Am I Too Old To Learn Guitar? The Myths Debunked
You’ve probably found yourself here because you’re thinking about taking up guitar, but something is holding you back ‒ your age. You’re wondering whether you’re ‘too old’ to take up a new hobby or learn something new. ‘Will I be able to make the same progress as a child learning guitar? Is it too late?’
These are understandable and common concerns when it comes to taking up the guitar. However, humans seem to fall into the trap of believing that once we finish our formal education after college or university, we simply stop learning altogether. Ridiculous, right?
If anything, we learn more through our day-to-day lives as adults, but we just don’t realise it because we aren’t sitting in a classroom. Arguably, yes, our cognitive development peaked during those years in the classroom, but that doesn’t mean we can’t continue to learn or take up new pursuits. In fact, at this point in your life you probably have a much better idea of how you like to learn, personally, and this comes in handy as a beginner guitarist.
So in this post, we want to dispel any doubts or feelings of apprehensiveness you might have towards learning the guitar, just because you’re an adult, and show you that in some ways, it’s actually an advantage.
Journey, Not Destination
Yeah we know, it sounds a lot like an inspirational quote off Instagram, but it’s true and it applies to the worries you might be having as a potential adult guitarist. Adult learners often worry that it’s going to take them ages to get to a decent level of guitar playing, whereas younger learners may already be at that point.
But what is that point? Being able to play a whole song? Being able to improvise? There is no one ‘level’ or stage in your guitar learning that suddenly makes you a guitarist, and this is what people should really stop worrying about.
Instead, older learners simply need to appreciate the process of learning guitar, of dedicating your time to something worthwhile, and in actual fact, you’re probably in a better position to do this as an adult as children are (usually) more impatient and you’ll have a greater sense of perspective.
Rather than focusing on how far away you are from nailing a solo or playing through a whole song without mistakes, direct your attention to the small wins and the progress that is tangibly in front of you.
It’s great to set goals as a guitarist, but always thinking about your long term targets can be discouraging, and this is exactly what older learners tend to do, before they’ve even picked up a guitar.
Finding The Time
Children usually have this bit taken care of for them; their lessons are booked and all they have to do is turn up. A lot of mature learners worry that finding the time to dedicate is the biggest hurdle, and this is what puts them off in the first place.
But learning guitar isn’t necessarily about sitting down for 1-2 hours every couple of days to practice; that can be extremely difficult for the modern working adult. If you can only fit in 10 minutes one day to practise a scale or some chord shapes, that’s fine, you’ve still committed time to your pursuit of learning guitar. There’s not a guitarist on earth who wouldn’t like to have more time available to play and practise, but you fit in what you can, and if you’re serious about it, you make sure there’s time for it.
Nonetheless, lessons are a great way to schedule learning into your routine, or if that doesn’t feel like your thing yet, online courses like my Guitar for Busy Beginners course are another option that let you progress at your own pace, when you have the time.
What Are The Advantages To Learning As An Adult?
Many people will try to tell you that instilling the foundations of guitar into people at a young age is the best way to go, and sure, this means you have time on your side, but simply being older can have a lot of advantages.
First of all, you have more life experience and you understand how you learn as an individual now. So, if you know that you’re more of an aural learner, at least you can tailor your practice and learning to make sure it includes a lot of this. For example, you might use interactive tabs where you can hear the music, rather than regular tab notation.
Not only this, but think about how many hobbies or activities you took part in as a kid that you don’t do now. Children are prone to giving up on things. Why? Because they expect instant gratification. Ok, this is a generalising statement and doesn’t apply to every child, but on the whole, younger people have shorter attention spans. They have grown up in the information age. This means they get tired quicker and are less likely to have the patience to practise.
When they can’t get a certain technique or position right, they’re more likely to become disheartened with their progress and pack it in altogether. As you get older, you become better at persisting and you have the wisdom to realise that you can do most things with a bit of practice, it just takes time. It’s all about managing expectations and you’re in a better position to do that as an adult.
A few other advantages to learning as an adult:
- You know what music you like and what you want to play: you don’t have to rely on a teacher picking pieces for you
- Understanding the basic concepts of music theory will be much easier to get your head around
- Your hand-eye coordination, plus muscle strength and memory is likely to be much stronger as an adult
- You’re playing because you want to, not because you’ve been told to
Conclusion: Is It Too Late?
Absolutely not. The best time is now. As much as you might wish you could go back in time and start learning guitar earlier, you can’t. Even established guitarists ponder this same thing: “How good would I be now if I had started when I was 6…”. It’s a pointless exercise, but you can start learning now.
Instead of lamenting over the fact you didn’t take up guitar earlier, try to see the other side of the coin, because in many ways, being that bit older is hugely advantageous, particularly when it comes to the motivational aspect of learning guitar.
At the end of the day, there’s a reason you’ve read this article: because you’re serious about learning the guitar and you’re passionate about improving yourself and your skill set ‒ or maybe you just love guitar music. Either way, it doesn’t matter, because that’s really all you need to set yourself on your guitar learning journey.