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Carl Stross

Starting violin as an adult

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I think this post is going downhill fast. But since you asked about my p though if rogress my teacher skipped the second position because the third position is much easier as you stated. I plan on playing in public for the first time in early august.

All this is really moot if you understood my point. The whole journey is the best part didn't strike a chord?

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Sorry, Danny. You're right. Don't mean to turn this into a flame war. It's a very good thread discussing a worthy topic. That will be my last comment on this thread. Sorry to turn it downhill on everyone.

-FW

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Self taught? To say the least , it is not efficient. Having a teacher is the way to go. Good teachers are better too. Believe me.

If you don't have the training you will pay more in time and your reputaion. I don't know any decent player without going throught some

kind of formal training. Reading music (notes) is just one necessary item .

Once I looked at a self taught pianist , his fingerings of notes on a piano were all wrong. He may just as well as using a single finger to play.It is sad.

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You want to divert the discussion towards people's preferences while I am only interested in which instrument would allow an adult beginner to make better progress. I think people SHOULD be better informed of the difficulties a particular instrument presents so that they can make an informed decision. Decisions based on what one ( incompetent ) "likes" are not informed decisions , they are stupid decisions. In my book a good teacher would present the student the bigger picture and as a matter of course allow the student the final decision. I don't mind discussing these issues ON ANOTHER THREAD.

To my mind cello wins hands down. It has a natural handling position, is FARTHER from the ear !!! , it's easier to control, etc. The only drawbacks I see are size and repertoire. But how much of the accessible violin repertoire is an adult beginner going to EVER play ??????

Why on earth would a 35 years old scratch the violins for years when he will never play passably anything of importance while in 2-3 years of attentive study he could play at least some of the treasures in the cello Suites ? Have you ever seen a 35 years old who took up violin with NO previous musical experience and arrived anywhere ? I didn't.

Lets say you did encounter an adult beginner (>35 years old) on violin who is really good (proof being a video). Would you believe that persons claims to have no prior experience? I don't think you would which brings up an interesting question: How could someone prove that he/she had no musical experience, and no lessons in violin, etc ? The response would always be, "Its impossible to play violin that well starting at age 35 without lessons, therefore you are lying". Then again, there must be an amateurish element present that a pro could spot that would validate the persons claims.

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Self taught? To say the least , it is not efficient. Having a teacher is the way to go. Good teachers are better too. Believe me.

If you don't have the training you will pay more in time and your reputaion. I don't know any decent player without going throught some

kind of formal training. Reading music (notes) is just one necessary item .

Once I looked at a self taught pianist , his fingerings of notes on a piano were all wrong. He may just as well as using a single finger to play.It is sad.

I just took up the violin (with no instructor) at age 47 and my experience is that efficiency is irrelevant because in order to play the instrument well, practice is a full time job (min 5 hours a day). Practicing effectively requires intense concentration which is a slow process. Sure, you can speed it up, but its still an arduous journey even with a good instructor.

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Lets say you did encounter an adult beginner (>35 years old) on violin who is really good (proof being a video). Would you believe that persons claims to have no prior experience? I don't think you would which brings up an interesting question: How could someone prove that he/she had no musical experience, and no lessons in violin, etc ? The response would always be, "Its impossible to play violin that well starting at age 35 without lessons, therefore you are lying". Then again, there must be an amateurish element present that a pro could spot that would validate the persons claims.

Good point. In this case I would tend to err on the side of trust. Nothing to gain. Is it possible to play violin very well starting at 35. Anything is possible. Is it worth the time investment ? I'd say it's not but passionate people do not think like that.

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I just took up the violin (with no instructor) at age 47 and my experience is that efficiency is irrelevant because in order to play the instrument well, practice is a full time job (min 5 hours a day). Practicing effectively requires intense concentration which is a slow process. Sure, you can speed it up, but its still an arduous journey even with a good instructor.

I am delighted to hear ! Wish to best and drop us a line when you get stuck in something. There are a couple of very knowledgeable people here.

You seem to have the right idea or the right teacher or both : it is 5 hours/day. "Learn violin in 21 days" ain't working. It's bloody hard work.

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I know first hand of several instances of people who claimed to have started late who achieved good results. The actuality is that there is more to the story in every case. One, who achieved a very high level of artistry claims to have started at somewhere between 18 and 21 (I forget exactly). The truth is this person started much earlier, but was never very good, perhaps even stopped palying for a while, but then found a great teacher who started them over again, teaching them the fundamentals from the ground up. So it could be argued that some of the synopsis were already in place. Another two were a father and daughter who decided to learn cello. They got all their info off the internet and within a year were playing at a high lever. I heard the daughter (16ish?) play the prelude to the Bach Suite 1 beautifully. However, these were accomplished musicians to begin with, but the daughter had never played a string instrument I think. The father had played many instruments, but I think Bass had been his only foray into the string family up to that point (he also learned violin). These are quite rare instances however.

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I know first hand of several instances of people who claimed to have started late who achieved good results. That actuality is that there is more to the story in every case. One, who achieve a very high level of artistry claims to ahve started at somewhere between 18 adn 21 (I forget axactly). The truth is this person started much earlier, but was never very good, perhaps even stopped palyign for a while, but then found a great teacher who started them over again, teaching them the fundamentals from the ground up. So it coudl be argued that some of the synopshis were already in place. Another two were a father daughter who decided to learn cello. They got all their info off the internet and within a year were playing at a high lever. I heard the daughter (16ish?) play the prelude to the Bach Suite 1 beautifully. However, these were accommplished musicians to begin with, but the daughter had never played a string instrument I think. The father had played many instruments, but I think Bass had been his only foray into the string family up to that point (he also learned violin). These are quite rare instances however.

That would parallel my observations exactly. It's usually somebody competent at some other instrument, musically gifted, whe "beats" the violin into submission. The main problem adults ( basically anybody past 14-16 ) with NO previous musical training is learning to hear the intervals in their inner ear and LONG ago the Paris Conservatory and L'Ecole Normale actually commissioned a study to figure out if that is possible at all. The conclusion was a nuanced NO. With a violin this problem is exacerbated by the close proximity to the ear and direct path through the jaw bone. Many a time a wannabe violinist is completely appalled hearing himself recorded, while when playing it seemed to him quite acceptable.

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I have known one violinist and one violist who started at 18. One had played the saxophone before. The violinist was good enough to teach in a small university, and at his best played exquisitely; and the violist was able to free lance fairly successfully for a while in LA, and had developed a fine technique with the aid of a teacher that used Sevcik.

One thing I believe was showing in the violinist is that he deteriorated quickly with age. I'm not at all scientific in my guess that maybe when one starts too late the skills are not as deeply imbedded as they are when one starts early. All the more reason, IMO, to start a kid at a reasonable age of 5 or 6.

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At last, someone who knows!

I've been playing cello for 63 years and violin for 73. For an adult beginner, the cello is a better choice. The adult cellist will find opportunities for ensemble playing in chamber music and community orchestras. The classical repertory has easier cello parts than 1st violin parts, so the beginning cellist can get to it sooner. Of course, there are exceptions!

However, at the solo level, the cello is probably more difficult because the size of the instrument relative to the human hand requires a great deal more shifting and and fingering choices are more complex than for violin playing of music at a comparable performance level. But there is another side of it too: For example I have worked seriously on both Schubert's Arpeggione Sonata and the Elgar Cello Concerto on cello, but found I can sight-read them on viola, and I am not a violist (about 100 lifetime hours on the instrument spread over nearly 40 years). The difficulty is all in the shifting and fingering problems I mentioned above

I know several cellists who started as adults (I was young enough, at 14, and had 10 years of violin background, so that cello playing came naturally to me in a very short time and I was playing the instrument in chamber music and community orchestra within the first month). The adult beginners I know are not great, but they do a decent job with much chamber music and orchestral repertory. I had one beginning cello student in her mid-20s who was finishing up Suzuki Book 6 after 10 months, she was very musically inclined with background in single-reed wind instruments and voice. Unfortunately, she moved away after 10 months.

In response to one of the statements above, I did meet a violinist in his mid 30s who had started to play (with lessons) just 18 months earlier and was playing in the 1st violin section of our community orchestra. He had a decent vibrato, moved around the positions with facility and aspired to play Beethoven's Op. 50 Romance with the Orchestra (that didn't happen).

Finally, cellists last longer than violinists, probably a good 15 - 20 years, on average, so an adult starting at age 30 - 40 will probably get an extra 50% of reasonable playing years as a cellist. This is because of the humanly-awkward position required to play violin and the effects of arthritis on critical joints. Critical cellist joints are different.

Andy

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At last, someone who knows!

I've been playing cello for 63 years and violin for 73. For an adult beginner, the cello is a better choice. The adult cellist will find opportunities for ensemble playing in chamber music and community orchestras. The classical repertory has easier cello parts than 1st violin parts, so the beginning cellist can get to it sooner. Of course, there are exceptions!

However, at the solo level, the cello is probably more difficult because the size of the instrument relative to the human hand requires a great deal more shifting and and fingering choices are more complex than for violin playing of music at a comparable performance level. But there is another side of it too: For example I have worked seriously on both Schubert's Arpeggione Sonata and the Elgar Cello Concerto on cello, but found I can sight-read them on viola, and I am not a violist (about 100 lifetime hours on the instrument spread over nearly 40 years). The difficulty is all in the shifting and fingering problems I mentioned above

I know several cellists who started as adults (I was young enough, at 14, and had 10 years of violin background, so that cello playing came naturally to me in a very short time and I was playing the instrument in chamber music and community orchestra within the first month). The adult beginners I know are not great, but they do a decent job with much chamber music and orchestral repertory. I had one beginning cello student in her mid-20s who was finishing up Suzuki Book 6 after 10 months, she was very musically inclined with background in single-reed wind instruments and voice. Unfortunately, she moved away after 10 months.

In response to one of the statements above, I did meet a violinist in his mid 30s who had started to play (with lessons) just 18 months earlier and was playing in the 1st violin section of our community orchestra. He had a decent vibrato, moved around the positions with facility and aspired to play Beethoven's Op. 50 Romance with the Orchestra (that didn't happen).

Finally, cellists last longer than violinists, probably a good 15 - 20 years, on average, so an adult starting at age 30 - 40 will probably get an extra 50% of reasonable playing years as a cellist. This is because of the humanly-awkward position required to play violin and the effects of arthritis on critical joints. Critical cellist joints are different.

Andy

Andrew,

Everything you've stated makes sense.

The question which has arisen in this thread is whether one should try to override any preference the adult beginner might have for the violin because of perceived advantages of the cello. In other words, how hard should an adviser to an adult beginner push that beginner toward the cello if that beginner expresses a wish to play violin?

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I considered the cello but declined because I could not find adequate self-learning materials compared to the violin. Yes, I know self-learning is not sensible but it was the decision I made for various reasons. I use the following for violin:

Galamian: 'Principles of Violin playing...'

Fischer: 'Basics', 'Practice', DVD 'Secrets of Tone Production'

Yampolsky: 'Principles of Violin Fingering'

Gardener: 21st century Scales book, DVD's 'Advanced Bowings' and 'Four Octave Scales'

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Andrew,

Everything you've stated makes sense.

The question which has arisen in this thread is whether one should try to override any preference the adult beginner might have for the violin because of perceived advantages of the cello. In other words, how hard should an adviser to an adult beginner push that beginner toward the cello if that beginner expresses a wish to play violin?

I think one should try present reality as is ( there are some good examples on YouTube and some scary ones ). One could also draw attention at how much pro violin players degrade with time ( and those started EARLY ) compared with cello players. In the end it comes down to the student's prefference but he should make up his mind if he wants to do music or monkey around. Again, one should think that if XX solists degraded so badly between 40 and 50, a beginner doesn't stand much chance. I am going to infuriate everybody here by saying that a violinist is at his absolute best technically around the age of 16 and from there on is downhill. By 45 so many tiny defects creep in one should retire or...take up conducting. :lol:

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I considered the cello but declined because I could not find adequate self-learning materials compared to the violin. Yes, I know self-learning is not sensible but it was the decision I made for various reasons. I use the following for violin:

Galamian: 'Principles of Violin playing...'

Fischer: 'Basics', 'Practice', DVD 'Secrets of Tone Production'

Yampolsky: 'Principles of Violin Fingering'

Gardener: 21st century Scales book, DVD's 'Advanced Bowings' and 'Four Octave Scales'

Self learning is perfectly fine. Absolutely nothing wrong with it. With a violin once you have the right posture and can follow the right sensations in your fingers and bow arm you're basically by yourself. There is a famous case of self taught player, best example I know that if you have real talent all teachers might do is eat away at your freshness :

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a violinist is at his absolute best technically around the age of 16 and from there on is downhill. By 45 so many tiny defects creep in one should retire or...take up conducting. :lol:

If playing the violin were nothing more than a matter of how well a player wiggles her fingers, then 16, assuming you started at 3 or 4, might be a peak age for violin performance.

But most of us listen to music to get the emotional content of it, not to marvel at finger wiggling. So, the question becomes whether a 16 year old has had the breadth of emotional experience to put into the music. I doubt it.

I sincerely doubt most people listen to music for the sole purpose of hearing technical perfection, but maybe that's true. If it is true for most people listening to music, we can dispense with human players of all ages entirely and let perfected electronic synthesizers generate music for us.

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I think one should try present reality as is ( there are some good examples on YouTube and some scary ones ). One could also draw attention at how much pro violin players degrade with time ( and those started EARLY ) compared with cello players. In the end it comes down to the student's prefference but he should make up his mind if he wants to do music or monkey around. Again, one should think that if XX solists degraded so badly between 40 and 50, a beginner doesn't stand much chance. I am going to infuriate everybody here by saying that a violinist is at his absolute best technically around the age of 16 and from there on is downhill. By 45 so many tiny defects creep in one should retire or...take up conducting. :lol:

Could you elaborate further on the defects?

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If playing the violin were nothing more than a matter of how well a player wiggles her fingers, then 16, assuming you started at 3 or 4, might be a peak age for violin performance.

But most of us listen to music to get the emotional content of it, not to marvel at finger wiggling. So, the question becomes whether a 16 year old has had the breadth of emotional experience to put into the music. I doubt it.

I sincerely doubt most people listen to music for the sole purpose of hearing technical perfection, but maybe that's true. If it is true for most people listening to music, we can dispense with human players of all ages entirely and let perfected electronic synthesizers generate music for us.

I've seen too many pro's in their 40's and 50's playing pieces (eg. Paganini God Save the King) that require athleticism to be worried about age related decline. Besides, it seems employment is determined by the ability to control nerves in the final grouping of an audition or to escape a probationary period. Whether you are 16 or 35, nervousness ruins most players.

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I posted the following a couple of years ago on the Cellists By Night website - here goes:

"THE ARC OF TIME use it well!

Visualize a rainbow that starts in the plain on the left and after rising in the sky, moves downward and terminates on a mountain to the right. That is the arc that a person's music playing ability will follow during their lifetime. The younger you start and the more you practice, the higher the arc will rise. But eventually it will peak and start to head down toward the mountain.

At least that is how it has been for me. I started cello as a mid-teen and workedd real hard at it with weekly lessons, but did not play it much after high school, except for a year or two in my late 20s - until I was about 60. Oh sure, I played it some, and performed a few times a year, but I never re-embarked upon a program of real practice and improvement until about 17 years ago. What I found was that I continued to improve (even at age 60 onward) until I was about 70. At that point it seems, I peaked! I know other aging musicians whom I've been around for the past 15 years, it seems to me that my experience is anything but unique - the others may not admit it, but I can tell.

I think I could summarize it by saying there is an arc of musical performance quality that describes what each of us might have achieved if we had dedicated all necessary effort to it during our lives. But if we did not put in that effort, and instead started later, we will find we only approach that curve and will continue to improve to a later age than when we would have peaked and will only approach, but never reach what was our "true potential."

I also observe this arch in my violin playing, which I did continue on virtually every day all my life, and even though I may be better in some ways now (at 77) than ever before, there are many technical things that I can no longer do (my body just won't let me do those things any more), like Paganini Caprices. But I do have one music friend who quit violin when he started his medical practice, and resumed violin playing again only after retirement. He took lessons again for about 5 years, and he is now 76, and much to my surprise, he still seems to be generally improving (we play chamber music together every week). Sure, he could no longer do justice to the virtuoso pieces he played as a teen, but his continuing improvement makes me wonder how good he might have become if he had continued to play into his prime.

So, on the basis of this limited experience, I urge all adult beginners and wannabes to begin as soon as you can to become as good as you can be. Because, the better you eventually play, the more fun it is - and continues to be."

Finally: as far as violinists fading in their 40s to 50s, Zdenko Silvela's book "A New History of Violin Playing" would seem to confirm that a number of past violin virtuosos did start to falter in their 50s. I had always thought that the 60s seemed to be the limit for viability of such talent, but it seems that Aaron Rosand recently continued high-level performance into his 80s.

As long as you can control the critical body parts, you can do it!

Andy

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Could you elaborate further on the defects?

In my opinion the earliest to set in is a very slight lack of synchronization between the left and the right hand which result in a certain loss of freshness. Menuhin's early recordings compared with others just 10 years later are a good illustration of this. This carries on with age and the best I could describe it is that I perceive a sort of indecision. It affects the trill a lot as older fingers are not quite as good at stopping when they barely touch the string. For some reasons women fair better and violinists who are also power pianists seem also less touched by time. Kreisler and Enesco maintained superb articulation until late despite the fact that both of them were not quite practicing. Now, of course, this has little to do with great music and I'll take Kreisler's Beethoven any time over many others.

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Carl, you may be right, but I think Menuhin is not a good example. His situation was quite unique, most violinists do not fade that early or that fast. It is sad what happened to his playing ability, perhaps even sadder that he continued to demonstrate it. Fortunately for him and the music world he had many other talents to offer.

Andy

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Carl, you may be right, but I think Menuhin is not a good example. His situation was quite unique, most violinists do not fade that early or that fast. It is sad what happened to his playing ability, perhaps even sadder that he continued to demonstrate it. Fortunately for him and the music world he had many other talents to offer.

Andy

Andrew, you are right, Menuhin was not a good example. ( I would've exemplified with another one which shall remain nameless but I would've incurred the wrath of most MN ).

Menuhin was a charming man and a fantastic champion of music, violin and humanity. He was pushed HARD too early, too fast and too superficial. By the time Persinger sends him to Yssaye he had scant idea what scales are - some would say not a clue. In the hands of Carl Flesh that could've been probably fixed, unfortunately Menuhin blinded like many others by Enesco's superhuman abilities decides to study with him. That was a bad decision. That was not the first or the last violinist Enesco damaged with the best of intentions.

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I'm nineteen, I started playing both violin and cello very recently, violin a few months ago and cello about a week... Violin certainly seems to be coming more easily, I think it's because of the "frets" seem to be a more natural distance apart. I'm teaching myself both since I can't afford an instructor though. It probably won't go as well as I hope, heheh.

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I'm nineteen, I started playing both violin and cello very recently, violin a few months ago and cello about a week... Violin certainly seems to be coming more easily, I think it's because of the "frets" seem to be a more natural distance apart. I'm teaching myself both since I can't afford an instructor though. It probably won't go as well as I hope, heheh.

Bravo for the ambition and courage to teach yourself. But it is REALLY IMPORTANT to have an instructor at least to learn the the proper way to hold the instrument and use the bow. If you don't learn these things you are inevitably going to learn bad habits which will eventually block your progress. Trying to unlearn bad habits is much harder than learning things correctly from the start. If you are learning from a book, video, or online lessons, at least practice in front of a mirror and try to get things in the right position while you play. That way you'll be more likely to get your left wrist straight (not collapsed) and you will use your right elbow when bowing (no "ironing board" stroke). Good luck!

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I'm nineteen, I started playing both violin and cello very recently, violin a few months ago and cello about a week... Violin certainly seems to be coming more easily, I think it's because of the "frets" seem to be a more natural distance apart. I'm teaching myself both since I can't afford an instructor though. It probably won't go as well as I hope, heheh.

Congrats and best wishes ! Try see good players at work and imitate them. Works a charm if you pay attention. And don't be afraid to ask questions here. Everybody started somewhere.

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