Is there an ideal age to learn guitar?
There isn’t one, any more than there is an ideal age for everyone to marry, have children, or start playing tennis. We all live and learn on our own timetables, and the most straightforward answer is that we are ready to learn guitar when we are ready to pick up the guitar—when we have the motivation, energy, and time.
Of course, our age and stage of life have an impact on our ability to learn guitar. Kids are known for being quick learners, having tremendous energy, flexible limbs, and the ability to imitate what they see. However, Marcy Marxer, who has spent decades educating and entertaining both children and adults alongside Cathy Fink, reminds out that some things are more difficult at a young age.
“The coordination and dexterity required to play guitar is sometimes more difficult for children than for adults,” she explains, “so they must be patient, since it may take a little longer.” But there is one thing that children have in abundance: time. They have more spare time than adults.
“Adults have various benefits from having listened for a longer period of time,” she adds. “I had a student in her mid-50s who wanted to learn guitar for the first time. We proceeded in that way because she wanted to learn swing music, and all she needed to know was how to play a few chords—she understood how to put them together just by hearing them. Oh, that reminds me of this or that song, she’d say. That life experience was quite beneficial to her.”
Carol McComb, a seasoned teacher and performer who wrote Country and Blues Guitar for the Musically Hopeless, points out that various components of the guitar are easier to master at different ages. “Fine fingerstyle playing, for example, is difficult for younger individuals; I don’t believe they have developed the motor coordination, on the whole, to execute it,” she explains.
Some youngsters are used to being different and are fine with it. From the age of 12 onwards, teenagers become extremely coordinated.” Although this coordination persists throughout adulthood, she has discovered that some pupils over 60, particularly those with arthritis, have trouble learning simple procedures.
Many of us begin to learn guitar in our teens, when we (possibly) have not only the coordination but also the passion and schedule to commit countless hours to listening, practising, and poring through guitar magazines, thanks to the guitar’s tight affinity with rock ‘n’ roll.
Hungered young kids like these, according to Bill Purse, are “legends of their own room.” Of course, that same reservoir of energy can readily be redirected to a variety of other pursuits, leaving the method book or the classes undone. Purse claims that it all boils down to devotion. If we’d rather go shopping, flyfishing, or surfing than to learn guitar, we’re not going to get very far with it. But if we are sincerely motivated, at whatever age, to generate music from those six strings, we will.
I’m a grown-up newbie with a job and a family. Do you have any suggestions for me to learn guitar?
As an adult, you may find yourself envy of all the kids who want to learn guitar, who seem to have an endless supply of time, enthusiasm, and faith in their abilities to master the six-stringed beast. You do, however, have some distinct benefits. Your years of listening have given you a lot of intuitive knowledge about the structure and traditions of music, as well as a sense of what specific style(s) you wish to play, as Marcy Marxer points out.
Your experience learning a variety of new abilities, from driving a car to taking on new duties to becoming a father, has likely given you insight into how you learn best—a lesson you can apply to your new adventure.
Even if you missed out on being a kid prodigy or a teen hottie, it’s never too late to start. Any teacher will tell you that. Cathy Fink relates the story of a favourite student who began playing guitar at the age of 55. She remembers, “I went around the room and asked all the novices what they were doing in class.” “‘Well, I observed my father when he retired and he was lonely and bored,’ this guy said. ‘I’m not going to let it happen to me, so I bought a guitar.’ Unfortunately, that man’s father was unaware of the couple in their 90s who once took Carol McComb’s first music camp session!
As an adult novice, you’ll need to plan ahead of time because this endeavour will require a regular commitment. Establish a realistic objective; it’s pointless to set a goal of practising three hours a day if you have no chance of achieving it. If you’re taking lessons, talk to your teacher straight once about any scheduling conflicts. Your practise sessions don’t have to be long: 20-minute sessions focused on defined, attainable goals are more successful than hours of mindless noodling.
So set aside tiny pieces of time for yourself and your instrument at regular intervals, and safeguard them. It’s not a bad idea to find a spot at home where your kids won’t be climbing all over your back while you’re are ready to learn guitar.
There are so many options to learn guitar these days, from books, videos, and apps to private and group classes and music camps, that you’ll be able to choose one that fits your schedule and personality. (For more information, see our list of the best websites and apps for studying guitar.) Plus, because you control the purse strings and presumably have mobility, you have more alternatives than a child.
There are a plethora of ways to lMany individuals prefer to study on their own, which is just fine. However, many teachers strongly advocate group classes, jam sessions, and music camps as a means to speed up learning while also having a lot of fun. (For more information, see our summer camp planning guide.) Even if you only play with one other individual, the benefits can be enormous. I know a few parents who have decided to learn guitar with their children, which has been a unique experience for all involved.
There are so many ways to learn guitar these days, from books, videos, and apps to individual and group classes and music camps, that you’ll be able to find one that fits your schedule and personality.