted to perform, or at least learn a particular piece on the viola, I have tended to neglect it entirely as regards private practice. Music which has drawn me back to the viola includes Märchenbilder, the two Brahms songs, movements from the Bach E-flat suite, my arrangement of the Dowland Melancholy Galliard (which I still can't play properly), and now, I suspect (I'd not known even of its existence, let alone it's quality - Thank you Jake and Carmen!) the Glazunov (I remember the lovely surprise his violin concerto was when I listened to it as the B side of Oistrakh's Mendelsohn vinyl. On the other hand, to me the Serenade Espagnole - for violin - was take it or leave it).
Edited: August 16, 2019, 6:07 AM · Problem is you can only master one instrument, may be 2 if you are very consistent. Knowing that to really master an instrument one has to practice 4h if not more, imagine doing that with 2 instruments. You almost literally would live for and by music: sleep, practice, eat, sleep, practice, sleep.

I have a friend that was very good at piano, when he was a solid advanced intermediate, started flute lessons, and then guitar as well, and then violin as well. He started to forget about the piano, lost interest, and ended up being not very good with any instrument. There's a saying that goes something like this: "Apprentice of everything, master of nothing".

It's not such a big deal if you are switching from violin to viola, but anyways, all these instruments, pretty much any, need devotion to master.

I also love oboe repertoire, guitar, piano, cello... you name it, but normally, if I really like one specific piece, I simply transpose it to the violin, which is what every player does, specially pianists. Sure, it's not the same to play Bach's suites with a violin, but there's nothing wrong about it and you can learn new ways to play the violin, trying to mimic a cello. If I had time I'd love to learn to play the piano, the oboe and the french horn, besides the violin.

August 16, 2019, 7:16 AM · Paul N wrote, "Problem is you can only master one instrument, may be 2 if you are very consistent."

That's undeniable, but what I discovered -- at least with jazz piano -- is that mastery, especially technical mastery, is not a requirement for enjoyment or reasonably steady (albeit occasional) gig income. Sure, I'd like to have more skill, especially when I switch back over to classical and try to play stuff like trios (ufda!). But jazz audiences do not expect technical perfection. They want to hear cool melodic licks, interesting harmonies, rhythmic patterns that ebb and flow, and an overall sound that swings. So, while I'd have to shed quite hard to perform even a basic Haydn trio on the piano, if you happen to hear my piano trio this evening at Mountain Lake Lodge (where the film "Dirty Dancing" was made), I think you'll agree that quite satisfying jazz can be played by someone whose piano skills never reached the piano equivalent of the "Bruch Level."

August 16, 2019, 7:47 AM · 'Dream, dream, dream' by the Everly brothers.

I guess that needs some explanation. I played the violin from age 6-~13. At that time my brother, with whom I sang close harmony, wanted me to play the guitar so that we could perform as a duet. With little thought (I was a teenager) I did so - and hitch-hiking busking/bar/restaurant performing summer holidays ensued - first to Sweden for a month and then 2 months and then to Europe. After the first year (living mostly in a tent), we made sufficient money to have pretty comfortable and exciting time.

At the time I picked up the violin again (2008) I wasn't playing anything so it was a switch from radio to violin!

August 16, 2019, 9:34 AM · I guess I meant what piece made you pick up the instrument, not necessarily switched completely
August 16, 2019, 10:02 AM · I haven't switched, but one of my students switched from Violin to Viola. While he likes the sound of the Viola, what made him switch was a piece in a college recruitment package where he noted that while the college orchestra welcomed musicians, then made a plea for Viola and Cello players. He did the math and became a larger fish in a smaller pond.
August 16, 2019, 10:20 AM · Best to go with it Jake - after a few posts nobody will see your reply above ;) Besides, its kinda interesting...
August 16, 2019, 11:05 AM · "I guess I meant what piece made you pick up the instrument, not necessarily switched completely"

Oh, like what piece made us pick up the violin?
If you say what made you switch, you seem to mean what piece made you change your main violin and swap it by another instrument. That's exactly what I was saying about apprentice of everything, master of nothing.

Paul, I was going to say that, of course, you don't have to reach Bruch level or beyond to enjoy the violin.

Look, I just thought about the perfect example: I conceive instruments, specially soloist ones (violin, piano, french horn, guitar...), as your soul wife/husband.

If you only play "what you are supposed to", in other words, your main instrument, you are married.
If you are a multi-instrumentalist, you are this single woman/man with a lot of friends: your average single uncle, brother, aunt...

It's not that it's better to be married/ to stick with one instrument, it's different. Nonetheless, the relationship you have with your instrument/all life long wife/husband can't be compared to a friendship, specially if you have kids and a lot of things join you very strongly.

And, I think the violin is one of those instruments you should stick with it alone. You can of course play other instruments, but trying to reach the same level of expertise in both, dividing your time equally between both instruments... can be done but it's almost impossible, and you would end up being "meh" in both. It can happen that you started at a young age with violin and piano, and you could master both, but normally that's not the case. Knowing the repertoires and thousands of techniques, hours and stuff, thinking about really playing 2 instruments is kind of crazy.


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