Am I too old to learn the guitar?
It bothers you.
Not a lot, but enough.
Some days you don’t even hear it. Yet other days you can’t escape it.
That whisper in your ear.
It gets louder when your favorite song comes on the radio.
You hear it when you witness a moving live performance. It can be at a coffee shop, your church, neighborhood bar or arena concert.
And then it whispers again…
“I wish I knew how to play the guitar.”
But then other voices quickly crowd out that pure and perfect daydream with a deflating thought…
“I’m too old to learn guitar.”
Your shoulders fall as you exhale the dream from your body.
You believe the voices.
Then you go back to your life as you knew it.
But that thought, that dream, that desire is always lurking behind every magical song you experience.
And it won’t go away until you finally address it…
“Am I too old to learn how to play guitar?”
A lot of people have “learn the guitar” on their bucket list.
And why not?
Playing the guitar is fun, rewarding, exciting, it’s therapeutic.
It’s a blast!
But for whatever reason, there is a thought that people have that stops them from starting to learn.
Am I too old?
Try telling that to Bob Wood, an 80-year-old who can really bring it.
I think a lot of people see learning guitar as too high a mountain to climb. They feel that it’s too long of a journey before being able to play and enjoy themselves.
Like anything else, you are going to have struggles and trials.
Anything that is worth doing will have those. It takes time and practice and effort.
It just depends on how bad you want it.
The age doesn’t matter.
You can totally learn how to play the guitar!
You can be playing songs, riffs, and solos in no time at all!
Today I am going to share with you 17 of the most effective strategies that will help you get on the right track for learning the guitar no matter what age you are.
Here are some simple steps to take to make it easy for you.
1. Make the decision to do it.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but is a habit.” -Aristotle
I had a darling of a student who was in her sixties. She told herself, “I’m done procrastinating.” She now plays her favorite songs and is a pretty good slack key guitar player now, too.
There was a student who is in her fifties that just started last year. We will call her Mary. She is a tennis player that knows that her body will only handle so much physical abuse from running back and forth on the court. Mary has always wanted to learn, but for whatever reason, her guitar playing fell between the cracks.
She decided to do it, quit hesitating, and just jumped in.
Mary took a beginner group class on guitar, started with the basics and learned some easy songs on the guitar along with some easy riffs that anyone can recognize right away.
You are not getting any younger.
All that time thinking whether you should learn guitar or not you could have used to pick it and practice.
2. Get a good instrument.
Many people who attempt to learn guitar are doomed before they start due to a cheap instrument.
The worst case scenario is if you find out you don’t like the guitar, you can always sell it and get most of your investment back.
But giving up your dream is not advised.
3. Don’t be afraid of making sacrifices.
What happens when you want to start a new journey of this magnitude? There will be other things trying to steal your time.
Friends, family, binge-watching on Netflix… these things are all wonderful.
But where will you find (re: make) the time needed to grow as a guitarist?
The best way to make sure you start off on the right foot is to schedule yourself some time to learn your new craft.
Enter it into your calendar as an appointment, but the appointment is with yourself.
Now, don’t break that appointment.
4. Get some quick wins under your belt.
Look, I love Eddie Van Halen’s Eruption and Eric Johnson’s Cliffs of Dover as much as the next guy, but starting with those pieces might not be the best use of your time. (Just put them on your goal sheet as a long-term project).
Find songs and riffs for a beginner to learn. Make it easy on yourself. When you concentrate on small wins, you set yourself up for success and there will be less chance of you quitting.
5. Keep it fun.
It’s easy at the beginning of a new journey to have high expectations and grand schemes of you conquering the world with your vision of what a guitar player looks like.
Just remember that this isn’t a video game.
You can’t go to the settings and put it on easy mode. There will be times of frustration. You will struggle. And that’s okay. That’s expected.
Just don’t take yourself too seriously.
6. Have a “why.”
“He who has a why can endure any how.” – Frederick Nietzsche
Do you know why you want to play guitar?
I mean, it’s cool and all that, but what is the deeper reason for wanting to play guitar?
I know that this question might throw you for a loop. But it is essential to have a “why” if you are going to go the distance.
Ask and answer this question for yourself:
“Why do I want to play the guitar?”
Don’t worry. I’ll wait. Take your time.
You might be thinking, “Why ask why?” And that is a fair question.
When things get tough, when your fingers start getting sore, when other things end up competing for your time, having that why will help keep you focused.
You have your resolve.
Your “why” doesn’t have to be as extravagant as being the next American Idol.
It could be as simple as wanting to be able to enjoy yourself, show off for my friends in front of the campfire or a new and rewarding pastime.
What is your reason for learning the guitar? The answer(s) will keep you committed.
7. Make yourself a list.
Give yourself a list of the reasons why you want to play the guitar. Why come up with a list?
Have something to aim towards; a particular piece of music, a style, a particular musician; anything to work towards. Not having a goal or list of specific things you want will only make it easier to quit.
Break up your list into short, medium and long-term goals. Each thing you write down can be attained so long as you give yourself the proper amount of time.
8. Eat the Elephant.
“Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.” – Henry Ford
Perhaps you’ve heard the old joke,
- How do you eat an elephant?
- One bite at a time.
No, it’s not very funny. but it does illustrate a solution to a common problem.
Don’t try to overhaul your life overnight. Instead, focus on making one small change at a time.
Small daily improvements are the key to long-term results.
For example, you don’t have to learn how to read music to enjoy the guitar. There are other easier steps you can take without having to learn a new and complex language at the beginning.
Take small bites. (And don’t chew with your mouth open.)
9. Stay motivated.
Ever make the New Year’s resolution to lose weight?
You hit the gym hard on January 1 with the intensity of an MMA fighter. But by January 3rd you’re back on the couch with a pint of Häagen-Dazs wondering where it all went wrong.
Sometimes we don’t feel like doing something we know we should be doing. Staying motivated is an ongoing process.
Listen to a lot of guitar music. Stay inspired by your favorite piece of music, solos, tones, songs, and styles.
When you feel like quitting, think about why you started.
Is your 100% really 100%?
Don’t sell yourself short.
If you wait for perfect conditions, you’ll never get anything done.
Don’t like those sayings? Go to Pinterest and find a motivational quote that inspires you.
Then get back to it!
10. Give yourself permission to be a beginner.
“The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.” – Stephen McCranie
Give yourself a break.
You are going to not be good at first. Your fingers will hurt. You will make excuses to yourself and try to quit.
Ignore those excuses.
The older we get, the more serious we become. We are harder on ourselves and expect us to be good at something faster.
That is an unfair expectation that we place upon ourselves. Limitations exist only if we let them.
Much in life has to do with our mindset. If you think you can or can’t, you’re right.
With enough time and practice, you will cross a certain level and it will begin to look more attainable and in no time you will be playing very well.
11. Practice, Practice, Practice!
Think of practice like bathing.
If I told you, “I haven’t had a shower all week. But don’t worry. I am going to take a three-hour shower on Saturday.”
Now exchange the shower with practice.
“I haven’t practiced all week. But don’t worry. I am going to practice for three hours on Saturday.”
That may be, but you’re still gonna stink all week long.
Keep in mind that 5-10 minutes of practice with focused intensity is far better than binge-watching on Hulu with your guitar in your lap mindlessly noodling.
Remember learning how to tie your shoes?
You learned slowly by making a story to go with it. (Something about a bunny through the woods…)Now you can tie your shoes without even thinking about it. How is that possible?
The act of going over something time and time again until you has it.
Your mind and body don’t have to think about every single action because they have been tuned to it.
That is practice.
Carve out some time daily to getting better.
Use the Don’t Break the Chain app to help keep you accountable. Every day you practice, check off your daily progress in the app.
12. Keep the guitar out.
Have it in a place where you spend most of your time.
It will quietly call you to play it in that spare moment you have, (instead of looking at your phone or flipping through the channels on TV).
You will discover you have more time to practice than you realized.
13. Find a good teacher.
You can pick up a lot of stuff online through videos, but nothing beats one on one instruction.
Having someone watch you, correct you and answer those questions you have right away is a great value to you as a player.
They can navigate you through the rough spots and save you time skipping over common roadblocks.
Plus, a teacher is also a built-in accountability partner.
Weekly lessons will come and you won’t want to disappoint your instructor, providing you with a little additional motivation to improve.
A great player may or may not be a great teacher.
14. Don’t listen to the haters.
“Haters are the people who broadcast your failures and whisper your success.” – Will Smith
Inevitably there is always someone trying to bring us down with small thinking like, “Aren’t you too old to be taking up the guitar.”
Don’t listen to such baloney.
Life is too short to think small.
People with negative comments usually do so because they see a reflection of what they wish to be.
15. Slow progress is still progress.
“No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress, you’re still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying.” – Tony Robbins
At times it will feel like you aren’t getting any better. It’s a slow process.
Don’t make it slower by quitting.
It’s you versus you.
When children are born, they measure their heads regularly and gauge them in a certain percentile.
But keep in mind that there are no national benchmarks for your progress.
My personal benchmarks are these:
Are you having fun?
Really? You are?
Then who cares about “progress.”
It’s one thing to struggle. Whether you are learning how to ice skate, create a PowerPoint slide presentation or cook the perfect eggs, every new thing we try or do will involve a bit of struggle.
But if you are not enjoying yourself, quit.
Throw that guitar in the fire and watch it burn.
And then go take up something that will bring you joy.
Take up yoga, stamp collecting, or Pokémon Go; anything, really!
Life is too short for forcing a new hobby on yourself that you don’t enjoy.
16. Find other guitar players.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17
A great source for rapid improvement is through playing along with other guitar players.
Something inside of us will subtly use the experiences as competition.
They can give you pointers along the way and provide encouragement.
Plus, you can finally “jam!”
Smiles for miles.
17. Never give up.
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up.” – Thomas Edison
Don’t give up. The beginning is always the hardest and great things always take time.
A diamond is formed through pressure and time.
A pearl is formed as an oyster protects itself from irritating grains of sand.
Fantastic things come from struggles.
As we get older, many things will fall away.
We won’t be able to make that jump shot like when we were younger, but music will always be with us.
Not everybody likes baseball or ballet or peanut butter and bacon sandwiches (don’t judge me), but everybody loves music.
It is one of the few things that bring true joy to our lives.
You may have money but that doesn’t mean that you will be happy.
If we quit every time we felt uncomfortable we wouldn’t achieve anything.
Six months from now, you will wish you started today.
If you don’t pick up the guitar now, why not? Birthdays come and go quickly. And then you will be one year older asking yourself, “Is it too late learn the guitar at this age?”
Don’t regret not learning.
Cross it off of your bucket list!
Chose to play.
So embrace the guitar. Create the soundtrack for your life with this magnificent instrument.
Let your hands make those strings sing!
Is it too late? Watch this video and find out.