It’s never too late to learn guitar!
In the past few years, I’ve had a lot of new students sign up who are over 50 and are either retired or semi-retired. It’s never too late to start taking guitar lessons, or lessons on any instrument for that matter, so don’t let the fact that you’re not a kid stop you from trying to learn how to play guitar.
Older students do have some advantages over younger students
The number one advantage that adult students have over kids is that since they’re the ones paying for the lessons, they’re more motivated to practice so they get their money’s worth. More practice leads to consistent improvement, and that in turn leads to more students successfully learning how to play. I’ve also noticed that adult students seem to be more open to doing the boring work that needs to be done to develop their skills, like scales or chord exercises.
Common pitfalls for older students
Of course there can be problems associated with trying to learn an instrument at an older age. The most common problem I’ve seen with older students is that they get frustrated with themselves over one particular issue, like muted notes, or difficulties with timing.
The problem with muted notes when playing chords usually goes away after the callouses on the fingertips develop, which can take up to 6 months. If there are still problems with muted notes after that, and the student is using correct technique, the issue might be best resolved by getting a guitar with wider string spacing.
Problems with timing can be more difficult to address. You do have to be patient with yourself as it can take years to develop your ability to the point where it feels natural to play in time with recordings or with other musicians. If you’re struggling with your timing, here’s a few things to try to develop it.
- If you haven’t learned to read music, get a basic method book from Mel Bay or Hal Leonard, and go through the books at least until you’re reading 16th notes. The songs are all going to be old music that’s in the public domain, but it definitely helps to focus on reading standard notation.
- Try learning some songs by ear. Start with ones that have clearly audible guitar riffs or strumming patterns, and don’t worry about trying to learn the whole song – just learn what you can hear.
- Stop guitar lessons for a month, and take 4 weeks of drum lessons to learn some of the rudiments (basic sticking patterns). This will help your rhythm because you can focus completely on playing in time and don’t have to worry about playing notes or chords. You don’t need a drumset – you can get by with a pair of drumsticks and a practice pad.
Of course it’s better to start sooner than later if you want to learn an instrument, but don’t let age stop you from at least trying. I’ve had plenty of older students who’ve been able to learn how to play and get a lot of enjoyment out of the guitar.