At Mason Music, we love teaching adult music lessons! Here are some reasons you should consider picking up an instrument or taking voice lessons, no matter your age.
My grandmother (like many grandmothers I’m sure) solved crossword puzzles in the newspaper every day into her 80’s. She also worked as a math tutor into her late 70’s. If you asked her, it was to keep her mind sharp, and it definitely worked. There is something about learning and using your brain at every age that has benefits. Learning is not something that should end when we graduate. In his book Drive, Daniel Pink explores the common forces that motivate people. One of the three primary motivators he writes about is mastery – improving the ability to do something. Whether it’s guitar lessons, learning a new language, or improving one’s golf game, the process of learning and becoming better is intrinsically satisfying and rewarding at any age.
If you’re an adult, you may have missed out on the brain development benefits of learning music at an early age (sorry to be the bearer of bad news), but it does not mean that you can’t learn. I have taught guitar to many adults who pick up the basics quickly and achieve a level of playing that brings enjoyment within months. To them, learning how to play the guitar is an extremely satisfying, empowering and even therapeutic activity. One of my former students began guitar lessons pretty much from scratch in his 40’s. We began with the basics and moved towards playing lead electric guitar fairly quickly. After about a year of lessons, he decided to change course and learn more folk-style acoustic rhythm guitar playing, with the goal of playing and singing at the same time. He started up with voice lessons, and before too long was working on playing and singing Ray LaMontagne, Ryan Adams and more. The combination of playing and singing can be a particularly challenging skill to master, but he was up to the challenge and worked at it with great resolve. As an adult, he was more methodical with his approach to practice than any of my younger students. He saw the connection between practice and progress and his desire for progress beat out any aversion to practice. He even started writing his own music and recording it at our recording studio. The entire process has been a privilege to be a part of, because I know how much it means to him to be mastering this new skill. He can write, play and sing songs to his children, he contributes to the music ministry at his church and he is connected to an art form that helps him tell his life’s stories.
Not only do adults have the capacity to learn something new, but they have just as much of a chance (in my experience) at being good at it as children. Adults have better practice habits when it comes to learning music. As adults, we are more likely to purchase a higher quality instrument for ourselves than we are for our children – not because we don’t love our kids, but because we aren’t sure they’ll stick with it long enough for the investment to pay off. When we buy an instrument for ourselves, it’s an investment we have to take seriously. Oh, and if you’re wondering why buying a nicer instrument is an advantage when it comes to learning, just think about playing basketball with a flat ball, or playing tennis with a dead tennis ball, or, well, you get the point. Nice instruments are easier to play, sound better and are generally more satisfying to learn on. Adults are quicker to understand the more abstract concepts of music than young children. Not to mention, if an adult is taking music lessons, it is almost always a decision of their own will, which they are funding themselves. This is no small detail – it provides a strong motivator for practice and progress. For the most part, once an adult sets their mind to learning how to play music, they stick with it and work hard to make it happen.
Grandpa Jack loves music! He even likes to meet up with musicians in his town and jam to some old blues, swing and jazz music. For him, it’s the ability to participate in something he has enjoyed from a distance his whole life. He wishes he had started earlier in life, and yes, arthritis makes it difficult to play chords on the guitar, but the look on his face when he plays reminds me of why I love music so much – he feels it and it makes him happy.
So whatever age you are, if you have ever said the words, “I always wanted to know how to play the guitar (or substitute your instrument of choice),” don’t count yourself out. I think a lot of adults are afraid to try. There is a fear there of failure, of ridicule from peers for even trying, or of feeling silly for doing something that seems childish. Much like other irrational fears, these are unfounded! The truth is, when an adult takes a step forward and begins learning how to play guitar, they have a great chance of succeeding, they tend to receive great support from friends and family, and they connect with something that is ageless. If you have kids, I’m guessing you spend a lot of time, energy and money on their extra curricular activities; why not do the same for yourself?