Guitar Aficionado is supported by readers. If you buy something after clicking on one of our links, we may get an affiliate commission from that & it won't cost you anything.
If you’re reading this, you’ve likely always wanted to learn how to play the guitar throughout your entire life. Perhaps life circumstances have prevented you from actually pursuing the instrument.
Now that you’re older, you might wonder if it’s worth it to even try. What if you’re too old?
In this article, we are going to dispel some of these beliefs. We will also cover some methods of learning (being self-taught versus lessons like Guitar Tricks), as well as some advantages you have if you find yourself in this predicament.
Table of Contents
Am I Too Old To Learn Guitar?
Unlike rides at amusement parks, the guitar does not have a prerequisite requirement to be able to learn the instrument. You do not have to be a certain age, and you certainly cannot be too old to actually learn the instrument.
All too often, life gets in the way of our personal desires. This forces us to put our goals and dreams on the back burner while we focus and attend to the situations that require our attention.
After a certain age, the craziness of life tends to settle a bit, allowing for more time to spend doing other things. This is especially true if you’ve had to raise kids and they’ve grown up and moved out, or if you find yourself in retirement.
Once you have the time on your hands, you might revisit that old idea of playing the guitar. However, you might be deterred by the fact that there are so many young people who are far more proficient at guitar than you think you will ever be.
Perhaps you won’t be famous and touring the country on a sold-out concert series. As it is important to have realistic goals with anything, you should probably re-evaluate why you want to play the guitar in the first place. Most people who pick up the instrument will never be famous.
The simple fact is, if you have the desire to learn the guitar, you are the only thing standing in your own way. With some dedicated time spent on learning and practicing, you will be able to play the guitar in no time.
What Is The Maximum Age To Learn Guitar?
Again, there is no age limit on whether or not you can learn and play the guitar. No matter what your age, you can learn the instrument.
There are some things related to old age that may set you back a little and add to the challenge. These things should not deter you from picking up the guitar.
Some of what you might encounter include:
- Forgetfulness, especially with short-term recall
- Less neural plasticity than a younger person
You might find that these issues may hamper your ability to progress on the guitar, but with enough determination and careful practice, you can work through them. In fact, many people have found that playing the guitar tends to help with arthritis, especially when accompanied by proper hand stretches before and after.
For those who are unsure of what neural plasticity is, this term relates to the ability to learn and retain information quickly. Young children have a greater degree of neural plasticity as their brains are still in a developmental stage, which is why they are able to learn things so quickly.
Benefits Of Old Age
Believe it or not, there are some very beneficial aspects of being older and wanting to pursue studies with the guitar. When you look at these benefits from an objective point of view, you might see how it is actually a blessing to pick up the guitar in old age.
The biggest advantage you have is time. It is no secret that it takes time to build anything substantial and worthwhile.
One of the biggest reasons that young children are able to progress quickly on the guitar (aside from neural plasticity) is the amount of time they have available. Most children do not have to worry about things such as going to work, paying bills, taking care of a family, housework, etc.
Because of this, children are free to do as they please (for the most part). When they dedicate their free time to pursuing their interests, they are often able to make significant progress.
If you are older and in a position to spend a large amount of time pursuing your interests, you are in a similar situation as the young child. You can spend as much time as possible learning the guitar without having to worry too much about important matters (though they do still tend to exist, as it is a fact of life, after all).
Another massive benefit to being older is that you are likely able to afford the instrument you want. It is generally not advised for beginners to purchase an expensive instrument, but this advice is mostly aimed at beginners who are young children as their interests can often be fickle.
You’ve likely spent a lifetime wanting to learn how to play the guitar. Treat yourself with a well-built instrument. It will be far easier to play and you will enjoy the process more.
Music is often comprised of life experiences transmuted into musical form. I’m sure you’ve heard that painful experiences often create art.
Because of this, if you learn how to translate your experiences to musical form, you will have far more things to speak musically than what a child can. This aspect will make your music much more interesting, universal, and relatable.
Aside from the actual time spent on the instrument, this is the reason why a solo from someone like B.B. King is likely to have much more gravity and weight behind it than a 13-year old child in middle school. Life experience translates into having stories to tell, and music is all about telling a story in one way or another.
How Long Does It Take The Average Person To Learn Guitar?
The answer to this question wholly depends on what your own personal goals are and what you wish to be able to play on the guitar. If you are just wanting to be able to play your favorite songs by strumming chords, you can likely learn the necessary information and techniques within 6 months.
Of course, if you are wanting to be able to perform a wide range of techniques and be able to solo on the guitar, this process is going to take much longer. Playing leads on the guitar is very similar to speaking in a different language.
Language is built upon words that are organized into sentences and often placed within the context of a paragraph to convey a larger idea. It is for this reason that you are able to read and understand the words in this article.
In very much the same way, music consists of the same qualities. Like any language, it could take a few years to fully master musical concepts and understand the commonly used vocabulary. The key is to use and apply what you know in a real-life context.
Every person that picks up the guitar has different goals and ideas in mind for what they want to do with the instrument. For that reason, the best way to answer the question of how long it takes is approximately 6 months to learn the basics, a few years to become proficient in a large number of different techniques, many years to master.
What Is The Fastest Way To Learn Guitar?
There are no shortcuts available when it comes to learning the guitar. In fact, any shortcuts that you might take are likely to set you back further than if you had initially spent the time and put in the work the first time.
With that being said, there are a number of different ways you can learn the guitar:
- Self-teaching through books and independent study
- Taking lessons in person from an instructor
- Taking lessons virtually over the internet
Being completely self-taught without taking any lessons is likely going to be the most time-consuming method. This is because you are going to have to source every bit of information yourself and blindly go into your practices without knowing whether you are on the right track or not.
Of course, as an individual, you might be required to pursue independent studies on the guitar outside of lessons. Because of this, everyone could be considered a self-taught guitarist to a certain degree.
Being self-taught gives you the freedom to be able to learn from different resources. You might learn certain concepts over the internet, but take dedicated lessons to help you in other areas of your playing.
Taking lessons, whether it be in-person or over the internet, is likely going to produce the fastest results. With this method, you will be able to rely on another person’s lifetime of playing experience to learn the guitar.
By taking lessons, you will have a clear guideline on what exactly you need to be focusing on, with each lesson building upon the knowledge you have already learned. A good instructor will also be able to point out any small mechanical issues you may be doing wrong, preventing any bad playing habits from forming.
You’ve likely learned by now that bad habits are hard to break and replace with new and correct habits. The same idea applies to the guitar.
Although a great instructor is going to be able to teach you many things, you are encouraged to take lessons from many different people. Every guitarist has their own experiences and specializations that can further propel your competence on the instrument, especially if you already have the fundamental aspects of the guitar down.
Having an instructor is also going to make you more accountable for your studies. If you have to meet someone every week, you’re more likely to follow through with your practicing duties, whereas you might cut yourself too much slack if you are completely self-taught.
One of the best resources that an older person can take advantage of is Guitar Tricks. This resource has everything you need to get started to learn the guitar and teaches both fundamentals and advanced concepts.
Guitar Tricks is a comprehensive educational service consisting of over 11,000 different video lessons by over 40 different guitar instructors. Each video is formatted into easy-to-digest time lengths so you can focus on one aspect of information at a time.
Millions of guitarists have learned how to play the guitar using Guitar Tricks. The service has a proven method of teaching and gives budding guitarists a logical pathway to build their skills and knowledge.
If you are a complete beginner, Guitar Tricks will teach you all of the fundamental aspects of the guitar. Once you have the fundamentals learned, you can follow different musical genre pathways with lessons catering to rock, blues, country, and more.
This resource also has well over 1000 different lessons teaching you how to play your favorite songs, with new songs being added to the database every week. This will help you to use and apply what you’ve learned and further concrete your knowledge of the guitar.
Guitar Tricks has a number of other different features including:
- Lessons based on specific techniques
- Studies of the playing styles of famous guitarists
- Guides on chords and scales
- Guides on guitar tone and gear
1-on-1 virtual lessons are also available with a large number of different instructors. You can book these as 30-minute or 60-minute sessions.
To top it all off, Guitar Tricks also offers:
- A metronome
- Fretboard trainer
- Scale finder
- Diagram of the fretboard
- Dictionary of guitar terms
- Guide on how to read tabs
- Chord charts
Defining And Setting Realistic Goals
Regardless of your age, it is important to have realistic goals in mind with your approach to the guitar and what you want to do with it. Despite your age, you can accomplish many great things, though loftier goals are going to require more of a commitment.
As with anything, it is best to take small steps in your advancement towards larger goals. You’ve probably heard it said that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and likewise, you will not be a master of the instrument in a short amount of time.
Be patient with yourself and you will soon find that you are able to accomplish what you have initially intended to achieve. Once you reach that goal marker, it is important to set a new goal and continue learning if you wish to advance your skills.
How Can I Use What I’ve Learned?
What fun is it to learn something as enjoyable as the guitar and not do anything with it? No matter how old you may be, there are many opportunities available to you that will allow you to apply your guitar knowledge.
One of the best ways to use what you’ve learned is by attending an open mic/open jam night at a local establishment nearby. These are very relaxed settings that will give you stage experience as well as experience of playing with other people.
It is often said that you learn 100x more on stage than you will learn in the bedroom, and in my personal experience, I can tell you that this is a true statement. Not only that but attending these events will also allow you to meet other like-minded individuals that could become great friends and jamming buddies.
This might also prompt you to join a band with members who share similar goals as you. You might have thought that you could be too old to join a band, but this mode of thinking could not be further from the truth.
A Personal Example Of Age And Guitar
I want to take some time to give you an example of someone that I personally know who started playing guitar at an older age. By sharing his story, I hope that it will help to motivate and inspire you to take up the guitar, no matter how old you are.
A very good friend of mine started playing guitar for the first time at the age of 42. He had always been an avid fan of music, but as he was a family man with children and responsibilities, he had very little time to dedicate to anything outside of his duties.
He began to learn the guitar (self-taught) and play with other musicians. Since then, he’s had nearly 20 years on the guitar, with a list of accomplishments that are continually growing.
For instance, he currently has a catalog of over 35 original songs which he performs live with a band. He has recorded an album of songs and has started to release his music in 2021, with a long list of releases to follow.
He has learned what his strengths are and has actively worked to fill in the gaps in his knowledge. His music is a great example of life experience transmuted into musical form.
Had he not decided to pick up the guitar, chances are likely that I would not know him, as I am nearly half his age. While he might not be famous by any means, he certainly is one of the best songwriters that I personally know of.
While his daily life still consists of a full-time job, he spends much of his free time fostering his music, whether it be with band rehearsals or a casual get-together with friends and jamming on acoustic guitars. Having fun is his goal.
Is It Too Late To Learn Guitar? Final Thoughts
All too often, the internet confronts us with young child prodigies that can play unbelievably complex things on the guitar. This can leave anyone feeling discouraged.
However, being of a certain age does not mean that you cannot pick up the guitar. In fact, you have many advantages to starting your journey as a guitarist at an older age. You are free to become the guitarist that you’ve always dreamed of being, without needing to use age as an excuse not to.
Side note, do you want to learn to play guitar songs the easy way? Learn how here – results are guaranteed!