is it too late to learn the violinThere are many things in life that aren’t ideal to start at a later age. Becoming an athlete comes to mind, as well as anything else that requires a great deal of physical energy or strength. Some people put learning a musical instrument on their “I’m too old for that” list, but that is a mistake. At least 50 times in my teaching career I’ve been called or emailed with the same question: “is it too late to start learning?”

My answer is always a resounding “NO!”. I believe that everyone can start learning a musical instrument if they put their mind to it. I understand why they ask the question, though: they haven’t seen the positive experiences and success stories that I have. I want to share some of that with you.

Learning to play the violin doesn’t require you to be a certain age, it requires you to have a certain desire to learn. Some of my most successful students have been in their 60s, and at one point I even had a student that was in his late 80s! What was common amongst these students was their desire to learn, and they showed it by their willingness to tackle the basic mechanics of playing. Everyone has to start somewhere, and these students just had a late start that caused no disadvantage to them achieving their goals.

A person can learn to play the violin/viola at age 9 or age 90–it really doesn’t matter. Children and great-grandparents alike have to learn the fundamentals, and that’s where a good attitude is far more important than age. The 50-year-old with a desire to learn will achieve far more success than the 7-year-old being forced to learn by his parents. The child might have more years ahead of him to learn the instrument, but that learning can become easily sidetracked by other priorities and interests. When an older person takes up an instrument, they’re making the choice to learn. They’ll usually make the time as well.

Want to hear about this concept from multiple teachers? This video below includes published author Michael Sanchez, published author of 4 Hal Leonard violin books Thornton Cline, and concertmaster Steven McMillian.

Let me give you an example of a student that I think many people in their later years will relate to. Barb was in her early 60’s, and had actually wanted to learn to play violin since she was a kid. But she was skeptical about learning the violin–she felt she could never do it at her age.

Barb decided to pay up-front for 10 lessons, and gave herself that much time to either fail miserably and quit or see a new hobby begin to blossom. Barb didn’t fail. In fact, five years later, Barb still gets up every morning and practices for an hour. She absolutely loves playing violin. She uses her music to serve God, and has finally reached her goal of being able to play every song in her psalter hymnal. She can play in multiple positions, gets a really nice tone of the violin, and now wouldn’t trade her new hobby and passion for anything. This was a person that didn’t think it was even possible to make it past her first lesson, and couldn’t have dreamed of getting as far as she has. She has become fluent on the violin–at age 66!

If you are considering picking up the violin as a “mature person”, start by eliminating from your mind the idea that you can’t do it. Anybody with the desire to learn violin or viola can do it if you keep your goals realistic. You don’t have to aspire to being first chair violin in the local symphony. Your goal could just be playing for friends, serving in your church, or simply giving your mind a new challenge. Many studies have linked learning music to better physical and mental health, and that alone is reason enough to learn a new instrument.
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29 replies
  1. Cynthia
    Cynthia says:

    This is a great story! I too have wondered if it was to late to learn how to play the violin. Just like Barb, Iv’e wanted to play since I was a child but as you all know life happens and other things take priority. Now that I am 59, 60 in January, I am learning to play. Well beginning to learn anyway. I’m in no hurry to learn so I am taking my time and enjoying all the sounds that I make, good and bad. It’s keeping me focused and my mind sharp and that alone is a great reason to learn. But best of all it is bringing me great joy and it’s a great way to relax after my hectic work day. When I retire I’ll have more time to devote to the violin, so until then I will practice and see how good I can get in the 7 years before I retire. Hopefully I will have reached my goal of playing the violin parts of the song “Dust In The Wind by Kansas. Wish me luck!

  2. Lee Beasley
    Lee Beasley says:

    No it is never too late. 68 and still loving it after 3.5 months. I have to be reminded what time it is when practicing. I have learned much. When I first started taking lessons I told my teacher I am here for fun. Boy have I had the fun and along with this happiness and pride.

  3. Will
    Will says:

    I believe that we are never too old to learn, or in my case, relearn to play the violin. I am 59… 60 in December and due to injuries earlier in my life, I gave up violin playing/study for many years (30) because I couldn’t do it physically for quite a while. I recently (December) decided to give it another try and bought myself a cheap student violin. After a few months I realized that I could do this with a lot of work and decided it was time to upgrade my violin to the Damiano and continue my studies.
    I started getting serious about my practice, including my practice habits, correcting my poor left and right hand technique, bowing, etc..
    I, being retired, have lots of time for practice so it is easy for me to practice a few minutes, take breaks, then practice some more and average 2 to 3 hours per day total.
    Being conscious of sports injuries and considering that we violinists are “small muscle athletes”, I start my day with just simple right and left hand, arm, and back stretches, flexibility and strength exercises before I even open my violin cases. I also do these between practice sessions.
    My routine goes something like this: Wake up, stretch and flex, open violin case, rosin bow, tune up, practice scales and arpeggios, break with stretches and flexing, more scales and arpeggios, another break, etudes, break, etudes… until I am satisfied that I am making sufficient progress (progress, not perfection. That comes later). Then I will work on a piece of music much the same way that I practice the other stuff (not always the same piece day after day). Then I will loosen the bow (after wiping it off) and put it back in the case, clean the violin and put it away. Then I will do the stretches and flexes to loosen up again. I also started keeping a practice log to keep track of what I have been doing.
    So… We are never too old to learn, or to relearn these skills. It is just a matter of practicing smart along with practicing hard… and don’t get stuck in a rut by doing the same thing every day… change it up so you don’t get bored.

  4. marimbastan@hotmail.com
    marimbastan@hotmail.com says:

    After playing keyboard, guitars, drums, sax, african marimba and lots of others – I began playing violin at age 56. Burned out too many brain cells to read music. I simply play passionately through my heart whatever melody I can invent. Violin is simply the BEST instrument I ever picked up. I only wish I had started a few decades earlier.

  5. BettyG
    BettyG says:

    I originaly bought my first violin for my grand daughter who was just 5 at the time. not knowing anything about them I bought one to small and one that was full size. She was not ready to learn so they sat for a few years At the time I did not think I could learn to play. Because I could not even get a sound out of the thing. Little did I know then that Bows needed lots of resin to make a sound.
    Just this year in June I found this site and others. Learned how to risen the bow. Took the full size violin in to have new strings put on and have it tuned. Decided then that since it still was to large for the Grandchild I would learn to play. Dispite my age of 56 and my physical disabilitys I have learn to play some songs and geting stronger and more comfortable with the violin. I might not learn very fast but I am having fun playing.

  6. muse725
    muse725 says:

    i play violin, and have for about 7 years. I know i’m only 15, but i feel a little too old to play piano, but i’ve always wanted to. Now my mom is getting me lessons, and i feel kind of embarrassed to have started so late. After reading this it definitely helps alot of my feelings.

  7. Dave J
    Dave J says:

    Age is a ridiculous reason to not do something you want to. “You should have started at age 10” is just elitism. Adult learners approach from a different angle. Instead of being enrolled in to classes by their parents/may not have a choice (for me it was guitar), an adult learner is there from a genuine desire to learn and that’s a massive difference. I’m an adult learner of the highland bagpipe, the uilleann pipe and soon to be the violin. And I look forward to my boring practice sessions every single day. Wouldn’t have heard me say that when I was a teenager. Not in a million years.

  8. Maestro1906
    Maestro1906 says:

    Some could also say that it’s never too late to RE-learn. That’s where I am now. I’m excited about getting the violin out andmaking music again. I never knew how much I would miss it. Great article though!!!

  9. prov31mrs
    prov31mrs says:

    I had an uncle when I was 9 promise to give me his violin if I could play a song on it. Surprises! I played a simple Czardas on it. He didn’t give it to me? ? Still want a violin. Play cello right now. Also piano, accordion, organ, classical guitar.

  10. viola09161947
    viola09161947 says:

    I like this article . . . I’m an “old man” according to the social security and medicare systems, and I’m PROUD that I can still be a musician and pursue violin and viola studies once more!

  11. Alteria117
    Alteria117 says:

    I always figured if a 3 year old can learn to play then I can too. The only real difference, at my age, is that I am more likely to be serious about learning and practicing as the younger would likely wonder from time to time why they are repeating the same thing over and over.

  12. Will
    Will says:

    When I was young I had a kind of bucket list that included a lot of physical challenges that I nearly completed. Now, at 60, my bucket list (after restarting the violin learning process after a 41 year absence and not a 30 year one as previously stated) is a list of repertoire. It is never too late to start. NEVER! Nor is it too late to start learning new fiddle styles.

  13. girocote
    girocote says:

    Last November at age 69 hesitantly I decided to start learning the violin.
    About two years ago my Mom passed away, leaving me with a new Wilhelm Eberle Stradivarius (copy) violin(made in the former East Germany)..it’s virtually new, been checked by two luthiers and they’ve told me it has a great sound and I can tell it’s got great projection.
    I scanned the Internet, found some videos from VTP, listened to them, read many positive comments about Michael Sanchez and took the plunge. Now after nearly four months of playing, thanks to Mom I very pleased with this new instrument. I modified it for left hand playing (because of finger injuries on the left hand) and had the mods checked by a luthier in Ottawa Canada. He advised me to leave it as is but to get a better bow. So far , Michael’s sequence of lessons are working out very well and our church band are anxiously waiting for me to join them, initially to play chords! VERY exciting!! Finally, many thanks Michael and the gang for your valuable contributions to the violin community.

  14. RED
    RED says:

    Hey everyone, Red here I just wanted to say that I wish I had started earlier I’m 60 now which I started guitar back when I was maybe 12 and gave up on it after a couple years, I guess I thought I found better things to do,but I wish I had kept going, so about 3 years ago I got a fiddle started learning and love it , so your never to old just stick with just practice when you can and keep the good work.
    Red

  15. Pete
    Pete says:

    I am 66 and have been learning on and off for about 12 months. I find it difficult to keep motivated as sometimes I don’t think I’m improving at all. Hopefully I will get beyond this.

    • Michael Sanchez
      Michael Sanchez says:

      It’s all about violin technique which anyone can develop. The size, age and anything else related to the body is really a misconception of what is needed to play the violin well. I suggest working hard on technique, and following the plan for success. I really believe anyone can do it!

  16. fewbluehue
    fewbluehue says:

    I’m 39, though think and act like a child when approaching a new instrument. Curiosity can be the root of obsessive behavior, as a persons attention to detail can lead towards clarity.

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