Am I Too Old to Learn Guitar
I sometimes get asked the question: “Am I too old to learn guitar?”
Usually that question comes from someone who contacts me to start lessons, but who is worried that there’s an age limit to learning an instrument, beyond which learning guitar becomes too difficult.
Needless to say: there isn’t! I’ve had students who started learning guitar from scratch in any age range: from 10 to +70. There is no age ceiling. When I say things like that, the person asking me that question then oftentimes quips with: “Yes, but children learn much more quickly.”
I would say that that is probably a matter of perspective. Adult students have quite a number of advantages that make them learn guitar more quickly than kids. Some of these advantages include:
- Bigger, stronger hands, making guitar playing physically easier.
- Better able to focus than kids, who get easily bored and whose minds are constantly wandering.
- Stronger mental stamina
- Your brain, executive functioning and cognitive skills are better developed.
- More disciplined to practice.
- More consistent in behavior than kids because of maturity.
- You chose for it yourself (as opposed to having to learn music from a parent).
When you look at all those benefits, you’d think that adults should be able to learn guitar equally fast or faster than kids can.
It’s been my experience that that seems to be the norm. Adults don’t learn more slowly: we just have more on our mind.
So where does that deeply-held belief come from that kids learn more effortlessly than adults?
- Equating learnig guitar to learning a language.
Many people seem to compare learning guitar with learning a language, based on the notion that music is some sort of language.
While it’s true that there is a language aspect to music, there is also a math part to music. So learning an instrument is still really quite different from language learning. In addition: there is a lot of physicality involved in learning how to play buitar, including dexterity, fine motor skills, and rhythmic coordination. (All much more challenging for kids than for most adults).
- Overestimating the impact of brain development in kids on music learning abilities.
Yes, kid’s brains develop quickly and kids do learn a ton of stuff in a very short amount of time in their first couple of years.
However: that doesn’t mean that they also learn an instrument quickly. A child learns quickly in the skills and fields that the human brain evolutionary has been trained for: walking, developing fine motor skills, counting, communication, language learning, and so on.
Instrument learning is not one of these skills that the human brain naturally picks up on.
- Not accounting for other facets that play important roles in learning.
I already touched upon some of those: self-discipline, habits, routines, awareness, drive, motivation, focus, patience, and so on. All of those traits are benefits adults have over children who still need to learn or develop those traits.
The only time that an adult learns guitar with more difficulty than a kid, is when there is (detri)mental stuff going on: the kind of obstacles that only an adult, and not a kid would encounter.
- People who work a super stressful job that is keeping their minds over-active
- Students who have a ton of worries, leaving little place in their brain or energy for learning.
- Mentally debilitating constructs or belief systems like: “I’m a perfectionst”, “I’ve always been bad at (fill out the blanks, “remembering things”, “Memorization”, “understanding theory”… etc.)
- Putting undue pressure onto oneself, rather than just enjoying the learning process.
- Pretty important: Negative belief systems slown down one’s learning abilities. Such as, for example: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, a.k.a. “Kids learn more easily than people my age.” The stronger someone holds on to such beliefs, the more that person is turning those beliefs into self-fulfilling prophecies.
I was 16 when I first started learning guitar. I have had students who were in their mid twenties when they started learning with me, and who within 3 years of starting as complete beginner with me, were earning 7-8,000 dollars a month earning all their income with their guitar only.
To add more evidence that it can be done: here are a couple of famous guitarists who started learning guitar at a later age.
Wes was 20 when he started learning guitar, and the rest is history. He fell in love with guitar after hearing a Charlie Christian record while on a dance with his wife. He bought a guitar shortly after and practiced every second he had.
It paid off: Wes Montgomery is THE proof that you can become amazing even when you start learning at a later age.
Wes became one of the most highly-regarded, most influential jazz guitarists. His amazing legacy he left, shows how much is possible when you’re very dedicated, disciplined and focused.
Johnny was 26 when he bought his first guitar in 1974. A couple of years later he started the Ramones and wrote rock history.
While the nay-sayer could say that their music is easy to play, the influence and legacy of The Ramones is unmistaken.
You find them mentioned in every “Greatest Artist of All Time” and “Greatest Rock Band of All Times” lists in music publications.
In 2009, Johnny appeared on Time’s list of “The 10 Greatest Electric-Guitar Players.”
James Lewis Carter Ford (a.k.a. T-Model Ford)
His fifth wife gave him a guitar as a parting gift upon leavig him. He was about 70 years old at that time. He spent the next couple of years practicing, only to became a professional blues guitarist a couple of years later. James passed away in 2013 having reached age 90. He lived the last 16 years of his life as a successful musician.
Check James out here
There you have it: you’re never too old to learn anything, including guitar.
I’m about to finish my first draft on a book about how to get a 4.0 top GPA in college. I’ve been writing non-stop in between teaching guitar students in past months. The book will cover every aspect of learning, from the mental/psychological, to the spiritual to the biological, intelligence, pedagogy and so much more.
I feel strongly that the book will help people learn way faster with way less effort and with way more fun. Everything in the book will also be applicable to learning guitar and music.
Hit me up anytime at [email protected] if you have any questions, or if you would like to book a lesson.
These free lessons are cool, but you will never experience the progress and results that my students experience in lessons, learning from blogs and videos.
That is why people take lessons: way better results and progress, much more complete information, exposed to way more creative ideas, than you can get from a blog.
There is only so much that self-study can accomplish.
Keep me informed on your progress. You can hit me up in the comments section below.
If you like this blog: give it a rating and feel free to give me any feedback.
I believe everything can always improve. I’d gladly implement your suggestions and ideas.
Be on the look out for more blogs about guitar, music, songwriting and music education.
You’re on your way to becoming a great guitar player.
Have fun! 🙂