Are you thinking about learning the violin or perhaps getting your 3-year-old lessons in order to become a great musician?
When is the best time to become an adept musician and start performing?
Whether learning music theory, how to hold the bow, vibrato, or writing music for the violin, the violin can often seem like a pretty difficult instrument to learn.
Is the fiddle really for everyone?
Here’s our take on the matter.
Is Learning Violin Difficult?
Choosing the violin is probably a wise choice but not always an easy choice.
This instrument has a reputation for being almost impossible to learn although it does get less and less “impossible” as time goes on.
As a descendant of the vielle, the violin is an instrument that came about following a series of evolutions. Its current form appeared during the 17th century. Until the 20th century, the violin remained an instrument that only the rich and the nobility had access to. That said, there are still violins today that cost around £5,000.
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Additionally, you needed to attend a prestigious music school or conservatoire (where a student would be expected to pass an audition) or get private tuition from a gifted violinist just to learn how to play it. Music education wasn't free and attending a school of music and private lessons were far less affordable than they are nowadays.
Additionally, the electric violin took to the stage. There are electric violins available for between £60 and £100 making them affordable for beginners on a tight budget.
However, the cost of the instrument has nothing to do with how difficult it can be to play. If you want to start taking lessons, you need to keep in mind that you’ll be taking them for a number of years. Of course, this will depend on how frequently you get violin lessons, too.
The rate at which you learn the violin will also vary on whether or not you’re being taught at a conservatoire, by a private violin tutor, or teaching yourself. It will also be even more difficult to learn if you have absolutely no musical background. Whatever your foundation, a budding violinist will need to learn some time-consuming techniques.
With vibrato, fingering, bowing, etc. the violin has a lot of different techniques you’ll need to master if you want to become an adept violinist.
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The Advantages of Learning Violin from a Young Age
Given that the violin can be a difficult instrument to learn, why not start as early as possible?
That’s what a lot of parents are thinking when they sign their child up to music lessons at a music school. There are plenty of music schools around the country that offer music classes to children as young as 6 or 7.
This is generally around the age that children have the necessary motor skills to correctly manipulate a musical instrument. There are a lot of violin teachers in the UK using the Suzuki violin Method. The Suzuki method was developed by Shinichi Suzuki, a Japanese violinist who realised that very young children (preschoolers in some cases) can learn a music instrument.
Can you really learn from such a young age?
There are a lot of advantages to learning from a young age. Children are curious and inquisitive and this often helps them to learn at a very rapid rate.
According to the piano tutor Véronique Barraco:
“Scientific studies have shown that children create the majority of their neural connections before the age of 7. This is the proof that something significant is happening during this period.”
It has also been shown that students do better at school if they do or have done music. They learn to concentrate and work.
The earlier students start learning music, the less they’ll be conditioning by the learning styles at school. This means that they’ll be more receptive to a wider range of learning styles and can freely develop an ear for music.
That said, the connections are still being formed in the brain until around the age of 12. Children are very open to learning new things.
Of course, there are also disadvantages to learning form such a young age. For one, the first year of learning to play the violin can focus heavily on music theory.
Generally speaking, children will learn about music theory around the age of 7. Before this, they’ll learn about music in a more general manner. However, children aged 6 or 7 will probably be bored by music theory and might even end up losing all interest in playing the violin.
It’s therefore not really recommended that they start as early as possible as there’s a risk of them being put off by the theory. It’s recommended that they’re taught once they’ve started showing interest in music.
Why not consider contacting a teacher and having a taster lesson on music theory and see what they think of it? Or take out a child-friendly book about violins and music theory basics to see if that grabs their attention?
You also need to think about the child’s motor skills. Music tutorials need to help them develop these skills. Private tutorials should focus on the student so make sure that your child is getting lessons from a violin teacher who teaches young children regularly.
Whatever it is, the child should want to learn to play the instrument and not be forced by their parents. You might consider looking at group classes for children, too.
Can You Learn How to Play the Violin as a Teenager?
The violin has only recently started being considered anything other than a classical or folk instrument. Thanks to the arrival of the electric violin, it’s started becoming “cooler”. There are a lot of groups that have used it in their music.
Teenagers are getting increasingly interested in the instrument even though the electric guitar and drums are still leagues ahead. However, teenagers wanting to learn the violin will be spoilt for choice: YouTube videos including online violin tutorials, free online lessons, private tutors, books on learning to play the violin, etc.
Can you start learning the violin this late in childhood?
Adolescence is usually when we start forming friendship groups and developing hobbies and interests. Teenagers need something to focus their attention on. These budding musicians may benefit from music lessons and see them as a way to hang out with their friends and have fun and share a hobby. Music is supposed to be fun, after all.
Participating in an intensive violin course is a great choice for teenagers. These kinds of courses and programmes are ideal for keeping them out of trouble during the summer holidays, too.
Of course, you don’t want to be forcing them to practice relentlessly from 9 till 5 every day but rather keeping things varied and covering topics such as:
- Musical training and how to read music
- Using the violin bow and bowing technique
- Left hand placement
- Rhythm, tempo, note value, and using a metronome
- Violin playing as part of an symphony orchestra, quartet, or ensemble.
- Studying for a recital or exam.
- Composing orchestral music, improvising, broadening their repertoire
- Violin maintenance, changing violin strings, and tuning the instrument
Whatever their level (beginner, intermediate, or advanced) and style of music (folk, rock, jazz, classical, chamber music, etc.) they should be able to find similar musicians or violinists their age.
In order to become the next Mozart, Vivaldi, Pagnini, or Menuhin, learning how to play the violin needs to come from the joy of playing rather than their parents forcing them to perform concerts.
Group lessons and courses are a great way to make new friends and learn as a group.
If you've got a friend who's learning the cello or taking piano lessons, why not get a band together?
Teenagers playing in a band is a great way for them to learn about music. It also gives them clear objectives like learning a particular song but also the goal of putting a show together, for example. There’s no better way to mobilise the troops.
Letting teenagers choose the songs they want to play is a great way to give them the independence they yearn for while keeping the focus on learning.
Even if teenagers won’t learn in the same way as a 7-year-old, they can still achieve a very good level as long as they have the right motivation.
Can You Take Violin Lessons as an Adult?
A lot of people think that you can’t learn any new skills, let alone a musical instrument, as an adult. People generally say that it’s impossible to reach a good level once you’re over 25. The good news is that it really depends on you. There's music instruction for all ages, after all.
The real difficulty comes with finding the time to learn a new instrument. That’s why many adults can take a long time to reach a decent level. In fact, it’s because they can’t find the time, between work and family commitments, to practise. Furthermore, they’re not used to learning since it might have been a number of years since they were last in a classroom or learning environment.
It might be difficult to get back into the swing of things with music theory lessons and rehearsals. Online violin lessons might be the ideal solution. It’s a good way to get the ball rolling if you ask us. Of course, you need to guard against complacency. It’s very easy for your regular sessions to become a thing of the past.
For those who need a stricter routine, there are music schools and centres offering lessons to adults. For those who can’t commit to such a schedule, a private tutor can work around a busy timetable in order to teach you at times that work for you. These violin lessons can take place when you’re free and will be adapted to your age, your musical background, your goals, and your learning style.
Learning Violin at any Age
When it comes to learning the violin, it’s the love of the instrument that will help you learn it, not your age.
Whether you’re 5, 15, 35, or retired, your age can’t really stop you doing anything. While a child will learn more easily, all you need is motivation in order to learn new skills.
Your motivation and the time you put into practising will be what decided whether you master the instrument or not. It’s also your motivation that will get you through difficult moments when you feel like giving up altogether.
A child who hates playing the violin won’t learn better than an adult who’s really motivated. With the right drive and regular practise, anyone can learn to play.