How long does it take to learn violin?
Wouldn't it be amazing to learn a musical instrument within a matter of minutes? Imagine all the music you'd be able to play! Unfortunately, as with many other skill sets, it’s not quite that simple. Learning to play a new instrument takes a lot of practice, just as it takes a lot of practice to hit a perfect shot on the golf course, or to learn another language. The more you practice, the faster you'll improve.
In the end, how long it takes to learn violin depends on one thing: You.
What Does “Learn Violin” Mean To You?
Learning violin can mean something different for every aspiring violinist. Maybe you want to play in front of family and friends at a party, join a local orchestra, play some difficult violin concertos, or maybe you want to play violin as a means of fun and relaxation.
Goals and timelines can be very different for someone who wants to become a proficient violinist, and someone who wants to become a professional violinist. Someone aspiring to be a competent musician and someone aspiring to be a master violinist have very different goals. Whatever yours are - they are within your reach!
The point is that only YOU can measure what success looks like for you. When it comes to learning the violin, everyone moves at their own pace. Most people, on the other hand, reach specific milestones after a certain amount of training.
Learning violin is an ongoing process with no set endpoint. It might take a lot of time and hard work, but anyone (at any age!) can learn the violin. With consistent practice and a great teacher, here’s where you might be in 6 months, 1 year, 5 years, and 10 years from now.
Before You Begin
As you dive headfirst into learning how to play the violin, the first step in this process is selecting the violin that’s the right fit for you. Regardless of whether you rent or buy a new violin during the early stages of your learning process, it's important to do your homework.
The best violin to learn on doesn’t have to be expensive. Going to a music shop or online violin store with qualified luthiers is the best way to go. Purchasing a beginner violin from somewhere like Amazon will result in a low-quality violin that produces a low-quality tone - no matter how hard you practice. And you’ll likely have to pay someone to set it up for you and potentially do repairs. So, it’s best to find a good beginner violin that is properly set up so you’ll be ready to play from day one!
You'll begin learning the fundamentals in your first month of violin lessons, such as understanding the parts of your violin, how to tighten and rosin the bow, proper bow hold, and how to care for your new instrument.
Don’t worry, you won’t be stuck here for long! Great habits are best formed from the start, whether you play the violin as a hobby or aspire to be a concert-level musician.
Early violin lessons will include posture, proper bow hold, note reading, violin scales, and music theory. If you’re a Trala student, you’ll learn these foundational skills while playing real songs on day 1 of your violin journey.
To assist with learning the different notes, you will learn how to play pizzicato (plucking the violin strings). Violins don't have frets to help identify different notes, so this will help you develop the skill of placing your fingers correctly on the fingerboard in first position.
You’ll also learn how to bow open strings to help you control the weight and sound of the bow. Ultimately, it is better to learn what each hand does separately until you are comfortable.
As you become more comfortable with simple bowing, you can add your fingers and play exercises on one string, and eventually learn how to cross strings with your bow.
The next few months will be exciting because you will be able to play some simple tunes that you are already familiar with!
At this point, you will become more familiar with the fingerboard and where to position your left-hand fingers (1-3) to play notes other than open strings. It will also become easier for you to hold your instrument and bow correctly, and your skills will continue to improve, including understanding notes on the fingerboard and bow directions.
Typically, you will develop your skills through more complex songs and etudes. An etude is usually a short piece designed to help you focus on a particular technique. You’ll also learn the difference between staccato (short and detached) and legato (smooth and connected) bowing.
By the end of month six, you'll have improved your bowing technique even more. You will get more comfortable using the entire length of your bow, as well as crossing strings more effectively. This will open a whole new world of violin playing for you!
By the time you complete your first year of learning violin, you’ll be able to play a variety of pop, rock, classical, and folk songs. And because you’ll know so many notes and rhythms by this point, the number of songs you can play will increase dramatically and you can really branch out into music you like to play!
You’ll continue developing your skill set and learn to play even more notes. Left-hand skills include learning to play all the notes on the fingerboard in first position, including sharps, naturals, and flats. You’ll add in the fourth finger (pinky). With the use of all four of your fingers, you’ll be able to play in flat keys, not just D and A major.
You’ll see new bow markings in your sheet music, like slurs and hooked bows. You’ll also learn how to bounce the bow and play faster and more accurately at this point.
More difficult rhythms like dotted and syncopated rhythms will be covered and you’ll be able to play faster music while maintaining a good tone quality.
Over the next few years, you’ll solidify all the notes in first position, and become even more comfortable playing in flat keys.
Your bowing will become more complex and varied, and you’ll begin to grasp double stops and triplets.
Somewhere around the 2-3 year mark, you will learn how to shift your left hand higher up the fingerboard into third position. This will open up a whole new range of higher notes on the violin.The higher you shift on the e-string, the farther your range.
You’ll also learn how to play vibrato, which will help produce a more nuanced sound and play with more expression. As your violin tone improves, your confidence will increase!
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations, you’re pretty dedicated to the violin, and by now, you’re pretty good!
By year 5, your confidence will soar as you gain experience. You may even want to take part in orchestras and chamber music groups, and perform informal concerts with family and friends.
You’ll begin shifting into higher positions, learning more complex songs, and learn advanced fingering and bowing, and continue to master more and more sophisticated techniques.
Picking up sheet music to your favorite songs will be so much more accessible to you now that you’ve been playing violin for a while.
You will be quite proficient by year five - keep expanding and honing your skills!
Ten Years and Beyond
There's no limit to what you can learn at this point! The more time you devote to practicing the violin, the faster you will be able to improve your skills and learn more music that you enjoy playing.
You can make a lot of progress in just a few years if you practice hard and stay committed to learning the violin.
It is reasonable to expect to reach a fairly 'professional' level in 10 years. But even after reaching a professional level, you can still improve!
The goal here is to play this beautiful instrument. Give yourself a reasonable time frame and plenty of practice. Along the way, keep in mind these 5 tips for enjoying your violin journey:
1. It’s Okay to Be Noisy
You may feel like you are screeching your way through songs at first, but with time and practice, you'll continue to develop a beautiful tone.
The truth is that at first even just holding a violin can feel unnatural and require some getting used to. It's normal to feel a little uncomfortable while trying anything new. Because you're just getting started, don't be afraid to have fun with your violin and really make some noise. Making mistakes is part of the learning process and will help you become a stronger violinist.
2. Your Journey is Unique
Learning to play a musical instrument is never a race. You are the only person you are competing against. Don't be bothered by the fact that others might learn at a different pace. Consider how you can better express yourself through music and how you are progressing towards your goals. The only thing that’s important is if you’re enjoying playing the violin.
Every violin student’s journey is unique (and often not linear). How long it takes to learn violin depends on your individual goals and how far you want to go.
When you download Trala on your iPhone or Android, you'll be matched with the right violin teacher for your age, experience level, and musical interests. Your teacher will take the time to learn your goals, help you create a custom practice routine, and teach you how to play the songs you love to listen to. A great teacher will become your friend and mentor, someone who will motivate you to keep learning and growing.
3. Consistency is Key
Students who achieve excellent results over the long term are consistent. Repetition is essential for your brain and hands to remember what you learn.
A short practice session every day, when you're fresh and focused, is much better than leaving your violin in its case for days and having practice marathons. In between marathons, you will lose your skill and decrease your learning speed.
Pick a practice length you can manage each day. Even though you can practice longer, sticking with a daily routine is what's most important to your long term growth.
While the violin is a difficult instrument to learn, it is by no means impossible! With hard work, determination, and lots of practice, you’ll find yourself making progress week after week. Learning violin does not take hours of practice every day. Setting aside even 20 minutes a day will help you make progress!
4. Pace Yourself
Remember, everyone’s journey is different! Even Mozart, a musical prodigy at age 4, took 13 more years to develop into a world-class composer. Depending on your goals, daily life, and responsibilities, you will progress at a different rate than others. It’s important to know what works best for you.
Trala allows students to learn at their own pace. You can practice with the app every day and meet with your Trala teacher for Zoom lessons once a week, or you can practice just a few times a week and take monthly lessons with your teacher - whatever cadence is most sustainable for your goals and life.
5. Learning Never Stops
A professional violinist of 27 years was once asked, “how long does it take to learn violin?” His response was “I will let you know when I finish learning it”. That’s part of the beauty of learning violin. Learning never really stops.
Even the most experienced professional violinists will readily admit they are still learning and fine-tuning their skills after many years. So, no matter how long you study violin, or how fast you progress, there will always be something new to learn!
The truth is there's no way to predict how long it will take you to learn the violin. Just remember - no matter your age, skill level, or circumstances - you can do it!