I’ve given myself one year to master the violin.

As an adult beginner, I should be playing Twinkle Twinkle; instead, I'm playing Paganini's 24th caprice.

Another good comment

I got a nice comment today that poses a question that I’ve asked myself directly quite a bit and indirectly on the blog a few times.  Here’s the comment from Lilibeth:


Interesting. I might not recall correctly so please correct me if I’m wrong.

When you were starting this journey someone criticized your methodology saying you were skipping steps that were important to building a good violinist’s foundation and you replied that you didn’t intend to become a violinist, you just wanted to play a certain piece when the year has passed. It was all just an experiment.

I think it’s been around six months now, and I wonder if your position has changed a little or not. What I mean is that the violin is an easy instrument to fall in love with (in my experience), even though learning to play it especially after already being an adult and without having prior musical training will most likely be a difficult and sometimes even frustrating experience.

How do you feel about that “sound box” at this point? Do you really think you won’t end up being a violinist? Are you already one? At what moment do you become one? Do you think you’ll be able to give it up when the experiment is over? I know these are a lot of questions. I’m just a curious follower. :)


This begs the question:  am I a musician?  To be honest, I definitely don’t feel like a musician, and am not exactly used to calling myself one.  Before this little project I would answer the question “are you a musician” in the negative at countless parties, dinners, get-togethers, whatever.  Whenever I was out with Danielle, that question would of course inevitably come up.  Now, I simply avoid the question and use the opportunity to discuss my blog to anyone interested in listening, but I don’t really know the answer.  Being with Danielle and working at The Colburn School have truly made me a non-musician in a musician’s world and now it’s possible I’m becoming…wait for it…ONE OF THEM!!!  It’s like Danielle’s converting me to her religion.  Weird.

Either way, I’m probably not there yet.  I’m just a guy with a blog.  When will I become an actual bona fide musician (if ever)?  I don’t know.  Danielle jokingly said that when I can play thirds perfectly I can call myself a violinist.  I may be in for a long wait.

But to directly answer Lilibeth’s question above, I wouldn’t say that I never intended to be a violinist, only that it wasn’t the direct goal.  I have always thought it was going to be interesting how much of an actual violinist I would be at the end of this shebang.  Let’s just say that I play the piece very well.  And this probably isn’t going to happen, but let’s say I play it at a level that a “normal” violinist would play it.  If you saw that video out of the blue on youtube you might think “oh, that guy’s a violinist.”  In a way you’d be right, but there will be some serious holes.  First, I don’t have to play with anyone else, so throw me in a chamber group or orchestra?  Yeah right.  Second, I won’t be able to sight read, or even read music very well at all since I’m really just memorizing everything.  As for music theory?  Forget about it.  However good my playing of the Paganini is at the end of this year, there will still be some holes to fill, and it will be interesting to see what they are.

As to whether or not I’ll continue with the violin after this year is up, I can only say that I’d be a pretty big idiot not to.


4 Comments on “Another good comment”

  1. B.Rajkumar says:

    Dear Ryan,
    You are wondering whether you deserve to be called a musician / violinist or

    an amateur violin player. I think that is immaterial. What is most important

    is the fact that you and your journey are already a great inspiration for

    many aspiring violinists. Take my case. For some reasons, I could not persue

    violin at an younger age. Now I am learning it at the age of 42. Many people

    discourage me. But I tell them about your blog and urge them to read it. I

    am sure that I am not the only person deriving great inspiration from you.

    There will be many. You must reach the goal for our (all aspiring violinists

    of the world) sake. In fact, I follow your blog for my own sake.

    Another good news. Sight reading and music theory are not as difficult as

    you are thinking (there is no nonlinear third order differential equation or

    co-homological group theory, it is all simple algebra). So once you memorize

    and play Paganini, you will be a stone’s throw away from being a bonafide

    musician.Keep up the tempo.


    • rrvaughn says:

      Hi Biju,
      What brought you to the violin at 42? We all have our own stories and I’m intrigued by adult beginners and how and why they found an instrument. Who discourages you?

  2. Violin Teacher in VA says:

    I hadn’t really thought about this before, but reading your post has made me wonder more about the intuitive, non-technical aspects of music in the context of this experiment. I could see myself in Danielle’s position focusing on technique, technique, technique (because really, this piece has them all!), but I wonder if you ever have the opportunity to explore things like phrasing, shaping lines, dynamics, etc. ? I could easily see how all of that is just “fluff” in this process, but these less tangible things are part of what makes the musical experience (for the performer and the audience) so rewarding. I think that’s part of being a musician … if that makes sense?

    Just wondering. And keep it up!

    P.S. I’ve sent students to Luzerne before. Great experience! 🙂

    • rrvaughn says:

      We do work on other things than pure technique, but I’ll admit most of what we work on is just trying me to play the violin at all! Some recent non-technical work we did was with the third variation in the opening. I suppose you could say this was phrasing, as she told me to hold the first note longer and work into the subsequent notes. Of course this is a bigger topic that probably demands a blog post. Phrasing came up recently in conversations with musicians in the answering of the question “what makes one musician ‘better’ than another?” Perhaps “better” is too harsh, but I use it for lack of a better word. 🙂

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