Learning violin to do a music degree and be a professional violinist

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maggiedavies
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#1
Report Thread starter 5 years ago
#1
I absolutely adore classical music, specifically the violin and quartets, and it would be a dream to be able to play professionally in concerts.

Anyhow, I am 16 years old and currently sitting my A Levels in school in which I am doing all science which I love but when I think about how life could be in the long run, I don't feel thrilled about doing science at university and being a scientist or anything of that nature.

Instead, I would love to do a music degree - I don't have A Level Music (nor GCSE) but an alternative entry requirement is to have Grade 8 in your instrument.

I've never even picked up a violin in my life and so I of course have no clue on how to play it.
I am considering after completing my A Level in school I will take a rather long 'gap year' (probably more than a year); get a small part time job just to earn some money but concentrate the majority of my time on violin lessons and practice; and once completing Grade 8 apply for a Music degree at university.

Is this doable?
How long, in months and years, will it take for a beginner to get to grade 8?
Anything else I should know? Where do I start?
Thanks!
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AspirantPPE
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#2
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#2
There are a lot of factors here.

Firstly, can you read music and have you ever had any experience of another instrument? The violin is an extremely difficult instrument to master compared to some others as you have to "hear" the notes you play to an extent, not like a piano for example.

If you are talented at music and willing to work very hard you could get through the grades fairly quickly at the lower level. As you are a little older, you could maybe skip a few. It used to be the case that to sit Grade 8 practical exams you had to have passed at least grade 5 theory. Although if you want to study music at Uni you'd probably be looking to try and get closer to diploma level, as you'll be learning a lot of theory at university as well as much more advanced playing.

In terms of getting into Uni to study violin, thats going to be tough. You will be up against people who have been playing 10 or more years longer than you, and there aren't a lot of places. If you got in and graduated, you'd also find it tough to get a job as there is a lot of competition.
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Camilli
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#3
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#3
There are a handful of famous soloists who started when they were 10 or older. Pretty much everyone else was before 7, or 5, or 4 when they got going.

There's no harm in starting an instrument. Wayne Booth wrote an interesting book "For the Love of It," which talks about his life as an amateur cellist. He had done some singing and clarinet playing in high school, and began cello in his 20s. Given his musical training, he would have known how awful he sounded, so I give him a lot of credit. Anyway, he became a famous literary theorist and a very adequate amateur cellist-- when he was in his 60s (I think), I sight-read a Shostakovich quartet with him and he was a good guy to play with. Not a glamorous tone, but he was very alert and had pretty good intonation and articulation.

Don't lose track of the science, though. There is more than one way to become a "scientist," and the things you like studying or doing in that discipline may find outlets in other disciplines that you have more than a 1/100,000,000 of doing at a professional level. Many scientists and doctors also keep their music up. There is an orchestra in Boston that is almost completely composed of people in the healthcare industry (Longwood Symphony), and some of the better amateurs I've run into in good orchestras are MDs or scientists.
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TardigradeFan
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#4
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#4
I would recommend that you keep pursuing science for now and have music on the side. It is very difficult to master any instrument and without prior experience it will take you a long time. A science degree will be of more use to you in the near future.
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Blondie987
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#5
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#5
It's entirely up to you and playing a musical instrument is an awesome skill however it takes years of practice to reach grade 8, I've been playing cello since I was 7 and I'm on around grade 7, obviously it depends how much work you are willing to put in as well. Also, motivating yourself to practice is extremely difficult at times and you may not enjoy it as much as you believe you will. By all means go for it, but I think your goal for now should just be to have fun and enjoy playing the violin rather than mastering it
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1secondsofvamps
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#6
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#6
I actually played the violin for 3 years and have achieved a grade 2. I really enjoyed it but then decided to give it up because I couldn't find the time at home. But I'm thinking of playing the violin (and guitar) again soon. Looking back at it, it really wasn't difficult. As long as you have time and you won't get bored of it easily then it is possible.
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opalescent
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#7
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#7
I began learning cello at the age of twenty-three. I'd always wanted to and never had the opportunity before. I'm not gifted musically, but I'm not terrible either, and I put a lot of work in because I love the cello - like you with the violin, it was something that captured my imagination. One thing that my teacher impressed upon me was that you shouldn't rush with an instrument: the journey is as important as the destination, and with strings especially there are certain qualities that it naturally takes time to build up. He used to warn me off trying to attempt too much too quickly, and now I see that he was right. I've managed to get the tone I have now through daily practice over several years, and there wouldn't have been any way to accelerate by that much.

I seriously doubt it will be possible for you to get grade 8 in a year. The only people I have known who have become proficient on an instrument in such a short space of time were people who were already very good at other instruments, so they weren't exactly starting from scratch, they were just transferring skills. You'd be looking at a few years, depending on how much natural talent you have and how much time you want to put into it. Secondly, it is very very difficult to get full-time work as a professional musician, and it seems unrealistic to choose a degree with this in mind, especially as you don't know how good at violin you are yet. I don't want to pour cold water on your dreams - I waited twelve years to get my hands on that cello, I would never discourage anyone who wanted to play an instrument! - but I think you need a more realistic way of testing out your goals and a back-up career plan.

There are lots of different degrees you can do with science A-levels. Research careers other than professional musician that you think you might enjoy. There are all sorts of different roles in theatre and music outside of performance, for example. My advice is to try and get some violin lessons before university if you can, and enroll on a degree that interests you and will open up your career options. Maybe have a working gap year if you really want to focus on music first. At uni you will have the opportunity to play in amateur orchestras and to go on taking lessons, and if you become good enough, there is no reason why it couldn't become more than a hobby. But waiting until you reach the standard required for a BA in music is not necessarily the best way to get there.
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maggiedavies
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#8
Report Thread starter 5 years ago
#8
Thank you everybody for your comments so far!

I haven't quite made up my mind on what I want to pursue in the future but in the meantime I am just going to focus on getting the best possible A Level grades; and then will hopefully take up violin as a hobby and see where everything goes from there.

Thanks again!
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