Am I too old to play the guitar?
Should adults even bother to learn to play the guitar?
About half of my students are adults, and the majority of the subscribers to my email list and participants in my online guitar courses are adults.
None of them are too old to play the guitar. And I’m extremely happy they decided to pick up the guitar and start to learn (even as a grown up).
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t a special set of challenges that adults face.
There are tons of reasons why it can be difficult to learn the guitar, but for adults, two reasons stand out:
- Adults are Lousy Students
- We’ve Forgotten How to Learn.
Adults are Lousy Students
This is perhaps the most revelatory piece of information that I recently stumbled upon.
A lot of my adult students (most, in fact) are high performers. They’re the top players, not only in their jobs, but in their fields. They are committed hard-working professionals. They own their own businesses, they’re CEO’s, they’re lawyers and doctors.
So what does this have to do with learning the guitar?
The answer came as I was teaching a student the other day.
After our lesson he thanked me for being patient with him. He said that he spends all day running his business, managing his team, giving orders, coaching, teaching, and demonstrating all of the skills that his team needs to know in order to successfully operate.
He also mentioned, that he’s not used to being taught. It’s been so long since he’s really worked at learning a new skill. He finds process difficult.
I didn’t really pick up on this initially, but as I thought about all of my adult students, this idea seemed to gel.
In fact, a lot of my adults students (before they picked up the guitar) had other hobbies (and by “hobbies” I mean obsessions).
Interestingly, I’ve found a positive correlation between the willingness to learn and involvement in past hobbies. It seems that those adult students who have spent previous and recent time learning new hobbies and skills, are more teachable and tend to pick up things quickly.
Obviously I’m dealing with a small and circumstantial sample size here… but I thought it was interesting.
So how do we become better students?
Patience (and maybe try to be open minded).
It’s tough to switch from “high-performing-leader-mode” to “empty-headed-new-student-mode”.
Try to be humble. Try to be patient with your guitar teacher (and, of course, with yourself).
Remember that it’s a process.
Celebrate any and all wins that you have along the way.
Be disciplined when motivation fails you.
We’ve Forgotten how to Learn
Before you give up the guitar in frustration, consider this: When was the last time you really attempted to learn something new? And were you successful?
Don’t blame yourself if you struggled, or even failed. It’s possible that you just have bad learning habits.
We’ve picked up our methods of learning from school (which ended a while ago for most of us). While the tactics we used back then may have worked, they don’t seem to be working now.
We’re challenging are brains (and fingers) to do new stuff we’re not used to. It often feels unnatural.
So how do we become better learners?
Try learning using different methods.
For example: When trying to memorize chords, instead of repeating the same chord over and over again, try playing it in conjunction with an entire song.
Another example: When learning a new song by a certain artist, listen to other songs by that artist. Start to get a feel for all of their music. Watch videos of them playing the guitar. Immerse yourself in their style (in a similar way that you would immerse yourself in a new language).
Overall – just recognize that as adults we have our own set of issues, and it’s probably a good thing to keep these in mind when we’re learning something new.
It’s not all going to be easy, but hopefully having this awareness will help (even just a little bit). You are not too old to play the guitar. Good luck! Don’t quit!
(Jake Posko does Online Guitar Lessons and Coaching as well as in-home lessons in the Annapolis, Maryland area including: Annapolis, Edgewater, Severna Park, Pasadena, Crownsville, Arnold and Kent Island, inquire about lessons by e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org).
(photo credit: Angela Quitoriano)