Am I Too Old to Learn Classical Guitar?

In fact, most people starting classical guitar are well into the second half of life.

Is classical guitar a “young man’s game”? Are there physical requirements to getting started on the guitar? Can someone be “too old” for guitar?

Short answer: No. Guitar is a wonderful pursuit at any age.

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Music is Ageless

One of the joys of music is that it is an ever-unfolding study. We could spend lifetimes and not learn everything. The more we know, the more there is to know.

In fact, examples abound of men and women playing music daily through extreme old age. Alice Herz-Sommers, for instance, played piano daily through age 109!

Whether we’re learning to play guitar or any other musical instrument, it’s never too late to start.

While we may not get in as many decades when we start late, we can still enjoy a rich and rewarding daily music practice.

Cognitive Benefits of Learning Guitar

Learning guitar at any age offers a variety of cognitive and emotional benefits.

Whether you’re a teenager or a retiree, the act of mastering this instrument stimulates the brain in various ways. It sharpens cognitive abilities such as memory, problem-solving, and creativity.

Guitar playing can be a powerful tool for stress relief and improving emotional well-being. The act of plucking or strumming the strings can serve as a therapeutic outlet, helping to reduce anxiety and elevate mood.

The sense of accomplishment derived from learning guitar at any stage in life is deeply gratifying. It fosters a heightened sense of self-expression, allowing individuals to communicate their feelings and thoughts through music.

This creative outlet not only instills a sense of pride but also opens up new avenues for personal growth and self-discovery, making the journey of learning to play an instrument a fulfilling and enriching one at any age.

Reasonable Expectations for Older Guitarists

A nine-year-old will naturally have more flexibility than an 89-year-old. It is possible to stay flexible and strong into older age. But most of us will experience some wear and tear over our lifetimes.

For this reason, it helps to have reasonable expectations if getting started later. We may not gain the top speeds or stretches we would have in our youth. We may take a little longer to memorize music than someone in their school-age, who is in constant learning mode.

But we will improve with practice. And the biggest benefits of a daily music practice are not the big accomplishments. It’s the daily time spent with meaningful work that adds the most to life.

Is it Challenging to Learn Guitar?

Learning guitar, regardless of age, comes with its fair share of challenges and considerations.

Physical Limitations

Older learners may encounter obstacles related to physical limitations and dexterity. Fingers may not be as nimble as they once were, making it more challenging to pluck the strings, form chord shapes, and fret notes.

To overcome these challenges, it’s essential to approach learning with a strategy:

  • Practice finger exercises to improve dexterity.
  • Managing time effectively by setting aside dedicated practice sessions and being consistent is crucial.
  • Perhaps most importantly, patience and perseverance are key.

Busy Schedules

Busy schedules and time constraints can be a significant hindrance, as adults often juggle multiple responsibilities. Achieving significant progress in short guitar practice sessions is possible with the right approach.

Here are some tips for making the most out of short practice sessions:

  • Set clear and achievable goals for each session, focusing on a particular technique, chord progression, or song section.
  • Quality over quantity. Prioritize correct technique and precision over speed.
  • Use the metronome to work on timing and rhythm.
  • Use a timer to stay disciplined and allocate your time efficiently, whether it’s 15, 20, or 30 minutes.
  • Break down complex tasks into smaller, manageable segments, and tackle them one at a time.
  • Practice every day. Regular, consistent practice, even in short bursts, is more effective than sporadic, long sessions.
  • Keep a practice journal to track your progress, identify areas that need improvement, and celebrate your achievements.

This systematic and focused approach will allow you to accomplish a lot in short guitar practice sessions, ultimately leading to steady growth and skill development.

Embrace the Journey

Learning guitar is a gradual process, and success comes with consistent effort over time. Embracing setbacks as part of the learning journey and maintaining a positive attitude can make the process more rewarding and fulfilling, regardless of your age.

Practice Is Its Own Reward

Regular practice allows us to challenge ourselves. We get to face the unknown. We see the growth that comes with persistent attention. We get to experience the breakthroughs (large and small) that bring personal satisfaction and surprise.

One of the most captivating aspects of learning a new instrument is the discovery and development of new skills. Practice gives us the opportunity to push our limits. It activates our brain in novel ways. It gives us structure and focus.

Incorporating technical exercises into our routines is crucial for building finger strength and dexterity in both our fretting and picking hands, enabling us to conquer complex chord changes, scales, and so much more.

And even if these benefits did not spread to other areas of life (which they do), it’s still a joy to practice guitar.

How Old is Too Old?

You may be asking yourself: “Am I too old to learn guitar?” The truth is, for older people, learning guitar can be a rewarding journey. Whether you’re learning guitar for the first time or revisiting it after 25 years, there’s no age limit when it comes to learning new things.

With more free time at our disposal, older students can dedicate themselves to the hard work of mastering alternation, arpeggios, chord shapes, changing chords, and playing open chords.

Our life experience also adds a unique perspective to the learning process, making it a bit longer, but the results are worth it.

An excellent teacher can guide us through any style or genre we want to explore and help correct any bad habits that might have hindered us in the past.

It is never too late to learn guitar. With practice time and determination, older individuals can learn guitar just as well as younger people, and it’s never too late to embrace the joy of making music.

What Style of Guitar is Right for Me?

When it comes to learning guitar, the world of music opens up to a plethora of diverse styles and genres.

Acoustic Guitar

Acoustic guitar is the perfect choice for those who enjoy the warm, unplugged sound and want to dive into genres like folk, country, or classical. The acoustic guitar is often favored for its portability, making it a popular choice for musicians to play in various settings, from intimate gatherings to outdoor performances. The steel string acoustic guitar is often used for ‘rhythm guitar’ playing (AKA strumming chords).

Electric Guitar

The electric guitar offers a completely different experience with its amplified sound, making it the instrument of choice for rock ‘n roll enthusiasts. Whether you’ve just started playing guitar or are a child prodigy, your journey can lead you to explore many genres, from blues to metal.

Classical Guitar

Classical guitar offers a unique dimension of artistry with its nylon strings and rich, melodic sound. Learning classical guitar involves mastering intricate fingerpicking techniques and delving into a vast repertoire of classical music compositions from legendary composers like Bach, Tarrega, and Sor.

It’s a style that places a strong emphasis on music theory and reading sheet music, making it a fantastic choice for those who appreciate the finer nuances of classical music. Understanding music theory and being able to read music can elevate your guitar playing, allowing you to connect with other musical instruments seamlessly.

Whether you’ve just begun your journey to learn guitar or are a seasoned player, classical guitar provides a rich and timeless musical experience that’s deeply rewarding and culturally enriching.

Finding a Guitar Teacher

The best approach to learning guitar is to find an excellent teacher who can guide you through the intricacies of playing guitar. Finding the right guitar instructor can feel like a crucial step in your musical journey, regardless of your age or experience level.

Whether you’re a young person with small hands who has just started learning guitar or an older individual who’s always wanted to learn how to play, the choice of teacher can make a huge difference in your learning process.

They’ll help you take small steps, changing chords and mastering open chord shapes, regardless of your specific style or the genre you wish to explore. If you’ve got bad habits or poor form, a good teacher will be able to correct those issues and provide valuable practice tips.

So, no matter your age or background, finding the right teacher is the key to your musical success, making the learning process a fantastic way to develop a new skill and embrace the joy of playing this versatile instrument.

There are a variety of places we can look to find the right guitar teacher:

  • Word of Mouth. One of the best ways to find guitar lessons in the area is to ask around. Recommendations are worth their weight in gold.
  • Online Directories. Check out online directories for music lessons and teachers.
  • Ask at Your Local Music Store. Music stores often rent out available space to teachers. Staff will usually be familiar with teachers in the area.
  • Investigate Online Guitar Schools. Online guitar schools offer lessons to students of all skill levels. These schools typically provide an interactive and structured learning experience.

Finding Valuable Resources and Support

Finding the right resources and support when learning to play guitar is crucial for a successful journey, no matter your age.

Playing guitar doesn’t have to be a solitary endeavor; the support and resources available can make a significant difference in your progress and enjoyment of the instrument.

Private Lessons

First and foremost, seeking guidance from guitar teachers or instructors can provide valuable one-on-one instruction, tailored to your skill level and goals. They offer personalized feedback and can help you overcome specific challenges.

Online Courses

Online courses and tutorials are convenient options that offer structured lessons and practice materials for self-paced learning. These resources often cater to a wide range of techniques and musical styles.

Many offer live or recorded sessions with guitar teachers. They usually have plenty of music theory pages and practical resources to explore.

Most also have online communities where learners can connect and share their progress.

For example, The Woodshed® Classical Guitar Program is one of the most popular online classical guitar schools.

Members go step-by-step through strategic exercises and lessons to build general guitar skills. Students range from beginner to advanced, and lessons are appropriate for all levels and backgrounds.

Guitar Communities

Engaging with guitar communities and forums can be a source of inspiration and motivation. They provide a platform for sharing experiences, seeking advice, and connecting with fellow learners and experienced players.

Starting Can be Scary at Any Age – Just Do It

If you’re starting to play guitar later in life, it’s good to remember: Guitar is hard for everyone. Reading music on guitar is a struggle at first for everyone. It’s never easy.

Starting guitar is no easier at 40 than it is at 90. For us all, there are new skills to learn. We must learn new coordination. We must learn a new musical language and think in new ways. And this is work for anyone, at any age.

So we can expect guitar to be challenging, especially when we first get started. We can expect it to come slower than it “should”. Everyone everywhere has to work hard for each incremental improvement. It’s the way of it.

Instead of fearing this, we can jump in and get started. Each day can bring new discoveries and worthwhile challenges. Each moment spent on guitar is something we do for ourselves, just for fun.

Allen Mathews

Hi, I’m Allen Mathews. 

I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s. Despite a lot of practice and schooling, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well. I struggled with excess tension. My music sounded forced. And my hands and body were often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two other stellar teachers – one focused on the technical movements, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.
Click here for a sample formula.

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