I’m learning to play the fiddle, at 56. This was a dream from childhood. I’ve played a Celtic harp since I was 21. I googled "how long does it take to learn the fiddle?" and found YOU. I’m excited to find a place for newcomers. My husband plays the guitar, fiddle, mandolin, and some piano. He gave me a 4 string Irish Tenor Banjo to play with the bluegrass jams, but I longed to play the fiddle. As it turns out, the banjo has the same fingering as the fiddle and mandolin. So…. this really helped me prepare (although I didn’t appreciate this much at the time). One year after learning the banjo (I play by ear) he surprised me with a beautiful fiddle on Valentine’s Day. I was able to play some simple scratchy tunes after two months, and can now play fairly clear tunes (OShokan’s farewell, Wild Mountain Thyme, Star of the County Down, She Moved through the Faire, Shennandoah, Arkansas traveler). It will be six months of beginner fiddling on August 14, 2013. I seem to be learning quickly, despite being old. But I haven’t yet tried a ‘session’ in public. Each time I look at a rosy cheeked child of 9-12 playing fiddle on YouTube, I sigh. But as someone said earlier, you can "feel" the instrument at your chest, you resonate with the instrument in oneness. It is alot like the Irish harp.
Music does seem to come naturally to me -our whole family sang together in three-part harmony (I’m one of 6 kids). My first instrument and the only one I formally studied was piano. In the past, I felt guilty for skipping the sheet music and playing by ear… now I know this has actually helped me. So skip the sheet music. Consider trying the banjo first, so you have a sense of note placement (with frets).