The age of student

September 4, 2020, 6:41 PM · Hello, I am new to the page, my question is, am I too old to play the violin professionally? I'm 19 I'm just playing the Bach Concerto in A minor,i am very discouraged by my age and the repertoire I'm playing :(

Replies (21)

September 4, 2020, 6:46 PM · International soloist? Impossible. You could play in an orchestra if you grind hard (provided orchestras are still a thing that exists after this pandemic ridiculousness finally abates).
I would consider what you like about playing the violin. Though you love it, it may not work for you as a profession. No reason why you shouldn't keep music in your life, though.
September 4, 2020, 7:06 PM · Don’t be discouraged by the repertoire you are playing. The Bach A Minor and E Major are arguably a couple of the greatest concertos ever written for the violin (along with the Bach Double). And they require a big sound, a “concerto” sound, especially when played with an orchestra.

Edited: September 4, 2020, 7:40 PM · Cotton wrote, "You could play in an orchestra if you grind hard."

Not one that pays a salary with fringe benefits. You're just too far (irretrievably far) behind.

Is it possible? Yes it's possible. You could be the sixth or seventh person in the (modern) history of the violin to start at the age of 16 and win a salaried position as a section player.

But don't let that dissuade you. Violin will be a great hobby when you come home from your 9-5 as a mechanical engineer.

September 4, 2020, 9:29 PM · It could be possible. I started at 16 with fiddle but only got into classical 5 years ago. So I was not too far from where you were at 22.

I joined a local orchestra where 2 years ago I was 2nd violin, last year I was 1st violin. It was suggested I try for the associate concert master position, but then covid happened. Oh well :/

I am doing my bachelors of music, and I run my own violin studio with 30 students. I don't know where my journey will take me, but there is no harm in shooting high. I hope someday to be a soloist, but if it does not happen I'll still be content.

That being said I worked hard when I started, and I continue to do so. I practiced 2-4 hours a day at the beginning while working 2 Jobs. All my spare time was spent either learning about music, or playing it. I still practice for hours every day because I can never become complacent.

I suppose my point is if you have great ambitions, you have to be all in. You make your own success!

September 5, 2020, 12:16 AM · Lizeth Luz,

One needs an endless amount of commitment to the violin to do what you intend. It is up to you if it will be worth your while. You will most likely not be rich, even if you become an excellent player in due time. But to many, there is more to violin studies than solo and big orchestra work, if that really is what you wish to undertake.

The Bach A minor is very beautiful. Learn and cherish it for life. Violin playing is not about "piece levels", but about art and music making.

Do not lose heart-just be aware that the path ahead requires lots of intelligent practice work, the support of great teaching, and lots of other things going your way. Many people can theoretically learn to play very well with the right mindset and training, but that does not mean that most of those cases will be able to be "professionals", in the most strict sense of the word. It is very possible you will not be "successful", and you must be OK with that possibility moving forwards.

Best wishes on your journey, and I hope my words did not make you feel belittled. Be aware that despite your age, you could become a really good player, given the right circumstances-which of course, may not mean anything for a "big career", but is in my view important to realize. I sincerely hope you never quit playing, whatever plans lie ahead before you.

(To "Mather": I do not know what your views are, but the pandemic "ridiculeness" is necessary, for a time. In the US, pandemic deniers and their politicians have not been ridiculous enough, and have thus stalled recovery. Saying it ain't so won't make it go away. Everyone hates its inevitable, current consequences, but what will *you* sacrifice for the eventual, better good?

So yes, Carnegie Hall will be back, but you better be a little more ridiculous for a while longer, unless a "herd immunity" that kills millions sounds like common sense to you. Keep practicing while things get better for everyone-music shall prevail, as it always does.)

September 5, 2020, 12:28 AM · Allan wrote, "I joined a local orchestra where 2 years ago..."

Your bio ( says that you live in Edmonton and that you play in the Concordia Symphony. That's a college-community hybrid orchestra for a 2500-student college, right?

Edited: September 5, 2020, 2:20 AM · Lizeth, I wouldn't look at the choice to do this as becoming a pro or not, because the odds are stacked against you. However, if you get with a great teacher and work really diligently, there is no reason you can't eventually play what you want and how you want. If you're willing to put in a solid ten years, you can be playing all the romantic concertos.

The key is to find a teacher that plays very well and has a track record of producing excellent students. The rest is up to your hard work.

Edited: September 5, 2020, 9:31 AM · Yes paul, that's correct. It's not fully professional but the section leaders do take a modest salary.

I second what Christian said. A great teacher makes all the difference :)

September 5, 2020, 10:46 AM · It's possible, but highly unlikely. You have a lot of good learning years in front of you. But, you will always be competing against equally talented players who started when they were 11, 7, even 3 years old. They learned the mechanics of the instrument while their bodies, nerves, and brain are still developing, so things get "hard-wired". After about 25, it is really hard to improve technique.
On the other hand, I have noticed that some adult beginners can learn the basic skills, the lower levels of technique rather quickly, with the usual combination of disciplined practice, teaching , and some talent. For myself, I have noticed that at my current age of __ I find it impossible to move from Mendelssohn C. level to Brahms C. level on my own, now matter how much I work. But I have been able to acquire adequate playing levels on other instruments; guitar, banjo, percussion, vocals. Not piano, my brain doesn't like having to think about more than one note at a time. This versatility opens doors in non-classical genres.
September 5, 2020, 11:00 AM · Allan's got a nicely-presented, professional-looking site. :-)
(I have to disagree with him regarding the reasonableness of Suzuki as a technical foundation, though.)

Lizeth, I think it depends on what you mean by "professional". If you're great with kids, charismatic with parents, and inclined to teach, you could probably eventually make a modest living teaching if you were willing to deeply invest in both practice time and quality instruction right now. That might interfere with your university endeavors, though.

Edited: September 5, 2020, 11:09 AM · It depends on how you're playing that Bach, we're not listening...
Is Bach A minor very challenging for you or technically easy?
Edited: September 5, 2020, 11:23 AM · I like Allan's site too except that I wish he would not use "our" and "we" quite so much when there's only one teacher -- him. Just saying.

I have to say also that the fact that a college orchestra is paying its principals -- what does that tell you? That's a new one on me.

There is no way Lizeth can practice enough to put herself on the track that Joel describes while going to college unless she picks a "jock major" like marketing or sociology.

September 5, 2020, 11:19 AM · Thankyou Lydia :) I certainly worked hard on the site. The comment you are referring to is also not in reference to suzuki, but learning pieces primarily by ear. Suzuki (in my experiences) does not focus on notation reading but instead the physical and listening aspect of the instrument. It is a core to the philosophy. I often get students from other teachers in the area who can play through book 2, but cannot sight read a simple passage.

long story short, suzuki is a wonderful tool to use to teach students. My teaching philosophy is just differently weighted/paced.

Edited: September 5, 2020, 11:26 AM · My money is on Suzuki too, Allan. Simple way to think about it is to ask which is easier: To teach a 12-year-old to read music who readily learns new tunes by ear? Or to teach a 12-year-old to play by ear who can already sight read very well. Trust me the latter is much harder and it gets worse as the age increases. The problem with Suzuki is that after about Book 4, there are just too many technical gaps. You can't go straight from Book 8 to Book 9, for example, without filling in quite a bit with studies and other rep. But who would even try to do that?
September 5, 2020, 11:46 AM · Goodness this is turning into a pseudo teaching thread. All I am saying is that my approach is reading first. Does that mean no listening? of course not. My general approach is teach both, but start from the music on the page. :)

But anyways this thread is not about me. We can always start a new thread, but this discussion has been had many times over I am certain. No matter what method you use, they all have weaknesses that need to be filled. They are tools to be used from my perspective

September 5, 2020, 12:47 PM · No advice, just questions. Are you passionate about music? Are you an enthusiast for music? Do you listen to music? What music? What is your playing experience? What is your academic achievement? What other career options have you considered? Have you asked advice from anyone who knows anything at all about you?
Edited: September 5, 2020, 1:52 PM · Joel says: "After about 25, it is really hard to improve technique."

That's not my experience at all. My two big spurts of technical improvement were both at relatively old ages: age 24-26 (breaking through the intermediate plateau) and age 33-35 (from decent community orchestra player to taking on major concertos and sometimes playing as a last-minute "ringer"). Both involved major transformations in playing technique.

I also know a violinist who started at 15, stopped at 18 having barely reached lower-intermediate level, resumed at 45, and can now play a creditable Mendelssohn concerto.

I suspect that, when people see difficulty with improving after a certain age, it's more about bad habits being baked in than inability to learn new motor skills.

September 5, 2020, 3:21 PM · It's true you can develop your violin skills later in life. What makes it hard is finding the time for daily practice, and making sure you've got the bandwidth left at the end of the day for that practice to be substantive. That's one reason why I did Nathan Cole's course this summer, because I was hoping to learn some ways that my practice time could be more productive, and I learned about as much as I was expecting to.
September 5, 2020, 4:03 PM · Lizeth,

What does "Professional" mean to you? Touring soloist, paid orchestra member, performing teacher, professional teacher,...

If you mean that the violin will be your primary source of income, either by playing and/or teaching that may be possible but, you will not have one job - you will have a lot of "gigs" and almost no income stability unless/until you get established and even then life is tenuous.

You mention that you are playing Bach but you don't say how long you have been studying or where your inner-fire lives, nor exactly what your dreams are.

FWIW: I'm in my mid 70's, have been playing violin for over 40 years, but it is not, has never been, my primary source of income - actually I've never gotten paid for playing or teaching by personal choice.

At the same time I "Profess" a love of music and the violin, I spend most of my time (now that I'm retired from my paid professional work) in the realm of music. It is where my inner-fire lives. A day without playing my instrument is truly a bad day.

When you say "professional" what do you envision?

September 5, 2020, 10:59 PM · Mr. Hsieh,

Wholly agree. There are many obstacles in the road for adult-starters, but barring extreme physical problems (arthritis, injury, etc.) the most committed adults can learn to play very well-fast double stops, good sound, etc. The hard part is great training, and extreme discipline-and doubly so for those who are very busy adults. I prefer not to dismiss possible technical ability based on age alone.

September 5, 2020, 11:57 PM · @Andrew H.- I am glad that you made those technical breakthroughs at those ages. I suppose I was just thinking of my own experience, of trying to move from almost professional to audition-winning status, after a hiatus of several decades at the day job. And I did have one of those physical problems (juvenile onset R. A.). That age 25 is what I have read from psychologists as when the the physical brain actually stops developing. Mature musicianship and repertoire building is something else; that can continue for a lifetime.

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