Am I Too Old to Learn an Instrument?

| October 30, 2012 | Reply

"I wish I would have listenend to Mom and practiced more."  I wish I had kept up with the piano….   As a piano tuner I have heard this again and again… That is always followed by, "Am I too old…."  


Am I Too Old to Learn an Instrument?

by Marty Buttwinick

Have you ever said that? Many of my students and prospective students have said those exact words to me.

And my answer – NO!

You can be too old to be a teen rock star and you can be too old or not good looking enough to be a sex-god or goddess, but you are never too old to learn an instrument.

I've had students ranging from nine to seventy-five. The main difference between learning when young and learning when older, is THINKING! Older people tend to think too much! Younger people tend to just dive in and do what they need to do. They have their weekly lesson and they go home and practice it. Since they invest themselves into the activity, they benefit from it and achieve their musical goals.

Older students start practicing, then pause and think: "Should I really be doing this?" "Am I too old for this stuff?", "Gee, I should have started when I was a kid!" And this amounts to wasted time, reduced production and doubts and reservations which kill everything. They have minimized or eradicated any gains or real forward momentum.

Older bodies can be troublesome, whereas a younger body tends to be more flexible. Older bodies can have weaknesses or bad habits that might take some time to get around, but it can be done. I have an older student with slightly deformed hands. So what? We adjust technique and fingerings to accommodate her body and off she goes. (She's even started performing with a friend's band! Live gigs!)

As long as the purpose for learning an instrument is true, most anyone can and should learn.

It's fun, it's therapeutic, it's relaxing and it's aesthetic.

It doesn't matter how much natural talent you have or don't have. (The subject of talent is a topic for a different article.) It doesn't matter if your fingers are stiff or you can't hold a tune. It doesn't matter if you played as a kid, someone told you that you should give it up, and you gave up playing twenty-five years ago – or never started to begin with.

If you are determined to be a professional player and are just starting out at the age of sixty-five, you have some work ahead of you. But you can do it (you might need to practice three to four hours a day for a year or two).

But if you just want to learn for personal enjoyment, by yourself or with friends, the goal is most likely PERSONAL HAPPINESS! OK, so you find a teacher and learn how to strum a few songs or read some basic sheet music on the piano. Or become a bass player, like a thirty year old nurse student I once had did: she always wanted to play the bass so she learned. And she gigged. And she achieved personal happiness from it.

I had another student years ago in his thirties who wanted to play gigs. He studied with me for a while, and within a year he was doing gigs playing guitar and singing.

I have many stories about older students learning to play and succeeding.

Are you too old to learn to play an instrument? Well…

Are you too old to achieve more personal happiness?

Are you too old to add some more fun to your life?

Are you too old to finally do something you've always wanted to do?


I don't think so, and I hope that you no longer think so either!

Marty A Buttwinick is veteran musician, bandleader, composer, songwriter, copyist and private music instructor. In addition to being a pro musician, he has guided more than 1,000 students to their musical goals, logging over 35,000 hours in the teacher chair specializing in guitar, bass, keyboard, with musicianship and theory for singers and songwriters. Marty specializes in individually tailored lessons that really address the student sitting before him.

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Don't wait another day!  Find a teacher and begin having fun making music. 

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