So you are thinking about learning guitar but you are not as young as you once were. You may have unanswered questions like, Am I too old? Will I have enough time? Will my fingers be dexterous enough to work the strings? Where do I start? What will I need? What will it cost to get started?
These are all questions I had before taking up this new hobby about six months ago that has now taken hold in my life.
Fear, uncertainty, and doubt always lurk in our minds no matter our age, but when learning guitar later in life — or any instrument for that matter — these thoughts and feelings are closer to the surface.
Is It Too Late to Learn Guitar?
One of the first questions I had was whether it was too late to learn. Was it too late to get to a level of proficiency that I was happy with? What level even is that? What I quickly discovered is that learning guitar later in life is about expectations, goals, and setting a loose path to get there. I use the word ‘loose’ because learning guitar is a journey and your direction can change along the way as your interests are sparked — and this is where the beauty is and the passion develops.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “It is about the journey, not the destination,” and this sums up perfectly, in my mind, what learning guitar later in life is all about. It isn’t about becoming a virtuoso; you don’t need to be at a high skill level in order to be good at or enjoy playing the guitar. Learning some songs that you love or are entirely new to you, developing some understanding of music theory, or just making some noise that sounds a bit like music can be such a joy and pleasure.
Enjoying the moment of learning is the key (excuse the pun). Will it be fun? Yes. Will it be frustrating? Yes. But will it be entirely rewarding? Absolutely.
How Much Time Do You Need?
At the start of your journey, about five minutes a day.
If you are learning on a steel-string guitar, then this will certainly feel like enough. Your fingertips will hurt and feel bruised and uncomfortable, but this will pass after the first few weeks. Then, if you are following a structured learning path, which I talk about later, the amount of time you play for will extend as your fingertips harden and form calluses, and you will start to enjoy the learning process more.
Over the first month, my practice time naturally evolved from five to 10 minutes a day, to half an hour, and then to where I am now, which is about 1 hour to 90 minutes a day, four or five times a week. Maybe this sounds like a lot, maybe it doesn’t, but it really doesn’t matter. The amount of time you practice isn’t nearly as important as playing regularly with repetition, as Justin from Justin Guitar says, “Practice makes permanent.”
If you have never learned an instrument, like I hadn’t, then you need to realize that you are building some foundations, none more so than in your hands. Stretch, dexterity, strength, and muscle memory all develop as you learn to play guitar. If you play the guitar regularly, then this will naturally progress. If, however, your practice is infrequent and or irregular, then your hands don’t have the chance to build this foundation and the result will be a more frustrating learning experience for you.
So it is essential to keep practicing regularly: a minimum three days a week, but more if you can. Once you have developed a habit, which for me personally took a month or so, then this feels easy and just becomes part of “what you do.” What is equally essential as a regular practice schedule is “effective practice” — you get this from a structured form of learning, whether with an instructor or online. Online is the path I have chosen.
What Is It Like Learning Guitar Online?
There are different routes of learning, which come down to time and money available to you and personal preference. Nothing will beat one-on-one feedback from a guitar teacher that listens, understands, and has your bests interests and goals front and center of their teaching. Finding a guitar teacher like this and being able to meet every week while leading a busy life can be a real challenge.
I have a young family and I am very much involved, so being able to do this was not an option for me. At the time of writing this, I am now at the point where I have completed a beginner course online so I can give you some idea of what it is like.
I chose to learn for free online using the Justin Guitar Beginner Course. There are nine structured learning modules, or stages, that take you from the rudiments through to a variety of open chords, rhythm patterns, barre chords, power chords, and blues and fingerstyle. Each stage is broken down into a group of lessons with videos, written explanations along with audio, and pdf downloads where applicable. The course is comprehensive, structured, and you mark off your progress as you go, so it is self-paced.
The whole experience has been a real joy for me. The lessons are short, well delivered, and without the fluff; and there is a huge variety of songs that accompany each stage so you can find something you like to put your efforts into practice.
The real beauty of learning online comes in being able to pick up quickly where you left off so that you don’t waste time getting back to where you were. Also, because you are learning through a structured platform, you don’t get the distraction of a suggested video, like on YouTube, that can take you off track and make your progress fragmented.
There are times where it has been frustrating, an explanation or technique shown might not explain it well enough for me and this is where a one-on-one teacher would be best. However, there is a large helpful community on the course and you can leave comments on each lesson or in the forum and many more experienced guitarists are eager to help. Being able to interact with others learning just like you through the community is both beneficial and comforting, and helps you stay accountable if you actively participate.
Overall, the experience has been easy to digest, fun to learn, and has developed a real passion in me for playing guitar, so it is an entirely effective way of learning in my mind. I kept myself accountable by recording every week of my progress of this course on my YouTube channel. There was a lot of learning, some highs, some lows, some laughs, some frustrations, but most importantly, fun! Getting wrapped up in learning and playing like this is what learning guitar is all about. Your passion will grow, your skills will develop, and your smile will widen.
So if you are reading this and contemplating learning guitar but have a few more years on the clock, then I would urge you to start and stick with it. It has personally been one of the best decisions I have ever made.