As a violin teacher, one question I get very often is “Am I too old to learn the violin!?”
Normally, the question is asked indirectly like this:
“Oh, I love the violin! I wished I learned to play an instrument when I was younger” *I’m too old, right?*
A short answer is: yes, of course, you can learn the violin as an adult!
On the other hand: it’s not without reason that some even believe it’s not even possible to learn the violin as an adult. It definitely is challenging to learn the violin in general, and being an adult brings some disadvantages that children don’t face.
On the contrary, there are also some advantages when starting as an adult!
Taking the Time to Practice the Violin Daily
The biggest disadvantage that adults face is time. As an adult you have way more responsibilities than a child: doing groceries, working a 9-5, feeding your children/dog/pet/wife/husband/you name it, and so much more.
Children on the other hand don’t have a very busy schedule besides giving names to their stuffed animals.
It is easy for them to put in 30 minutes of practice a day. If they are lucky, they will even have parents that will motivate them to be consistent with their practice every day.
As an adult, even finding 30 minutes of free time can be a challenge!
That’s why, as an adult, it is way more important to be more deliberate about when and what you will practice every day.
Too Old for Your Local Violin School
Something else you might run into as an adult beginner is that most violin schools and teachers in your area are focussed on teaching children. The curriculum, group sessions, and other violin learning activities are tailored to children.
Some violin teachers even won’t teach adults completely – and will only teach children.
Children in such programs have the benefits of learning together with other children, in a group – which is very motivating itself. Having friends around you playing the same instrument will motivate you to practice and they’ll hold you accountable to show up!
Even if you do find a good teacher as an adult, it can feel isolated to start learning the violin by yourself. You might be spending lots of time alone in your practice space, and for that, you need lots of discipline and motivation.
The orchestras for beginners are normally only for children – and many orchestras for adults require very high entry levels.
Though, many people learn most when they have a motivation to learn outside of themselves. That’s why adult beginners need to be more deliberate about finding practice partners and finding groups to practice with.
The Simple Secret to Learning the Violin
One thing many of my adult students have not thought about is that there are many people who start young and quit. Most of the other children with whom I learned violin when I was young didn’t touch their violin for years!
So many people do start young, but don’t have the motivation to continue and quit. After a few years, they’ll forget the basic techniques and need to start from scratch again.
This shows that starting young is not everything it takes!
Being able to learn the violin is not so much about how old you are, and much more about your desire to really want this in combination with the ability to practice persistently over many years.
Actually, the secret to learning the violin is very simple: those that eventually become very good at it, are simply the ones that didn’t quit!
The Advantage of Learning the Violin as an Adult
There are also certain advantages to learning the violin as an adult.
For instance, it’s much easier for you to grasp abstract concepts like sheet music notation and translate them into tunes & fingering.
When it comes to comprehending music theory, you have a big advantage over children if you are an adult.
Also, adults tend to learn with much more focus.
When you tell a child to grab the bow in a certain way, they might do it for 30 seconds, but within no time they will find a sticker on the wall to distract them.
Adults, on the other hand, are very focused in their practice sessions. They get many basic postures way quicker than children.
Also, children often rely on trial and error for many years.
Adults on the other hand are better at analyzing their own playing. They are aware of which mistakes are causing which sounds, so they learn faster by understanding why certain tones aren’t sounding the way they wanted to sound.
Last but not least, adults are often better at managing their time efficiently.
Tell a child to practice 30 minutes a day – if you won’t look for a few seconds they will be playing with their toys instead!
Adults, on the other hand, choose to play the violin consciously. They know what it takes to learn an instrument and are deliberate about taking time to practice every day. In that way, they will also improve much quicker!
A Better Question to Ask Yourself (Instead of “Am I too Old to Learn Violin?”)
At times, practicing violin can feel frustrating: sometimes you’ll feel like you’re not improving at all, you don’t want to practice or you practice a new technique for hundreds of hours and you’ll still not getting it.
Especially on an instrument such as the violin it can take many months and for most even years, until you will be able to play something that truly sounds beautiful.
To get through difficult times like this, you need that strong motivation to push you through – you need to, in some way, like the struggle.
Almost every violinist I know – no matter if it was an adult starter or a pro-player – loves challenging themselves. Some even chose to learn the violin for the very reason that it is challenging!
There is a special sense of enjoyment in managing to make progress despite the difficulty of the instrument.
I love challenging myself, no matter whether it is studying the violin, building a website, or learning to dance Lindy Hop – to me, challenges make me feel alive and excited to start my days!
Something that will be a much better indication if you’ll learn to play the violin than your age is an answer to the question:
How much do you enjoy the process of learning the violin and the challenge of it?
The biggest part of learning the violin is not about being a certain age, nor being exceptionally talented. In the end, it all boils down to consistent, focused practice.
Many people will tell me: but Julia, when I would have started practicing 10 years ago, I would already be able to play pretty decently by now!
You are right – you would probably have been playing pretty well by now!
Though, the problem is, you see, 10 years from now, if you ask the same question to yourself, the answer will be the same: that you should’ve started today.
You can’t change the past, but you can change your life right now and learn the violin – and enjoy the instruments for many years to come!
If you only pick up the violin, you will already be better than the person that didn’t!
There’s So Much More to Playing Violin Than “Mastering the Instrument”
In the end – what is “mastering the violin” mean anyway? No one has ever claimed to have mastered the violin – there is always a level above!
To truly master one instrument would probably take several lifetimes – if not more!
The thing is, the more you learn, the more you realize how much more there is to know.
Each time you will discover something new, and this will motivate you to practice something new.
The destination isn’t important, the journey is.
Yes, to become a virtuoso there’s likely a due date somewhere along the line.
But the question is not: can I become a virtuoso?
The reason you would like to get started to play the violin is probably NOT because you’d only enjoy playing alongside the New York Philharmonic in Carnegie Hall.
It is most probably something else that interested you about this instrument. Maybe it is to experience more joy in your life – to have a hobby you can always turn to. Maybe it is to be able to join friends & family playing music. Maybe it is because you always had the dream to play an instrument, but never found the time to pursue it.
Being a violinist that has never been playing in Carnegie Hall – and most probably never will be, I can assure you: the violin will most probably be worth it – even in case you will never, ever become close to being a virtuoso!
The truth is: playing music is not a race – the most beautiful moments in music don’t come from having the “best bowing technique“. It comes from the joy of playing a simple song, the challenge of learning something new and meeting many new good friends along the way.
Are you feeling motivated to get started with violin playing? Here I will share my top tips for adults that think about learning to play the violin: