Forty too late to fiddle?

Forty too late to fiddle?

Hi,

I’d really like to learn an instrument and am drawn to folk violin. I’m assuming that fiddle is the correct term in folk circles?

I’m planning on starting towards the end of the year when I’ve more free time but am concerned that I might be biting off more than I can chew!

Is the fiddle really too difficult to learn from scratch at this stage in my life?

I have very little musical experience, having played a little electric guitar and drums in my youth but never seriously.

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

It is and it isn’t! In many ways it’s an absolute B**tard of an instrument. It gives you no help at all, and there are so many ways a note can sound wrong. On the other hand it’s a fantastic instrument that can do almost anything and the satisfaction of getting it right, is huge!
I faddled about with other instruments for years then finally concentrated on fiddle, (with the help of a good teacher) in my late thirties.
It’s probably misleading to say any instrument is "easier" than another, once you get to a certain level, but there are some that will get you to playing a tune up to speed, in tune, in time, etc. sooner than others.
But if fiddle is what you want to play, probably nothing else will do! Go for it. The first year is unavoidably grim. Even if you have little time, the sooner you start the sooner you’ll get through that stage.

All the best.

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

I started to play the fiddle three years and two months ago - at 38.
Now, I just came back from the Fiddleweek in Glencolmcille where I was graded intermediate to advanced and I am able to play in sessions etc.. I must admit, that I had a lot of musical experience to start with, but I am definitely not a "Wunderkind". I sounded dreadful at the beginning and even now sometimes I do. You surely have to put a lot of effort and time in it, but it is absolutely worth it!
In Glencolmcille, I met a lady who started from scratch at the age of fifty and now is doing fine, so I think there is no age limit.
Maybe you just have to try it out. Rent a fiddle or just buy a cheap one (mine was from Stentor and perfect for a beginner) and get a good teacher. You will realize soon, if it is the instrument for you of if not.

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

40 is probably too late for many things, but never for music. All of the above posts offer wonderful advice. Go for it and enjoy yourself! Above all, return here often to tell us of your progress.

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

Go for it. I didn’t start til i was 51, i’ll never be brilliant at it, but it’s a lot of fun. i’ve been at it for nine years now, and have a circle of friends who play at more or less my speed/level once a week. In between times, i learn new tunes, practice old tunes, and if nothing else the increases in my listening skills would have been worth the whole endeavor.

i’m not real good at it, but i keep improving, and it’s a joy and delight.

I hope to run into you and play a tune with you sometime!

kj

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

Thanks to all of you, I think I’ll give it a go. I’ve nothing to lose (but my neighbours! 🙂 )

Expect further posts in a few months. I won’t have the time until my current studies are finished (I work full time too). This is my little carrot on a stick at the end of my studies.

I have some friends who are aquainted with the local folk scene so will see if they can recommend a tutor. We also, apparently, have an excellent local folk/early music shop in Birmingham (Hobgoblin, Digbeth) so I think I’ll drop in there late this year.

Kind regards

Chris

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

Well if Freggle is too late what about the chances for a 73 year old ( accordion ) student with no " by ear " ability ( notes only ).
Definitly have go. You are only talking about an expen. of £60 - £70. When your expertise demands it, you can go for multi hundred one

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

Chris,

If you find you really do need to play quietly, spend $20US on a metal mute. It reduces the sound by 60-70%. Just be careful putting it on your fiddle or it can scratch the fiddle should it fall or drop.

I played one year in my twenties and started again at 47, 4 years ago. I can play in sessions and Old Time jams, and it is a blast.

My advice: Have fun! Be patient! Play everyday!

Best of luck to you!

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

Absolutely not! One of the ways to assess wether you are still living or getting ready to die is questions like: will you learn another language, or a musical instrument.

I started the fiddle when I was 34, other people say I play well, and I like to think I’m welcome in most sessions, and I get offered gigs, so I must be ok, I hope.

On the other hand, it is tough. And deeply unrewarding for a long time But if you have faith you will get better, and get a good teacher, you will get on top if it.

When it works, which is only ever occasionally, it is an indescribable feeling of elation and fulfillment. There are loads of people here who will offer sensible encouragement. Give us a shout any time,

Go on yer boy yuh!

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Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

Hi Chris. I see you live in Birmingham. If Pat Molloy is still teaching (he’s in his eighties now) you couldn’t find a better tutor. I think he lives somewhere in the Sparkhill/Hall Green area but I’m sure some of your friends in the local folk scene will be able to find a contact for him. Good luck with your fiddling!

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

Go for it! It’s worth it. I started at 49. Good advice above - use the heavy metal mute to work on your fingering, bowing, and facility. Take it off when nobody’s around and work on your tone. Play every day, even for a short while. The regular small bits add up more quickly than long sessions and long breaks towards progress. Be critical enough to recognize mistakes, have the equanimity to ignore (but correct) them, and rejoice in your progress. Expect protracted plateaus where nothing happens. Age is relative, and unless you’re planning a concert career, irrelevant.

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Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

It’s NEVER too late to start . I started to learn fiddle from scratch at age 53 , I’m still learning it at age 66 and enjoying every minute of it. I play in sessions regularly and have done for a few years now. I bought a Concertina last week and I’m starting to learn that now too from scratch. I can already stumble through 3 or 4 tunes. I maybe have a little more time than you guys as I am retired but as I say IT’S NEVER TOO LATE. Go for it man. Go Fraggle go.

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

Go for it. Never too late. But as the first reply said - it’s a hard taskmaster, the fiddle. I’ve been at it for 50 years and it’s still a little b****r!!

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

You just got the best advice ever! I’m 65 (well almost) and have just started tenor banjo about 6 months ago. Before we get the banjo related remarks ( I was gonna say related sh**e) it’s fantastic. Every time you reach that next plateau you’ll wonder why you never started sooner!
Go for it and enjoy. No greater payback!!!

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

Thanks for all of the supportive comments, maybe I’ll get to annoy some of you with some off-key, out of time fiddling in a year or three!

I am really looking forward to it now and my earlier concerns have been considerably allayed.

Thanks to nofrets for the advice about the practice mute; I didn’t know such things existed and was concerned about annoying my beloved to the point of fiddle destruction.

I really want something to keep my grey matter excercised and feel that this will be a most rewarding way to do so; I love music in many forms and would love to be able to make it (or close approximation! ;o) ).

One other question if I may: I’m guessing that I should try to find a tutor who specialises in folk rather than a classical tutor?

I don’t think the specifics will be a problem but when I googled for tuition the tutor who came up in my neck of the woods was classical (think I’ve heard the name Pat Molloy in respect of folk music, Bannerman. I’ll check with my friends and see if anyone knows what the story is with him)

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

Pat is a great traditional player who originally hailed from Connemara and has a fantastic repertoire of tunes. He’s good with all levels of player and has converted many classical musicians to trad (sounds like rescuing them from the Dark Side but wasn’t intended to do so!).

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

Whether or not to go to a "classical" teacher is a whole new discussion! As it happens, it’s already been discussed quite recently over at fiddlehangout.com
Until you’ve got the basics, I don’t think it matters much what style a teacher plays, so long as lessons are a positive experience! As an adult learner they should also give you credit for knowing what you want. If traditional music is your main objective someone who is willing to work, at least some of the time, by ear would be an advantage.

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

I’m late to this discussion, but will join the chorus: playing music is wonderful! I know someone who started at 60, and at 63 was playing quite well.

I would second the recommendation about renting a fiddle for a few months to see if it’s for you. I don’t have an opinion about a classical versus a trad teacher. However, it is EXTREMELY important that you start out learning the correct hand and arm positions, particularly with the bowing. I had to change the way I bowed at one point, and it was very difficul make this change. You will save yourself much time and frustration if you get it right the first time, something which IMO will take several lessons.

Yes; go for it!

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

You’re only forty! You could have another sixty years left and that’s plenty of time to learn the fiddle! Take care not to get too addicted to this site though because, although you will learn plenty, you may find your practice time disappears into reading the discussions.

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

I’ve just taken it up my self (16) and am having a great time!

I’m being taught by a classical teacher at the moment, but he’s great, and understands where i want to go but like someone has said, its all the same at the start anyway.

Hopefully this thread will act as inspiration to my mum (46) who wants to take it up

Good luck

Jake

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Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

A year and a few months ago iI
resurrected the fiddle that I took lessons on during my early and middle teens. My intention was to pass it on to my oldest child who just turned 50 and was musically inclined. The luthier who I took it to told me what it was worth and what repairs it needed and that is when I decided to give it another shor at the age of 74. Sitting in a closet, unused for over 50 years, must have mellowed the tune since now, my wife a piano player and I get immense enjoyment out of our daily afternoon fiddle sessions. had I had not been so interested in fiddling the young ladies in my teens, more than fiddling my violin I would probably be more accomplished in the latter, but that is life.

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

Well I much younger than 40 (less than half actually), but I whole-heartedly agre with everone else that it is never too late to learn to play an instrument! But definetly rent first just to make sure you really do like it.
I’ve been classically trained (though one of teachers liked fiddle too, so he was able to elp learn some awesome tunes), and I think it has helped me become a better player because they put a lot of emphasis on bowing, time, and intonation. I think it produces a better result in the end IMHO.
Good luck to you! 🙂

Sara

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

The fiddle is all about how long you’ve played it, not how young you started.

It takes a lot of hours of putting bow to string to play the fiddle well, but there’s no reason why you can’t start at 40. It involves a long period of sounding like a dying cat, but if you can get through that then you’ve got it made. Just stick with it.

The thing about having to learn violin/fiddle at an early age is mostly a myth. It just takes a long time so the earlier you take it up the better, but there’s nothing wrong with a late start.

The important thing is not to give up…it can be frustrating in the beginning, but it pays off after a while.

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

I was in my mid-40s before I started to take the harmonica seriously. Until then it was Home on the Range or Clementine on a market-stall cheapie until somebody told me to shut up. Now, aged 56, I play in a session every fortnight and have at least two paid gigs per month with a band (and often more) and I’ve made a CD that’s received good reviews. I still envy those youthful types who soak up music like a sponge and reveal incredible talent at an impossibly early age, and it’s certainly all a bit more of a grind when the bloom of youth has gone, but we sub-wrinklies are sorely needed to keep the young bucks in check! 🙂

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

Yeeeeee! Just realised, me too…………………………………………..

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

I agree with all the encouraging comments above. I did note, though, that a number of people make the first year of fiddling sound daunting. Not true!

It probably won’t take you a whole year to learn to play reasonably in tune - more like several weeks. (It took me about 3-4 weeks, but I did have a lot of other musical experience before I started fiddle.)

Also, since the whole thing is new to you, you will see something like 100 % progress from week to week, as you add in each new element. At more advanced stages, I don’t find this same level of progress, although I do feel I’ve progressed after every serious practice session - either I’ve advanced technically, or I’ve come to some new understanding about the instrument.

I would definitely recommend studying with a traditional style teacher if you plan to play traditional music. The technique is very different from classical music. In fact, the technique varies considerably among different types of traditional music. You might also want to look for a beginner class if you have the time and one is available near you.. It’s a lot of fun and very motivating to play with other people at the same level of playing.

Although it may take years to get really advanced on the fiddle, you can relatively quickly get to the point of joining in sessions . Depending on someone’s experience and available practice time (and ok, to some extent, ability) this could take a few months to a few years - I would say no more than 3 years for most players I know, and probably a lot less time, maybe 1-2 years. And as you probably have noticed, those years go by rather quickly as you get older!

Anyway, delighted to have you join the ranks, and best of luck with your playing!

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

No need to learn the fiddle, just get a bodhran and join in any session you want. You don’t even have to learn how to play it. That’s what most of them do.

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

I want to add my encouragement to the above. I’m over a decade shy of forty, myself, but I started fiddling as an adult, and it’s the best decision I ever made. I have also found that there have been some distinct *advantages* to starting playing so late, that I didn’t experience as a child playing piano:

* As a child, I played the instrument that my parents chose for me. I didn’t hate it, but nor did I love it, and I had to be forced to practice. As an adult, I play the instrument that I chose - although I tell people that I didn’t choose the fiddle; the fiddle chose me. No one has to force me to practice; my motivation comes from the beauty of the instrument and of the music. Right now, my teacher is on vacation for three weeks, and I’m practicing just as much as I would if i had lessons.

* I’m more patient as an adult. As a child, I was accustomed to being good at things right away, and I got discouraged when that didn’t happen on the piano. As an adult, I know that becoming proficient on the fiddle takes work.

* I am more focused as an adult. I know that I need to master one skill at a time, and I practice accordingly. As a child, I had a single, vague (and useless) goal of "become good at playing the piano", and got frustrated when I didn’t. Today, I notice every milestone: while I still haven’t attained my overall goal of "become good at playing the fiddle", I got very excited a few months ago when, after months of practice, I was able to consistently play triplets cleanly and at speed. I know that eventually, everything else will come, and I’m in no rush to get there immediately, because I’m enjoying the journey.

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

I approached a fiddler at a gig who had only been playing for just over 2 years and was in his late forties at least. Being in, and from South Africa he was not surrounded by Irish trad which is quite hard to come by down there.

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

Hi there,

5 months playing and getting some good jigs and reels going, but did play a little mandolin before.

Go for it, a grea instrument I love practicing on it wonderful, now I have bought a set of pipes as well….Divorce!

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

sorry about above, I have just turned 51!!

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

There is also something to say for facility. I started fiddling around age 50, but have less facility than others who also started older and play less often than I, but play better than I. All our brains are wired differently. I still enjoy it immensely, though I fear I will never sound good enough to play in a session. What I have is the motivation (love of making music) to keep me at it. It is a fun way to spend time. Also, Albert Einstine played the violin badly but did it to stretch his brain in a different direction, feeling it improved brain function overall regardless of the actual outcome of the sound. Enjoy.

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

I would like to add the advice of Steven Burke, the living legend of Irish fiddlin’ who I just had the pleasure of being tutored by at the Nelson Ceol Aneas. He recommended that one learns the classical techniques first, as they are many and varied, and can then be applied to produce your own style later, and b listening and watching fiddlin’ players long the way. I totally agree as I have just started converting over from being a classical teacher and a little jazz to fiddlin’ this year at the grand ol’ age of 48 and although I am NEVER going to be seen holding my fiddle halfway down my chest or my bow halfway up the wood, I really feel like a true musician for the first time in my life.

Also do not start seriously on a substandard violin or bow, as you will probably get discouraged that you can’t make a good sound no matter how hard you try, along with all the other aspects to it. There are reasonable ones around without paying thousands.

I also recommend the book, How To Choose An Instrument That Suits You (and one for your child). Try the library.

Go for it!

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

I started at 48…never too late to have a go at anything musical. It’ll stand you up for many years I’m guessing. I’ve only been at it for 1.5 years but I’ve met some of the finest human beings I’ve ever had the pleasure to know just by making this seemingly silly decision to take up violin/fiddle at such an "advanced" age.

I will say this…it’s a lot like trying to play golf…there are so many variables and ways to screw up…better have a sense of humor! 😉

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

My mother took up the fiddle at 63yrs of age. You’re just a teenager by comparison. Enjoy your journey.

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Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

I teach fiddle and although most of my pupils are kids my oldest pupil is over 60.

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

My wife was 42 when she took up the fiddle, and she plays very well.

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

Really looking forward to starting now, thanks guys!

You’ve settled my mind on this.

Expect more posts when I start (planned date: Dec 07, gotta get my current studies out of the way first to make time and headspace)

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

I’ll add to the general encouragement-I started the fiddle about 9 months ago at 49. Wish I’d started years ago, but oh well, too late now. I love it. What I’ve found though, is that my muscles and tendons aren’t quite as resilient as they were when I was younger. I’m not good at pacing myself, and as a result end up dealing with a lot of stiffness and soreness. So my advice would be to go easy at first, while your body is adjusting to new stresses and movements. And very wise to finish your studies first-once you do get started you’ll probably find fiddling pretty consuming 🙂 Enjoy!

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

It’s great to hear that so many have started late! I thought I was unusual to be starting at this age. I started 3 years ago at 47 and continue to love the instrument in its looks and sound. Growing up it was never an intrument I would consider playing—I thought it was totally "not cool".When visiting a long time friend her son was playing a tune to show us what he had been learning. I asked to try it—and it was love at first bow.I came home and bought one and have been playing since. It is a great joy and comfort—and you meet the best of people.

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

Everyone’s different, so you won’t know until you try. There’s quite a bit of up front investment in time and money before you can play much, so you might want to get an autoharp in the meantime. At least by now you probably have a big enough bank account to afford a nice axe and decent teacher, so not all the cards are stacked against you.

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

I started at 65, the same time as I started horseback riding. After a year I’m doing better with the horse than the fiddle, but then he’s smarter than me. I have a dozen tunes down, but I still sound awful. Practice daily (I don’t) but learn and play what you like. I use Britches Full of Stitches to start with for warmup. Then have something difficult to check your progress with, like Harvest Home (don’t laugh, you virtuosos). All my learning till now has been between those two in difficulty. For me, it’s all for fun, and a lot less expensive than a horse.

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

I started fiddle at twenty something and that was too late fer classical I discovered to my benefit. Gave up. Restarted jest before 50. Never tooooo late fer anything is my moto. Maybe you have to be less ambitious, take it easy, just play fer the love of it, set yer own goals and agenda, don’t be rushed by anyone, enjoy life, love the tunes and ferget the few odd negative eejits you will inevitably meet along the way who will snigger behind yer back or to your face. Stuff ‘em I say. Forty sounds a great age to start to me. Better to start at 40 than regret at ?? I went to Ireland to ride the harses in my 20’s in the 70’s. It was the reason I went. Sadly not riding any more … but one day ….. good on you mmelec there’s hope fer us all yet.

Re: Forty too late to fiddle?

I started at the ripe age of 63 and now can play very well indeed. I played the banjo for years and especially a fretless banjo so that helped me a bit. I would go go go for it man.
Even I might have 20to 30 years of playing ahead
Methusula