Guitar For The Older Beginner – Am I Too Old?

am I too old to learn guitar

Are You Too Old To Learn Guitar???  As if there are not enough other things to feel insecure about when beginning guitar!

I have been anxiously asked this by a 28 year old, a 38 year old, a 46 year old, and let’s see…off the top of my head, I can remember students at age 52, 65, 77. Finally, good old Frank, who I taught when I was in my 20’s, he was 84!

So, I have some experience with this question, and more importantly, with the answer.

I am going to tell you the answer right up front to set your mind at ease.

Yes, anyone can learn to play the guitar, at any age, period. That is the truth, and I know it, because I have done it over and over and continue to do it. However, as with everything else in life, the devil is in the details!

Knowing How To Practice Correctly Is Essential

Yes, anyone can learn at any age if they know one most important thing: how to practice correctly. How you practice is the single most important factor in whether you, or anyone, of any age, will be successful in learning guitar.

This is because the biggest obstacles to learning guitar are physical obstacles. You must use muscles you have never used before. You must get your fingers to make movements they have never made before,  and they must make them smoothly and quickly.

At First, You're Not Learning Guitar, You're Doing "Body Learning".  

When you learn guitar, you are really attempting to teach your fingers, hands, and arms new abilities. That means you are not really learning “guitar”, you are actually engaged in “body learning”, and so, you must know and follow the well established laws of how the body, meaning your muscles, nerves, and brain, actually learn to do new and unfamiliar movements.

For instance, one of the laws of body learning is that all movements must be practiced extremely slowly, with great focus on relaxation throughout the body. If you do not do this, if you allow your shoulders to tense when your fingers are stretching, that tension will stay in the shoulders and be reinforced every time you practice. It will feel “normal” to you and you will not know your shoulders are tense. All you will know is that you cannot control your fingers.

This happens to a large percentage of people, of every age, who try to learn guitar. It will tend to happen more with adult students, and seniors because they have had more years to acquire tension in their bodies even apart from practicing guitar. However, if a student knows how to practice the necessary finger movements in a way that does not allow excess tension into the hands, arms, shoulders, and the rest of the body, they will be successful at learning to play, no matter how old they are.

Learning According To The Body, Not The Guitar

Guitar instruction is dis-organized, unscientific, and, compared to piano or violin, a young and immature profession. Many, perhaps most, “guitar teachers” are not teachers, they are guitar players. There is a vast difference. Guitar players know how to play the guitar; guitar teachers should know how to cause other people to play the guitar. However, most of the people I have met who have failed at guitar have taken lessons, sometimes for years.

They were told they “had no talent”, the fact is that their teacher had no knowledge of how to teach. Unfortunately, such “teachers” often write the method books that the unsuspecting guitar aspirant buys and places their trust in.

Such books are often merely collections of guitar information, pages full of chord diagrams, scales, songs, etc., with no information about how to actually get your fingers to be able to do these things. Worse, the information and exercises are given according to the how the guitar works, not how the human body and human hand work.

The First Fret Is The Hardest Place To Play - Don't Begin There!

For instance, all guitar books begin by teaching you chords or notes in the “first position” at the “first fret”. By custom, the area of the guitar fingerboard furthest from the body is called the “first” position. So, everyone assumes that a student should learn that “first”.

The problem is that this requires the arm to extend farthest away from the body, which requires the deltoid muscle in the shoulder to work hard to support that weight. This effort, especially in the beginner or older student, will inevitably cause muscle tension throughout the body, even to the point of the student holding their breath!

After that, everything locks up and the student will be either unable to control the fingers, or will struggle to control them, which is really no control at all. They will become either a failure at guitar, or a handicapped player.

The older guitar student will suffer the most from these flawed guitar learning methods, and, being insecure of their own potential to begin with, will blame themselves.

The Guaranteed Method For Older Beginners On Guitar

It does not have to be this way. There is a method of learning guitar that is scientific, is based on the laws of body learning, and works for everyone. It is called  "The Principles Of Correct Practice For Guitar", and you can find out more about it by following the link.

I wish you all success in your sincere desire to learn to play this most beautiful and rewarding of musical instruments.

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"The Informed Guitar Student"

About the author 

Jamie Andreas

Jamie Andreas has one goal: to make sure that everyone who wants to learn guitar is successful. After her first 25 years of teaching, she wrote the world acclaimed method for guitar "The Principles of Correct Practice For Guitar". She put everything into this method that was essential for success on guitar. Called "The Holy Grail" of guitar books, the Principles has enabled thousands of students who tried and failed to play guitar for years or even decades, to become real guitar players. In 2012 Jamie was profiled in "Guitar Zero" (Penguin Press 2012), a study of how adults learn to play guitar. Jamie was interviewed along with some of the worlds leading guitarist/teachers, including jazz legend Pat Martino and Tom Morello ("Rage Against The Machine").

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  1. I have been learning the electric guitar, going down the blues road now into my forth month. Yep I am old 64, yet having tried so many times over the years and got no where this time have really got going with it all. I had an acoustic guitar in the past, only knew 6 cords playing the first three threats. Now wow using almost all the threats up the neck. If you want to learn the electric guitar, play some lead solos learn the minor penotonic scale with all five patterns played in different places down the neck. Also use the blue notes added to get a blues sound.

    Its a game changer for sure, if I can do it so can others.

    Pete from England

  2. I’m 46 and have no music playing talent. I so wish to play the guitar but my first attempt was a failure. The enrolled myself in a school but gave up as I couldn’t catch up with the teachers expectations. Wondering if I can learn from following classes on YouTube. Really desperate ☹️, I want to reproduce the notes that I enjoy listening to so much!

  3. The guitar is for everyone, even an old dog can still learn new tricks, you can over the web even an old guitar player can learn sweep picking in just 100days. This article is a great motivation for every guitar lover out there! Keep practicing !

  4. The answer is,,,HELL YES!!! I was 55 when I started learning guitar. Now at age 63, I’m a rocking, rolling senior citizen. Thank You.

  5. HI I AM LEFT handed 64 yrs old been learning acoustic in uk for some 7months just on my sixth string but due to the virus 19 haven’t had chance to see my mentor since it started I have been learning my self but need guiding Trouble is alot of books are for right handed people is your literature also printed for lefts thanks steve uk

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