First of all, the guitar is often considered an instrument for adolescents and young adults in their twenties to learn; it’s a symbol of freedom, of rock and roll, escape, pop songs and groupies.
This is because the guitar - in all its different forms, from the jazz guitar and blues guitar to the guitar solos and rhythm guitar of heavy metal - is usually pictured with the young. Popular music per se - and the guitar has become the quintessential symbol of popular music - is dominated by and marketed to young people.
As there are very few older famous musicians around (that didn't start off young!) - and as the ones that do exist are usually found in classical music - you would be forgiven for thinking that older people can't start to learn music.
However, the guitar is one of America’s favorite instruments because it’s easy to learn and carry. And there is no reason why, if you're 28, 35, 42, 55 or even 63, you can't still learn to play the guitar. It isn't too late.
Learning Guitar as an Older Person.
You may well have worried, when looking at the fretboard of your new guitar, or when considering your first guitar lesson, that there is an expiry date after which you’re too old to become a ‘guitar hero’, after which you are no longer able to be amongst guitarists or guitar players.
When you were young did you want to learn to play guitar like your pop idols? Maybe you even imagined getting up on stage at an open mic night, or performing in a concert. You maybe wanted to play songs for your partner or your family and friends.
But as the years go by, you went to college and began climbing the corporate ladder, maybe even started a family, and your chores and tasks have multiplied until they’ve consumed any hobbies you once had. You no longer had any time to think about chord progressions or songs to learn, nor your ear training or fingerstyle.
However, now you’ve gotten to a certain stage in life, and everything is going well. Life is comfortable, and you’ve fought hard to get where you are, but you still regret never becoming the famous guitarist you once imagined you could be.
Well the dream isn’t over yet - whatever your age, you can learn to play the guitar. It's never too late to learn some guitar chords and perform your favorite songs - nor to learn chord shapes nor to study guitar tabs.
There’s no one age to learn how to play the guitar. As long as you’re motivated, organized, and you take the time to practice and learn more about your new hobby, you’ll be fine.
If you can carve out the extra time, why not sign up for some classes and learn how to play guitar? Whether you choose to learn acoustic, electric or even flamenco, all the different musical styles are there for you to discover.
I Should Have Learned How to Play Guitar When I Was Younger.
It’s true, children and teenagers have a great ability to memorize music and will be able to pick up the guitar faster than you can.
It’s easy to talk yourself out of it by comparing yourself and thinking that the older you get, the harder it will be to learn to play guitar.
But even if as a beginner guitar player you learn a bit more slowly and you have to try a bit harder, you’ll still learn all the same, and that’s the important thing. You’re never too old to learn new things, including learning to play an instrument like the guitar.
It will definitely take a while, but you know what they say - “Rome wasn’t built in a day!”
And being a bit older does also give you some advantages over the younger aspiring Eric Claptons.
You Have More Time Now.
One of your advantages over younger musicians is that you have more free time in which to learn the guitar, especially if you’re retired.
It’s possible for you to spend several hours at a time practicing your licks and barre chords, or you can schedule your day with a break for classes to prioritize learning your new instrument.
Children, teenagers, and even students lack the same leisure time that you have - school and studying take up a good chunk of their day.
You Have More Disposable Income.
Obviously, guitar classes cost money, and there are other costs too - you need to buy your instrument, get a case to protect it, and more advanced lessons or intensive courses down the line.
If you’re thinking of starting with an electric guitar, you’ll also need to pick up an amp. All those start up costs can begin to add up quite quickly.
As an adult, you have a financial advantage - compared to a child, you’ll have enough money to indulge your new hobby and buy all the kit you need.
One suggestion might be to consider paying for private guitar lessons, which will let you progress faster than if you choose to go to a group class at a local music school.
You’ll also be able to afford more learning materials, which will help you progress in your guitar journey. You’ll be able to go crazy at the music store - sheet music, music books, DVDs, CDs - it will all help you improve your playing.
Of course, no matter how many books about music theory you buy, you still won’t become Jimi Hendrix overnight, but you can still rest assured that they’ll all help you on your musical journey.
You Have More Experience.
Being a bit older means you have more experiences behind you, whether in your professional or personal life.
All of these experiences have given you new points of reference and the ability to respond to challenges, which is worth remembering when you start comparing yourself to children or teens. By definition, they'll have less experience than you.
All of these experiences that you’ve accumulated over the years have also given you a better sense of who you are. You know your own strengths and weaknesses, you know how you work best, how you succeed, and how to make a schedule and follow a work plan.
It’s also likely that you’ve engaged in an activity that required regular practice before. Maybe you played a sport or took music lessons when you were younger?
Music, just like sports, requires lots of practice. You need to repeat the same actions over and over again, to practice your gestures, positions, and movements in order to improve and eventually master your body and mind.
Another advantage of having more life experience behind you is that you’ve already faced failure at least once in your life, and you will have learned how to deal with it and carry on.
While children often lack patience and teens tend to careen from one activity to another when confronted with a problem, you know how to pick yourself up from a setback and understand that there are likely to be a few roadblocks in any endeavor.
Just as in life, you know how to dust yourself off and continue when a chord or some music feels like they’re all but impossible.
Whether you’ve opted for an acoustic guitar or decided to take classes in traditional flamenco music, there’ll always be at least one moment of difficulty. You’ll be frustrated when you just can’t make your fingers strum the strings the way they need to, or you just can’t wrap your head around a pentatonic scale.
Challenges are inevitable, but instead of getting frustrated and giving up, you’ll be better positioned to overcome any crisis and persevere.
Feeling Motivated to Play Guitar?
Your motivation will be one of the key factors for why you aren’t too old to learn to play an instrument like the guitar.
Children and adolescents often decide to learn guitar because they’ve seen one play before at an event, or because they’re aspiring to become the next pop idol, but there's a difference between wanting to learn to play the guitar and being motivated to practice playing the guitar.
And this is where you have an advantage: as a proper adult, you’re fully cognizant of the challenge you’re undertaking and understand that learning guitar doesn’t happen with a flick of a magic wand. In order to play the guitar, you need to practice the guitar.
It’s just that simple.
This doesn’t mean that practicing your new instrument is a horrible task. But you will need to concentrate, make a few compromises, and apply a bit of self-denial, will power and a heck of a lot of motivation to achieve satisfactory results.
While children are hoping for quick results, you know that you’ll have to face a few challenges in your quest to become a guitarist, and without motivation, you won’t succeed.
Do you know how to stay motivated, and when to practice the guitar?
Even if you’re determined to practice your tabs and strumming patterns every night, you might still falter every now and then. One way to stay motivated is to make an effort to meet and surround yourself with other people who also enjoy the guitar and who won’t leave you to face your challenges on your own.
There are plenty of online music forums where people can talk about their passion for playing guitar, and talk about their struggles with fretting and fingerpicking, as well as their successful solos.
Then there’s meeting your new music teacher. It might seem like a small thing, but having regular beginner guitar lessons with a good teacher makes a big difference in staying motivated. A guitar teacher will help keep you on track, give you corrections when you need them, and help you recognize and celebrate your successes and progress.
Altogether, even if you didn’t hold your first guitar at the age of two, you still have plenty of time to sign up for guitar classes. You don’t need to have been playing for twenty years to have fun or to play music for your friends.
Don’t wait another second to start!
Don’t be one of those people who always puts their dreams off till tomorrow. The longer you wait, that’s time you’re missing out when you could be having fun playing guitar. That’s all there is to it.