It is quite common for me to get inquiries by people in their mid twenties who think they are already too old to learn guitar and even wonder if it makes sense to take guitar lessons at all.
Can you believe that? People in their early twenties! Now think about the fact, that those who actually confront that fear and contact a guitar teacher, are only a small fraction – the biggest percentage will never take the first step to find out if they might actually be wrong and thus miss out on giving themselves the gift of music.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to immediately get rid of this harmful idea and start learning guitar at whatever age you are now. If I was eighty years old and had the dream of playing guitar, I’d be off to the guitar shop and would inquire for lessons today. Of course, it’s great when you discover your love for guitar at a young age and have an entire lifetime to enjoy music, but it does not matter if that didn’t happen, you can start learning today!
Keep in mind that every age has upsides and downsides and being an adult even in your middle years has many advantages to being much younger. It’s rare for example, that kids and teens can sustain focus on a small element over prolonged periods of time and this ability even becomes more rare in our day and age of constant cell phone and internet use.
Adults have already gone through the process of education many times in their lives and had to confront and overcome frustration and challenges before. They know that results take hard work and time, with many bumps on the road and having developed the ability to deal with frustration when progress is slow, during various periods during the learning process, is very valuable.
While kids and teens try out many activities and often engage in various sports at the same time, adults often have more insight what their preferences are and can thus focus better on a few but important activities.
From my teaching experience I cannot say that young people learn faster or make faster progress than older people.
I don’t say this to put young people down, but to encourage people who are not in their teens or mid twenties anymore to take up the guitar and start taking lessons.
Yes, young people might theoretically be able to learn faster and their bodies might be able to pick up complex movements quicker, but many of my slowest students have been young people who had the dream to be able to play guitar, but totally lacked the will and discipline to sit down and practice on a regular basis with a high degree of focus. They had also never met challenges that required them to deal with frustration over longer periods of time before and faced much difficulty, despite me being there right beside them to coach them through the process. The potential to pick up things quicker does not matter, if other factors like focus, discipline and a regular practice schedule are missing, because these qualities are essential for progress. Just being young does not make up for it. Many young students I had were constantly distracted, looking for shortcuts to make the process easier and using every excuse why they were not able to practice at this point in their lives. This, of course, is not a generalization about all young people, but in my teaching this has been a big percentage.
As you see, each age has certain advantages and downsides, so it does not really matter how old you are. Instead, focus on the joy of learning something new and filling your life with the passion for music. A great thing about learning guitar is the fact that it can never get boring, because there is always more to learn, more to discover – it’s an endless fascinating journey! How many things do you actually have in your life to which such a statement would apply?
About the author: Derk Stiepelmann owns Songwriter’s Shed, a guitar school offering guitar lessons in Dortmund, Germany where he helps his students reach their musical goals.