As an adult beginner myself, I am curious how far people in similar situations can go. I am curious to know if anyone knows of an adult beginner who has stuck to the violin long enough and seriously enough to make it to one of the romantic concertos (Bruch/Mendelssohn etc). When I say adult beginner, I mean 18 and up as their starting point. I know several people on here who played extensively when they were younger, then returned (I consider them as well unless their childhood training left them with enough technique to start far ahead of a true beginner).
Not common, but they exist. I know of at least 2 outside this forum, BUT I am sure there must be hundreds out there. In this very forum we have a few, I believe.
In my experience it is absolutely possible to reach a high level even if one starts as an adult. Of course it requires patience and intelligent practicing as well as good teaching but there is no sense in setting limitations. Adults have the advantage of greater cognitive understanding which is extremly helpful. I have one pupil who started at about 30 and he is playing Beethovens 2nd Romance with ease and could definately play Mendelssohn and Bruch Concertos if he had more time to practice.
As a fellow adult beginner, I find a lot of them start out teaching themselves. I think when completely self taught reaching a very proficient level is extremely difficult, I've been playing for a year and one month now and it's only been since one month my notes are starting to sound clear and more in tune and my bowing is finally straight. It already took this long just for tiny basics and I still often play notes out of tune. it's a long slow and painful process, it just takes quite a bit longer to sound good on the violin I'm giving it another year from now on, when I'll expect my violin playing to sound okay ish.
I think I've met far more proficient adult-beginner cellists than violinists. People tend to plateau at an intermediate level, though. But that's true of plenty of players who start as children, too.
To answer your question, I know of no one personally. But to be honest, I'm not concerned with how far so-and-so went. Not in the slightest. No curiosity what so ever. Great if someone did, that would be cool. Is there a hidden question in that as to the possibilities of how far an adult learner can go? If so, I don't see in the instructions that came with me anything even remotely similar to, "Must apply limitations daily." Bet no one has a tag that says that.
Started at 24, learned for 5 years and had to stop for 6 years (babies and career). I pick it up 1,5 years ago and just finished learning Vivaldi a min. Definitely not
J Ray wrote, "There are plenty of sonatas and other chamber pieces which would be more reasonable aspirations and probably a more pleasant listening experience."
J Ray, it is a repertoire standard to judge sufficient mastery over an ensemble of techniques, musicality, stamina. No one claims that one has to live up to this standard or that all good music employs these. The OP is clearly interested in asking if there are adult beginners who managed to reach this high level of playing (ie who put more time and effort than others in mastering the instrument). Why wouldn't that make sense to you?
I would describe myself as an adult player at the intermediate level. I definitely suggest that you should * aim * to get to the "Bruch level" and beyond. Otherwise, you may never get there.
Paul, that might be true for the first violin parts, but the second violin parts tend to be more readily doable. It's one of the reasons that I think that adults are often best served by working on having a lovely, expressive tone along with good intonation and the ability to count and sight-read. It ends up being more useful than virtuosity.
So I guess the general consensus is that there are people who have gotten that far?
Very true about cellists, Lydia. I really think it has a lot to do with the inherently more comfortable nature of the cello, and the fact that it's harder to screw up the tone, whereas a very minor error on the violin will punish you with screechy/scratchy next to your ear.
It is however helpful to "reach for the stars" technique and repertoire-wise, as when you do relatively well at that high level, you will come to appreciate and better perform the "intermediate" level works, and have zero problems with them. The principle being that it's better to have technique beyond the works you intend to play (exception being the top technical tier; once there, you can really play "anything.")
Well, if I live a normal lifetime, I should have about 440,000 hours left before I kick the bucket. I think I can spare 10,000 of those for the violin.
Fingered octaves, especially 1-3 fingered octaves, are incredibly useful for extension fingerings.
Lydia, when you returned to the violin, where was your starting point? How far along were you after the "refreshment" period.
Lydia, I know what you mean about first vs. second violin parts in string quartets but someone has to play first! Nobody wants to be the duffer constantly looking for a better player to fill that role. You want to be there yourself, well, half the time anyway. Also following up on Chris's question above, what level were you when your teachers started you on fingered octaves? I never considered myself ready for those ... yet.
To be honest, it's pretty unlikely for a "true" adult beginner to reach that level, but it has nothing to do with their ability, and everything to do with their willpower.
I 100% agree that most adults don't reach high levels of playing because they quit, but I wasn't comparing myself to anyone, I just wanted to know if such a thing existed.
Christopher, the first time I quit for about a decade, when I came back I couldn't even play a scale. I got back to a Mendelssohn concerto level in a couple of months, but I actually had to relearn most of my bowing technique. The second time I came back, I could still superficially manage a major concerto, but it took more than two years to really get my technique to be reasonably reliable again.
Lydia, in that case it sounds like quite a bit of your childhood training stuck around.
Paul, sometimes the repertoire just simply presents an opportunity for fingered octaves. For example, in the first movement of Bruch, one lands on g with the third finger in measure 27, it just makes sense to use fingered octave (1,3) to start the octave run in measure 28, even though I have not systematically practiced scales in fingered octaves.
Christopher, yes, more or less. I don't really have full recovery of childhood skills but I've also been able to build new ones. I probably produce a better sound now than I did as a child (it helps to have a much better instrument as well), but don't have the same left-hand facility.
Unlikely isn't off-putting at all. After all, it's unlikely that anyone who plays the violin reaches that proficiency. The degree of unlikeliness is just a detail in my mind.
There is actually no limits on how far can one go, there are hindrances specially when you are working that lengthens the supposedly duration of learning techniques and pieces. I for myself, because of work there is less time for practicing and figuring things out in learning to play. Needing more days just to memorize an etude or a method that supposedly can take a week or two and the left hand speed and flexibility is still awkward. But gladly I can say I progressed a lot.
I started on viola a few months ago at age 60. I already play several instruments: trumpet, piano, guitar (classical and steel string), and ukulele. I have always wanted to play a bowed instrument and have found an excellent instructor. Really I have two goals. In terms of performance, if after 3 years or so I am able to competently execute a melody or harmony and play along with my sisters on keyboard (as I used to do with trumpet) then I am OK. The other thing is that getting older and eventually heading to retirement I want the intellectual and motor skill challenge of a new instrument--new clef, learing a bow, all that. I am a physician and aware of evidence that mental and physical challenges may have some effect in staving off dementia later in life. I am competing only with myself week to week and really enjoying it.
There is no standard for this. I know people who have played for decades and who will never play at the Mendelssohn/Bruch level.
It is highly unlikely for a true adult beginner to reach the level of Bruch. Money and time are the primary concerns, naturally. Assuming it takes about 10 years for a diligent kid to attempt Bruch, the goal has the price tag of at least $40,000 plus 10 years of consistent practice. It is no wonder there are so few of adults who achieve the goal starting out from scratch.
40 k$? 5k for an instrument and 3.5k per year in lessons? Lessons seem to be expensive over there.
It's possible, commitment makes up for the usual obstacles. I would admit it is not as common as it "should" be.
Sung Han, indeed, 100 $/h is expensive compared to over here (40 €/h or 25 €/30 minutes). I can see where the 40 k is coming from.
About the influence of talent: I don't know. There is the work of K. Anders Ericsson that showed that the success of conservatory students (piano) was mainly dependent on the accumulated hours of practice (10,000 hours of practice to get really good). Of course, that was for a population of people who could pass the entrance exam.
I don’t believe there is someone with inherent talent for playing violin. They probably have a talent for quick learning. Since making this post I’ve spoken with a very distinguished violinist and pedagogue and he knows several people who started late who are playing advanced repertoire.
The neurological dimension is important.
Doesn't Ericsson's entrance-exam requirement just cut off a large portion of the bell curve? Population distribution rules should still apply but would obviously be very skewed. No?
Here's an interesting and easy-to-digest
Too much absurdity-it cannot be proven that an adult starter will have an "adult starter" accent. If a virtuoso kid stops practicing, he will "develop" an "accent" too, even if he started at age 3 and played the Tchaikovsky at age 6.
@Adalberto Valle-Rivera- Hear, hear!
Adalberto, you seem to be attacking at the same time those who believe that talent is important (although it's not clear who those people are, among the last couple of posts here), and the 10,000-hour theory (which dismisses the influence of talent and young-age advantage). Then you proceed to attack a strawman argument. I'm referring to 'the "proof"'; did anyone mention such a proof in the last couple of posts?
I am not arguing anything. Hate strawmen, "fallacies", etc. Please don't include me with the horde of online "debate pros", as my sole "agenda" is that adult learners realize there's nothing naturally impeding them to master their instrument. It's not about winning arguments, or proving others wrong, which has zero value to me and adds nothing to most discussions.
Maybe I am confused, and may have misinterpreted what was posted a few posts above about the study.
I see that my own post (6 up from here) was self-contradicting, as the popular article seemed to state a young-starter's advantage, whereas Ericsson himself did not - other than stating that starting young gives you an advantage in accumulating a lot of practice hours.
"There are other challenges to overcome besides age for most adult learners, of course."
Sung Han, very interesting! Since learning to speak a language and playing the violin both involve commanding muscles to produce sound, they are of course closely related. This after all is the basis of Suzuki's "mother tongue " approach. Accents essentially is the magnitude of deviation from the correct pitch/sound, i.e. an intonation issue.
Adalberto, from that list, only "Overt self-consciousness" is adult-specific in my opinion. The rest applies just as well to child violinists and their parents.
Here are two videos of adult beginners. I know them both personally.
I want to point out that the *average* World of Warcraft player spends almost 23 hours a week on the game. (Even players who define themselves as "casual" play 11 hours a week.) By that measure, putting in an hour or two of violin practice a day isn't all that much hobby time.
It's not just 10,000 hours of practice. How that practice is spread out also matters for string players, in part due to the athletic aspects of playing. You need about 30 minutes a day just to maintain your current level. 1 hour a day lets you improve steadily. Up to 2 hours a day, the practice-to-improvement ratio is optimal. It declines somewhat from 2 to 4 hours a day of practice. Beyond 4 hours a day, practice has sharply diminishing returns. To maximize advancement, serious violinists should be practicing 2 to 4 hours a day.
Lydia, the practice hours that you mention are a bit different from what Ericsson states. He states that 1 h/day gives the biggest improvement per hour of practice and that above 4 h doesn't give any benefits.
Han, all conditions of adult life are adult-specific. Adalberto is right about that list. Stating that only self consciousness is adult specific (incidentally i was a very awkward self conscious child -less so as an adult now-and now i know quite a few adult who are not so self conscious and are quite happy go lucky) shows me that Adelbrrto is not the one pursuing strawman arguments :)
Children dont have to work and make money.
"Talent" for the violin may have some inherent (genetic) elements, but some of it might also be strongly shaped by early experience. Perfect pitch, a strong sense of pulse, a strong sense of musical line, quick fingers, and excellent kinesthetic awareness all help. So does general intellectual ability to learn and memorize quickly, which can greatly reduce the number of repetitions needed to "get" something.
I agree, the teacher is possibly the toughest "obstacle" to overcone, as even though a problem shared with kids (and their parents, of course), it's harder to find that good to great teacher who will patiently lead an adult learner towards an advanced level of play.
Iam a violin beginner, started about a year ago with a realy good violin teacher. but i want to evaluate my level and know if i am doing well or what. So, after one lesson per week continuously what level is supposed to be reached and the techniques that must be learned during this period knowing that i practice alone about two to three times a week!!
You aren't "supposed to"; it's not like school where you're supposed to do an exam to pass. As long as you enjoy it and the teacher doesn't threaten to kick you out, there is no problem. If you practice daily rather than 2-3x per week, you'll make more progress.
Lydia I know what you mean about finding a good teacher, but I think for adults the bigger challenges are the time commitment and the tension between wanting to practice the violin -- disciplined work for improvement -- and wanting to just play. Especially since if we have jobs (including the job of parent/homemaker), we cannot generally give the violin the best hours of our day. I mean, it is kind of depressing if you never just pick up your violin and play through some songs for fun. My approach is to that when I'm so tired or mentally distracted that I know I'm not going to be productive with my practicing.
I'm not a true adult beginner, I'm a returner after a 10+ year hiatus. When I stopped I was working on Bruch, and had a lot of technical issues that needed sorting in order to truly play it well. I simply did not have the time to dedicate to practicing/improving, being in college with a demanding major, so I stopped. That said...
Pamela, interesting thoughts. I wonder: how do you recognize a good teacher? I'm with the first teacher that answered the phone and would take in new students at a time slot that suited me. She is patient and can communicate in a way that works for me, and I make good progress. But I maybe a different teacher would have worked out even better, who knows?
I'm one of those adult learners who started at age 49 almost 30 months ago, who works full time in physically strenuous work (installing solar on roofs) who often lately will miss a day of practice due to exhaustion and demands of single parenthood, who has 2 injuries on his right hand, another on the right wrist and another on the right forearm, who took 3 lessons a year ago and otherwise is completely self-taught, who still doesn't sound musical but attempts very hard (for me) pieces that are great exercises in learning to play chords and higher positions. Someday I'll move off the back porch and play on the front porch, and maybe in some senior centers and hospitals and rehabs and jails and taverns and family parties --I intend to get pretty good....
I like what Jonathan Harnum wrote in his book: The Practice of Practice
Sorry for being rather late to this thread (I've been trying to spend more of my limited time practicing my instruments and other things, which limits my keeping up with various sites such as v.com) but wanted to share something I saw relatively recently that I liked :
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