The first question that any beginner asks before the first lesson is how long it takes to master the instrument.
The answer is not simple because it depends on several factors: effective learning strategies, practice routines, musical background, commitment, etc.
Plus, each individual may have different goals and expectations – some may want to learn the violin because they want to play specific songs, others want to reach a professional level or play in ensembles, and some others see the violin as a hobby or a secondary activity.
There is not one answer that fits all profiles but in this article we will try to give a general idea about the length of time required to learn the violin.
How Long Does It Take To Learn The Violin
The Suzuki books as a parameter
In many parts of the world the Suzuki violin books are used as a parameter of the learning process, as they are often introduced to absolute beginners.
Originally developed as a sequence of songs organized by level for young students, in modern days they became popular even among adults regardless of their age.
Basically, we could say that the first book is usually learned within one or two years of study, when the student becomes confident about posture, intonation, and learns the first easy melodies.
The following books can be learned in one year each or less, depending on the commitment of the student. By completing each of the ten books more skills are learned.
We can consider as beginners students who know how to play easy melodies in first position. In order to advance to an intermediate level, the student must know how to play considerably well in the second and third positions, and that may take in total two to three years of practice.
Advanced students must know how to play in any position and know how to play harder bow strokes such as spiccato, sautille, staccato, etc., and be able to play fast passages with ease.
To go from beginner to an upper-intermediate level the whole process may take five years of serious commitment. To reach an advanced or professional level, at least ten years of serious practice is expected.
Age of start
It is said that younger students learn at a faster pace than adults. Although that sometimes may be the case, it does not mean that all children learn at a faster pace considering the same amount of practice as of an adult.
Usually children have more spare time for learning and can be encouraged or have full support from their parents. They do not seem to think about the complexities of learning an instrument. Instead, they just accept the challenges voluntarily.
Adults have to deal with house tasks, bills, studies, family, etc., and they end up having much less time for resting, a pre-requisite for a fast-paced learning. If these impediments are removed, any adult can learn anything much faster.
A bad instrument can definitely hinder the progress of a student. Poorly adjusted instruments can lead the player to put more effort to produce the sound or simply not allow the player to have a good posture.
Injuries are not uncommon among players who practice for longer periods of time with poorly adjusted instruments. Relaxation is definitely the key for a continuous progress in the studies.
Developing good practice habits
A organized routine, with all the things that must be practiced daily are very important: exercises for bow control, coordination, strengthening of fingers.
If the student does not follow a good plan, his/her progress will not be constant, and the student will become less diligent and less encouraged to keep improving.
Having a good teacher
A good teacher who knows how to guide the steps of each student is very important. Every individual faces different challenges along the way – every student has a different body type, musical background, ability to respond to given tasks, etc.
The good teacher knows how to immediately identify the deficiencies of each student and provide each one with the right medicine.
Students who have a strong background in music may have already developed some important skills necessary for playing the violin, like a good sense of pitch and good sense of rhythm.
Students who have already learned other instruments or sung in a choir will definitely acquire new musical skills more easily. Students who have had not been exposed to music before may find the learning process a bit more difficult. However, all the students can learn and develop skills with proper training.
Hours of practice
Optimal results are achieved when a good plan is followed and when the student does not exceed the daily amount of time that his/her body and mind can handle. Children aged 3-5 can not keep focus for more than a few minutes.
Their muscles are nor yet fully developed to endure hours of practice. Teenagers and young adults, instead, can handle intensive training equivalent to three, four, or even five hours a day, after some proper preparation for this intensive routine.
If we compare two students learning the same piece, the one who devotes more time within the optimal margin will naturally learn it faster.
Supportive family and friends
Friends and family play an important role in the emotional aspect of each student. Motivation and encouragement are definitely some of the keys for quick learning and it is not only done through words.
Attending the student’s recitals and peformances, or bringing him/her to concert halls are ways of support. The idea that the practice happens just inside a lonely room should be completely avoided.
The process of learning the violin involves acquiring several different skills throughout years of practice.
It is hard to predict how long exactly it will take for each student to reach a certain level of playing or to acquire specific skills to learn his/her favorite songs, but it is possible to have an overall idea based on the profile of each student.
It is also important to mention that many of the popular songs that actually draw people to the violin world are somewhat easy, and those who have learned them will already have a feeling of accomplishment, whereas others may set goals that will take a longer period of time to be accomplished.