Learning the Violin as an Adult: It's possible!
FiddlerShop introduces Amanda, one of our loyal and inspirational customers. A Cleveland, Ohio resident, the 37-year-old began her journey as a fiddler July 2015.
Amanda works as a secretary at a janitorial business. According to her, it's not an exciting job, but it gives her the energy and time to spend on her hobbies -- spoiling her three dogs, rescuing baby animals, taking nature photos, knitting, and of course, fiddling.
She comes from a gifted family of musicians -- most on her father's side. They all play several instruments, including the violin. However, none of them can read music. They learn tunes through listening or by ear.
In hopes that at least a little bit of those musical genes rubbed off on her, Amanda purchased first instrument. She felt a little crazy jumping right into trying to learn the violin from scratch, but there wasn't any other instrument she was drawn to.
What made you want to pick up playing the violin?
It's something I always wanted to do growing up. I have memories of being a little toddler watching my aunt play the fiddle, and wanting to take the bow and drag it across the strings to figure out how it made it's sound, but I wasn't allowed to touch her fiddle.
That memory always stuck with me, but my family never had the money for a violin or lessons for me. I would think about it through the years, but always thought I was too old to bother starting.
Then one year, I decided to buy myself something special with my tax return. What came to mind first - a violin, even if I was "too old", I figured it would be fun to at least give it a try.
Did you already know how to read notes? Or is this something you had to learn as well?
I learned the very basics in 3rd grade when we were taught how to play "Twinkle Twinkle" on the Flutophone; I think they are mostly called Recorders now. So, I always had "FACE" and "Every Good Boy Does Fine" stuck in my head as the way to remember the notes. Once we learned that piece, if we weren't paying for lessons we were no longer taught how to actually read music, so I was pretty much starting from the beginning with reading sheet music when I started my violin lessons.
What was your beginner piece you practiced with?
The first piece I tried out was Twinkle Twinkle Little Star following Fiddlerman's video tutorial, since I didn't really know how to read music or where the notes were on the strings and wanted to just try something when I got my violin tuned up.
Which was your beginner violin?
My first violin was the Fiddlerman Concert violin :)
What did you find difficult about learning the violin?
So many little things pop up that seem impossible as you try to work through them. It felt so awkward at first trying to just pay attention to my fingering and bowing all at once. Then once I got past that, you start throwing in vibrato, and that's a whole other world of awkward. Then the repetitive motion injuries from past jobs slowing my playing down at times can be disappointing.
But my nemesis is my fourth finger. Oh that evil little stubby finger. That is my biggest challenge, getting that little finger to always reach it's mark and without causing any pain.
What would your advice be for a newbie to the violin world?
That you can do it! Either by taking lessons, or following YouTube tutorials (even though I take lessons, I fall back on YouTube videos to help me out during the week) and find a friendly online community (like the forum at fiddlerman.com) and ask questions. Fellow newbies love to help, and do their best not to steer you in the wrong direction! And set reasonable goals for yourself.
There's a couple adults just starting off with their first lessons before and after my lesson time slot and the one after me was listening to my teacher and I going through my recital piece, an Irish fiddle tune set with lots of fun ornamentation. As I was packing up she told me how she wants to learn all that ornamentation, too. I told her I haven't been playing long and that it doesn't take long before you can start doing them, and she commented "So I can still hope".
I thought about that as I left, thinking how all those little diddley-bits seemed so impossible to me in my first month, but then I was playing them after a couple months. Everyone is going to progress at different speeds, and sometimes that's hard to remind yourself. I don't know if I'm slow, average or fast, I don't ask and just keep going at my own pace and play what I'm ready to play, or what my teacher thinks I'm ready to do, or I ignore it all and play some other tune that distracted me in the moment. Try not to think that when you reach X-month you should be starting vibrato, or know how to shift, just keep at your own personal pace of progress, not someone else's.
Relax, have fun, do your scales but don't forget to work on tunes you know the sound of and love. Try your best not to compare your playing to others (this is hard not to do), whether they are playing longer than you or the same amount of time, it will just mess with your head.
Remember that it's not impossible to learn, yes - there is still hope!
How long did it take you to feel confident playing the violin?
At about a year and half into this journey, I'm personally still working on feeling confident. I think I will always second-guess myself and feel sure I'm doing something wrong. I guess when I did my first recital at 4 months in and didn't screw up, that made me feel good that I was actually able to do that, when just a few months before I had never held a violin.
I hope that all of you out there thinking about picking up playing the violin are encouraged by Amanda's journey. Check out her YouTube channel where you can follow the progress she's made: https://www.youtube.com/thefiddlingviolin