Many people exclude themselves from the joyful pursuit of learning to play the guitar, or any musical instrument, because they believe they’re too old. They think they should have started when they were 5 years old and at 45, 55 or 65 they’ve feel they’ve missed the boat. However the reasons for these feelings rarely stand scrutiny. There’s some vague perception that children learn things quicker, that they have faster minds and more compliant fingers. Youtube videos show impossibly young kids sailing effortlessly through concert pieces which the potential adult beginner views with a mix of admiration and despondency. In my opinion the belief that children can soak up things better than adults is somewhat irrelevant to the discussion about learning a musical instrument. To be honest it is more to do with state of mind than speed of thought, suppleness of digits or how many years you’ve been on the planet.
Learning an instrument is about having the desire to learn and realising that effort will be required to become proficient. Children, because they’re immersed in the education system, accept (more or less) that they need to study and work hard to improve, whatever the discipline. It should be no different for adults. In fact adults have at least one distinct advantage over youngsters, namely their long experience of music; how it makes them feel and the good emotions that are stirred. This is often the spur for adults to think the they’d like to create those feelings for themselves and learn to play an instrument. This is a good thing. The reverse side of the coin is that the creation of musical magic does not happen magically. It requires quite a lot of effort and time. It’s a journey but a journey that should be regularly interspersed with moments of achievement and satisfaction. Without these wins along the way it will just becomes a slog, which is when people become demotivated and give up. A good teacher can really help here by guiding the adult learner through technique so they can get the fingers to move in the right way at the right time and at the same time setting achievable and satisfying goals.
For myself I am still learning and I won’t ever stop. As a guitarist but also as a composer I have in recent times, in my late 50s, formally taken up the piano primarily because it adds some useful tools to my composer’s toolkit. An unlooked for benefit has been that this has really helped my guitar teaching because I am now both teacher and student and that’s proved to be quite a powerful feedback mechanism. It has reminded me, first hand, of the frustrations that learners have and how overcoming them is both incredibly satisfying and motivating. So if you feel you want to learn to play the guitar, then do so. You are never too old!!!