3 Life Lessons from 15 Years of Playing the Violin

3 Life Lessons

What I've Learned in 15 Years of Playing the Violin

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I didn't expect that 15 years ago

15 years ago today, I got a violin, took my first lesson with a private teacher and started practicing. I had no experience whatsoever with learning an instrument.

I started with playing simple rhythms on one string. The first song that I learned to play was Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and I proceeded to learn many other songs after that.

At some point I started to hate my violin and quit it all together. I felt like I was never going to be „good enough“ at it.

Eventually, things got better. I found out that there’s more to music than being the best. I played in bands, orchestra's, composed my own music and eventually started teaching.

Over the span of 15 years I picked up songs I still love to play, met hundreds of other musicians and learned some lessons that will stick with me during my whole life.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to get all dramatic and tell you there’s no happy life without music and that learning the violin is the only right thing to do.

Anything you do with your life has pro’s and con’s. And violin is definitely not the "easiest" hobby to spend your time on. It requires a lot of work and dedication.

But I will say: picking up the violin was one of the most challenging and rewarding decisions I’ve ever made. And I wouldn’t take it back.

Here are some of the unexpected lessons that I’ve learned and some of the ways I have grown.

1. Time + Patience = Results

We often want to improve our life, whether that’s getting fitter, learning to play an instrument better, getting more successful at our job.
And many times, we don’t want to wait for these results. We want results instantly.

Learning the violin teaches you the beauty of time and patience.
It teaches you that if you have to trust that results will come if you keep working on something and if you stay patient.

This helped me with many things: learning languages, going to the gym and building my violin teaching business Violinspiration.

Many of the most beautiful things in life, don’t come to you immediately. You have to work hard it at and trust it will come to you with time.

2. Seeing anything you do as practice

One of the most beautiful things of playing the violin is learning to really understand what it really means to practice.

No, I don't mean to find better practice strategies to improve your playing.

I mean, to have the "practice attitude" in your life.

What is the practice attitude? Here's an example:

Let's take my job, teaching the violin.

I could have the following attitude
I'm a teacher at violin. I'm really good at playing and teaching violin. I'm giving really good lessons.  I can't make any mistakes. I feel ashamed if someone found out I made a mistake.

Firstly, that gives pressure, and secondly there’s not much room for improvement if I’m perfect already.

I could also have the practice attitude.

In that case, I would say to myself: "I'm practicing to be a teacher"

If you’re having this attitude, you don’t get as annoyed if things don't work out perfectly. After all, it’s just practice. And now you can feel excited about improving the thing that didn't went well.

If you don't assume you're perfect at it, you're always looking for small things to improve. And that makes my job into a constant adventure for me, where I can learn, grow, and improve myself every single day.

This helps to see things more lightly and you even get a way better teacher.

I am currently practicing many things in my life, such as

  • being a teacher
  • running a business
  • being in a relationship
  • being a good friend
  • taking care of my health

I'm getting better at it.

3. There is no success without failure

When we fail at something important to us, whether in relationships, at school, or at work, it can be very painful.

In our society, there are many unhealthy ways to deal with failure. We discount the importance of the thing we failed at ("oh, I didn't care about it anyway"). We blame other people.  We say we're "never lucky".

In the short time, these ways of dealing with failures may feel good, but probably we won't learn from our mistakes in this way.

And even worse, we might avoid to do the things we could fail at.

For instance
... quitting your job to start your passion business
... moving to another country on your own
... starting a new fitness routine

because it's so painful to try so hard and to fail.

Learning the violin helps you to see that there is no success without failure.

It teaches you that failure is the only way to get better.

You need to fail, in order to be successful at something.

It taught me, that if you fail, it means you are trying

And to be trying, is something to be proud upon.

This helps you to step outside of my comfort zone. And to do things you are (really) afraid of.

With every failure, you're moving in the right direction.

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Julia Termeer

Violin Teacher

Hi there! My name is Julia. Growing up with 2 music teachers as parents, music was always a big part of my life. As long as I can remember, I have been playing music. I play as a professional folk/improvisational violinist in several bands, but my real passion lies in teaching! I teach adult beginners all across the globe to play the violin, both online and in my private teaching studio in Berlin (Germany).

    29 Comments

  1. 6. July 2018
    Reply

    Thank you for being my teacher. I am glad you started at a young age, Back when I was young I never thought I would try to play with music and now with the violin coming down in price I like to try and at my age I like just to tinker with it. When I see my granddaughters I may give this violin to them and have them start with your lessons they are 3 and 6 years old and just right to learn and enjoy playing. Thank you for your videos thay have been very helpful.

    • Admin bar avatar
      6. July 2018
      Reply

      So happy you decided to learn to play the violin anyway, despite not starting out young! Many of my students did so and I think it can be so rewarding. Must be amazing to be able to play with your granddaughters. Wish you all the best!

  2. 6. July 2018
    Reply

    Thank you so much for your weekly e-mails 💋

  3. 6. July 2018
    Reply

    I’m very happy to get you email. Just today I was looking at some YouTube lesson of you .
    It’s good to know that you are sharing 3 Life lessons from 15 years of playing the violin.

    • Admin bar avatar
      6. July 2018
      Reply

      Happy that you’re learning with my lessons! I think I remember your name from your comment on my YouTube channel 🙂

  4. 6. July 2018
    Reply

    Hi Julia!
    I’m so happy to read your post, because some days ago I was thinking something similar to what you says, but my thoughts were not so clear! You have really translated my confuse thoughts into clear words!
    I started studying violin only about one year ago (and few months ;D) and at the beginning I was not aware of the real value of my new adventure. I was only happy and excited for having done the step of buying my violin and starting to play some notes!
    In the meanwhile I started a new job, a research position in laboratory.. Unfortunately I’ve always been a quite apprehensive person, with a lot of difficulty in accepting mistakes or not to understand soon the reason of things… I love chemistry… but research is exactly about that!!! You have to be patient and, first of all, you have to understand that sometimes a bad result it is also a results! Maybe you have only to investigate more and the reason will be clear in future. Sometimes you are not the reason of bad results! Sometimes you only nead to invastigate more! To practice more. Violin is like that. It is teaching me to be patient. It is teaching me that it is important to practice and not to give up. It is teaching me that sometimes you can fail, but this means you are having the courage of doing something. It means that you are dealing with something that maybe other don’t want to face.
    Or maybe you are failing, because your diligence was not enough. In this case… Violin teaches that you have to practice more! 😀

    Thank you for sharing your thought, it was a pleasure to read your e-mail!

    Have a nice weekend

    Alice

    • Admin bar avatar
      6. July 2018
      Reply

      Love what you shared Alice, very inspiring!
      Are you the same Alice that joined the Vibrato Camp & Beginner Bootcamp online course in the past months?
      I can really relate to your realisation that “bad results are also results”.
      It really helps, if something goes wrong, to realise that you needed to “try” this step, in order to realise it doesn’t work, so it isn’t a waste of time.
      Sending you love from Germany!

      • 6. July 2018
        Reply

        Yes Julia, it’s me! 🙂

  5. 6. July 2018
    Reply

    I have a bunch of things to say so i guess i’ll just start
    1) Loved what you have written, and it’s relatable too. To feel like quitting and not continuing playing is something i have been dealing with recently but i guess well pick up where we left because we all felt that something is missing from our life.
    2) You’re a committed teacher looking after health, business, friends, your loved one and students too. The violin not only taught patience but multitasking also 😛
    3) We rarely get to read your insight on a lot of things, so whenever you feel like keep writing about it. And even if you become a little dramatic won’t mind, drama is sort of an integral part of our life.
    Small favour : You write, and so do i. Pls do read my blog, you asked what do i write about well here’s an answer : EVERYTHING. I have a lot of things to say and very limited audience so if you became a part of the audience, i would be overwhelmed(not kidding, i really want to know what you think about my content)
    https://shatteredletters.wordpress.com
    Like, share ,comment and if you can’t get the time to read or don’t want to read it then also it’s fine. i understand

    • Admin bar avatar
      7. July 2018
      Reply

      Haha, yes, I guess we violinists can multitask too! Just had a look at your blog. It looks very deep and philosophical. Awesome you are having your own blog too. I can relate to your last posts, that it gets harder to enjoy the little moments in a society that’s very focused on peak moments and feeling a rush of excitement all the time. Sending you love from Germany!! ☺♥

  6. 7. July 2018
    Reply

    I played guitar in rock bands for 35 years. It got to where I hated it because I had to play every night. I bought a violin and am teaching myself just for me and the fun of it. You’re supposed to play music, not work music and the violin has given that back to me. I don’t care if I ever play for anyone else. When learning I have found that there are two types of people in the violin world…those who are generous, helpful, and caring and those who are absolute snobs who look down their noses at anyone and everyone. Thank you for your input, philosophy, and guidence.

  7. Admin bar avatar
    7. July 2018
    Reply

    Thanks for your input Trip. I definitely relate that it’s easy to fall into the trap to ‘work” music instead of play. Happy you found a way to enjoy playing again. ☺

  8. 7. July 2018
    Reply

    Hello Julia! I’m really glad that I came across your story because I’ve been playing the violin for a week now and I’m still struggling. I’m self-taught and I honestly have got no clue about playing the violin. But the only reason why I really want to play the violin was because I’m really drawn to the violinists playing in an orchestra. They all sound so melodic together and I feel at peace whenever I hear them play. I really wish I could play like them one day.

    On my first week, I was getting frustrated and was losing motivation to continue playing the violin! “This is impossible” “I don’t think I can do this”. Those were the thoughts that came to my mind as I produced unpleasant notes on my violin.

    But when I read your story, it really helped open my eyes. I need to have patience and practice. I finally realized that in order for me to reach my goal, I need to work my way up to achieve it. It will take some time and lots of dedication but I’ll do my best! 💕 Julia, I really look up to you as an amazing violinist, a teacher, and an inspiration! Keep doing what you do 💘

    • Admin bar avatar
      8. July 2018
      Reply

      Hi Reysel, can really relate to you! I also got inspired when I went to an orchestra and saw the violin players playing…just like you! Thank you so much for your kind words. I wish you all the patience & time & support to learn to play the violin. You can do it! 😀

  9. 7. July 2018
    Reply

    Hi Julia, a comment not about life lessons, but about teaching. I believe that you and your Web students could be much more successful If you used a different camera angle on your fingerboard. We need to see your finger placement more clearly. Thank you.

    • Admin bar avatar
      8. July 2018
      Reply

      Thanks for helping me to improve the lessons! I am actually buying some upgrades right now so that I can film from a better angle. Can’t wait to record and share the improved videos soon!

  10. 7. July 2018
    Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing.. I’ll practice even better with my off sounded violin.. I’ll also try my best to buy a good violin since this violin is like a fake electric violin where sounds is really off.. more motivated all the time. Thank you so much…

    • Admin bar avatar
      8. July 2018
      Reply

      Thanks so much Mark! I will keep my fingers crossed that you’ll be able to save for & buy a violin that has a better sound. And happy that even though the violin is a bit annoying sometimes, you keep practicing and trying to improve! Wish you all the best 🙂

  11. 7. July 2018
    Reply

    Hi Julia,
    As you know, I started violin lessons at age 84. Now, at age 86, I am able to play 100 hymns and share this new experience with friends in nursing homes and care facilities. I didn’t read music until my violin lessons. This was a challenge I took on to stay ahead of the aging thought process and try to stay current. For me, the violin is an intriguing instrument and it is also fun to research its history and learn basic luthier skills. Vibrato will hopefully be within my grasp during the upcoming year. Even at my age, I can’t rush things and patience has brought me along this far. Thanks for your help and for sharing your life lessons, Julia. You are wise beyond your years!
    Blessings,
    Don

    • Admin bar avatar
      8. July 2018
      Reply

      Good to hear from you Don, hope you’re doing well. Your story is definitely inspiring for all of us violin players! 🙂 I hope I’ll also still be able to play music when I’m your age, that must be so valuable

  12. 9. July 2018
    Reply

    Tenho acompanhado muito seus ensinamentos e praticados, sou muito iniciante sei muito pouco de violino, mas tiro algumas músicas, não tenho professor estudo em casa com orientações que encontro na internet… Sou grato por você fazer parte disto… Muito Obrigado.

  13. 10. July 2018
    Reply

    Hello madem Julia! I am improving my violin practice my ur book… And also I am very happy of receiving e-mail from you… I am very eager to get the other violin notes from u…. Thank you soo much Julia

  14. 19. July 2018
    Reply

    I’m new, barely two weeks without a teacher. just trying to develop the passion for violin. I keep watching YouTube videos

  15. 25. September 2018
    Reply

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