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Learning to play the violin as an adult

stepcutnut

Ideal_Rock
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Aug 11, 2008
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I was wondering if anyone has taken up playing the violin as an adult?

If so, do you have any recommendations or tips?

Also, wondering if anyone can recommend a nice 4/4 beginners violin? I have a terrible wanting for an old instrument over a new one, but am not so sure that would be a good idea.
 

sonnyjane

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No advice, but good luck and good for you! Other than the recorder and the xylophone in my elementary school band, I always wish I would have taken up an instrument. I'd love to learn piano but it's very intimidating. I've looked into lessons but have this image in my head of sitting in the waiting room with a bunch of 6 year olds :lol: .
 

PintoBean

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One thing we have nowadays at our disposal are free online videos. I bet there will be lots of tutorials on youtube!
 

stepcutnut

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sonnyjane-I'm kind of terrified to tell you the truth ;-) The person that was recommended to me for instruction is in high school and I'm worried that because of the age difference it will feel really awkward! But have been told she is an excellent musician and teacher, so will give it a shot!

I've played piano since I was six or so, it is a lovely instrument to play, you should go for it and take some lessons :)
 

stepcutnut

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PintoBean|1469565093|4059581 said:
One thing we have nowadays at our disposal are free online videos. I bet there will be lots of tutorials on youtube!
You are right, I'm sure there are a lot of online options :)
 

Rockdiamond

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KEWL idea Stepcutnut!!
For a musician, any new instrument is like an amazing puzzle- works the mind as well as the fingers.
One thing I will say- small fingers are an asset when playing the violin- this was an issue for me....
I play double bass, where my fat ol' sausage fingers are an asset:)
Cello is another attractive candidate.......
 

DAF

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David, you forgot the contrabass for those with big fingers - even bigger than a cello, but usually only plays rhythm.

I played violin from elementary school (fourth grade) through high school and had private lessons and always sat first chair or was concertmistress. I also played viola sometimes for the symphonic orchestra I belonged to. The best fingers are thin and long, but I managed with my short, small fingers, I just had to bring my wrist around a bit to get to the G string. Unlike David's bass and guitars in general, violins don't have frets, so you don't have any leeway with finger positioning to play in tune - you have to be exact in your finger placement. Often times I've seen beginners have tape on the fingerboard marking where the fingers should go - which is a help. I didn't need that. I had an ear for playing in tune, which is important for this instrument. There is a lot of coordination involved in playing as well. My advice to you would be to rent an instrument or purchase a relatively inexpensive one until you're sure you like it. Once you're sure, then look into a better instrument. I own two violins, and there's something to be said about old wood and the craftsmanship of long ago. My first violin is about 100 years old and was purchased through a newspaper ad in 1977. It was in need of a serious overhaul. It's timbre is the sound I prefer. My other violin was bequeathed to me and is German and is around 170 years old, I think. The owner brought it to the United states from Germany in the 1950s. He played in the Philadelphia Orchestra. The violin has also met Isaac Stern. His business card is still in the violin's case. The violin is really fancy - has gold inlay in the tailpiece and pegs on the violin itself, and the frog and nut on the bow are gold as well. They both sound beautiful, but they sound very different. Good luck and be ready for the blisters that precede the callouses.

I remember my first music lessons vividly - no bow, but I learned to pluck Mary Had a Little Lamb and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.
 

stepcutnut

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Rockdiamond|1469568354|4059603 said:
KEWL idea Stepcutnut!!
For a musician, any new instrument is like an amazing puzzle- works the mind as well as the fingers.
One thing I will say- small fingers are an asset when playing the violin- this was an issue for me....
I play double bass, where my fat ol' sausage fingers are an asset:)
Cello is another attractive candidate.......
Hi David :wavey: Haha-small fingers are not one of my attributes, maybe I should turn back now ;-)
 

Demelza

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I have played violin since early childhood and recently started taking cello lessons. Because of my violin training, I was able to reach a fairly high level of proficiency with the cello in a relatively short period of time. Going from one string instrument to another is much easier than going from the piano to a string instrument, but having any musical training will certainly help you.

I strongly recommend private lessons over online tutorials. Online tutorials might enhance your private lessons, but they cannot take the place of in-person instruction. If you aren't sure about learning from a high school student (I, too, might have reservations no matter how good she is), maybe try to find someone else. I used the Suzuki method to learn both the violin and the cello and recommend it highly.

I would recommend renting first to make sure you want to continue. While the idea of an antique instrument is very appealing, there are many very fine modern instruments which will likely cost less and maybe sound better for the same money. My violin is 100 years old, but I have a beautiful modern cello. I recommend looking at Jay Haide String Instruments. I haven't played their violins, but they make beautiful cellos.

Good luck!
 

chrono

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Long thin fingers are a bonus but I get by with my short stumpy fingers. :lol:

It is not an easy instrument to play but it makes beautiful music. Your right and left hands are more challenged to be independent than playing the piano and I say this as a person who plays both violin and piano as a child and still play both instruments. There is no marker to know exactly where to place your fingers for an accurate tone and be prepared to hear squeeky sounds for the first year, coupled with a very tired and aching left arm until you get used to holding it up for long periods of time.

Good posture is important and there are too many basic things that might not be covered online but a music teacher can correct when he/she sees how you play in person. The most common "mistakes" are a stiff right wrist causing the bow to slide everywhere, a tendency to use only a small portion of the bow, and the right wrist resting against the neck of the violin.

I third the suggestion of a good rental. Have a friend who plays violin select the best of the bunch. I would not purchase a violin until you are sure you will keep going with it. A good violin and bow can set you in the $10K range.
 

arkieb1

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My son started learning violin at school the beginning of the year he has a 1/4 sized one so it is really cute. He has been playing well according to his teacher at school and enjoys it, so we just got him a private teacher too. I researched and found one of the best violin teachers in our area and he has only had a few lessons with the guy (who is a professional violinist) but the difference is amazing. So finding a great teacher from the outset is well worth it!!!
 
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ksinger

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I took two years of violin in 7th and 8th grades. I gave it a good try, but it just never spoke to me, so I let it go. Singing was my thing. Easier to tune, and so portable. ;-)

I understand you love the violin, but a suggestion (that most people never consider) why not learn to play the the lever harp? I think Lyon & Healy Troubadors can often be rented too, and it is a more natural fit for someone already trained on a piano. And no cats being disemboweled, just missed strings, like missed keys.

Not so portable though, tis true. ;-)
 

NewEnglandLady

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My husband is an avid piano player who took up the violin about 18 months ago at the age of 35. He takes lessons at our local conservatory and rented his violin for the first year. I would recommend going that route because it can be very economical. First, if you dislike it, you're not out much money. Second, if you do like it and stick with it, then you can use the rental money toward the purchase price. In fact, they will sometimes run specials where they'll double your rental money toward the purchase price, so it's a nice chunk of $ off (depending on how long you've been renting).

The good news with the violin is that there are a lot of instructors. My husband has been trying to take organ lessons for years, but finding an instructor has been difficult. Violin instructors are pretty ubiquitous.

I took up the violin in high school as a second instrument. There were pros and cons for me. Biggest pro being that I already knew how to read music. Biggest cons were: 1. Starting over when you're proficient at something else can be difficult...I know I wasn't very patient with myself and 2. My fingers wouldn't always remember what instrument I was playing. I would see a G and automatically lift my fingers due to years of clarinet conditioning. And that didn't work so well on the violin. I think that isn't so much the case when going from piano to violin (at least my husband says so).

My younger daughter is starting the cello in 6 months and I've seriously considered taking it up with her. Then again, I had the same idea when my older daughter started piano--she's only 4 and she's already outpaced me to the point where I can only help her with her really easy pieces during lessons.

Wishing you lots of luck! I love it when adults aren't afraid to dive into something new. Like I told my husband when he was learning to ski with a bunch of 6 year old a few years ago (and told myself when I took horseback riding lessons a decade ago): Better late than never!

ETA: My husband's instructor is 21, so big age difference there, too, but who cares!
 

Puppmom

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No real advice on the violin in particular but a few things about learning a new instrument as an adult that I learned from my mother-in-law who took up cello a few years ago in her late sixties.

- she rented a child size instrument because she's really petite (about 5'1")
- rental instruments and children's size instruments are sometimes a lesser quality. When MIL played her instructor's cello for the first time, she couldn't believe how good it sounded!
- MIL takes lessons at a conservatory and finds that recording them with an audio recorder helps in her practice. She of course had to clear that with her instructor.

We have a local music college and MIL just went to a sleep away music camp this week. She was so excited.

Good luck!
 

amc80

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I played violin as a child, through the Suzuki Method. My only advice- don't do that method :) It focuses on memorization and not so much on sight reading. Even to this day, if I pick up a violin or sit down at the piano, I'm a horrible sight reader and find myself trying to memorize the music in order to play it.
 

azstonie

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Retired band director (I did teach strings but only if absolutely needed :lol: ) and musician here.

Private lessons. The fundamentals are crucial and if you don't hold the instrument and bow correctly you are working against yourself and damaging your wrists and hands. All the practice time you put in when the foundation is wrong will work against you.

Even if you 'only' take the lessons for a couple of months, you'll have those very important fundamentals rock solid and everything you learn after that builds on it. Get a good foundation in private lessons and you may find that you want to continue with them. Back when I was teaching (clarinet, flute and sax) I had several adult students who really got a kick out of music and wound up playing in community orchestras and bands. I'm biased because I'm a musician but I think hanging out with other musicians, people who are learning or honing a specific skill, expressing themselves through the arts, well they're pretty fun to be with.

Enjoy!!! Good on ya for doing something different and new! :wavey: :appl:
 

AGBF

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I only played elementary piano and sang, but my daughter played a little violin when she was young. She started with piano when she was very young and studied for several years, then in third grade when children were allowed to pick string instruments in school she picked the cello. The next year they were allowed to pick band instruments, so she added band with the clarinet. The following year she kept cello but switched her band instrument to saxophone. Eventually she gave up band with saxophone and stayed with cello for orchestra. She went to orchestra camp every summer and all the kids played each others' instruments. So she could pick up a violin or a viola and play it, albeit not well. In seventh grade she was the only one in her grade in the middle school advanced orchestra playing cello...then she dropped it and switched to violin. Because with cello she couldn't wear short skirts.

She has the longest, thinnest fingers on earth...and doesn't play any musical instrument at all anymore. Her fingers always looked amazing on a piano or a cello. She is pictured in my icon at left at age ten.

AGBF
 

Rockdiamond

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AGBF- I've always liked your avatar as I've always thought cello was the most enchanted sounding string instrument!

DAF- what makes you think I don't play a fretless bass? :angel:
When I said "double bass" I mean bass fiddle- which is the same as Contra bass....no?
 

Demelza

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amc80|1469637496|4059855 said:
I played violin as a child, through the Suzuki Method. My only advice- don't do that method :) It focuses on memorization and not so much on sight reading. Even to this day, if I pick up a violin or sit down at the piano, I'm a horrible sight reader and find myself trying to memorize the music in order to play it.

I had a positive experience with Suzuki. I do agree that one of the pitfalls of the method is that sight-reading ability might be slower to develop, but that is largely dependent on the skill of the instructor. None of my Suzuki teachers practiced the method to the exclusion of teaching me how to read music. I believe learning how to read music is relatively easy compared to developing a good ear, which is not unlike learning a new language. And, in my experience, developing a good ear is absolutely critical to playing a stringed instrument as proper intonation is one of the most significant and ongoing challenges at every level. Without a good ear, it is very difficult to play well.
 

AGBF

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Rockdiamond|1469651737|4059969 said:
AGBF- I've always liked your avatar as I've always thought cello was the most enchanted sounding string instrument!
Thank you, David. I appreciate that. :wavey:

Deb/AGBF
 

stepcutnut

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Thank you everyone for the comments and recommendations, they are appreciated!

I have also been giving the cello some more thought, as I had dismissed it early on due to the fact that they are more cumbersome to transport---but their sound is so enchanting to me:)

Now to make a tough decision and decide which instrument to begin playing!!!
 

stepcutnut

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After much thought, I have decided to begin with the cello. I am super excited and a little bit scared! I am now working on getting everything pulled together and have found an insturctor fairly close by. Fingers crossed it all goes very well :) Thank you all again for your thoughts and recommendations.
 

arkieb1

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Are you still playing? I'm happy to report my son is still playing and auditioned for honours camp a string camp workshop for senior Primary school kids 300+ kids auditioned and he came 20th, they accept around 100 violinists into the program so we assume he got in.
 

stepcutnut

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Hi arkieb1, that is great news for your son-Congrats!!! I did end up deciding on learning the cello instead of violin. I purchased a beautiful old instrument from 1904 and love it's sound! It was difficult lining up an instructor that would accept an adult beginner, but I ended up with a great one and have been enjoying the challenge. The bonus is our animals love to hang out near me as I play, which I love :)
 
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