Well, I asked, and you gave it to me! More than 1,400 of you from around the world responded to my call for your feedback, and the results are fascinating.
With this survey, I really wanted to get a sense of where you are in your violin journeys, and the answer is… everywhere! As you’ll see, many of you are just starting out, some are walking with me in the professional ranks, and quite a few aren’t violinists at all. That’s OK, you’re still welcome here at Natesviolin.com!
I also wanted to know what steps you’re looking to take next, and here most of you had similar desires, no matter your level. I’ll break this report up into two sections: What is, and what could be.
Let’s get right to the very first question, which was a combination of “are you actually a violinist?” and “how far along are you?”:
As you can see, a good 15% aren’t even violinists! Another 7% or so are somewhere in the first few Suzuki books or the equivalent. The rest are split more or less evenly among those who are working toward Mendelssohn, Sibelius, or beyond. Of course, these pieces are placeholders but they give a nice idea of where everyone is on the journey.
How many years?
So, an overall average of 25 years spent with the violin. That’s a lot of violin-years!
How much music education?
With this, the “music education” question, I was finding out whether you have a performance degree or are working toward one, whether that performance degree is on the violin, or none of the above.
40% have a performance degree on the violin, and another 10% are currently in school for that reason. And just as I discovered that 15% of you don’t play the violin, about 8% of you have a performance degree on that non-violin instrument. A little over 40% don’t have a performance degree.
What role does the violin play?
So about 35% of you are full-time professional violinists, with some combination of playing and teaching. About 15% make some money with the instrument and the rest elsewhere, and another 15% are violin majors in school.
Most fascinating are the more than 30% of you whose careers fall outside the world of the violin. Here’s a “word cloud” that shows the responses I got to the write-in question, “well then, what do you do?” The bigger the word, the more responses included that word:
“Retired” is huge! A lot of former pros, perhaps? Of the non-musical words that jump out above, check out all the scientific fields: physics, biology, medicine, engineering, computers, research, software, programming… and let’s not forget that many cities have entire orchestras made up of doctors, and others made up of lawyers!
I just threw this one in there because it was easy. Keep in mind that this isn’t asking specifically about violin auditions, so 45% of you have taken a professional orchestra audition on some instrument.
What could be
These last two questions were the most fun for me to read. They were both write-in, so the answers were personal, and in some cases very detailed! I’m once again showing you word clouds.
The one thing you would change?
A lot to unpack here! But it’s interesting to note that whether I filter for just the professional players, or include everyone, the results are largely the same. Just look at the words that pop out:
Not a bad place to start if you want to make some changes, eh? That gets me thinking…
What about an in-depth course?
Without knowing the results of the previous question, I wanted to ask the same thing in a slightly different way: assuming that I put together in-depth courses on the following topics, which one would interest you the most?
Courses covering etudes and scales clearly lead the pack, with general audition preparation holding the middle. The two laggards are “essential excerpts” (which was maybe a mistake to include since it might have siphoned votes from “audition preparation”) and “playing without a shoulder rest”. That last one, though, has a small but devoted following!
I actually got curious how the results might change if I included only the responses from the full-time professional violinists. Here’s how that broke down:
Hmm, even for the full-time professionals, etudes are still out in front! And scales also make a respectable showing. Audition preparation and its close cousin essential excerpts are much more important to this subgroup than to the big group. But still, even for the full-time pros, scales and etudes are topics that deserve a much deeper dive!
Your dream piece?
This one, again, was a write-in. So the responses are all over the map, but of course the biggies are all well-represented: Beethoven, Brahms, Paganini, Tchaikovsky, and plenty of Bach. And not just any Bach! Of all the piece titles that you mention, look which one is the biggest: the glorious Chaconne!
Where to go from here
When I look at the changes that you want to make in your playing, most of them come down to control. Of course, we can’t consciously control every last aspect of our performance (that would be boring anyway). But we do want to feel “in control”: that we’re able to play the music the way we hear it.
To do that, you need a strong foundation. For some of you, that might mean getting back to basics, while for others, it might mean expanding the technical tools at your command. Either way, you’ve got the right idea when you highlight both scales and etudes as things you’d like to explore much more deeply with me.
To kick things off, I’m going to be appearing on Facebook Live this coming week, May 6, 7, and 8, all at noon PST. Each day I’ll lead an hour of practice (with time for discussion too) geared toward strengthening your foundation. You’ll get a look at how I practice in real time.
Let me know you’re thinking of joining me, and I’ll give you a nice bonus video: a one-hour webinar I presented last year on preparing for the New York Philharmonic audition!