As a life-long musician I am biased about the satisfaction and pleasure that comes from playing an instrument. However, even if you have never played before, I believe it’s never too late to learn a musical instrument.
Age is not a barrier
Professional musicians typically start learning a musical instrument as children (some as young as two or three years old) which enables them to go on and pursue careers as professional musicians. However, there is no rule which says that you can’t have a go in later life. It is unlikely that you will ever become an international soloist if you start learning an instrument at 50 rather than 5, but research has shown that not only is it perfectly possible to acquire the necessary skills, learning an instrument at this stage of your life also has many other benefits. So, don’t be put off – simply remember it’s never too late to learn a musical instrument.
Learning a musical instrument can help to improve your memory
Various studies have shown that learning something as challenging as a musical instrument can help to improve your memory and sometimes even increase your IQ. One study done at the University of South Florida in Tampa ‘studied the impact of individual piano instruction on adults between the ages of 60 and 85. After six months, those who had received piano lessons showed more robust gains in memory, verbal fluency, the speed at which they processed information, planning ability, and other cognitive functions, compared with those who had not received lessons’.
Learning a musical instrument can boost your self confidence
Reading music and playing a musical instrument is a complex activity which requires both motor skills and multi-sensory skills but it is this very complexity which makes the process so rewarding and fulfilling. Learning a musical instrument can help to build your confidence and give you a sense of achievement which you may not otherwise experience in your every-day life.
Playing a musical instrument relieves stress
For people who play an instrument they do not need to read any research (plenty of which has been done on the subject) to know that playing music is a great stress-reliever. Playing a musical instrument concentrates the mind and helps you to escape from the other stuff going on in your life. It is the perfect antidote to stress.
Playing a musical instrument is sociable and fun
One of the best reasons for learning a musical instrument is getting together to play with other musicians. When you first start this may seem a distant dream but it is a dream worth pursuing. And of course you don’t have to wait until you are an expert. There will be other people out there who are at a similar stage and who would love the opportunity to make music with people like you. By playing with fellow musicians you get the chance to practice and improve (and have a laugh and some fun).
Do you need to be able to read music?
If you want to play classical music then you will need to be able to read music. Jazz players typically read music but jazz notation tends to be based on notes and chord symbols which indicate the underlying harmonies. However, if you choose a genre such as folk music, most of the playing is done by ear and so you won’t need to worry about learning any form of written musical notation.
It’s never too late to learn a musical instrument but it is easier with a teacher
Even though you may be tempted to go it alone and just rely on YouTube videos or teach-yourself books, there is nothing to beat a real live teacher. It is very difficult to learn any instrument without proper guidance and encouragement. A teacher will give you the techniques you need to succeed, keep you focused and provide you with the motivation and incentive to practice and keep going.
Learning a musical instrument takes practice and patience
It doesn’t matter how many lessons you have or how many YouTube videos you watch, if you don’t practice regularly you are unlikely to make any progress. Practice is an ongoing process. Whatever stage you are at, maintaining a practice routine enables you to build on what you have already achieved. The length of time it takes to get to a stage where you are reasonably competent depends on the instrument you choose but with patience, perseverance and practice you can do it. And what does it matter if you are never the best player – if you enjoy it you will at least help to prove that it’s never too late to learn a musical instrument.