Am I Too Old To Learn Guitar?

a senior man sitting on a bench playing the acoustic guitar - are you too old to learn guitar?

a senior man sitting on a bench playing the acoustic guitar - are you too old to learn guitar?

Am I too old to learn guitar?


For many people, learning the guitar is something that they just didn’t get around too. The interest was there but other things just kept getting in the way.


Now that they have less on their plate, it seems like it could be a perfect time to finally learn. Unfortunately for a lot of people, the fear that they might be too old to learn how to play the guitar holds them back.


Benefits of playing an instrument


Knowing how to play an instrument is fun and enjoyable. Plus there are plenty of studies that credit music as a way to relieve stress and help to build and maintain cognitive abilities. Furthermore, music could even help with other medical issues such as blood pressure and anxiety.


Knowing how to play the guitar can also help to widen your social circle as you can meet other musicians who are interested in the same types of music as you. You may even decide to start or join a band.


Whatever your goal is with your guitar playing, you are likely to benefit from learning it.


We seem to be constantly told that as we get older we will find learning new skills more and more difficult. However, I recently read an amazing story about Priscilla Sitienei, a midwife from Ndalat in rural Kenya.


Mrs Sitienei wanted to write down her experiences and knowledge for future generations. The problem was she had never been taught how to read and write. Do you think that stopped her? No way! She started to attend classes – at the age of 90!





Advantages of learning to play an instrument as a adult


As we’ve already talked about, there are a lot of people throwing the idea around that as you get older you ‘can’t learn new things’. These people are probably also boring people who never try anything new!


It’s got so bad that even people in their 20’s think they are too old to learn the guitar because they heard that they had to start playing it earlier!


Although any new skill requires practice, learning the guitar as an adult has quite a few advantages.



You want to play!

Do you remember your parents making you do an activity when you were younger that should have been fun, but to you it just seemed like a chore? Maybe it was sports or maybe it was a musical instrument (of course it wasn’t a guitar, right?). There’s just something about being made to do it that takes all the fun out of it.


Luckily, you’re no longer in that position!


You WANT to learn how to play the guitar. Think about how much faster you improve at things you enjoy. It’s not a burden, it’s something you look forward to doing.



Understanding abstract and complex concepts is easier

We hear music all the time in our daily lives. Even so, some of the concepts of music can be complex. When it comes to playing the guitar (or any instrument) rhythm and timing are essential. The idea that you need to leave different amounts of space between notes compared to others can be difficult when you are younger.


Another example is the uses of scales. You can take this basic exercise and expand it to make an incredible guitar solo or bass line just by following a few ideas.


Your guitar practice isn’t a chore

This is truly going to be one of your biggest advantages. I know this first hand as when I got older I learnt how to make my guitar practices more fun and far more productive. In turn I got a lot better much faster, which meant that I would practice more.


You’ll also be happier practising for a longer amount of time. If you combine this with also learning how to practice efficiently, you’ll be on to a winner.


Life experience

Even if playing an instrument is a completely new endeavour for you, you probably already have a wealth of knowledge that will help you.


The most common one is simply that you have heard a lot of music. Music is such a huge part of our lives. You listen to it in the car. It’s in the background of all our favourite films and TV shows. It’s in our favourite bars and restaurants. We even go to see live bands just for this reason. Just being familiar with music can help you get your head around different musical concepts.


You might find that your job or hobbies throughout your life have transferrable skills to learning how to play the guitar.


I’ve noticed this with students who have had analytical jobs. Some might think of learning an instrument as being completely creative, but being able to analyse your playing can help to speed up your progress exponentially.




What tends to hold adult learners back


Although you have an advantage in some areas when it comes to learning the guitar when you get older, there can be some things that will hold you back. The good thing is, with a bit of practice you should be able to overcome these obstacles.





No one likes to be bad at something, especially when it is something we really want to be good at. Every new guitarist is going to make a lot of interesting sounds when they practice (and I don’t mean those cool sounding effects you hear in songs, we’re talking about those out of tune and buzzing notes).


While we all want to be good at the guitar, the drawback is we all have to start by being completely useless at it. The fastest way to get past this stage is to accept it and just think of it as part of the process.


Yeah, you might find your other half closes the door a bit more often. Or maybe your room mate happens to have found lots of activities to do away from you when you get the guitar out. Keep practising and they will be impressed with your progress.



Over thinking and wanting it to be perfect


It seems that it is expected of us to have everything perfect from the very beginning, especially in our working lives. This idea can hold back adult learners when it comes to learning to play an instrument.


An example of this is when you learn to strum chords and to move between them. You worked hard to get those chords clean and the shapes just right, but when you move them it’s a different story.


A skill that needs to be learnt to move chords fluently is to be able to constantly strum with one hand no matter what the other hand is doing. This means when you first learn to move chords, you are also going to have lots of open strings, clipped notes and ‘partially correct’ chords all mashed together.


It usually sounds a complete mess. The thing is – that’s ok!


By trying to make everything perfect and over thinking it you are going to have to stop between each chord. Although each individual chord will sound better, you aren’t practising the concept that you need. Allow yourself to make mistakes and your guitar practice will thank you for it.



Ignoring the basics

I know, I know the basics aren’t the most interesting part. You just want to get onto playing that awesome guitar line from your favourite song – I get it.


But if you want to avoid some frustration, spend some time getting the basic ideas down and get into good habits from the start. You won’t be stuck playing something that is far too difficult and you won’t have to relearn things in the future.


So, do you still think that you’re too old to learn guitar?

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