Am I Too Old To Learn Guitar?
If you are past 50 you may be reluctant to start playing an instrument, especially the guitar. But it is a goal you can accomplish if you approach it in the right way, even if you have hand and finger issues.
What Will Stay the Same
There are certain aspects of learning a guitar that also will go with any age, and one is basic music theory. This is the part that is good for your brain, when you challenge yourself to learn new things it improves your mental wellbeing. You don't have to get your degree, but your basics are essential.
Learn A Bit Of Theory
Start with your 12 notes and how they relate to one another, from there move to intervals of popular songs. A simple piano app or cheap garage sale keyboard can help with initially discovering your scales and chords.
Before you even play your guitar watch videos on the essentials of music theory, that way you are more prepared.
And be sure to watch videos or read articles on whatever guitar style or genre you are aiming for. Concerts of your favorite bands, tutorials, and anything to show you what you will be doing.
You may not be able to physically play and practice every day, but there is always room for some music study.
What Will Change
While studying music at an older age is still healthy for the brain, it isn't as easy as when you were younger. It's like learning a foreign language, the older you get the harder it is. That is why you will have to spend more time studying your basics like above, the brain is stubborn like that!
As far as the physical aspect of playing, you will start your techniques and practicing on the same beginner exercises as a younger student. Your process of learning should be like other methods of scales and chords and discovering the fretboard.
Eventually though you will run into some physical obstacles, especially if you have hand issues. You may find barring chords very difficult or playing some solos out of reach, on these occasions you will have to adapt. Or you may find difficulty holding a pick in which case using picks that go on your fingers may help solve that.
Very basic strumming and rhythm playing will likely be better for older players that have hand limitations. Open chords and light wrist movements may be all you end up doing on guitar, but there is nothing wrong with that. Some of the best guitar-oriented songs are just simple riffs. Don't worry about keeping it simple if it sounds good!
Tips and Pointers
You may not text as much as a young person but if you do spend time on the phone keep it to a minimum. Or your job may still require daily typing which is almost guaranteed carpal tunnel. In some cases, you can't eliminate other causes of pain, but keep them to a minimum to preserve the ability to play guitar.
Folk, country, and basic three to four chord pop are going to be the best songs to stick with in the beginning. The jazz, standards, and funk will have to wait, and some may be out of reach. Stick to the most popular and easy tunes that other people will sing along too.
Besides being easy, they will also boost your confidence by being able to play songs on a guitar for an audience!
As far as hand stiffening, that will depend on the reason and severity. If all you need is basic exercises to help overcome stiffness, then guitar playing will help if you don't overdo it.
Know your limitations and take a day or two off to recover. With common hand strengthening routines it may end up fixing or helping your problems.
But there comes a point where the stiffness or problem causing it may be too much. If the pain and stiffness is not something that improves with exercise, you may have to adapt. This may mean playing less or in Django Reinhardt's case finding a whole new technique to suit his issues!
If hand stiffness or even holding the guitar has got to be that difficult, flip it on your lap and play it as a slide. A bar or slide can be a lot more manageable for many players. In fact, a light 6 string lap steel guitar is great for those that have trouble pressing down on frets.
And if you have studied some music theory you should have no problem playing the guitar in that manner.
A proper guitar is also very important, nothing cheap with high action.
The higher the action the harder you must press down!
You want it as close as possible yet no buzzes. Classical guitars are great with easier to press nylon strings. If you go that route, get one with a pickup, if you have hearing issues. Also get the right size of guitar, a small parlor may be easier to hold than a giant jumbo.
For all ages one of the main problems of not learning guitar comes down to two main problems. The first one is trying to play on a cheap or bad guitar, no matter how much you try that will never end well. The second is not actually taking the time to practice, students find excuses to avoid playing.
No doubt in your older years there will be some physical limitations, but as we have shown there are ways around them. At the end of the day the only thing that stands between you and playing guitar is owning a decent one and... actually practicing! If you apply yourself to basic music theory and suitable technique exercises, you will succeed at playing the guitar. Age doesn't matter, your attitude and approach do!
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