I've seen a few of these questions asked, but it seems like most of the students to be where just starting out in music. They didn't have limber fingers, couldn't read notes. That's not a bad thing considering we've all had to start somewhere.


I'm wondering how long it would take an experienced musician going on 11 years of theory / guitar experience to make a half way decent player. Or if anyone else has been through a similar situation. Any information or tips to speed up the process would be appreciated.

I've been playing for a few weeks. I've already studied the instrument in depth, including its construction. I'm gaining proficiency in vibrato rather quickly, from what I understand, taking steps to avoid reinforce bad muscle memory whilst teaching myself. I used to teach guitar.

I'm capable of reading the Alto and Treble clefs (minus the more difficult task of pairing the notes with the fretboard. That's still a work in progress). I can make a clear sound and am starting work on pieces like Tchaikovsky's Possession (for vibrato practice) and Cello Suite No. 1 (for general practice).

I practice roughly 6+ hours per day. (Not continuous play, but rather attacking the instrument from every perceivable angle.)

5 Answers 5


There is a shortcut, yes. The secret is to practice smart.

I used to tell my students there is a difference between practicing and playing; between cleaning up all the difficulties and going into the small details, and playing just for fun or for others.

The more time you spend in cleaning grey zones, being careful with sound quality, with fast exercises (but only as fast as you can play without missing tones); the better.

When you clean a passage, scale, or arpeggio and play it many extra times, you are building a stronger platform for the rest of your playing.

I think about a pyramid: if you spend time building a large base, then you can go high; it's mathematics.

So, be tolerant and patient. If something sounds not good, spend an hour with it, then rest or play something else and return to the same point. Playing things in slow motion is both hard and extremely beneficial. Playing fast is also good, but not so fast that you lose control.

Exercise in a dark room--for hours. The lack of light will develop your ears and your muscle memory. It will make you play by ear. You will develop. If you play the same passage in a comfortable tempo (and not too long a passage, maybe like 4-10 bars) 10 times in a row, the human brain will find new details in it and you will develop, get an enhanced level of detail that will be there for the next passage, and everything will be faster afterwards as a result.

The answer to how many years is based on the individual, and also depends on the musical genre.

But start by being smart in the way you spend time with the instrument and record your self at least once every two weeks.

If you do this, you are on the right track.


If you've got 11 years of guitar and theory, with time and devotion you can most certainly become a proficient violinist.

I've got 6 years of music experience, and I picked up the cello a few months ago, and it's going well. The hardest thing about bowed string instruments is the bowing! If you buy your violin at a good respectable violin shop they will most likely be able to put learning tape on your instrument. Some people might look down on learning tape, but I feel that learning tape is very good for picking up bowed string instruments.

The tape serves a similar purpose to the frets on a guitar. Eventually you'll have to get rid of the tape, but for starting out, it'll be remarkly similar to playing guitar, except for the tuning which is the same as a mandolin for the violin. So if you've tinkered with a mandolin, you're off to an even better start.

Practice smart, practice for at least 30 minutes a day as often as possible, 4-5 times a week if you can. Also, focus on the bowing. The bowing is crucial. The fretting is different due to the lack of frets, but if you start with tape, you can side step that issue, but you need to bow correctly!

So go for it and have fun!


Just know that proficiency is strongly reliant on not only knowing where the notes are but having proper form because proper form makes it easier to play well. If you do not have someone physically present who can instruct you on proper wrist, elbow and shoulder positions then I would make a careful study of professional violinists on video. Watch how their wrists bend at the neck, the way they hold their bowing arm, how the bow arm elbow and wrist move at different tempos.

The above takes more words to describe what to look for than it takes effort to do this -- I do not mean to make it sound over complicated.


As a guitarist, you already know a lot of technique and theory, all which carries over to violin/viola. There are some things you will need to pick up on, though. If you choose to play viola, you will need to learn the alto clef.

  1. Holding the instrument: it will take time to get used to the feeling of an instrument on your neck.
  2. Moving the bow: you need to develop a straight bowing motion and learn all the techniques for good playing.
  3. Left hand finger accuracy: It takes a lot of accuracy on violin/viola to play a note in tune. However, your guitar experience should help.
  4. Taking care of instrument: There are a few things you need to do to make sure your instrument will be in good shape (rosin, tuning, bow, etc.)

As a good guitarist, it shouldn't be too too hard to learn! Since you know theory already and treble clef, you've got a head start. Violas play in alto clef, so that's something you might need to learn should you choose that. I am a violist, and I feel learning viola will have benefits you can't find with being a violinist. Good luck picking up a new instrument!


The fastest way to progress with a string instrument is with a good teacher. If you develop bad habits with your position and technique, that will slow you down tremendously.

Adults can also benefit from the Suzuki method -- not just children. This is a pedagogical approach which progresses very step by step, in an extremely efficient way.

Some teachers who have not been Suzuki trained use the Suzuki books but not the pedagogy -- avoid these. True Suzuki trained teachers will be certified.

When you are farther along, you may be able to space your lessons farther apart, or work completely on your own. But I would not recommend this for you at this time.

Usually people wait with vibrato until they have a good basic technique.

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