Guitars » Learning » Are you too Old to Learn Guitar? Never! Here’s Why

Are you too Old to Learn Guitar? Never! Here’s Why

You might be thinking of learning the guitar but worried you’re too old. ‘Am
I too old to learn guitar’ is a common question those over 25 think consider before taking it up. Once we get past our teenage years we think learning a new skill like playing the guitar is beyond us.

But that couldn’t be more wrong! Whilst being young brings some benefits to learning an instrument (mainly the time you can dedicate to it) there are countless people who have learnt to play later in life.

are you too old to learn guitar

Your age shouldn’t put you off what is an amazing hobby that is likely to bring you a huge amount of joy and pleasure.

If you’re not convinced then keep reading. We’ll go through all the reasons why you aren’t too old to learn the guitar and why you should take it up – right now!

Am I too Old to Learn the Guitar?

Ok, let’s get this out the way quickly. No! You are not too old to learn the guitar. People start learning to play the guitar every day from children through to those in their 70’s. So you may be 30, 40, 50 or more but you are never too old to learn the guitar.

It’s important to make that clear and stop thinking about it now. Learning to play the guitar is hard for all ages and it’s easy to become frustrated.

If you are thinking of taking it up you don’t want to begin your journey already convinced you are going to fail because of your age. It’s like anything you go into thinking you can’t – it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. “Oh, I can’t do this, I’m obviously too old”. If you think like that then you probably won’t do it.

But that won’t be because of your age, it’ll be because of your mindset. So do everything you can to get the idea out of your head that your age is going to stop or hinder you from learning the guitar.

Ok, so now we’ve established all that we can get into how we learn and why your age won’t hold you back.

older guitarist
Image credit Sofia Báthory

How we Learn the Guitar

Learning the guitar is HARD

That’s needs to be emphasized because a lot of people, of all ages, think they will pick up the guitar and very quickly be amazing. Flying across the fretboard and busting out solos.

It does not work like that!

It takes time and dedicated practice to get to a decent level. Even playing very basic songs of 3 or 4 chords will probably take quite a few months.

I’m not saying that to discourage you but to make sure your expectations are realistic. Commitment and patience is so important when learning the guitar.

And the reality is that as we get older we do learn and pick things up a little more slowly. Sadly that’s just a part of life.

So how will age impact learning and how will it make it more difficult?

How Age Effects Learning

The assumption from most is that as we age we struggle or can’t learn new skills. You’ll have heard the phrase “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”.

Unfortunately this idea that age is a barrier to learning has caused far more problems than any actual decline in our ability to learn as we get older. One of the main reasons for struggling to learn as you get older is because we stop learning new things.

It’s another self fulfilling prophecy. We believe we can’t learn anything new so we don’t try. Then our brains lose their neuroplasticity – the word scientists use to describe the brains adaptability – and struggle with these new skills.

The way to break the cycle is to continue to push ourselves and always be learning.

That’s not to say there isn’t a slight decrease in how quickly we learn new skills in later life. But if you are using your brain and learning throughout your life that decline is going to be far less noticeable.

learning guitar at an older age

Why Learning Guitar May be Easier as an Adult

As mentioned earlier learning new skills does get harder as we age. As a child you would pick things up quicker. But there are actually elements of learning the guitar that may be simpler or more straightforward as an adult.

Coordination and Dexterity

Children tend to have a hard time with the dexterity and coordination needed to play the guitar. More so than adults who have used their hands more, have generally bigger hands and are better at getting used to the shapes your hand needs to make.

Coordination is essential to playing the guitar as you need to be able to have both your hands doing different things. Children often struggle with this.

Money

This one may seem a bit odd but it’s no surprise that having money makes things easier. As an adult earning your own money you can buy that guitar you really like and that motivates you to play.

You can also pay for lessons, maybe more regularly than if you were young, or sign up to online courses that charge.

The freedom having money brings you can definitely help make learning something like an instrument simpler.

Knowledge

Being young may give you energy and extra time to learn the guitar but adults have years of knowledge and learning already under their belts. You’ve probably devised strategies or have methods that suit you when learning new skills.

That gives you an extra advantage. How you learn is important and having reached a certain age will have given you the knowledge and experience of how to learn better than children.

A Taste in Music

When you’re a child you might like music but you haven’t got a fully formed taste in it yet. As an adult you will have a clear idea of what you like.

This can help you to have a focus and goals when learning the guitar. You might choose to learn jazz or metal because that’s the style of music you like. Maybe there is a particular song or solo you want to nail.

You can use your love of music to guide what to learn. It can be a great motivator and something that children won’t have.

Technology

There has never been a better time to learn the guitar than now. Technology has made it so much more accessibly. But a lot of it is designed for adults, not the young.

There are literally thousands of tutorial videos on YouTube for every song, techniques or style of music you could think of. There are apps, online music courses (both free and premium), free tab sites.

You can do video and zoom tutorials with a teacher thousands of miles away. Why not try recording your playing every week it month to track your progress?

Go back a few decades and people who were learning guitar only had the option of trying to copy what was on the radio or their record player.

The options today are vast and unbelievably helpful to those learning. And as someone older you can take advantage of them all.

The Ability to Set Goals

When you’re young you don’t really know what you want. Ask a child what they want to achieve when learning the guitar and you probably won’t get much of an answer.

But adults often have goals. They want to learn a specific style of music (jazz, funk, metal etc), they really like a certain artist or band and want to learn their songs, they just want to be able to strum along with friends. All of those are achievable goals that you can work towards.

Having those goals gives you a path and direction to go in when learning.

Expectation Management

When you’re young you get frustrated and upset more easily. A lot of kids are going to want to pick up the guitar and instantly be able to play it. They won’t be able to fully understand, or at least have the patience to accept it takes time and practice.

Admittedly some adults still have many of those issues too. We all get frustrated at some point. But as we get older we tend to be a lot more rational and better at managing our expectations. That stands you in good stead as you will need to work through the early stages of learning which will be hard and disappointing.

How to Learn the Guitar When you’re Older

As being younger or a child means you can learn faster and have more time to do so it stands to reason the way you approach learning the guitar would be different as you get older. There are ways you can shape the way you learn to maximize your time and play to your strengths.

1. Time management is very important. It’s the biggest benefit of learning the guitar as a child or someone younger – all that free time and lack of responsibilities to play and practice whenever you like. But as an adult you’re going to have to plan you’re time more carefully. Playing 30 minutes a day is much more effective than cramming in 3 hours once a week. Find the time to play regularly. It will

2. Use technology to help you. You can harness the amazing tool that is the internet to make learning so much easier. Free courses like justinguitar.com are brilliant for beginners. YouTube has tutorials for more songs than you could imagine. There is a plethora of websites and apps, both free and paid, that offer amazing information and guides.

3. Always use a tuner and metronome. Making sure your guitar is in tune is very important. You can get free tuner apps for your phone so you never have an excuse not to tune up before playing. Playing in time is also essential, and like the timer apps there are many metronome apps you can get too. Use both of these tools at all times and they will give you a solid foundation in timing and knowing how you’re guitar should sound.

4. Learn tab. Learning to read music is very hard. Thankfully the guitar has its own, super simple system called tablature (or tab for short). Its really easy to understand and will allow you to begin learning songs almost instantly. Commit to learning how tab works and you will open up

5. Record yourself. Seeing the progress you’re making can be a real motivator. So record yourself playing once a week or month so you can look back on how far you’ve come and use that to spur you on! It’s a tried and tested way of reducing the frustrations whilst you learn and the feelings that you’re not getting anywhere.

6. Get a Teacher. Learning the guitar by yourself is definitely possible. In fact many do so. But you do leave yourself open to picking up bad habits and learning the wrong way. In the long term this could hold you back and result in you having to relearn some of the basics further down the line. Which is surprisingly hard. If you get a teacher you can avoid these issues and feel confident you’re learning in the correct and most efficient way. And on top of that it’s just a lot easier having an actual teacher to guide you. You can even do your lessons over Skype or Zoom now so don’t have to leave the comfort of your house or bedroom.

7. Play with Other People. This isn’t always easy but if you can find someone else to play or jam with it’ll be hugely beneficial. Playing with others is one of the best ways to progress as well as just being so much fun.

If you’re thinking of taking up the guitar and aren’t sure where to start try out guitar to should you learn acoustic or electric guitar first.

Advantages of Learning Guitar at Any Age

Regardless of age learning the guitar or just a new skill in general is beneficial to the mind and body. There’s a lot of evidence that doing things like learning a new language or to play an instrument can actually help your brain to stay young.

So it can be beneficial to your brains cognitive function. But also learning the guitar can help your mood. It reduces anxiety and can alleviate depression. Many find it almost meditative, taking them away from the stresses of life by just focusing on the guitar and music.

There’s also the social aspect of playing an instrument. Some like to play entirely by themselves but over time most people who take up an instrument end up playing with other people. It becomes a social activity that can result in friendships and bonds that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

Overall learning the guitar or any musical instrument is going to have a positive impact on your physical, emotional and mental health. It’s a win-win situation and your age shouldn’t even come into your thinking. Just do it!

FAQ

Is there a Maximum Age to Learn Guitar?

No. Anyone of any age can learn the guitar. Many people wrongly assume that you have to start learning at a very early age or you’ve missed the chance and will never be able to. This is wrong. If you want to learn the guitar, whatever age you are, you can and should do so.

What is the Best Age to Learn Guitar

There isn’t one. You can learn to play the guitar at 5 years old or at 70 years old. There is nothing to hold you back but yourself so don’t let your age be the reason stopping you from taking that step.

Is it Harder for Adults to Learn Guitar?

Not really. Whilst being younger gives you some benefits – time to practice, a small difference in how quickly you pick new skills up etc. there are countless adults who have learnt guitar. Many people do so in their 50’s, 60’s and even 70’s. Using your age as an excuse or reason not to learn the guitar is self defeating.

Is it too Late to Learn Guitar at 30?

No! 30 is still very young and you can easily learn guitar at this age. Many famous guitarists started playing in their 20’s, so only a few years younger than 30, and became phenomenal musicians.

Is it too Late to Learn Guitar at 40?

No! 40 is still young to be learning new skills. Lots of people have taken up the guitar in their 40’s’s and found it to be an amazing hobby. With patience and regularly practice you can learn at the sane rate as those younger than you and become proficient in playing the guitar.

Is it too Late to Learn Guitar at 50?

No! You can learn new languages, quality in new fields and earn degrees at 50 and much older. Why wouldn’t you be able to learn the guitar? 50 is still fairly young and won’t hold you back from learning guitar.

Conclusion

You’re never too old to learn the guitar. It’s really as simple as that. Doing so will bring you joy and a wonderful hobby. It will allow you express your creativity, help reduce stress and improve your mental health. You may even make new friends and find it leads to even more opportunities you couldn’t have imagined.

There are no downsides to learning the guitar at any age. The only thing holding you back is your own assumption that not being a child or teenager is going to make it impossible. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

So have the confidence and belief to take that step and begin learning. It’ll be one of the best things you ever do.

About Andy Fraser

I'm Andy and I've been crazy about music, and specifically the guitar, for longer than I can remember. It's this passion and enthusiasm about all things guitar that drove me to start this website. A place where I could talk about the gear, techniques and general awesomeness that is the best instrument. I began playing somewhat late compared to a lot of people. I was 15 years old as it had taken me a while to find the confidence to believe in myself and take that step to learn to play an instrument. It started my lifelong love of music and playing in general. Since then like so many before me I've become an addict and gone through more guitars, amps and gear than I care to remember. Guitar Inside Out is my way of sharing hat love and passion with the music community and hopefully inspiring and helping others to enjoy it as much as I do.

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