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Timothy Smith
I guess I've been pondering this because that's what I sometimes do....ponder.

People have complicated lives. Does the violin require what you would describe as a sacrifice? How does it fit into your life and how do you see it? How much is enough to invest or how much is too much? How much are you willing to devote to it? What are you willing to loose in order to accomplish it?

Without a doubt those who are best at it have started young and have worked tirelessly for years to get to where they are. It doesn't stop there because they continue to need practice.

And what if you get to a goal? What does that mean to you? Is it personal satisfaction you get from it? Accolades from others? Playing with a group?  For teachers and pros it is obviously an income, likely also a true love. There must be a point though where one would occasionally tire of it if a full time venture. I could see teachers as thinking to themselves, oh no here's another beginner with the same or a similar predicted set of issues. After 20 years of it, I'm sure it becomes mundane to a point.

Why such a love of the violin as compared to other instruments? We live in a big world with lots of possibilities. Why limit to only violin? How will you use the knowledge of playing?  What is it about classical music that so interests a few over other types of music?
Why is music in general so divided over genre? So fragmented? So many opinions?

A violinist is really a narrow specialist in a very broad range of musical activity.  So these questions will answer my main larger question. I would like to hear why you maybe decided to take such a difficult and narrow range of instrument, many beginning at later stages of life. How does it feed your fulfillment as a musician?

I don't ask much lol.
Timothy Smith
18 Responses
Posted: April 10, 2019
Last Comment: April 14, 2019

Timothy Smith
Posted: April 14, 2019
Lesley, I never gave it a second thought (hijacking) didn't look at it this way. Even if it were that's ok with me. I don't see it as hijacking I see it as relevant.

Kate you seem to have plotted a nice direction but I wouldn't sell yourself short here either.I think you are doing great for not having played any longer than you have.
Yes learning this skill set does seem to get somewhat frustrating at times. Maybe that's why I like it?  I know it can be done. It's sort of like solving a puzzle only with a more constructive outcome. Either that or we're all nuts :) I don't believe that.

Posted: April 13, 2019
Sorry -- really didn't mean to hijack the thread with the video!  8-[  But just to quickly respond to those have commented on it... Thank you all so much for your encouragement, it's very heartening. I think I will go and get my violin back from the shop (had put it up for consignment after posting the other day -- yes!) Re. playing with a mute, it's actually for the benefit of my little newborn neighbour, who lives directly beneath me and appears to be a light sleeper. (And Fabiano, I am an anglophone Quebecker -- English is my first language! ;)

Grant Wolfe
Posted: April 13, 2019
Lesley dont feel so bad...Kreutzer no2 is deceptively not so simple. It requires a pure detache and quickly modulates through many keys. In fact this etude is a life-sentence for many proffesional and accomplished violinists. The variations are endless...however, I would suggest focusing less on speed and first slowly mastering a steady even tone and equal bow distibution, and then slowly building the speed. 

Posted: April 13, 2019

I stopped playing the violin at age 11 (after a couple of pretty unremarkable years) but I had kept my original violin and it moved with me for over 35 years (until a dry rot problem meant it had to go) and I vaguely regretted stopping but not enough to do anything about it. I decided at 58 that I should take it up again. I have never felt the slightest inclination to play any other instrument. I just love the sound of the violin when played well..

One of my mini goals is to be able to play hymns for my Dad and other stuff for family, friends etc. My family aren't at all musical, as long as it's recognisable and reasonably in tune most of them will think it's pretty good so this is an achievable goal. (Two of my sisters may need a bit more work as they remember me practising as a child and to hear them talk are seriously traumatised by it!)

My main aim though is to get to the stage where I can take a piece of music and interpret it. I suppose I see it as a creative journey. To have an understanding of what I want to do, what my intention is and to work out how I am going to do it - to have enough skills to enable me to try to do this. This will involve an audience at some point I assume Ė if you're trying to communicate something you need someone to communicate it to? I am a very long way off this though, so playing in public is not on my radar at the moment.

I find it frustrating, exasperating, irritating and at times feel I'm wading through mud. I've accepted that it's going to take me a long, long time to just play at a reasonable level. It took me 6 months to get to grips with a basic bow hold Ė I'm an artist and am used to having a lot of control and confidence when wielding a wooden stick, to know when to apply and release pressure (but a much smaller one with lead in it :)) I watched videos, looked at photographs, read books and listened intently to my teacher tell me over and over again in many different ways how to hold a bow but it took months for me to work out how it should 'feel' (and I realise where I am now with it is very much a starting point). This bought home to me how much time & commitment it would take. I don't think my main goal is actually achievable to the level I would want to reach however many hours I put in. I do know the journey will be a part of the rest of my life, so I just find as much time as possible for it. I love the challenge of it. I try play for at least 30 mins every day Ė it is less important than my art but more important than everything else (apart from my family but they are used to me being locked away in my studio and I've trained them over the years to appreciate quality time with me over quantity :))

Posted: April 13, 2019
Progress & Practice
Hi Lesley, you definitely have a 7 year violinist left hand- looks very capable and strong. I can't see enough of your bow arm/hand to be able to see what is going on, but you are playing in the upper bow, with a mute, and near the fingerboard which can give a softer sound. Your technique looks good. We are at the same number of years, and I can totally relate to feelings of discouragement when trying to push through to the next level of playing, for instance fast playing in orchestra, vibrato, Melodious double stops, and getting comfortable with lots of shifting in my case. I was on a plateau that seemed to last forever. It is only recently that I am seeing progress again, except the DS are still stalled. Can't wait for progress in that area.

Your mention of hours played caught my attention, and I thought of the 10k hour comments that used to be mentioned. I think it meant a violinist with prodigious talent, superb teacher, and very highly focused practice. Even though hours alone don't mean mastering the instrument, I counted my hours anyway, and came up with 6,570. The way I did this was to remember pretty much all I had done for practice over the years, and to extract the time doing activities that were not actual practice on the instrument. Also, as I began to do more focused practice, my number of hours practicing went down. So at this rate, it looks like it will take me ~11 years to reach 10k hours. :)

Timothy Smith
Posted: April 12, 2019
Thanks for posting that video Lesley. I will reiterate what others have said. I think you play pretty well. Don't give up!

I notice you play with a mute? Looked like a mute on the violin. I would bet your tone is much better without a mute. You no doubt have good reason to use a mute. Would be nice if you could take the mute off.

Agree/relate to your statements on practice.

Fabiano Formiga de Carvalho
Posted: April 11, 2019




I'm too trying to gain speed through Kreutzer's exercise n.2 (some publishers say one). I'm attaining a dťtachť at 110 bpm, not yet so comfortably as I wish.

But what I will mean is that your English is delightful, allthough it has obliged me too often into the dictionary!!! But you live in Quebec, where French is spoken!


Your violin sounds very well, in your hands of course!

I'm looking forward more texts in your vivid English.



Ted Adachi
Posted: April 11, 2019
Hi Lesley,
I have told you this before but just to give you some public support here. You have really good intonation and your bow control looks good. So the only element that's lacking is your vibrato that I know you are just starting to work on.

Once you have your vibrato straightened out, it will change everything. You will be able to play with more expression and i am sure you will  impress yourself with how 'violinistic' you sound.

Posted: April 11, 2019
Re. the partner-who-is-not-a-musician (and therefore resents your practice)... I SO relate to that! At the same time that I can understand the partner's point of view, I also resent the compromise... It's a tough one. I guess the ideal situation is to have a partner who's equally obcessed with something (doesn't even have to be music).

Reading your comments, I feel quite a lot like you do. If you're going to do something, then gonna do it right! And violin demands nothing less than everything. And I want to give it everything, but I just can't. So I compromise, which is less than ideal. But it's not an ideal world...

Posted: April 11, 2019
This discussion includes members-only video content

Thanks, Tim, for you encouragement! (And for taking the time to look at how my name is speled! :) You are right that we adult learners place a lot of pressure on ourselves. Still, I can't help thinking that at 7 years in, I shoould be able to ace a little ťtude like Kreutzer No. 2 that five-year-olds can play with their eyes closed! Example.

Timothy Smith
Posted: April 11, 2019
I can't edit my posts here. Sorry I misspelled your name Lesley.My apologies.I hope I got it right this time.

Timothy Smith
Posted: April 11, 2019
Leslie you sound very dedicated to learning. I haven't seen any of your videos here yet but I would guess you probably don't sound as bad as you think you do. At least to others. 

I recently had a thought in pondering that isn't a new one, but I think I needed to be reminded of it. 
"If you think you can do something, you probably can."
"If you think you can't do something, you are probably correct as well."

For some adult learners I think there is an answer in the middle somewhere. We can, just maybe not quite up to our own expectations.I think this is especially true if we set very high expectations. I'm not saying we shouldn't push ourselves or learn to play well. I'm also wondering if possibly the room or recording methods might be giving you a false impression of how you sound/play?

I can't really say how I would feel after 7 years. I have around three years and under 1000 hours of practice in. I have seen enough improvement to keep me going. I realize I have a long way to go. I get discouraged as well. Not enough to quit.My goals are probably different. I wanted to get to a certain place before I moved into more challenging material. I guess I would feel a bit disappointed if I didn't think I sounded any better. My teacher is preparing to graduate college as a music major and I think it's probably time for me to look for another teacher in addition to Vlab. 

Who knows? After 7 years I might be at the exact same place. I sense that you get something positive from it so I would encourage you to keep going. If it feeds good things in your soul maybe that's all you need. We all go through those ups and downs. I can relate to the feeling that I almost need to fight for practice time lol. I get mad like, darnit I didn't get enough practice in. Actually makes me cranky on a regular basis. My wife said she wanted to sleep in late on Sat and I returned with, How will I play my violin?. She thinks that's all I care about. It can be a real struggle especially for those who don't understand the draw. I'm either going to do something or I'm not. If I'm going to do it I want to do it right. That means I need to practice. Not everyone seems to get that. She does try to be supportive most of the time. At other times I think she feels it's too important to me. It's really constant frustration for me. Over the years she has come to realize that I need to make music in some form. This has taken some time since she is not a musician. 

Posted: April 11, 2019
You raise a lot of interesting questions that strike a chord (no pun intended!!). Just in the last few days, after +/- 7 years of trying to master the violin, I'm starting to think I'm wasting my time. Not to be a downer or anything! But I feel that after all this time and practice, I should really sound MUCH better. Everything has been thrown into question.

Some context: I fell in love with violin by accident at age 45, having had no musical background whatsoever. In 7 years, I've gone through 5 violins (trading up each time), 2 teachers (one terrible, one excellent) and have put in (I figure) easily 3,000 to 4,000 hours of hard slog. Though practice was never a chore. Scales were never a chore! Etudes -- bring 'em on! It was all bliss. (For me -- not for BF, neighbours or cat, haha.)

You ask "why such a love of the violin"... I know that for me, part of the attraction was the difficulty. If something's too easy, I'm not interested. But I think also that violin is a kind of drug. Those times when I hit the note right on -- well, I think my brain would light up like a Christmas tree. Discovering classical music was another high. Whatever piece I was learning would literally inhabit me morning and night. I could hear it all in my head in stereo, every nuance, every pitch, how it should sound...

Violin wrecked one relationship and made serious inroads into the next. Things fell by the wayside -- I used to paint, write... None of that now. I played whenever I could. Violin came everywhere with me, even on vacation. I resented anyone who "got in the way." How much is too much? Good question.

Unfortunately I was never, ever, no matter how hard I worked, EVER able to get anywhere near that beautiful sound I heard in my head. I mean, I wasn't aspiring to Gidon Kremer-level playing... just a decent sound! Something resembling music. Even a simple fiddle tune, when I record myself, is SO far off the mark. It's discouraging.

And so that brings us to "sacrifice." My life (like just about everyone's) is complicated. Busy. Lots of demands. I've been able to log in one to two violin hours a day pretty consistently, sometimes more. But when I stand back and take a long, hard look, I'm just not seeing a the kind of improvement I think I should see by now. So do I make the sacrifice to put in more time -- will that actually make a difference? Or is it all just a big waste of time? I guess we'll see.

Timothy Smith
Posted: April 11, 2019
Thank you for all of these interesting responses and the willingness to share something about yourself here.
As I pondered it more and compare my situation to others who commented, I think I see playing as more of a trade than a sacrifice. There are some components of it for me that are not pleasant as a process to get better at playing.As whole though it's mainly a pleasant experience and I enjoy it.
Not sure how much detail I should reveal here until I'm writing too much or unnecessarily lengthening the thoughts. 
I was in my school band and played trumpet. I don't really think this is a resume worthy accomplishment.  For about 30 years though I've spent a lot of my spare time learning multiple instruments and learning/using recording technology. In addition to all of that I have been a church musician. In that calling I've been a bass player, guitarist, keyboardist and for the last 20 years a leader. In my upbringing music was always a part of my life. In contrast to a person who chose an instrument and stayed with only that or similar I have jumped all over the place both musically and instrumentally.

I am finding that with the violin I needed to narrow myself down in order to better apply myself to it which means I end up often trading violin practice for recording or guitar or any number of other music things. In that sense I'm sacrificing/trading some of the music things I once did in exchange for violin.

My time is very limited so I end up trying to squeeze a lot of stuff into a day. Last evening I was helping a vocalist prepare for music on Sunday, the night before I had a recording session for a person I agreed to make a CD for. Tonight it's something get the idea. Maybe I falsely assumed that it's this way for everyone. I figure everyone has a busy life. I am  a yes person to a fault and I think I should be saying no more in the future. What is life all about though unless we are helping someone out? It isn't all about me. I think life is about what we can give and not what we can get, however that only goes so far until we just burn out from it.

I keep telling myself I need to cut back on what I'm doing. I have the intention to cut a few things out. I just haven't felt it was the right time to do it yet. I'm not willing to quit violin practice so I'm thinking some other things might have to go. Neither will I let an instrument stand in the way of more important things. It's really a delicate balance that needs to happen weekly for me to get any better at violin. When I began to learn violin I really had no idea entirely what was involved in it. Now that I know more about the process I believe
progress is only possible if I lower my expectations based on my life in general. 

Barbara Habel
Posted: April 11, 2019
I love the violin. But I am still struggling to play it.

I feel excellently after having played the violin.

I have plenty of time at my disposal but am unable to put it to use by playing the violin.

It demands so much physical and mental strength to play it.

Posted: April 11, 2019
I've had two very good live teachers, one was quite a travel time to reach and was so worth it for my reconstruct. The other is my orchestra teacher who keeps me afloat especially when I had up to 50 pieces to learn in one season. There's no way we went through it all, but because I do targeted and highly focused practice, it was feasible. VLab is and has always been the best 24/7 resource available, because there is an incredible amount of information here of the highest quality by a teacher who loves to see her students progress. That is the kind of motivation that works for me!

My history with music comes from singing and guitar in childhood. I picked up the violin as an adult because a friend mentioned a good teacher. The next day I was taking lessons. I practice a lot! Every chance I get, and performing for family and the community is the goal. I prefer classical music and especially Romantic period repertoire. We live in an age of almost instant access to some of the most beautiful and in depth resources available, so learning right now is really wonderful.

Posted: April 10, 2019

Good evening,

It was never a sacrifice more of a privilege and a precious gift this tiny object that will later be the extension of yourself and ultimately the representation of your heart and soul.

It's tiny enough to hug and talk to it like your baby [giving it a special name] and fall asleep with it :)) while trying to study or sightread a piece.

I tried playing with other instruments but I prefer my violin and my piano too but it's too huge and out of tune and some keys are sinking. The violin I prefer more because I can change the strings, tune it whenever I want...

 It's very portable I can carry and bring it anywhere, sit under a tree, stare at the blue skies or passing clouds and play just anything!

Whenever I'm feeling grateful and prayerful or brimming with gladness or otherwise I play my violin to express those thoughts.

On the subject of health, many studies was done and it was concluded that's it's beneficial to us...Melts away stress and keeps our brain cells active and alive.

As for personal or other things...Not really into acquiring anything [accolades etc...] it's mostly the love of music and self expression.

I'm pretty sure my teacher does not think of me like what you mentioned lol! :)) because-------I don't go to lesson often due to time constraints. 
Thank goodness Beth created this VL and it gave me great chances to access any lessons or info anytime 24/7! 
Such a privilege so thank you very much Beth and the VL family!

Sonia Lancaster
Posted: April 10, 2019
Hi Timothy,
Interesting questions. Music has been part of my life in one form or other since I was about 5 years old. Rachel Barton Pine did a very interesting podcast for Rosin the Bow which asked what she would do if she didnít play the violin, I agree with her answer. I first played recorder as many kids do/did and taught myself a lot of how to play, before I started lessons at school. I went to the violin and stuck with it for 12 years (having a dabble with Eb horn and guitar). I then laid the violin to one side and pursued early music on the recorder and oboe. A brief foray into piano and finally back to violin (another interlude with cornet and horn again). Iíve realised that I am a string player. 

I devote a lot of time to music and playing. I play in an orchestra and also in a string quartet I am also trying to do my next theory exam (grade 4) and next violin exam (grade 8). I read about music and listen to podcasts too.  I try to attend residential string schools and in the last couple of years Iíve managed to get quite a few. Bethís residential string school is on my bucket list for sure. 

To me  itís not what I give up itís actually what I gain. I feel very privileged to be able to follow my interest and my passion. I enjoy many types of music, but maybe my favourite is classical and baroque music. I find itís very interesting, every time I listen to it I hear something new and different. I canít really describe why I enjoy playing the violin so much, I think itís down to how it makes me feel inside and the feelings of meditation and thoughtfulness it brings, Iím not sure. All I know is I think this journey will last a life time the more I know the more I realise what I donít know.