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"I'm too old...I wish I had started when I was younger!" (The Myth of being Too Old To Learn Music)

Posted by brae on Saturday, March 12, 2016

I'll never forget Bob. He came to me some years ago to learn the banjo, and was a total beginner. He was also seventy two years old. A year later, he was playing half a dozen songs and going to bluegrass festivals every summer, and having the time of his life!

It can't be said enough: It's NEVER too late to learn music!! 


However it is sad how many of us labor under the delusion that the golden opportunity to learn music has passed us by, and we are now “too old to learn to play music”.


This is hogwash, of the highest caliber.

Although children often have a somewhat easier time learning a new activity, because they have less preconceived notions about what they can and can't do, all ages have the ability to learn new skills.


In fact, as many recent studies have pointed out, causing the brain acquire new knowledge all through life is critical to brain function later in life. “Adults” who continue learning new skills throughout life have been found to exhibit actual growth of new brain cells, or “grey matter”. Elderly folks who engage in learning new skills are statistically less likely to develop various brain ailments, such as dementia, Alzheimer's, etc.


Yes, the verdict is in: Stimulating your brain by learning new things, such as music, makes your brain grow!


“The adult human brain is capable of new rapid growth when exposed to stimuli…”
(Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, Veronica Kwok, Li-Hai Tan)


The key here is that it’s not just babies and small children whose brains can grow; it is all ages, from nine to ninety nine. It is truly never too late to learn music, and, it’ll make you smarter! 


Another reason people often assume that starting music early in life is better, is because of the misconception that music is a "serious skill" that "takes a long time to master". As is echoed many times throughout this book, that is only if your goals are other than doing it just for enjoyment (such as a career...yuck). If you are a Recreational Music Maker, as we hope that you are, you can be making neat sounds and having a tons of fun in a very short amount of time.


Think of it this way: how long did it take you to be able to sing along with your favorite songs? Or clap your hands to the beat of the drums at a concert? 

Probably not very long. Or very difficult.


And to learn to strum a few chords on a ukulele or add some new sing-alongs to your repertoire is hardly more difficult, if at all.

In my experience as a music teacher, 90% of the people who take up music become functional and are having fun within a month, if not sooner. If it takes longer it is usually because the student becomes disheartened or quits altogether (which is most often the fault of an uninspiring music teacher or boring book).


And if it takes you a year, like it did for Bob, so what? That year is going to pass anyway, and you might as well be strumming, drumming or singing at the end of that time.


So whether you a wobbly toddler or senior citizen, the time to start music is NOW.

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