Learning guitar later in life can appear difficult, but here is a simple truth:
If you want to learn to play guitar then you are never too old to succeed. Time, dedication and practice are what is required. As an older beginner guitar player, you also have advantages that children don’t. Whether you are in your 20′, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s or older, age is no barrier, it is never too late to learn guitar.
But if you have never learned a musical instrument in your life before then what confidence can you have that you will be able to do it?
I had these exact same thoughts. They came from a place of fear, uncertainty, and doubt.
What I have now found from learning guitar at the age of 39 is that these feelings are natural but more importantly, not true.
So let’s get into the reasons why you are never too old to learn guitar.
1. There Is No Best Age To Learn Guitar
I have started learning guitar at the age of 39 and it hasn’t proved to be easy but I never thought it would be.
As an older beginner, I have been ‘around the block’ of life a few times to understand that things don’t always work out. Over the years I have talked to friends and contemporaries who have picked up a guitar at some point in their adult life but have always ended up quitting.
Often they have bought a guitar as part of a beginner pack, bought one on a whim or they were given one as a present by a loved one. Many of them have actually only played a few times and not continued because it either it hurt their or fingers, they didn’t have the time or they found it too hard.
These three reasons aren’t exclusive to picking up the guitar later in life though, they are there whatever age you start to learn.
Learning guitar takes time, requires dedication and has a small pain barrier to get through for the first two weeks or so. The sooner you understand this the easier it is to stay committed and commitment comes through discipline and passion.
Having the discipline to practice at least 3 to 5 times a week, like children often have to do before or after school, is what will improve your ability and develop the skill of playing guitar.
Once you have this habit created, the next step is to absorb all things guitar. Watch videos on bands or songs you like, watch the lead or rhythm guitarist in the band, who are they? Google them, learn what type of guitar they play, find interviews about them.
Andertons ‘The Captain Meets’ on YouTube is great for this, here is one below where he meets Steve Vai.
Listen to new forms of music or music you may not have listened to in a long time, see what other similar bands there are or were. Often by doing this I have ended up discovering music that I love or find interesting and then this has lead to something else.
Watch videos about guitar gear and be inspired by those who have spent many years playing and learning guitar.
By doing both of these things, creating a habit and developing your interest, then your passion will grow and you will want to pick up the guitar. After all this, time with the guitar and strings under your fingers is what will see you get better at playing.
The issue then is keeping your sudden urge to want to buy a new guitar and new gear every other day, week or month under control. But hey once you are at this point you know that you are likely are on the right path to success because you are now dedicated!
2. You Don’t Need To Have Physical Lessons To Start Learning
There is no secret sauce to learning guitar later in life, it is just a case of picking a system of learning and sticking with it. There is also good news for the older beginner guitar player with little time, you don’t need to have physical lessons, you can learn online in your own time.
Online courses, Apps, YouTube, DVDs, Skype, there are so many ways to learn without having physical guitar lessons that getting started learning guitar is easier than it has ever been.
Many older people who have reached out to me have asked about getting guitar lessons from an instructor. Is it a good idea? Yes, Can you learn to play guitar without an instructor in person? Yes.
A Lot of these same people are concerned they may pick up bad habits from the start. A few guitar lessons in person with an instructor will be beneficial for this but committing to a time every week to meet for guitar lessons isn’t necessary to learn.
With all the ways of learning online, it can feel overwhelming however, I certainly felt this way at the start. It all becomes a lot clearer though once you find a structured learning path and these are available without the need for in-person guitar lessons.
3. You Can Learn Anytime Online
Finding time during the week can be difficult for many of us in the older age bracket. I have two children, so getting spare time after work and after being with them is very limited.
The beauty with learning online is that whenever you get 5 minutes you can pick up the guitar and instruction is just a swipe, tap or click away. Equally, it is just as easy to stop playing should your attention be needed elsewhere.
Getting a solid chunk of time sat learning is best but if you only get 5 minutes and can quickly practice something with instruction then this is absolutely better than not playing at all.
4. You Are Self Motivated
When we are children we often lack self-motivation which is where all these ‘pushy’ parents come into the picture. Sometimes children need to be placed in situations that are focused and help build discipline in order to learn something new and understand what it takes to improve and become good at something.
When you get older you have less patience for doing things you don’t want to do but for things you do want to do then aha! This is when your strength in years is so beneficial.
You have likely learned a new skill before to a good level, so take the time to reflect on that. What was it like when you first started? How and why did you become interested in it? How did your enthusiasm grow? How did you become better at it?
Looking back like this can help you understand why you have become proficient at what you are good at. You can use this to take comfort in the fact that you are capable of learning something new and that you are capable of getting to a decent level of proficiency.
When you are young you don’t have this to draw upon. Look at learning guitar as an enjoyable journey, one that is a marathon and not a sprint, and use your experience to fuel your motivation.
5. You Know The Music You Like
Knowing the music you like helps to unlock barriers to progress.
When you are young you are just getting started learning and discovering all the different music that is available to your ears. As an older beginner guitar player, however, you likely have a lot of music that you have listened to over the years and many songs that mean something to you or remind you of some time or person for example.
Take some time to write down some artists or songs that mean something to you. Use this as a basis for fueling you to learn the guitar. Alongside a structured learning course, learning songs is one of the keys to success, when learning guitar as an older beginner, and it spurs you on when a little frustration kicks in.
One of the things that I have found the best is using Spotify to save songs, albums, and artists that I love and have had some influence on me over the years. I also use it to discover new artists as well as explore different genres of music.
I have found this invaluable when learning guitar as my list of songs to learn grows and grows.
6. You’re Disciplined
Often when you are younger you have the attention span of a goldfish. By all accounts, this is getting worse given the distractions we now have with the mighty internet and the empire of social media.
But if you’re older in age then maybe the ‘latest crazes just pass you by’ and this is a good thing. You don’t get caught up in the hysteria of a new app or a new way of communicating that doesn’t actually involve speaking.
You are strong, like bull. Well, your mind is and you are going to need this if you want to develop and get anything out of learning guitar.
As Jimi Hendrix famously said:
“Sometimes you want to give up the guitar, you’ll hate the guitar. But if you stick with it, you’re gonna be rewarded”Jimi Hendrix
So take comfort in the fact you have more discipline than your younger counterpart.
7. You Have More Disposable Income
Statistically speaking when you are older you are earning more than your early years in the workforce although your expenses and lifestyle may grow with the age you generally have more disposable income.
Scraping together enough money to buy a guitar when you are younger can seem a big challenge but with a few more years on the clock and with more money in your pocket you have more choice too.
There are so many great sounding and looking guitars out there for reasonable prices that you are no longer destined to pick up a poor performing guitar that may stop you from learning.
Enjoy the fact you have the money to spend and if you want my advice, take the time to learn about what makes a good guitar, whether that is electrical, acoustic or classical. This appreciation of craftsmanship often leads to stronger interest and in turn a stronger habit.
As an example of this, I am learning on an acoustic currently called a Seagull S6 Original. It is not the most expensive guitar at around $400 but more than the cheap beginner guitars often pushed at you when you first start.
The reason I didn’t buy one of these cheaper guitars is that I read around the topic first. By doing this I learned from experienced guitar players that these ‘beginner guitars’ are actually set up in a way that makes them terrible to play.
They have very high action, have the wrong gauge strings on them (for beginners) and poorly finished frets. This makes for a very uncomfortable playing experience but most beginners wouldnt know this which is how they can get away with selling them.
We have written some great in-depth ‘ultimate’ guides about what to look for in a guitar, what makes a good guitar, what brands to trust and what you do and don’t need when first starting out.
I would recommend reading one of these based on your guitar of choice, alongside this I would read what is involved in a Professional Guitar Setup in our article here so you understand why and what you need done to your new guitar.
Articles to help develop your understanding and passion for guitar:
8. You Manage Your Time More Efficiently
Most likely because you have less of it so you have no choice!
But seriously as an adult you have more responsibilities generally which means you have to be more organized with your time.
When learning guitar later in life, or any age really, one of the key ways to practice is to work on weaknesses in order to develop your skills and abilities.
When time is of the essence and you want to make sure you get the most out of your practice time then you need to be efficient. One way of doing this is to learn online which we have already covered but the other is to make sure that you are following a structured course of learning.
By doing this you will build a foundation of learning that you can move on from with confidence. If you were just learning from YouTube videos alone then this would be very hard to achieve as you would likely not know what to learn next.
9. You Are More Reasoned In Your Choices
Buying something on impulse can lead to guilt and often poor choice. I know, I have done this myself with many items in my life often with buyer remorse.
What should you be looking for in your first guitar? What will suit you? How much should you spend? What style should you learn first? How should you start learning?
Finding a guitar that suits you when you have no experience is hard but when you are a kid, the budget is set by someone else and often where you will be learning to. You have less choice than you will have as an adult.
Having these choices, and you know, being an adult means that you get to weigh up the pros and cons and make your own decisions. With years on the clock, you will have experience in making choices good and bad which will help you make reasoned and ‘seasoned’ choices (supposedly, haha).
10. You Have Less Pressure
Many younger people pick up the guitar to impress others, a girl, a boy, they have visions of grandeur or just want to fit in. These aren’t necessarily bad reasons but they aren’t necessarily ones that will sustain someone in the time it takes to learn guitar to a proficient level.
If you are thinking about learning guitar later in life there aren’t these pressures. The only pressure that exists is the one you put on yourself.
You have likely less time and less patience but this isn’t necessarily a negative as we have already discussed.
Having less pressure means that you can concentrate on a few things if you want to do them well and that is perfect if learning guitar later in life is one of them.
11. Guitar Helps Reduce Stress
Life can become a grind and day after day stress can work its way to the surface.
Long periods of stress can release cortisol and these can reduce dopamine in the brain which is linked to depression. I have personally had depression and found a guitar to really help me, you can read my article and watch my video on this here 14 Reasons Why Learning Guitar Helps With Depression and Anxiety
Bizarrely, when I just started learning guitar I was stressed while playing the guitar and I didn’t know why until I was over a month into my learning.
What was happening was that I was getting frustrated because I wasn’t getting to grips with the guitar as quickly as I thought I might or should be.
However, as time marched on and I was still playing consistently and putting in the time to learn, I actually became entirely comfortable with this ‘frustration’. I began to understand that frustration is part of learning and more importantly, accept that it was a sign of growth.
The main issue is that when you first start, every element of learning guitar is difficult and frustrating. This eases off as you keep playing but if you don’t play consistently then this won’t happen and then you are very likely to quit.
It is important to realize that if you are in a position where there isn’t any frustration then you are not challenging yourself and if you are not doing that then you are not progressing with your guitar playing.
Once I understood all this I actually began to enjoy the process even more. So now with a habit created and with a practice schedule of 3 to 4 times a week, playing guitar in the evening to relax is ‘what I do’.
It has become a habit, a healthy one that challenges my mind and melts away other thoughts and takes me to a place of new learning, discovery, and growth.
Learning guitar later in life is a fantastic way to keep the fingers and the mind in great shape and takes the edge off life when it’s a bit too sharp.
12. Many In Your Age Group Are Doing The Same Thing
One of the great things that aren’t often talked about when learning online is that there are some excellent communities around learning guitar and particularly for those later in life.
I am learning through the Justin Guitar Course and they have a great community of people who support each other in learning guitar. You can check it out here Justin Guitar Forums (Click Here) but this isn’t exclusive.
All the online structured learning programs that I have looked at have a forum and you can have as little or as much involvement as you like. The important thing is that they are there when you need to get some reassurance, encouragement or positivity when you need it.
There will be different levels of guitar players there but they are all supportive as they are all in the same boat, they are learning guitar.
13. The Best Things In Life Don’t Come Easy
This is a lesson that is only learned with time and if you are an older beginner guitar player then you can take solace in this. When young this is often not understood so as an older player you have an advantage that you understand this first hand.
Learning guitar isn’t easy, don’t expect it to be. There is a reason that 90% of new guitar players quit in the first 6 months, whether it is sore fingers or not being able to learn a song quickly, learning guitar takes time and effort.
Accepting this means you may feel that the bar is being set low but if you have no prior musical experience then it should be. As previously mentioned, learning guitar is a journey, you start off knowing little to nothing and joining the dots with what you pick up takes time.
Stick with the learning process, no one is a guitarist in their first year, it takes time and dedication. Most don’t realize what is involved.
14. You Don’t Have To Master The Guitar To Enjoy Playing
Many of us when younger and first picking up the guitar look towards an inspirational guitarist with the hope of emulating them one day.
When you are learning guitar later in life however, the joy is in the process. I find learning to play guitar later in life a pleasure. It is a pleasure even though when I practice I don’t always make much progress and sometimes it feels like none at all.
As an example, just last night I was learning to play ‘Fast Car’ by Tracy Chapman. It has some fingerpicking and movement up and down the fretboard. I have been learning it for a week or two and can play through the riff but there are two parts where you have to move your pinky to play a note and I just struggle with it.
I must have repeated the riff over 30 times last night but my mind was focused. It was focused on the moment, not anything else going on in my life. I wasn’t feeling disappointed, I was just trying to improve. With each glide up and down the strings I was trying to make the notes ring clearer and each repetition felt like it built on the last. Did it actually get better?
Probably not but I enjoyed it all the same
15. Learning Guitar Isn’t A Race It Is A Journey
Learning guitar as an older beginner it pays well to remember that this isn’t a race it’s a journey.
If you were to go on YouTube and search around guitar you will often find young virtuosos or seasoned guitar players who are teaching you what to learn.
These people have paid their dues, they have built up their skills away from YouTube and honed their craft and are now confident enough in their ability to display it.
Many would agree this is a sensible thing to do, to avoid any feeling of embarrassment of generally just bore people with your lack of ability. It is also advice that I have ignored, haha.
I document my entire journey learning guitar later in life on YouTube because I want to show that it is possible for older people to learn. I decided to do this because I wanted to provide some evidence and I’d love to have you along on my channel whether you are a beginner or not, you can visit here.
Alongside learning guitar, I have been learning to blog and to shoot and edit video and to use YouTube. It has been full-on but hopefully, these two videos show some progression for you so that you can see something is achievable in a relatively short amount of time from someone who has no previous musical ability.
This was week one of the Justin Guitar Beginner course.
And this was after about 1 month of learning.
I am now 3 months along and you can visit my channel on YouTube now to find out how I am getting on (click here to track my progress on my YouTube channel).
The course I am following is entirely free and available here if you want to start learning Justin Guitar Beginner Course.
16. Learning Guitar Expands The Brain
There have been a number of studies on learning an instrument, not just the guitar, that show the beneficial effect.
There are elements of learning the guitar that just naturally provides a workout for the brain often without you even realizing it and it has been claimed that it can even increase IQ.
When learning guitar, for example, you have to use motor skills, hearing and you have to store audio information.
The great news is that when learning guitar later in life this still applies.
As Lutz Jäncke, a psychologist at the University of Zurich iterated:
“We found that even people over the age of 65 after four or five months of playing an instrument for an hour a week there were strong changes in the brain.
The parts of the brain that control hearing, memory, and the part that controls the hands among others, all become more active. Essentially the architecture of the brain changes.”
The report by Lutz Jänckean be found here Music Drives Brain Plasticity
So an hour a week and I’ll have a super brain? I have been playing for 3 months now as I write this, so in one to two months time watch out!
Jokes aside its an excellent way to occupy your brain and expand its capability, so don’t wait to get started.
17. Anyone Can Learn To Play The Guitar, At Any Age
Many people learn to play the guitar later in life, it isn’t always documented on video though. In the forums, that I previously mentioned, there are many examples of people learning guitar later in life.
Below are a few that may inspire you if you are an older beginner guitar player.
Age is just a number and is only a barrier if you choose it to be.
Essential Next Reading For The Older Beginner:
Best Acoustic Guitar For Older Beginners (Click here to read the article)
I spent a long time researching in order to choose the right guitar. For me I wanted the best quality instrument that didn’t break the bank and I found it so I wanted to tell others.
How To Learn Guitar Later In Life (Click here to read the article)
This article is all about getting started learning guitar. Did you know that roughly 90% of people give up learning guitar in the first 6 months? Don’t let this be you. I am an older beginner, come along on the journey with me on YouTube. Let’s do this together.
How Long Does It Take To Learn Guitar (Click here to read the article)
I’ve broken down what studies have shown about how long it takes to learn the guitar. I will be measuring my own progress against this on my YouTube channel.
Free Online Guitar Lessons For Older Adults (Click here to read the article)
In this article, I have put together all the resources I have found to date that offer some structured guitar learning and are completely free. Without a structured path for learning guitar, we can drift and then interest can wane.
How To Beat Guitar Learning Frustration For Older Beginners (Click here to read this article)
If you’re learning to play guitar in later life, there are a few steps that you will go through. One of these steps is frustration, it is inevitable. There’s quite a tough adjustment period when you are playing guitar and it can feel like you are asking your hands to do things they just won’t cooperate with