How Old is Too Old?

Hi there, and once again sorry for the extended period between blogs. As usual life keeps getting in the way, and last month was taken up by touring with Spires. Anyway, we’re back on track for the time being, so time for another blog. A question I am often asked is whether a student is too old to begin learning guitar. The age of my students ranges from 7 to about 75, so it should be fairly obvious what my thoughts are on this!

Firstly I just want to get a couple of inevitable truths out of the way. There is no denying that as you get older the brain becomes less efficient at picking up new things. Therefore a teenager will generally get to a certain level on guitar faster than someone in their 70s. Secondly, there is also a physical aspect, in the sense that as we get older our fingers aren’t as fast and mobile as they once were.

So, that’s the negatives out of the way. But what about the positives? Well first of all, I’d like to stress how much I’m generalising in the above paragraph. It is not necessarily always true, and with determination I’ve seen grandparents pick things up just as quickly as students a quarter of their age. Also, (and I’d say this is the most important point), just because something may take longer, or feel slightly more difficult, doesn’t mean it can’t, or indeed shouldn’t be done. It most certainly can, and all you need is a bit of perseverance. With enough repetition, anyone can develop the necessary muscle memory (a phrase you may have noticed I use a lot) to move comfortably between chords, or play smoothly through a lead guitar lick. Indeed, some of my most rewarding lessons are when something like this finally ‘clicks’ for an older student.

I should also talk briefly about the benefits of taking guitar lessons (or any instrument) later in life. Firstly, learning guitar can be mentally challenging. There is a fair amount to remember, and then apply. This has the same benefit on the mind as playing chess or doing cryptic crosswords, but with the added benefit of producing something tangible, ie some good music! Remember, the brain is a muscle, so keep it active, and it’ll look after you!

Also, as long as you don’t overdo it (see my previous blog on practicing little and often), it’s physically good for you as well. I’ve known people with arthritis in the hands be told by their doctors that taking up guitar could be a good thing for them. Again, I must stress it’s important to take it lightly, but you may find it actually increases your movement.

So in conclusion, how old is too old? I think you can guess what my answer to that is!

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