Should Pianists Study the Violin?

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, August 20, 1913:  Worked more than usual at my music this afternoon. A cousin of Ma’s came, so then I didn’t practice any more.

Photo Source: Ladies Home Journal (May, 1913)
Photo Source: Ladies Home Journal (May, 1913)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Yeah, Grandma!  I’m glad you’re working hard while practicing the piano. It’s hard work to learn to play the piano when you start lessons at age 18. Hang in there!


I continue to be fascinated by a column called “Piano Questions Answered by Josef Hofmann”  that appeared periodically in Ladies Home Journal a hundred years ago. Here’s another question.

A Pianist Should Not Study the Violin

I have heard that the study of the violin interferes with the touch of a good pianist? Is this so? J.P.F.

There are two reasons why no one can play the piano and violin equally well. The violinist strives to harden his fingertips in order to make his tone definite, while the soul of a sensitive and refined piano touch lies in the softness of the fingertips. The ear is another factor in the matter, for the acoustic pictures peculiar to the two instruments are so thoroughly different from each other that the ear must get accustomed to the tone quality of the piano to produce the best results by exploring its possibilities. The technic, literature and tone quality of the two instruments are too different to admit of a mastery of both, though the piano is not nearly so harmful to the violin as the violin is to the piano.

Ladies Home Journal (May 1, 1911)

If you missed it, you may also enjoy a previous post that contained a couple more questions and answers from the piano column in old Ladies Home Journals.

Piano Questions and Answers from a Hundred Years Ago

19 thoughts on “Should Pianists Study the Violin?

  1. I don’t know if pianists should play the violin. The question I have is should violinists play the piano? I started out on the piano, then went to the violin. It didn’t do a bit of good. I was lousy on both.

  2. We are thinking on the same wavelength again tonight. I shared some old sheet music covers that are very colorful.

    My sister played both the violin and piano and I know of others who did the same. Of course, they were not concert pianist or violinists, so maybe at a higher level it is not as possible.

    1. I don’t either, but somehow (in spite of what the old magazine said) it seems to me like there should be people who excel on both the piano and the violin.

      1. I just spoke with my daughter who studied music at University, majoring in piano. She said there were several people in her course who did major in both piano and a stringed instrument, either violin or cello. So there….. Some exceptions to that magazines sentiment. 🙂

  3. Um…UM. HM. I would like to disagree, person-from-a-hundred-years-ago. I can play both fine, thank you very much.
    On another topic, I’m glad Helena’s practicing more.

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