Learning the violin is famously difficult.
Despite that, the instrument continues to attract many young musicians.
In fact, in some cases, it is the difficult reputation itself that attracts new players.
Some people just love a challenge.
Whatever your reasons for considering the violin, there is one big question all prospective violinists have.
How long does it take to learn the violin?
Obviously, the answer is not as simple as just giving you a number of weeks, months, or years. The length of time it takes will vary a lot from one person to the next.
Keep reading to learn some of the factors that can affect how quickly you pick up the violin, along with some estimates for how long you can expect it to take.
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How Long Does It Take To Learn The Violin?
Learning to play the violin usually takes at least several years of hard work, even for quick learners. It is among the most difficult instrument, both to learn at a basic level, and to master.
In fact, it may very well be the most difficult instrument period. It has a steep learning curve, and is incredibly challenging for even the most talented musicians.
While most take lessons with a teacher, there have also been many self-taught violin players, with the most famous example being Giuseppe Tartini, the composer of the Devil’s Trill Sonata.
But most people who wish to learn how to play the violin professionally should enroll in a music academy, hire a private tutor, or at least subscribe to online learning courses.
As for how much time it will take you to learn the violin, it is almost impossible to predict exactly. There are numerous factors that can have an effect on how quickly or slowly you pick it up.
Experience with other instruments can be helpful but it doesn’t guarantee success whatsoever. Hard work will get you far, but you’ll eventually hit a wall unless you carefully analyze your mistakes.
That’s where music schools and professors come into play. But if you are talented and tend to be good at picking stuff up on the fly, there’s no reason not to give the self-taught approach a go.
One of the most important factors in how quickly you can learn is consistency. Practice makes perfect, and it’s the only consistent factor that will help you quantify your progress, at least to a degree. Let’s explore these elements in a bit more detail.
Experience With Other Instruments
If you’ve played any other instrument before picking up the violin, you may progress a bit quicker in the early stages.
If you are a self-taught musician, you’ve probably grasped the basics of music theory through practice alone. Of course you’ll quickly realize that the violin is much different from the guitar, bass, and piano, not to mention woodwind instruments or percussions.
Any experience with instruments belonging to the violin family is obviously going to be far more beneficial. These include the upright (double) bass, viola, or cello.
Just like the playing techniques of electric guitar and bass are similar, the techniques you’d normally use on any violin-family instrument can be translated to the actual violin itself.
A Good Sense Of Hearing
Unless you aim to learn how to play a fretted violin, learning how to play this instrument is nearly impossible without a “good pair of ears.” You’ll need to be able to discern incredibly tiny details in the pitch as your bow glides across the strings.
This wouldn’t be so difficult on an instrument with a fretboard as large as a precision bass guitar, but violins have a petite fretboard, so every fraction of an inch matters.
Do violins have frets sometimes? Yes, there are some violins with frets, most commonly electric violins. But almost all violinists prefer fretless violins. They just give you far more flexibility.
But they also make learning the instrument more difficult. Is violin harder than guitar then? For most people, it is definitely harder than the guitar. Even a violin with frets is harder than a guitar for most.
Hand-eye coordination revolves around spatial awareness and perception, orchestrating your hand movements based on what your eyes see. Without going into too many technical details, it’s a prerequisite for playing any instrument, especially the violin.
While you could simply shift your gaze down to the fretboard when playing a guitar or a bass, this is not an option in the case of a violin, since you hold it differently.
In the case of a guitar, you can fix your gaze on the middle of your fretboard, and both of your hands will be within your peripheral vision.
With the violin, you’ll have to watch what your fretting hand is doing, while your strumming hand will periodically move in and out of your field of vision. If this sounds confusing, don’t feel dejected. It is puzzling for most players.
Your anatomy also plays an important role in determining how hard of a time you’ll have when learning the violin. You’ve probably heard the saying that people with incredibly tall and slim fingers are meant to be pianists. The same can be said for violin players.
The length of your fingers determines how easily you can reach any of the four strings. If your fingers are short, or even average, you’ll need incredibly flexible wrists to compensate for the lack of range.
If your fingers are thick, large, and less flexible than average, playing several notes in quick succession may be a bit of a challenge. You can’t work against your anatomy, but you can learn how to work around it with more practice.
Consistency is the key to mastering any instrument, but it is only one of the many prerequisites to learning even the basics of violin playing.
It may be a bit unrealistic to set a goal to practice for eight hours a day if you’re a working parent, but playing for 2 hours every single day for a year will give you better results than playing for 12 hours every third day.
But there’s an even more important factor: focus. Most people can’t maintain a high level of focus for longer than a few hours, so overdoing it won’t be productive.
The most abstract and least quantifiable factor of them all, talent plays a certain role in how much time you’ll need to learn the violin. It is a combination of memory, agility, forward-thinking, and even innovation, all of which work in perfect harmony to accelerate your learning progress.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t perceive yourself as a talented violinist. Some of the best and most respected players in the world have reached that point purely because they worked hard and never gave up.
Self-Taught Vs Trained Approach
Some people simply don’t have the money to pay for private teachers or music schools. And to be perfectly clear, it is more than possible to teach yourself how to play the violin.
We now have access to innumerable explainer videos on YouTube, free lessons on various platforms, live streams of orchestras, and so on.
However, your ability to apply what you see and hear into practice will be instrumental in how effective your self-learning process will be.
In any case, I definitely recommend saving up for a private tutor, or at the very least for a subscription to online music lessons, if you want to learn at a quicker pace.
How Long It Takes To Learn The Violin: Final Thoughts
How long it takes to learn the violin will vary a lot from one person to the next. We covered the major factors above that will impact how quickly or slowly you might pick up the instrument.
No matter what, you can expect it to take at least several years of hard work and dedication. And if you struggle to learn new things and are not musically inclined, it could take much longer.