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Old vs. Young Learners
Making "adequate" progress
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (2 votes) 
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ADK-Mark
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February 9, 2017 - 9:12 pm
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Hi everyone - what do you think about learning violin as an adult vs. learning as a youth?  We know scientifically that adult minds are just as flexible and as young ones, but I know a lot of people who say "ya gotta lern it when yer a youngin'".  violin-student

Maybe adults are more accustomed to things in their lives working well, where kids are just taking life as it happens, happily bumbling along while someone else pays the rent, and all the while they make steady progress without even knowing it.  Learning the violin defies my adult mind, I become indignant and grouchy - part of me expects  (and demands) a higher return on my investment of time.  What do you fine folks do when you hit a wall of discouragement  facepalmso that you don't say "well - the violin obviously isn't for me", and thereby becomes another item in the attic?

ADK-Mark

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damfino
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February 9, 2017 - 9:50 pm
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ADK-Mark said
What do you fine folks do when you hit a wall of discouragement  facepalmso that you don't say "well - the violin obviously isn't for me", and thereby becomes another item in the attic?

Oh dear, soooo many times I've felt like there is no point in my trying, and think about selling my fiddles. When I feel like that I stop my practice session, and step away. When I come back... either a little later or the next day... I just play something I know and enjoy. No actual practice. Just fun, because that's the whole point in my learning... to enjoy playing tunes I like. That usually brings me back from the edge, haha. 

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Elwin
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February 9, 2017 - 10:34 pm
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I don't really believe it's ever too late for someone to learn the violin for that matter. Even kids can be discouraged in learning an instrument, the main difference is that they have Mom and Dad saying "I paid $XXX dollars for that and you're not just going to put it down like that". So they're "pushed" into keeping on playing and then they become good at it. As an adult, most of the time, they live without their parents, and they can pay for their own instrument. They might not have someone to "push" them or not let them quit, so they do. I guess learning an instrument as an adult requires a bit more discipline than as a child since it is up to them to push themselves through the road blocks. Everyone has roadblocks in their instrumental journey, it is really up to them to decide if they want to go through it, or give up. Children have it easier, especially if they have parents (or maybe a teacher) who would not let them give up.

Now, I'm also thinking that another thing that might give kids an advantage is that their brains are still developing and growing, and would probably grow accustomed to playing the violin as they age. A study showed that string musicians who began as a child, before 12, had larger neurons in the area of the brain controlling the left-hand fingers, than string musicians who started later. I haven't looked into how that affects playing, but that might be another reason why kids have an advantage.

Those are my thoughts on the topic, don't take my words as absolute truth, I am probably off in some areas.

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TangledUpInWriting
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February 10, 2017 - 9:00 am
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Interesting question!  I think the only difference between learning as a child and learning as an adult is that when you're a kid, your brain is still developing (until you're around the age of 26) and might take to learning difficult things easier because it's just another thing to absorb and add to the collection.  However, in no way does that mean that adults can't learn.  The brain continuously maps and re-maps parts of the brain to deal with even everyday occurrences.  Therefore, there shouldn't be any reason why someone couldn't learn a violin (or anything, for that matter) because they're "too old to". 

As far as the frustration factor -- make sure that you don't over-stress yourself with expectations and perfectionism.  If you start feeling frustrated, take a break.  Even if you just picked up the violin ten minutes ago -- take a break.  Work on something else for awhile, or until you can re-approach practice with a better frame of mind.  Playing something like the violin when you're frustrated sometimes only adds to the frustration, but it can also be a great way to relax if you take a more "chill" perspective on playing it.  You could map out some things you'd like to learn --goals--but only work on them for part of the practice session, and then if you start to get discouraged, just play around with some things you already know.  Just because you know it doesn't mean that it'd be a waste of time to practice it some more!  Hope this helps, and best of luck to you! 

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ADK-Mark
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February 10, 2017 - 8:55 pm
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Well thank you very much.. this is just what I needed to hear.   Truth be told, I think there's another factor in all of this for me... which is the initial motivation to play the violin:  to enter a "forbidden" world of music that seemed only available to (a) tuxedo-wearing, white-gloved people surrounded by sparkling chandeliers or (b) down-home country, long bearded men who had practiced a lifetime and started at age four".

Talk about a challenge!  I guess now that I think about it, learning the violin (to the point of my own standards) is like making a woodshop project by hand - the first few side-tables are sure to have some rough edges -  but the more tables you make, the better each one becomes.  At least that's what I found..!

Thanks again all!

ADK-Mark

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stet
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February 11, 2017 - 1:00 pm
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When you have exhausted every effort and you can't do it, then it is not a bad idea to find something else to do, another hobby.

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ADK-Mark
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February 11, 2017 - 8:03 pm
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Thank you for that - Stet.  I am going to lay out some written goals here on the forum and see about getting a reality check.    

 

ADK-Mark

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pky
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March 5, 2017 - 5:43 pm
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adults' brains may still be as flexible as youngsters', their muscles that were not used like when a young child who starts playing violin at young age may not be as flexible.

while a young child only have a few years of life experiences and may be a better violinist than adults, he/she may not be able to interpret music like adults who live many more rich years than him/her.

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
March 8, 2017 - 11:39 am
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Let's hope Pky 🙂

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Crazymotive
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March 20, 2017 - 1:49 am
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The violin, much like any hobby, sport or activity that has a steep learning curve its going to have moments of frustration, times when you feel you are not getting anywhere. You'll have great moments and you'll also have bad days where nothing seems to go right.  The trick is just to stick with it.  Even if you take a break and put the violin down for a while and then get back to practice later. Sometimes I get frustrated and I don't practice for days or weeks. But when I get back to it again suddenly it seems that everything I was trying to do before suddenly kicks in.  It also depends on why you are learning, If you are learning the violin with the intend to become a great virtuoso in a couple of short years then it may be extremely disappointing or depressing if you fall into a rut where you don't feel your skills and your music  improving rapidly. If you are learning for the sheer enjoyment of it, as a recreation, etc. then it will be a lot less frustrating. In the latter case just enjoy it and relax. In this case there is no pressure to improve and progress. Just stick with it and your skills will improve,

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coolpinkone
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March 23, 2017 - 5:27 pm
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I always love this topic.  It has been covered many times on the forum over the years. Of course each new year with the violin brings more insight.

I don't think I do anything like a 4-10 year old.   So it seems odd to compare my adult life with that.  What we can do as an adult is very individualized.   We all have different backgrounds, health, abilities.  I love to see those children blossom into violinists... and yet I feel so sad to know so many adults who "used" to play violin or "take lessons"  Why didn't they continue.

I have seen adult beginners come to this site and flourish.  No I can't play like a five year trained young violinist with lessons.  I would say that is my fault... I didn't take the lessons and I didn't put in the work.  (I do have a FULLL FULL time job). 

My adult complications came with:

Job, relationships, time, peer pressure, my own choices (time, recreation, etc..)

My job takes up 50 hours a week.

Relationships..well unless they play violin... 

Time - early morning or late night

Peer pressure - people saying that "you can't learn as an adult." Being turned down for lessons as an adult beginner.  People saying it can't be done, people saying things like "it takes five years to even get decent.." People saying you can't learn to play on a less expensive violin.. people saying you have to play by ear... use tapes.. don't use tapes... play this song... blah blah..

Anyway... it all came down to my journey.. my choices... year after year I put more effort in playing the violin, reading music and enjoying it.  I am not where I "should" be, but I am where I want to be.  

I have excellent equipment, brilliant and wonderful musician friends.  I play songs when I want to play them, I can play some songs by ear.  If not I am happy to have sheet music to guide me. 

FRUSTRATION.. OMG... I have been there.. many times.. it was good to step away for 1-7 days..but more often it was to find something that I wanted to play.  Not listen to all the "noise" of others telling me what to play or how to play.  Then I would reinvent myself as a player, and naturally I would go back to lesson books and work the fourth fingers, scales, etc.

I am far from the best example of an adult beginner....but My passion is still at a peak... I am playing better  and loving it.

NEVERGIVEUP... it is a truly great journey....

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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Fran
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March 23, 2017 - 6:11 pm
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I used to play in school in the late 60's and stopped after since I didn't have my own violin.  But now after 45 years I've restarted. I have a nice violin and am loving playing every day! I'm now taking private lessons which I am enjoying.  So I say it's never too late. I am enjoying my violin journey!

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coolpinkone
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March 23, 2017 - 6:24 pm
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@Fran That is awesome.  I love to hear stories of adults who go back to it and it is part of their journey once more.  I have to say I know far too many former "players" of many instruments.

Love to hear adults happily, learning or playing  again.  

Yes... It is a Magnificent Obsession.

🙂

Toni

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
March 24, 2017 - 8:03 am
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There is a special passion that many adult learners have which is not found as often with children beginners. It's like the decision to start the journey becomes much more personal than when a child takes on the journey. I think that children tend to give up much easier as well.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Glenn
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May 11, 2017 - 10:03 pm
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Age is only a number. Yes there may be physical limitations but in most cases those can be overcome or at least dealt with.

Bottom line is if you think "Im to old to do whatever" you have already set yourself up for failure. If you attack what you are doing with the right attitude there are very few limits you will have. At least thats what Ive found to be true

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Fran
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Never too late. I'm a restart last June at 65 after 45 years of not playing. 

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Fiddlerman
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May 14, 2017 - 10:22 am
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Very true guys. The only thing we know for sure is that if you limit yourself by not trying you will absolutely not be able to learn anything.

You miss 100% of the shots you don't take

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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cdennyb
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just remember to "Play for yourself"

everyone else is just the non-paying audience and their opinions don't matter.

"If you practice with your hands you must practice all day. Practice with your mind and you can accomplish the same amount in minutes." Nathan Milstein

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Fiddlerman
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May 14, 2017 - 8:48 pm
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Great advice. Play for yourself. 🙂

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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coolpinkone
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May 18, 2017 - 6:46 pm
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Occasionally I take college classes.

I am always now, the oldest in the class, except sometimes the professor.  So often the 18-22 year olds just sit there and stare.   I am forever amazed at what there is to learn and my passion for learning is a burning flame.  I quest to know more.  I can never stop wanting to learn.

I feel this way about violin.  It is such an honor... I find the most joy out of it... I like to stretch my abilities physically and mentally.... and I believe spiritually also. 

I have songs... that I can play.. parts of my life.  Every year in June I think of Graduation and I play Pomp and Circ.  When something happens that fills me with sorrow I play Amazing Grace as my prayer.  I have done this recently with many of the violence that happens in our world.

The holidays of course.. I am American so I like to play song of my American country. 

And learning other songs from around the world.  I love the expose and insight into life and Humanity that the violin brings.

I know it sounds corny.. but it is the truth in how I feel about violin.

🙂

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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