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Empowered to Learn Music at Any Age

Written by Paul Wolf

Have you wanted to pick up playing the piano again? What about the guitar? Go ahead.

Myth: It's harder to take up a musical instrument at midlife than as a young adult.

Truth: Age is irrelevant.

All factors being equal, adults of different ages learn an instrument at the same speed. "Age is absolutely not a factor," says Lyn Bronson, a pianist and member of the music faculty at California State University, Monterey Bay.

Bronson has tutored many suddenly inspired adults, and there is "basically no difference between 25 and 50 and 75," he says.

A middle-aged student is no slower to grasp reading notes, counting beats, mastering pedals and figuring out the quirky logic of scales and chords.

Progress depends on other factors:

  • Your innate musical gifts, which doesn't change, for better or worse.
  • Your motivation to learn, which may be greater now than when your parents dragged you to lessons.
  • The amount of time you practice.
  • The quality of your instruction.
Naturally, certain realities can intrude on your pursuit: Crippling arthritis, inability to sit up straight, loss of hearing.

But in the case of the piano, Bronson says it doesn't take a lot muscular strength to achieve mezzo forte. Nor does playing a keyboard instrument require "the same coordination as building a ship in a bottle."

Now, let's get realistic. You're a 50-year-old man, with a job, a wife and a teenage child who watches TV in the same room as the piano. You shouldn't expect to become concert-caliber. But just because you don't plan to make a career out of it, doesn't mean you should let your dream to play the piano remain a fantasy.

Your goal to accompany someone singing, say, As Time Goes By will be achieved just as quickly or slowly, no matter when you start. But the sooner you start, the more years you will have to enjoy the experience.


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