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Starting violin as an adult


Carl Stross

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Yes Carl, the cello is held and played in a lot more natural position. To help you make your decision, ask a professional violinist to put the violin in your hands, with both hands in playing position.

Then ask a cellist to do the same thing on the cello. I started out (many years ago)as a bass player, and the cello is even more natural than that (and the music is a lot more interesting too!)

I won't make a judgement call on the expression issue, I think a lot just depends on which instrument you're attracted to. You might want to keep in mind the cello's register is closest to the human voice, and I think that's why a lot of people favor it.

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I very much agree that cello is more natural, less physically straining to play than the violin or (even worse yet) the viola is, and that might make it more suitable for an adult beginner's instrument.

However, the disadvantages of the cello are:

--A good cello costs more, usually twice as much, as a violin of comparable quality. Also, maintenance costs (strings, cases) are higher.

--A violin is much more portable than is a cello. Airplane travel with a violin, while a hassle, is no where near as bad as trying to fly with a cello.

--Finding a competent violin teacher might be easier, I suspect, than finding a competent cello teacher.

--There may be more opportunities to play violin with others than there are cello opportunities. There are 2 violins in a string quartet, but only one cello. There are about 30+ violins in an orchestra, but probably half that many cellos, or less. The violin + piano literature is more extensive than is the cello + piano literature. The typical old timey or country dance string band will use violins but seldom cellos.

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A cello could keep you afloat if you had one in a boat and the boat sank :rolleyes: Regarding ease of playing I should first say that I'm a violinist and violist and have never played a cello. That said, in some ways the violin is more natural to play; for example consecutive notes of a scale can be played with consecutive fingers on a violin but not on a cello unless you have gigantic hands. It seems that playing the cello requires more shifting than playing the violin. You have to learn to read three clefs to play the cello but only one for violin. A violin is a lot easier to transport, especially if you are going to use commercial airplanes. A set of violin strings costs 20% of a set of cello strings. The cello itself likely costs at least twice as much as a violin.

<Edit: Oops I didn't read Skiingfiddler's post before posting my own>

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Gowan,

It looks like we agree on many things. I bet even more items on either side, positive or negative, could be brought up.

Ultimately, the biggest factor in choosing between violin and cello would be the desires and wishes of the student, especially the adult student. A strong fondness and preference for one instrument over the other, for whatever reasons, will allow someone to overcome perceived disadvantages, and indifference or flat out dislike of an instrument will make learning it impossible.

So, listen to what it is the student wants.

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A cello could keep you afloat if you had one in a boat and the boat sank :rolleyes: Regarding ease of playing I should first say that I'm a violinist and violist and have never played a cello. That said, in some ways the violin is more natural to play; for example consecutive notes of a scale can be played with consecutive fingers on a violin but not on a cello unless you have gigantic hands. It seems that playing the cello requires more shifting than playing the violin. You have to learn to read three clefs to play the cello but only one for violin. A violin is a lot easier to transport, especially if you are going to use commercial airplanes. A set of violin strings costs 20% of a set of cello strings. The cello itself likely costs at least twice as much as a violin.

<Edit: Oops I didn't read Skiingfiddler's post before posting my own>

Great points. ...if you are a stewardess and practice 10 hours/day. The consecutive notes on a violin are a drawback for an adult amateur, the clefs are not an issue and the larger shifts are easier to achieve as a beginning adult. Last time I checked a set of perfectly usable cello strings was costing about the same as a set of good violin strings and I bet they'll last 8 times longer.

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..and you'll be making screeching noises for years ( and with a horrible intonation at it ).

For the person who really believes that, the decision process is over and the cello wins. Why would anyone want to play an instrument (in this case the violin) if that someone believes he will be hating it for years.

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That's the problem : they believe they'll sound like Heifetz.

I'm not conceding that the cello is a better choice in general than is the violin. I'm saying that there is no such thing as a choice "in general." There is only the choice of an individual with their specific likes and dislikes, and those likes and dislikes are more important than any list of advantages or disadvantages "in general." A specific person will play the chosen instrument and only that specific person can know what is and is not important in making that selection.

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I'm not conceding that the cello is a better choice in general than is the violin. I'm saying that there is no such thing as a choice "in general." There is only the choice of an individual with their specific likes and dislikes, and those likes and dislikes are more important than any list of advantages or disadvantages "in general." A specific person will play the chosen instrument and only that specific person can know what is and is not important in making that selection.

The original question was which one would be better to take up as an adult. The preferences of the individuals should not be part of the discussion.

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The original question was which one would be better to take up as an adult. The preferences of the individuals should not be part of the discussion.

The preferences of the individuals is the most important part of the decision process. These instruments will be played by people, not machines. People learn the things they enjoy more easily that the things they do not enjoy.

If for some abstract reason a teacher decided that cellos are better starter instruments than are violins, that teacher would be doing a beginning student a great disservice in pushing the student toward the cello, if that student really favored the violin.

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The preferences of the individuals is the most important part of the decision process. These instruments will be played by people, not machines. People learn the things they enjoy more easily that the things they do not enjoy.

If for some abstract reason a teacher decided that cellos are better starter instruments than are violins, that teacher would be doing a beginning student a great disservice in pushing the student toward the cello, if that student really favored the violin.

Let me rephrase : on which one an adult would have a better chance to make some non trivial progress ?

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Do you really think an adult (or anybody else ) would make more progress with a Cello than with a violin?

Funnily the fact to be sitting down does not seem easier for me. I am only a beginner in violin but I play much better standing than sitting. Also I would think (but of course I can't say) that one has to carry the bow to prevent it from going down by natural gravitation on a cello since it is naturally stopped from doing that on a violin. You need someone who played both to compare.

But one thing I can say is that conductors of amateur orchestras seem to desperately be looking for viola players more than violinists...

Another myth against which I can testify is the screeching on the violin. Right from the start the only way for me to produce this sound was to be willing to do it. Lots of out of tune notes of course, but no cat's screams... :)

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Do you really think an adult (or anybody else ) would make more progress with a Cello than with a violin?

Funnily the fact to be sitting down does not seem easier for me. I am only a beginner in violin but I play much better standing than sitting. Also I would think (but of course I can't say) that one has to carry the bow to prevent it from going down by natural gravitation on a cello since it is naturally stopped from doing that on a violin. You need someone who played both to compare.

But one thing I can say is that conductors of amateur orchestras seem to desperately be looking for viola players more than violinists...

Another myth that I can testify is the screeching on the violin. Right from the start the only way for me to produce this sound was to be willing to do it. Lots of out of tune notes of course, but no cat's screams... :)

No, I think an adult will make FAR more progress on the cello.

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No, I think an adult will make FAR more progress on the cello.

Carl,

It's clear to me that if it is specifically you we're talking about as the adult who is the beginning string player, then, definitely, you should learn to play the cello, not the violin. You seem to believe that you would have an easier time with the cello, and that belief will definitely support your learning progress. You won't be negatively inclined toward the cello, as you seem to be toward the violin as an adult beginner's instrument.

If, however, you are someone who is responsible for influencing another adult about choosing between violin and cello, then I think you, as someone with that responsibility, would want to be careful. Violating that beginner's fundamental hopes and wishes will stifle that beginner's progress.

Now, if the beginner has no preference between violin and cello, then it seems to me that all one can do for that beginner is lay out the lists of advantages and disadvantages for either instrument, and let the adult beginner make up her own mind.

Many of the pros and cons of each instrument are listed in the posts above. One cello advantage not yet specifically listed above is that cellists seem to be able to continue playing their instrument longer into life. The muscular-skeletal infirmities of old age seem to hit violinists harder than cellists.

But in the end it's up to the adult beginner, without coercion, to pick the instrument.

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the cello's register is closest to the human voice, and I think that's why a lot of people favor it.

Not really. In fact, the violin is the instrument closest to the human voice (unless you prefer the theremin) , one of several reasons for it's far greater popularity. The cello goes lower and the violin higher, obviously, but both instruments encompass vocal range. However, the cello's high register, although it correlates to violin high register, is too impractical to play technically except for certain passages as the position is high and awkward, thumb position, etc.; for the violin the soprano and alto register lies easily in the hand. More importantly, there is no question that the timbre of the violin is much closer to the human voice.

Advantages a violin has over a cello:

1. Vastly greater repertoire

2. More opportunities for group musical interaction

3. More portable

4. The sound of the violin might be scratchy for like the first few attempts, but it does get better as adults won't tolerate it!

I love the cello, it's a great instrument; but it's not the violin.

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Not really. In fact, the violin is the instrument closest to the human voice (unless you prefer the theremin) , one of several reasons for it's far greater popularity. The cello goes lower and the violin higher, obviously, but both instruments encompass vocal range. However, the cello's high register, although it correlates to violin high register, is too impractical to play technically except for certain passages as the position is high and awkward, thumb position, etc.; for the violin the soprano and alto register lies easily in the hand. More importantly, there is no question that the timbre of the violin is much closer to the human voice.

Advantages a violin has over a cello:

1. Vastly greater repertoire

2. More opportunities for group musical interaction

3. More portable

4. The sound of the violin might be scratchy for like the first few attempts, but it does get better as adults won't tolerate it!

I love the cello, it's a great instrument; but it's not the violin.

You write like a violin teacher. Both Schelomo and Don Quixote were written for cello because the register correlates with the male voice. By the time the typical female voice reaches its high register the violinist is still in 1st. position.

I love the violin, it's a wonderful instrument; but it's not the cello.

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Carl,

It's clear to me that if it is specifically you we're talking about as the adult who is the beginning string player, then, definitely, you should learn to play the cello, not the violin. You seem to believe that you would have an easier time with the cello, and that belief will definitely support your learning progress. You won't be negatively inclined toward the cello, as you seem to be toward the violin as an adult beginner's instrument.

If, however, you are someone who is responsible for influencing another adult about choosing between violin and cello, then I think you, as someone with that responsibility, would want to be careful. Violating that beginner's fundamental hopes and wishes will stifle that beginner's progress.

Now, if the beginner has no preference between violin and cello, then it seems to me that all one can do for that beginner is lay out the lists of advantages and disadvantages for either instrument, and let the adult beginner make up her own mind.

Many of the pros and cons of each instrument are listed in the posts above. One cello advantage not yet specifically listed above is that cellists seem to be able to continue playing their instrument longer into life. The muscular-skeletal infirmities of old age seem to hit violinists harder than cellists.

But in the end it's up to the adult beginner, without coercion, to pick the instrument.

No, it's not me. I was a violin player ages ago. Have no interest in taking up cello. I started the discussion because by chance I met recently a couple of people who took up violin as adults in their late 30s, early 40s, all some 10-12 years ago. I was simply wondering if the cello could not've been an all around better option. As to laying out a list with advantages and disadvantages that's exactly what I thought we'll talk about here because better to have a slightly melancholic amateur cello player than a wannabe JH, not quite out of 1st position 3-4 years down the line.

I am sorry I can try to learn a bit of cello but I am too old ( 48 ) and played violin before which would skew any conclusion.

As to <<Violating that beginner's fundamental hopes and wishes will stifle that beginner's progress >>, that's plain PC nonsense. A beginner can't

"make his mind" simply because he can not possibly comprehend the difficulties and their nature.

I hope somebody who started as an adult ( like Robert ) would put here an MP3 with something he plays and would tell us in few words when did he start, how much he practices daily etc.

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On a website I read the average frequency range of a cello is 65Hz-1000 Hz, a violin is 200Hz-3000Hz. the human voice (same site) is given at 90Hz-350Hz for bass, 100-400Hz for baritone, 130-500 for tenor, and 250-1200 for soprano.

I don't have a MP3 of me playing (I hate to record myself) but promise, if I do I will post it. I started nearly 7 years ago, and for few years I was practicing about 1h a day, 5 days a week. Now it's more like 2-3 hrs a week. I started with the S. Appelbaum books (1-3) then started the Kayser study but had to relocate . My new teacher is suzuki so I am now using book 4 of suzuki, trying Vivaldi A minor. I can't play without the partition (for some reason I can't memorise the more advance scores). But I still enjoy practicing and I still feel I am improving. Also I told my teacher right away that I was not really interested in learning to hack hard pieces, but rather would like to get a good tone on simp,e tunes first, whatever time it takes since I am not in career schedule.

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Just my opinion of course, but the violin is the most soulful string instrument, it strikes a spiritual chord the cello just can't; added to that there's just so much more interest in the sound, the level of technique required, the repertoire, the instrument itself and its history, etc., etc. When people talk about string instruments (I mean luthiers) building and restoration, the great Strads and del Gesus, etc...the discussion centers around the violin. It is what it is.

By all means, Carl, choose the cello. That way you don't have to deal with trifles like solo concertos by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Mozart, etc., etc. Don Quixote you can share with a violist and a violinist. Mozart Sinfonie Concertante - you can play the viola part (sounds better on viola though). Brahms double, compositionally not as good as the violin concerto by any means but at least you have something.

Better yet - play this!

Controversial topic ! hehe.

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