You're never to old.

November 28, 2019, 7:45 AM · I'm excited like I never have been before.

When I was about twelve years old, I went to my very first Symphony. As I sat there listening with the rest of my classmates that strange Saturday, I remember the inspiration that washed over me as I heard the Violins over the rest of the Orchestra. Yes, I could hear them over the rest even when they were playing softly.

I asked my parents for Violin lessons and I was told no because it was to expensive.

Time passed on and over the years I remained inspired by the music of the Violin.

I asked my parents several more times over the years with the same response.

Eventually, I grew up and life seemed to take over.

Time passed and now that I am forty-nine, I am finally about to pick up my very first violin at the beginning of the year and learn to play it.

My goal in this endeavor is a humble one. All I want to do is to be able to play it competently. That's it.

That way I can maybe have fun with improvisation, perhaps perform on the street. The important thing for me is that I have FUN with it and enjoy the process of learning this wonderful and beautiful instrument.

I hold no illusions about what's in store for me in this new journey, and that's why I'm posting this.

I like this forum, but I find delving through the archive rather vexing and chaotic.

So, now that I can finally post a discussion I'm here to learn as much as I can before my first lesson.

I’ve already been watching the YouTube videos from Allison Sparrow and a few others. I have a few wonderful apps on my phone that seem to be helping with knowing where the notes are, the parts of the violin, I am even a little aware of some of the basic technique.

As I learn more, especially as I read the posts here, I can plainly see just how daunting this new world of music appears.

What I would like to know is simply this; beyond hunting down books, what else can I do ahead of time to make this journey a tiny bit easier and that much more enjoyable.

Thank you.

Replies (19)

November 28, 2019, 7:50 AM · Hi Emma. I'm glad you're now getting to do this for yourself! One thing I would say is if you are going to watch YouTube videos to start/enhance yourself before lessons, don't use Alison Sparrow. In my opinion, there are a lot better teachers/instructors out there than her. But that is only my opinion
November 28, 2019, 8:00 AM · LOL, thank you Jake.

She's not the only one I've been watching.

I'm terrible with names unless I have them written right in front of me and hers was the only one I could remember off the top of my head.

One thing I do when I watch these YouTube videos is I watch them with a grain of salt and only pay attention to the basic underlying information. The nuts and bolts, so to speak.

That's also why I've been watching more than her. One of the first things I noticed and knew way back when is that there's more than one way to skin a cat with every difference of opinion as to how it should be done.

All I've been doing is learning enough to be literate, as it where. Beyond what I gleaned over the years of dreaming about learning to play.

November 28, 2019, 8:08 AM · I wish I had the option to do YouTube stuff when I started 12 years ago. But I didn't have the oppurtunity to do that sadly. But take advantage of it!
November 28, 2019, 9:14 AM · I did the Allison Sparrow videos for a few days, then I had my first lesson. It only took about three minutes for me to realize the problem with the YouTube videos. There is no feedback on how you are doing. Without those comments, you can quickly fall into bad habits without even knowing you are dong so. I suggest you stop watching the videos, find a teacher, and start the journey.
November 28, 2019, 10:31 AM · Right on, Michael!!

One-on-one sessions are available on line, but with time delays unless you can afford real-time versions that are expensive. But nothing is equivalent to a live lesson where the teacher can actually observe the movements and tensions in the muscles under your skin and really hear you without electronic equipment separating you.

November 28, 2019, 12:05 PM · Emma,

Welcome to the confederation of Late Starters. I started 19 years younger than you are now but my story is similar - a family that could not afford instrument or lessons, a dream tucked away and then serendipity places an instrument in my hands, a willing teacher is found (and uses Doflein which, in my opinion works better for adult beginners), a goal to learn to play the melody and descant lines of Episcopal Hymns is set forth, achieved and surpassed, joined a multi-generational community orchestra... Over 40 years later I'm still playing and (had to believe) teaching young musicians who have similar family circumstances to mine as a young teenager captivated by the violin - my "giving back" to the universe that put my Wife's great-grandfather's violin in my hands along with a very good teacher.

There will be moments of frustration and moments of joy. Welcome to the journey.

November 28, 2019, 12:20 PM · Hi, Emma. I don't know if you already have a violin or not. But if you're shopping for one, and if it is possible, ask a knowledgeable person that you know to help you pick one. Perhaps your future violin teacher? Or go to a reputable shop to get one. The violin does not need to be expensive, but you do want to get a violin that is setup properly, and has a decent tone that you like. Getting a good violin that is easy to play, and pleasing to your ear will enhance your learning experience. It may even encourage you to practice more. Have fun, and I wish you the best in your new endeavor.
November 28, 2019, 2:33 PM · Thank you, Ben.
No, I don't have my own Violin yet. I'll be renting from the store where my teacher will be teaching me from.

My first lesson will be right after January first.

November 28, 2019, 3:18 PM · "play violin competently".
Sounds like a reasonable, doable goal.
However this is the violin.
That goal can keep you busy, engaged, thinking, working, etc, for a very long time, many hours a day.
Or not.
A teacher is highly recommended. You can learn basics on line, but see a teacher before you develop too many bad habits.
I started at age 42. 18 years later its my primary hobby, and planning on it occupying my retirement for several hours a day. My only comment is it takes time. My teacher once said that most adults quit after a year as they find its too difficult to get a good sound, and progress as expected. So set your expectations appropriately.
November 28, 2019, 8:57 PM · The other problem with Alison Sparrow is that she takes shortcuts to get people playing tunes as quickly as possible, and really spends more time repeating the same ideas over and over than actually explaining the concepts behind them. This is especially conducive to developing bad habits. Some of her technique is also very unorthodox.

I'm a late starter as well (on viola), even if not that late. Like you, I first heard string instruments at a symphony concert when I was 12, and was unable to get lessons. In my case it was not because my parents weren't willing to pay, but because multiple teachers rejected me over the next several years, all saying I was already too old to ever learn a string instrument beyond beginner level! I gave up trying to find a willing teacher and started self-teaching a little before I turned 17. I recommend persisting in looking for a teacher rather than self-teaching, now that I know there are teachers who accept older beginners. I'm a competent player today mostly because I got a lot of mini-lessons from playing in orchestras with much more accomplished players, and even then my progress was slow. That said, I've now been at it for almost 20 years, play in a semi-pro orchestra, and have subbed in professional gigs.

I don't think starting older is really a major handicap in itself; the main obstacles are finding a teacher, finding time to practice with adult obligations, and perhaps self-consciousness about not sounding good as a beginner, rather than any kind of inability to learn.

November 28, 2019, 10:31 PM · One thing you can do is to start training your ear(s). I took up violin in July at 71 yrs old. There are a number of ear training apps. I have one on my phone called Perfect Ear. It's helping me to hear differences between notes better. It's slow going, but as I work through the exercises, I'm learning a little about music theory (e.g. what's a third or a fifth?). I also find myself listening to violin music online (soloists, string quartets, orchestras). It too is helping me to listen better.

Since you'll be starting out with a teacher in a month, there's not really a lot you can do to "prepare" per se. It's a short time. You could watch videos about caring for a violin, or how to tune a violin, etc.

You'll need a practice area at home where you can safely keep your violin available for practice and be able to set up a music stand. You might need to rearrange some things at home to make space.

Mostly, just keep being excited!

November 29, 2019, 5:51 AM · Welcome Mrs. Brown and I like the picture of your dog.

It is unfortunate that you were not able to take violin lessons as a teenager like you wanted to but I suppose that is part of the ups and downs of life. My advice for you is to have someone competent look at your violin and bow and make sure that everything is as it should be and in tip top shape. If in time you are unhappy with your new teacher do not be hesitant to find a better one that is right for you.

Wish you the best with your late start!

November 29, 2019, 7:06 AM · Welcome to!

I started the violin at age 60, so you are definitely not too old.

I did study the piano in my 20's and attended many music theory courses over the years. A basic understanding of diatonic scales and ability to read music were both helpful. If you are lacking in either of these, you can find many great beginner courses on youtube to get you started.

I would say the number one piece of advice I would give a new player is to definitely rent their first violin and bow. If you or your teacher are not happy with the response or tone of the violin, you can easily ask for another. (And you should!)

Sticky pegs, too flat a bridge, an overly soft bow, and strings that will not vibrate freely unless you put lots of muscle into them will all sour the experience.

The actual tone of the violin is secondary at this point. If it is an instrument that responds well to the bow, you can make it sound good with a little practice.

Edited: November 29, 2019, 8:49 AM · Thank you all for the warm welcomes.

Beverly, it's funny that you mention ear training and the app Perfect Ear. Perfect Ear is one of the apps I now have on my phone that I'm working with to help.

Jeff, thank you. My boy is a constant source of inspiration, joy, and laughter. As a matter of fact, he is a small factor that lead me to the conversation that landed me the gift of the lessons and rental Violin that I will receive at the beginning of the year.

Just a little more about my situation everyone.
I did take Choir when I was in School many years ago, I figured that if I couldn't play an instrument of my choice that I would at least sing.

I remember a lot of what my Choir Teacher taught us in class and I did informally keep up with some basics like Diatonic and Pentatonic Scales. I do have a small set of Diatonic Harmonicas that I piddle around with now and then, and even have a little fun playing them on occasion.

I will never forget the first time I bent a note on my Harmonica, which is no easy feat considering you need to change the dynamics of your mouth, throat and breath as you play the note. With both blown notes and Drawn notes.

The more I read these responses, the more I'm beginning to realize that I may be more ready for my first lesson than I feel.

I don't have the Violin yet. I think my teacher will be helping me to look at a few of the available rentals to find the right one for me to start with.

December 8, 2019, 10:21 PM · You and I have almost the same story...I asked and asked my parents to let me play violin too. Some of my classmates played in the string orchestra in my grade school, and I wanted to play so bad, but they wouldn't let me.

I started playing when I was 49 (two years ago). I had pretty much the same goals as you (just to be able to play reasonably and make pleasant sounds). I'm playing now in a community orchestra, as well as an impromptu folk group. It's a beast of an instrument, no doubt about it, but I find it very satisfying.

Best of luck on the journey ahead of you! Enjoy it!

December 8, 2019, 11:24 PM · "I'm excited like I never have been before."

Ok, great. You're right, you're never too old to learn how to play music or to want to be able to play it too well. There's a lot to learn, and sometimes, probably before long, you'll feel that it's too difficult - it's too hard, and you don't have the time or ability to learn it well enough to please anyone. Too bad, but you can carry the hope and drive that you're feeling now with you over and through the rough patches onto further rough patches, too.

December 8, 2019, 11:49 PM · I too started late- about 60 almost a half dozen years ago now, and have wished I'd started 10 or 20 years before ever since- before that and I wouldn't have had the music knowledge from guitar and piano and harp that has helped me move along quickly. And mandolin held me back- I broke the two outer fingers of my left hand when I was young and they are a liability- I got a mandolin 25 years ago, and found it's just too small for my fumbly fingers. I figured that violin would be much the same being about the same size. But not really because it's not so chordal and I can get by with one note or double stops at a time- I simply enjoy it better. So now I have several violins and a 5 string viola, I somehow get more involved with over the winter. I really like 'em!
December 9, 2019, 5:06 AM · Congratulations on making this first step into the violin world, Emma! One thing that adult beginners need to keep in mind is to not compare yourself with violinists you admire. That's the biggest problem I run into with adult beginners (I don't teach violin, I teach woodwinds and brass) -- they get upset when they don't sound like their idols after a few lessons. Children never have that problem when they start. So take joy in each little step along the way, enjoy the journey and don't worry about how far way the end-goal might seem. And don't get frustrated with how slow the progress might seem -- be happy with each beautiful note you make and with each new song you play. And keep playing the first songs as you progress, so they will continue to sound better and you'll always remember the happiness when you first played them and you started to sound like a violinist.

And don't use what you've learned through the on-line videos to contradict your teacher -- realize that everybody has the same goal (to sound great on the violin) but the path that every teacher wants her/his students to follow can be very different so do as your teacher says.

One more thing -- your teacher may say something like "you have to practice 30 minutes every day."(some teachers say 45, some say an hour) The most important part of that sentence is "every day." So even if you can only do 15 minutes some days because of adult-life responsibilities, take advantage of those 15 minutes. Your muscles will remember better what to do if you make them do it every day.

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