What percentage of violinists are beginners, intermediate, etc...
Ok, I'll admit, this is sort of loosely related to my day job, but is there a rule of thumb estimation for those of you who are teachers/dealers/involved in the local communities for what percentage of violinists (or classical musicians) fit into different skill bands (maybe leave piano out of this?)?
The analyst in me thinks it may be pretty safe to just assume a simple 80/20 split like:
80% of violin players are beginners,
16% (80% of the remaining 20%) are intermediate
3% (75% of the remaining 4%) are advanced
1% (what's left) are music professionals, for some definition of the word "professional".
Can you define your skill bands a bit more precisely?
I'd estimate the percentage of beginners is much higher, more like 90-95 percent, may even above that. Most of the teachers I know do not teach above lower intermediate level at all. From what I've heard from people who teach in school strings programs, in a typical medium-sized public high school (outside of the most affluent areas) the best violinist in the school orchestra is around Suzuki Book 5 level.
Actually, another question: how are we defining "violinist"? How often does one need to play to be considered a violinist? Does it include everyone who has ever learned to play? Does it include someone who played as a child but now only pulls out the violin once every few months? Or is it just people who are currently playing on a regular basis?
Hmm, Susan, I guess I never really thought of lines of demarcation. My primary interest in this outside of personal curiosity is in market size.
My tiering would be:
Ok, for the sake of making a guess, I'm going to say that a "violinist" is anyone that has played longer than 1 month, and has tried at least 1 private lesson. I am not considering how many hours are practiced within that month.
Oh,I'd guess there are a lot of semi-competent players who have learned solely in school. My community orchestra is full of people who have never had a private lesson, but were at least somewhat competently taught in public school, and can probably manage the notes of the Bach A minor even if they wouldn't want to perform it.
I'm thinking Bruch level is 1%.
I wonder if the location could change the numbers as well. Some places do not have the resources for advanced violinists, so 100 % of those students would be beginner or intermediate.
Approximately one percent of players are in the top 1%.
Catherine, my fingers are allergic to fake news! Everything I type turns to gold!
Christian - Right. And 1/2 the drivers on the road are worse than average.
Based on what I remember, the breakdown for high school seniors (17-year-olds) in the area around me who had ever studied the violin was:
I don't really understand the point of the original question, but I mainly take issue with including the quality of a player's instrument in an assessment of their skill level, i.e., "playing on whatever rental was cheapest" or "Playing on a more advanced rental instrument, or may own an instrument in the $500 -> $2000 range."
Subjectivity is one of the biggest problems with this forum.
I totally agree, Gordon, which is why I am confused about what the OP is trying to ascertain from this post.
I was actually more curious about the definitions (also very subjective!) since I've had to fill out 2 forms in the past month that had Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced as the choices. I would say my daughter (10yo, currently playing Mozart 3 with an out-of-tune cadenza) falls into Intermediate, but she was considered advanced by the British exam system. Intermediate is a highly variable wasteland.
I am a bit surprised at the beginner percentages that everybody is estimating. Many people are violinists for some time, then abandon the instrument. The vast majority of them never take it up again. It seems fair to include only people as "violinists" who regularly spend time with the instrument, no matter how little time it is.
I like Leopold Auer's grading system. The story is that when asked by one of his lesser students, "How am I doing", Auer's answer was "There are three kinds of violinists, those that can play, those that play badly, and those that can't play at all. You have advanced to the second stage." There is a wide range of definitions for professional. If you make more than $600/year (?) the IRS calls you a professional and you declare it on form C. A full professional, to my mind, is someone who actually wins a competitive audition at an orchestra with a full schedule. A lot of us, including myself, are semi-pro, needing to supplement their playing income with teaching or a non-music day job.
In response to Albrecht: Even though it's true that people who didn't advance far are more likely to abandon the hobby, there are always more coming in. Even among adults, as far as I've seen, a clear majority of those actively playing are beginners. And the number of children easily swamps the number of adults playing, so I think my earlier 90-95% estimate may be low.
For every adult in a community orchestra, there are probably at least 10 adults who have bought a cheap violin off Amazon (or eBay) and are scraping along at the beginner level, self-teaching from YouTube videos, and who have taken out the violin at least once in the last month.
@Lydia: "Indeed, I have been startled by the number of people who hold a master's degree (even an MM performance and not an MM education) who play only at the intermediate level. You can find master's recitals on YouTube which are comprised only of intermediate-level repertoire."
Reading this thread with interest, I recalled that in the exam the Associated Board responsible for the most commonly used instrumental exams in the UK used to publish annual statistics. Googling though, the only ones I could find were about 10 years old, which someone had replicated on their own website https://se22pianoschool.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/abrsm-exam-facts-and-figures/ (I think the data covers all instruments, so dominated by pianists).
The only thing about the ABRSM statistics, though: even within the geographic areas where ABRSM exams are prevalent, they exclude the people who never take exams, which includes the majority of the adult starters. 99% of the non-exam-taking violinists will never get beyond beginner level because they lack quality instruction; many are self-teaching with YouTube videos. (Which is not to say that they can't advance beyond that level, but it is certainly much less likely.)
What's the point of this question? Is it to make ourselves feel better for being more advanced somehow than most / the masses / etc.?
Well, at the very least, this is an interesting market segmentation, if you're a vendor in the music business.
In fact, the OP said in his second post that he was interested in understanding "market size."
Point of information - the ABRSM's online syllabuses tend to equate grade 5 with the end of Suzuki 3, grade 6 with the end of Suzuki 4 (e.g. BWV1043, V2) and grade 7 with the end of Suzuki 5 (e.g. BWV1043, V1). I can't remember if they describe 7-8 as Advanced or 6-8.
The number of beginners is huge. My local shop (which is quite a big operation) supplies 10,000+ stringed instruments to the local school district every season.
If I remember correctly from taking the Grade 8 and Diploma exams for piano performance, the Grade 8 and Diploma repertoire usually overlap somewhat. My understanding is that, because the Diploma gives you a lot more freedom to select your program than do Grades 1-8, selecting a balanced program that shows a variety of styles and range of technical and musical skills is part of what you are being evaluated on. People aren't going to get away with selecting only Grade 8 pieces.
I like the violinmasterclass Website’s grading system.
Considering that ABRSM puts intermediate pieces on the higher numbered levels Like 8, they probably expect more beginners and intermediates or else it would look like violinmasterclass’ system. I’d be willing to bet there are more beginners and intermediates since ABRSM is a mainstream grading system for the masses.
Wow thanks for the responses, I've missed quite some replies.
Xuanyuan Liu's language illustrates the ongoing problem with subjectivity and cross-purposes here.
If the OP is in a country like the US, I understand why he'd be curious about the topic, as many others in the US probably are, too.
> Result: - Intermediate pieces, if you like, but perhaps required to be played more musically than by other systems or methods.
James's division of levels as defined by instrument types makes sense if you consider the context of a market segmentation. In that context, I think he underestimates how long most players stick with student workshop violins. Many advanced players in middle school or high school will be playing the upper end of workshop violins (roughly the $2k-$4.5k range). For that matter, many conservatory students may not yet have acquired the funds for a professional violin, and will still be on a nice workshop violin. BME students may never upgrade from their workshop violin; if you're teaching kids all day you might not actually
I tend to think of upper-end workshop instruments as "workhorse" instruments for amateur musicians, rather than "advanced student" as they are sometimes marketed.
I would agree that a lot of players stick with their less expensive instruments too long. I certainly did. It was always a mystery to me how some players could acquire expensive instruments. You don't get that kind of money from doing music jobs. Much later, after I started teaching, I discovered that; the parents buy them.
Should we even try to classify the musicians that have no interest in classical works but are learning and advancing in their genre if interest (jazz, country, fiddling, etc.)?
I don't know enough about non-classical genres to be really familiar with the amateur scene, but I think it's highly likely that the distribution is similar with the vast majority being beginners and few being pros. The violin is simply a difficult instrument to learn, regardless of genre.
@AndrewH: "I don't think your teacher is talking about marking criteria. I think what your teacher is really getting at is that some pieces need more attention to musical interpretation in order to sound convincing. This is why so many professional musicians consider Mozart to be the most difficult composer to play."
I agree with Andrew, though I think it depends on the desired sound of the fiddle style, and where they play. People doing a lot of outdoor or bar/club stuff are likely to have a primary performing fiddle that's a good workshop violin. They are also likely to pick something that sounds good with a pickup attached for amplification.
As far as markets are concerned, I think there is somehow a real missed market in being able to convince players to upgrade their bows. As a teacher, I’ve seen many decent workshop rental instruments in the $1,000-3,000 range paired with cheap bows that make it impossible to learn spiccato for instance. I have no doubt that I would have figured out spiccato at least a year or two earlier if I hadn’t been stuck with a cheap brazilwood bow paired with an otherwise decent workshop viola.
I'm still using a cheap student bow on a decent workshop violin, though this is more because I switched almost completely to viola when I was still at late beginner to early intermediate level. I only recently started considering buying a new violin bow, because I simply hadn't been playing violin more than occasionally until the ongoing pandemic. I didn't know how different bows could be until I'd been playing string instruments for six or seven years, because until then I had no experience with a decent bow.
I'm also getting the impression that fiddlers' string choices don't diverge from classical violinists nearly as much as they used to. I used to hear that fiddlers almost always used steel strings; I understand that they still do in some fiddle styles, but in recent years I've seen a lot of fiddlers using Evah Pirazzi and Vision strings.