You may have heard the phrase, “when you stop learning, you stop living.” Well, it’s true. As we get older, our brains need stimulation in order to keep in tip top shape, and nothing is better than learning a new musical instrument.
When it comes to learning music, the violin is a gorgeous instrument – and not just for classical music aficionados. You will find the violin in classical, folk, country, and even rock music. It’s a very versatile string instrument, and small enough to carry around with you with ease.
But I’m Old! Can I Still Learn the Violin?
Whether you are 25 or 75, it doesn’t matter. Neurologists and music instructors both agree that no matter how old you are, it’s never to late to learn. Because it is not the cognitive or physical abilities that hold people back. Rather, it is the mindset. Put your mind to it, and you can learn the violin (even as an adult).
Many adults express interest in learning to play a stringed instrument. However, they are hesitant because they are unsure if they still have the ability to learn the nuances of an entirely new instrument.
But, take heart! Your age isn’t a big factor. While it is indeed a bit more challenging to learn the violin at, say age 45 than it is at age 9, it can be done.
Here are some pointers to get you started and to help you ultimately succeed at learning the violin.
Learning as an Adult vs Learning as a Child
It is easier to be critical of yourself as an adult. Everything related to posture or analysing your own playing (figuring whether something sounds right or not) is much easier as an adult than as a child.
On the other hand when it comes to picking up difficult rhythms or timing in general, children seem to just intuitively play the right thing, while adults have to consciously time themselves.
Because adults willingly choose to learn an instrument, they are internally motivated to practice and improve much more as compared to kids. Kids generally need to be forced to practice.
Adults have way more patience to work on “boring” stuff like scales and etudes. This helps adults to become better technical players.
Problems You Might Face
1. No Time to Practice
For adults, their work takes priority over learning a new instrument. Many a times, after a hard day of work, there is simply no time (or will) to practice.
It comes as no surprise that kids tend to have more structure with school, etc., whereas adults’ schedule may not be as structured, and busy people may find it difficult to find time for regular lessons. However, if you really want to learn the violin effectively, flexibility and commitment to learning the instrument on a consistent basis is crucial.
The only thing you can do to avoid this is try to be as consistent as possible. Skipping a few practice sessions is okay, but try to make up for lost time whenever possible!
2. Not Having a Community
Learning anything new as an adult can be a lonely process. Not many people around you might be learning the same thing. It’s possible that you don’t have anyone to talk with about your hobby.
To solve this you can join a community orchestra, or you can look for groups that play together regularly.
If you’re unable to find a group, don’t lose heart! You can still connect with other adult violinists virtually. Here are links to active online communities where violinists interact and help each other:
Subreddit for violinists: r/violinsts on Reddit
Discord server for violinsts: AllTypesOfViolinists on Discord
Tips to Simplify Your Journey of Learning The Violin as an Adult
1. Find a Good Instructor
The first thing to decide is whether you need a teacher or not.
Violin is a very complicated and confusing instrument at first and a good teacher can make learning a lot more enjoyable and practical. Although there are numerous resources on the web which can help you, getting a good instructor is recommended.
You need to be cautious while choosing the right person, let’s be honest, there are some music instructors out there who are hesitant to work with adults and prefer to only work with kids. It’s just the nature of the beast. Seek out an instructor who is experienced in working with grown ups. You are much more developed as an adult than a child; a good instructor knows this and can work with you accordingly.
A good violin instructor may also be able to help with certain physical constraints such as posture, hand form, and past injuries that may hamper your hand movements.
2. Establish Goals
Do you want to learn the violin as a completely solo effort, or is your goal to play/practice with a group? It’s important to define your ultimate goal before going in. In many cases, a violin player can only spread their musical wings in a group situation. Try to define this for yourself.
Talk to other adult violin players to get their opinion, then make your own decision. You can learn the ropes solo, at first, but eventually you may want to branch out and join an orchestra group. But whatever route you choose, always strive for finding your joy and personal satisfaction in learning this gorgeous instrument.
3. Plan Your Violin Learning Strategy
This ties in a bit with the above in choosing either solo or group play. But add to that your specific needs, such as lesson expenses, and choosing the right training program that allows you to learn in a way that meets your individual situation.
This is where a self-taught curriculum may come in handy. There are tons of online instructional programs. For some this is the ideal situation, as it allows you to learn without scheduling, as opposed to learning from face-to-face lessons, which always require scheduling.
Although having an instructor is recommended, it’s not the only way. If your situation doesn’t allow you to take frequent lessons from a teacher, you can take a hybrid approach.
Hybrid approach: Find a mentor who can meet you twice/thrice each month. The job of this mentor will be to i) ensure that you’re on the right track ii) help you with any difficulties that you’re facing.
This way, you would be able to learn according to your own schedule/budget but would still have someone to go to for help.
4. Practice, Practice, Practice! And More Importantly… Have Fun!
Yes, practice DOES make perfect. And as an adult, you have more discipline and a stronger desire to learn the violin than does your younger counterparts. What’s more, you have the mental capacity to quickly determine whether or not this is going to be fun and rewarding for you. It may not be easy, but you will get a gut feeling for whether it is a viable pursuit for you.
As an adult, you have the right to skip a practice, if you want to. BUT, without regular and consistent practicing, you will never become proficient. Just think of the joy you will feel when you finally hit that groove and you are playing eloquently from your heart. It is truly a joy to behold.
And that exquisite groove only comes with PRACTICE.
Many of us start learning music at a young age, and then for whatever reason, we stop. Because let’s face it – life often gets in the way. This doesn’t mean that we can’t take it up again.
It’s also possible that you never learnt music as a child and now, as an adult, you are scared to even begin. This article is proof that age is just a number.
You can start/restart learning the violin, regardless of your age!
P.S. A big thanks to Johanna Schreiber for providing valuable inputs for this article. Johanna is an English/Spanish to German translator. She’s a 31 year old who’s learning the violin as an adult.
Sue is a freelance writer and travel blogger. When she’s not writing for herself or for her awesome clients, she is hitting the open road in search of her next adventure.